John and Mary Tallekpalek were interviewed on May 5, 1998 by William Schneider and Don Callaway at the village corporation hotel in Levelock, Alaska. This interview was held the day after John's 79th birthday. Mary was even older. Don and Bill visited the Tallekpaleks the night before to set up the interview. John was hard of hearing so they had to speak loudly and ended up doing the interview at the corporation hotel, because it was one of the few quiet places available. The interview shifts from John talking to Mary, with John taking the lead. They were both eagerly preparing to soon be heading back to Branch River and their camp for the summer. In this interview, John and Mary talk about their traditionally-based subsistence lifestyle including when Mary was a girl traveling with her reindeer herding father, and when they lived, fished and hunted along the Branch River, and how things have changed with the increase in sportfishing, use of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV's), and the establishment of Katmai National Park. They also talk about environmental factors such as the 1912 Katmai volcanic eruption, a tundra fire in 1947, changes in animals coming into the area, and changing snow depths and river water levels. Finally, they discuss the 1918 flu epidemic and the elders' stories of volcanic eruption followed by starvation (before 1912 Katmai eruption), which is historically interesting because of the emphasis on the need to find fresh water springs. Mary echoes a common theme of listening to elders and learning by quiet listening, and shares their prophecy that starvation times will come again.
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Moving to Levelock from the Yukon for employment and access to subsistence resources
Life during the early days when people combined cannery work with living off the land and buying groceries at the trading post, and the beginning of the 1918 flu epidemic
John's explanation of where the flu came from, and Mary's family background and moving with the reindeer herds
Mary talks about moving around with her family and the reindeer herds when she was a girl
Living and fishing at Branch River
Working as a tugboat captain, and leasing his cabin to sport fishermen to earn extra income during retirement
Impacts from sport lodges in the area, and differences in the subsistence resources between Levelock and Branch River that Mary has observed
Life at Branch River when she was a girl
Changes in education, the language spoken, and the animals in the area, and the introduction of reindeer herds
The 1947 tundra fire at Levelock, its impact and how people lived off the land afterwards
The impacts of fire, why caribou and moose starting coming into the area in the 1950s, and weather changes John has observed
Weather changes John has observed, and what his parents taught him about watching weather patterns
How people no longer go out hunting, trapping, and camping like they used to
The importance of listening to elders and differences between how children behaved when she was young compared to children today
Differences in how children behave now compared to when she was a girl
Keeping your hands from getting cold, and a time when volcanic ash in the rivers killed the fish and how people survived the hard times
Impacts from the volcanic eruption
Changes in the berry population and water levels, and the history of canneries coming into the area
Canneries and cannery workers
Selling seal skins and meat to the canneries, and getting groceries, like butter, in exchange
Mary's mother sewing clothes, and how the creation of Katmai National Park effected local subsistence
Changes in how people camp and travel in the country
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Side A William Schneider: OK, today is May 5th, 1998 and I'm Bill Schneider, Don Callaway is here and we are with John and Mary Tallekpalek and we're in Levelock at the corporation offices and we're going to talk a little bit about the old days and the history and John, I want to start with your parents. John Tallekpalek: Huh? I... Bill: Would you tell us about them? John: Yeah, I, I born in Lower Yukon at Pilot Station back in ni..., May 5, uh, 1919. I, uh, growed up there for four years and then come over here to Levelock. Me, my father, brothers and sisters, and move over to here. And then, my brother-in-law, he were radio operator, and he told us it's better living here in Bristol Bay because of the canneries, work in the summer time, but you can only do what little money they make out of traplines and hunting at winter time. Here at Levelock they, uh, they go out in the summer time, and go fishing and work in the cannery. Uh, uh, before they, after they get through work in the cannery they go out fall camp and put up winter supply of, uh, fish and so forth, and trapping at the same time. