This is a continuation of an interview with Frederick Theodore (Ted) Angasan, Sr. on January 28, 1998 by Pat Partnow and Mary Jane Nielsen, Ted's younger sister, in Mary Jane's kitchen at her home in South Naknek, Alaska. In this second part of a two part interview, Ted wanted to continue the interview in order to include information he had remembered since the first interview on January 26, 1998. He and Mary Jane reminisced about their grandmother, Pelagia Melgenak, and grandfather ("Taata"), One-Arm Nick Melgenak, and the experiences they shared at the fishcamp at Kittiwik on Lake Naknek. In this interview, Ted continues to talk about his subsistence activites, including seal and beluga whale hunting, collecting clams, picking and using a variety of plants, ice fishing, and trapping. He discusses the traditions associated with these seasonal activities and how the resources were used. He also talks about the influence of his grandparents on his behavior, values, and beliefs.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Katmai National Park
Date of Interview: Jan 28, 1998
Narrator(s): Frederick Theodore (Ted) Angasan, Sr.
Interviewer(s): Patricia Partnow, Mary Jane Nielsen
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Uses of seal and food storage
Beluga whale hunting
Collecting clams at Kvichak Bay
Harvesting shrimp, and the use of different plants
Use of different plants, and collecting locations
Preparation of redfish for food
Trapping and trapping locatins
Land use values and respecting the land
Traditional beliefs and practices
More about traditional beliefs
Traditional practices associated with Eating Rock, and traveling in the region
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PP: Today is Wednesday, January 28, and I'm in Mary Jane Nielsen's house and talking to Ted Angasan, continuing the interview that we started two days ago. And today we're going to pick up some loose ends, maybe talk about some sea mammal and sea resources. So if you can talk about -- you said seals were another important resource. TA: Oh yeah, definitely. I remember as a kid watching my grampa (Nick Melgenak) go on the ice, edge of the ice when the river's frozen PP: Up at New Savonoski? TA: Yeah. Cause it usually froze right here . And he used to go over here and he'd take along a little skiff with him and wait for a seal to pop up on the edge of the ice. So they were around all year around. PP: Was it mostly a summertime -- I mean wintertime activity? TA: Well, that time, but they hunt seals all seasons of the year. PP: They'd be coming up the river, and then they'd just pop up and crawl out on the ice? Is that what he waiting for? TA: Well, I guess they eat smelts too, seals, so they were up there where all the eagles are too. And just sit there and wait for seals. But in summer, I remember getting a lot of seals up here. PP: Up by Big Creek? TA: Yeah, right up here. PP: So I'm going to mark that with a 15 -- seals in that area of the river then, huh? TA: Uh huh. PP: And what kind of hunting was that? How did that work? From a boat? Shore or what? TA: On the edge of the ice, wait for them to pop up, usually in a channel of the river. And they're still coming in, even now. You go out and wait and you'll see one.
PP: Did the seals ever come all the way up into the lake? TA: I've heard of them being caught up here, even. I never did see one there but I've heard of people getting them up there. PP: Okay, I'm gonna mark that with a . That's really close to the mouth of the lake then. And people, I assume, still hunt for seals. Do they? TA: Well, I do a bunch of seal surveys for the state for this village and there's only about five seal hunters in this village right now who do it all the time. McCarlo does and Charlie Groat and a bunch of others -- a couple of others, not a bunch. PP: And what do people use the seal for? TA: Seal oil. And the meat. And sealskin, they used to use that for mukluks too, back in those days. Because their skin is pretty tough. PP: Was that an important part of the subsistence cycle when you were young? TA: Yes it was, cause they'd use a lot of -- along with the bear fat -- they'd use seal oil too. I remember having, watching Gramma putting it up in barrels, seal oil. Used to keep a lot of it around. PP: Did she every used to use the stomachs as seal pokes to store oil or berries or anything in? TA: No, maybe I came along later in life, but maybe they did that before I was born, but I remember them using these wooden barrels, those wood stave barrels. I don't know if they make them any more. PP: I don't know either. TA: That's what they used to use. They used those also to store berries for the winter. Those wooden barrels. They'd stick water in it and it's stay fresh in the barrel. PP: Which kind of berries? TA: All the berries. Blackberries, blueberries, cranberries too. PP: What about beluga hunting. Is that something you remember from when you were a kid? TA: I remember that very well, sitting on the bank and watching these men shoot beluga from the bank.
PP: Really? TA: Yeah, and if they'd get one they'd try to go get it. If they shot one. PP: So they'd have their skiffs just sort of ready to jump into if they get one? TA: Yeah. Usually they come up high water. They travel upstream and they'd sit on the bank and watch a school of belugas go by and then wait for them to come up and shoot them. PP: How far upriver that you know of did people hunt the belugas, or do they still? TA: I never heard of any beluga hunters here. The last beluga hunter I know is my dad . Course he went all over for those. He even went out here. PP: Down to Kvichak Bay? TA: Uh huh. I went with them on one of their seal hunting trips out here. I remember running out of gas a couple of times. PP: Was this in a gas boat or sailboat? TA: Skiffs. With outboard motors. Those sailboats were too hard to launch, too big, so they used skiffs. PP: Did people use any kind of harpoon line to get either the belugas or seals so that you'd have some attachment to it after you shot it? TA: Yeah, I remember Dad had some kind of stick. I don't know if it was a harpoon or not. PP: Like a gaff type thing? TA: Yeah, tie it onto the boat and tow it in. The last one I remember, we were living over there and he brought a couple of them in and the whole town came and watched him cut it up and divide it up. PP: So he did the gutting himself? TA: Well, he had help, I mean Natives -- PP: I mean, your mom, that wasn't her job, it wasn't like he does the hunting and she does the cleaning or anything? TA: I remember the men doing it for some reason. I don't remember women cutting up the belugas. I remember them helping with seals, to skin the seals, but not beluga. PP: Uh huh. So when the beluga came up, how was the meat divided up? Among the community, or was it just your family that got it? TA: I think when he got it he gave it to a whole bunch of people. It wasn't necessarily family, because not everybody was a beluga hunter. So he kind of gave it away.
PP: What about clams and clamming? Where are the places that people get the clams, and what kind of clams are they? TA: I think clams are done down here. PP: OK, I'm gonna mark that where it's basically mud flats on the Kvichak Bay. And talk about that. How do you do it, what do you do, when do you go? TA: They always said never go during salmon runs, so it was either before or after salmon runs. They weren't thick -- I guess they thought people'd get sick when they eat clams during the salmon run. MJ: Interesting. Maybe because it was warmer then too. TA: I think they figured the fish carried the organism that makes people sick. PP: Are these razor clams? TA: These were more like butter clams. A clam was a clam to me, I never knew the difference. MJ: About this size, but they're darker shelled, about this size but their shells are darker with lines this way, this way meaning like curved. PP: So they're about the size of a baseball, a little bit smaller than a baseball, maybe a tennis ball diameter. TA: Yeah. PP: And then did people cook 'em or eat 'em raw, a combination? What's the way that you'd use them. TA: I remember them just putting them in a pot with no water and sticking them on the stove. PP: Steaming them, basically. TA: Heating 'em up and then they'll open up. PP: Is there any other kind of shellfish? I don't see that there are rocks, but anything like bidarkies or even sea urchins or anything like that that people would get? TA: Mussels. There's a lot of those around. MJ: Where did Dad get the shrimp from, Theodore? TA: Down there, right off the bank. PP: Oh yeah? So did he have a shrimp pot? TA: No, he used a seine.
PP: Really? Really small mesh? TA: Yeah, real small mesh. And catch -- I remember them getting bucketloads. Three, four buckets at a time. PP: He did this all the time or you just remember once or twice? TA: In the fall. Fall, cause I remember I was eating a lot of shrimp when I was little. MJ: Do people still do that that you know of? TA: No, cause I don't see anybody using seines anymore. Everybody uses gillnets for smelts. I don't think they know there's millions of shrimp out there. But they're out there. MJ: These are little tiny things. About how big would you say the biggest ones are? TA: About like that. PP: Two, three inches. TA: Two inches maybe. MJ: But some are small too, I remember. And we'd have -- what I recall is having big piles of shrimp on the table. TA: Yeah, and everybody'd just peel 'em and eat away. PP: What about octopus or ? TA: I don't think I remember seeing octopus here. PP: No? MJ: We used to get our octopus from Chignik. Somebody down there will sometimes send us some. PP: Another thing I forgot to ask about was -- and maybe this was during fishcamp time was greens or any kind of roots or anything like that. TA: Oh yeah. Gramma used to tell us to pick certain flowers for medicine. Teddy was good at it. PP: Teddy Melgenak? TA: Yeah, she used to tell him which plants to pick so he used to pick some up for her up there. MJ: Do you remember Gramma and them eating that wild celery? TA: Oh yeah, that was a favorite. You use seal oil and it was good. MJ: Now we know it's an angelica. PP: You call it putchkii or do you have another -- TA: There was a Native word for it but it was always celery. A certain time of year you picked that. MJ: And the ciwasaqs? TA: Wild spinach. There was a lot of those. PP: Now was this while you were up in Kittiwik? Or is this all over the place? TA: All over the place. MJ: The cuasaqs. TA: Yeah, they were on creeks. MJ: But I guess, I didn't know what it was called till later. And what we call ciwasaqs are really called "sorrel."
TA: Is that what they are? MJ: Uh huh, they have red stalks and the leaves are real green. TA: Yeah, and I remember Gramma cutting the stalks off. MJ: Oh, they're good. PP: And you eat the leaves. TA: Mm hm. PP: How about the little rice. They call it either Indian rice or Eskimo potatoes sometimes? It's the bulb of a plant. MJ: Mice food? PP: Yeah. TA: Oh, I remember that too. We used to pick that, I think the place they went for that was over here, right here in the swamp. PP: Oh, up on the north side up north of Libbyville then. Where it says Salmon Flats . TA: Uh huh. We used to go there all the time and pick them. PP: One thing that strikes me is that your gramma knew places all up and down. I mean even before the eruption, do you think she was familiar with these places downriver or do you think she pretty much stuck with the upriver area? TA: I think they stuck with the upriver area until they moved down. PP: And so she just learned from other folks where to go? MJ: I think we learned the downriver stuff from Dad, huh? Of course he was born there but he was two years old when they left. And his dad remarried and lived in Naknek. PP: Okay. TA: Lot of food in the country. It's always around. If people know what to pick they'd never starve. MJ: Theodore, I was trying to remember, Gramma used to send me down to the beach to pick this plant she used with fish. Whatever this plant was, when I look at -- it almost reminds me of the green stuff you see in the restaurants, what is that? PP: Parsley or cilantro? MJ: Parsley that they usually put for decorations in restaurants. That's what that stuff reminds me of, but I'm not sure if that's the one or not. I'm trying to remember. TA: It's probably the same thing. MJ: But this one here had a yellow flower and I've never seen it since. I'd like to look for it. TA: I think you've probably forgotten how to look. MJ: But this is a yellow flower and the leaves tasted kind of like that -- PP: Is it a tiny yellow flower, like a tiny bulb? MJ: A tiny flower with yellow petals, oh maybe about this big. Maybe the size of a quarter or less, maybe. And she would use it with her fish. And I'm trying to remember what it was. I should probably ask Mom.
TA: Yeah, I know what you're talking about. It had a round bulb on it? No? MJ: You'd notice it, walking along the beach and you'd notice it kind of like along the banks. PP: I should ask about that. I also didn't ask how your gramma prepared the fish that you would eat while you were at Kittiwik. There must have been a lot of different ways, or did -- I mean, broil, boil, fry, roast, how did she do it? MJ: Oh, any number of ways. TA: All kinds of ways. My favorite way was over the fire. MJ: The maniaqs, like Dad did? Dad showed us how to do it. TA: And I still do that. MJ: He used a plank that you put the fish TA: You'd make like a long sword. You'd cut it, sharp part and stick it along the back. Just turn it and you cook it. PP: And what do you call that? TA: Maniaq is what we call it. It's just a Native way of saying barbecue. And let's see, what other ways. A lot of broiling. MJ: One of my favorite ways is the kanartaq. TA: Upside down fish? Yeah. PP: Kanartaq? Why do you call it upside down fish? TA: Well, you take MJ: A whole redfish TA: A whole redfish with eggs in it MJ: When it has eggs it's really prized, so you keep that and you TA: You tie the tail up and hang it up with the nose down. That way all the eggs shift down to the front so when they ate them -- they eat a lot PP: Then you cook it over a fire? TA: You eat it raw. MJ: It kind of dries though, cause you eat this in the middle of the winter. So it's kind of dry. PP: So you don't split this fish. MJ: Not completely but kind of. TA: You don't make a hole in it, is the trick, so you keep it whole without any cuts or anything in it. MJ: What was really interesting was when Steven and them got the little Steven across the river, he wanted to give that baby a Native name, and Mom and I were trying to think of a Native name for "partner" and finally Mom said, "Just call" -- we wanted Gramma's language, so she said, "Just call Ignatius." So I called Ignatius . And Ignatius said, "You know what I just got through eating?" And I said "What?" He said, "Kanartaq!"
TA: Yeah, we ate that all the time, I remember, probably every other day, huh? PP: Were there other resources that we had forgotten to mention? Did we talk about ice fishing with you? TA: No, but we did a lot of it. We used to make our own hooks. PP: Oh you did? TA: Mm hm. PP: From? TA: Well, we used a lot of 22 shells, shoot it, poke a hole in it and stick a hook, put one hook, bare hook, and catch smelts. Of course smelts bite anything. And they used to make 'em out of ivory. PP: And that would be what time of year? All winter long? TA: All winter. PP: And where would you go for the ice fishing? TA: The main part is right on this point, right here. PP: Okay, Horseshoe Bend? Oh, Kanaknoli Point. Okay, this is and that would be ice fishing at 19. Making your own hooks. How do you prepare the smelt once you get them? TA: They did all kinds of ways: fried it, boiled it. Course they boiled it a lot. PP: You took those whole, right? TA: Yeah. MJ: The boiled ones we ate with seal oil. TA: The other kind of fish I think -- there's a lot of whitefish. PP: Whitefish from which area? I think you might have told me but I don't remember. TA: They got this up here. PP: Okay, so right at the mouth of the lake. Whitefish at . Is that your dad's cabin here? MJ: This isn't Dad's here. Dad's is on this side. TA: Red house. PP: Okay.
PP: And I don't think I asked you about whether you had a trapline or not, or traplines. Did you do that or do you still TA: I did that a lot. In fact, when I got out of college that's what I did. PP: Really? Where'd you have your trapline? TA: Well I had it here, out here . PP: Along Chimenchun? Or don't you call it that? MJ: We don't call it that. I don't know where that came from. TA: Reindeer Creek, all the way out here. And then I did a lot in Big Creek. PP: Okay, and that's down here. TA: Carvel probably talked about his Native allotment up here somewhere. PP: Well he talked about trapping, he didn't talk specifically about his allotment. TA: Well, he's got -- well I used the same trapline. PP: Did you do it with a partner? Is that the normal way of trapping or just yourself? TA: I did it alone. By myself. PP: And was that with snowmobile or dogs? TA: Walk. Back then, 30 miles was nothing. MJ: In fact, when I came back from college that one year, he told me that he bet that I couldn't walk out to his trapline and I said I bet I could. Except it was so far that I was -- walking out there and back I was stiff for days. I could barely walk. I didn't realize how far it was. TA: Pretty far. PP: So it's 30 miles from town to the end of your trapline or to the beginning? TA: No, 15, probably. Round trip 30. PP: So can you do the round-trip in how long? You'd stay overnight? MJ: Oh no. One day. TA: One day. Four hours worth of daylight, six hours. MJ: I did out and back and he bet that I couldn't and I thought I could. So I went with him and my goodness! I wasn't prepared for the distance! TA: Well, you have to be kind of in shape to walk like that. If I tried it now I'd probably drop dead. PP: What kinds of furs did you get? TA: Mostly mink in those days. Mink was the most expensive fur. PP: They paid the best prices for it? TA: Oh yeah, we got as much as $100 a skin.
PP: Is that right? TA: Yeah. Now it's -- they're worth $4. PP: Really? Amazing. TA: And foxes. I got foxes too. PP: And I think I wasn't clear when you were at Kittiwik Bay where you stayed. Did you stay in houses or tents? TA: Well, up until they tore Dad's cabin down we stayed in his cabin which was on the north side of Brooks River. And then after they did that we just pitched tents on the south side, away from the park rangers PP: Park concession? TA: Yes, on that north side there. PP: Thanks. Anything else you can think of that we need to -- Oh, something I asked Carvel which I'm curious for you as well: Did you ever meet people from the north of the park while you were down there doing subsistence or whatever? No? TA: No, I don't -- this is desolate country. You're out there by yourself unless you see somebody else hunting from this area. PP: And when you were a kid, did you do what Carvel said he did, which was just take off and come up here? TA: Run away from home? Yeah. Lots of times. They were kind of wondering where we were. Yeah, we ran away from home. In fact my youngest son does that -- he used to, and I'd wonder where he was and he'd be up Red House for days and days. So he ran away too. That was kind of peaceful country. To get away from everything, that's where you went.
PP: What would you say your emotional attachment is to this area -- or I guess the whole Naknek Lake area compared with the part downriver? What are your emotional feelings about the two places that you've spent so much time? TA: I guess up there would be peacefulness. Real serene, and nobody bothers you, back then. Then down here is a little different. A lot more people here. So up there, we just went up there to get away from everything. PP: Thank you. End of Side A
PP: Up to where? Old Savonoski? TA: Old Savonoski. MJ: The whole area was like a holy place, wasn't it? TA: It sure was. MJ: And even Gramma treated it like a holy place when she got off the skiff. TA: Venerated it. Yeah. MJ: What do you remember about how she venerated it? TA: She'd bow her head down, touch her forehead on the ground. Course Ralph, our younger brother, thought she was kissing the ground so he did that too, kissed the ground. PP: So every fall when you would go up there, that would be the first thing she'd do when she got out of the boat? TA: Mm hm, first thing she did. And she'd also have -- if she didn't make it with us on one of these trips she'd make sure we brought a piece of mud back MJ: Even water PP: For her back at South Naknek? TA: Savonoski. PP: When she was venerating the ground, was it the place itself or the people who had lived here or a combination? TA: Probably a combination of both, being a holy place to her where she was born and raised. Just holy to her. PP: Was she a religious woman? TA: Yes she was. She was real strict. She hoped I would have been a preacher, so she taught me how to read Russian and speak all the Russian words, and prayers, and all that stuff, and count in Russian. I can still read Russian, except I don't know what it means. PP: I'd like Mary Jane Nielsen to talk a little bit about the feelings I guess that are attached to the Katmai area. Or that she attaches and her family has. MJ: I think even if members of your family haven't been there before -- like Rytter, my grandson, he was 4 years old I think when Katherine brought him up there, and she said, she was just amazed because he'd fall asleep going across the lake, as soon as they got to Kittiwik, he jumped out and he started running, and he said, "I knew this was my land!" So I think that's how we feel about it. It's like -- I suppose because it's our ancestral homeland that we feel that way.
TA: Yeah, oh yeah. MJ: And because of how Gramma and Dad and them treated the country when they were up there. Like it was some TA: Holy place MJ: Sacred place, I guess, is all I can imagine. PP: When you would be taking the boats up in your trips, would they point out certain places along the way and tell stories about things that had happened or something that made those places special? MJ: Well, I don't know. All I can remember was as we were going up the river, as soon as we got to the Eating Rock -- I'm not sure why this rock was so special -- except that as soon as we got to the Eating Rock Gramma would start making tea, you know before we got there. When I think about it now, she actually brewed tea for the Eating Rock. But then she'd take bread or crackers, and as we'd go by, I can't even remember what she said. She would throw the tea and the fish or crackers or whatever -- bread -- at the Eating Rock. So now we do the same thing when we go up there, even my grandchildren do it. TA: Oh, I know what she said. MJ: What did she say? TA: Her words were -- I remember this clearly now, she taught me how to say this: She says "Neqaigam kufsinaq kuvialarciarqua." That's what she'd say. What that means, an interpretation I guess would mean, neqa means "food," kufsinaq means "with a net". "In this place I will catch fish." MJ: Oh, that's really interesting! Because I never really knew why we did it, because it was a ritual, even as we grow up now we still do it. PP: Where is the Eating Rock? MJ: It's just above the rapids. But my sister Katherine says she feels the spirits when we get to the rapids. She starts feeling the spirits when we get to the rapids. TA: Oh yeah, everybody does that now, cause I remember Charlie Savo didn't do it, remember? He was the only one who didn't feed the rock, and as soon as he got up there he broke down. So we had to tow him. PP: Show me on the map where the Eating Rock is. TA: It's about right there. PP: Okay. MJ: It's a pretty big rock. You could see water. PP: I'll mark it with 20 .
MJ: It's not the first big rock you see when you get up there. It's behind a point there, and we know it when we see it, but I can't explain how to get there. TA: It's the biggest rock there. PP: And did you actually -- did YOU eat or it was "eating" because she was feeding the water? MJ: Oh no, we didn't eat. None of us ate. It's just that now when we go up we don't do the tea or anything but even the grandchildren will throw potato chips or TA: Candy MJ: Whatever they have, marshmallows, or whatever they have they'll share -- give to the Eating Rock as we go by. And it's kind of a -- we make a pass at it. I know it's -- when I hadn't been up there for a long time, I was afraid to go up there after Dad died because of the emotional thing, and the first year we went up there after Dad died there was three or four skiffs and it was really neat to see because the first person that went up, they made a circle around the Eating Rock, threw things, then the next skiff did and when we went by we looked and everybody else did the same thing too so the ritual is still carried on. And then -- I don't know why Dad liked the south side. We always traveled the south side when we went up, huh? This way? TA: Yeah. I think it was probably MJ: Scenic TA: Weather. It was usually a south wind, southeast wind blowing all the time. MJ: Now that we have faster skiffs we usually just go straight. TA: Straight over. MJ: But I kind of like this south side for sentimental reasons, I guess. And then the nice thing about going up with Dad and them, they'd have spots where they stopped and had tea. Not like us when we go up we just TA: This was his favorite stopping place, right here. PP: The one we've marked with a (also marked #7 and L). MJ: That loaf of bread place? That Loaf of Bread hill, that place that looks like a loaf of bread from a distance? TA: Yeah. MJ: And then there was another place over here by Dumpling, wasn't there, somewhere on this side? Someplace he used to stop sometimes for tea, over this way? TA: Oh yeah, that's that little bay-like thing. MJ: And then coming in, going around Dumpling. That was the big thrill. TA: Yeah. Finally here. MJ: And then we were close! That was -- and we had no fear, absolutely no fear. When we'd get there we'd run around all over through the woods because there were no bears. I ran all over that country as a small child, before we were even going to school we were running. TA: Yeah, I think it's like we said, the people ate 'em.
PP: Mary Jane, could you tell about the time that you and the other kids had to scare the bears away? I don't think we got that on recording. MJ: One trip we made up and we had Nick Zimin, Mary Zimin, and Muriel, their daughter TA: And Clarence MJ: That time -- I was talking about scaring the bears away when Mary Zimin and Mom made us pound on the 5 gallon cans? TA: Yeah, I remember that. MJ: Dad and Nick Zimin were out on some mountain some place. TA: They MJ: Did they walk up to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes or what did they do? TA: No, they'd pull a skiff through Brooks River and made a trip to the other end of Brooks River by skiff. MJ: Well I was too young to remember why they did it, but I know that they left the women and children behind at Kittiwik and then Mary Zimin saw one or two bears? I don't know TA: It was a giant bear with a silvertip white head. MJ: But anyway, when they saw this bear coming, then Mom and Mary Zimin had us pound on pots and five-gallon cans, and TA: __ and Clarence were up on top of Dumpling Mountain, they heard us up there yelling and screaming . Yeah, that was a big bear. MJ: But it just decided not to come to the camp. Went into the trees. TA: I think the people were making a lot of noise. MJ: We were seven little kids and Mom, Mary Zimin, Muriel . Theodore and Muriel were the big kids so they TA: Carried the guns. Course we were 10. MJ: Ten years old. PP: Well, thanks. End of recording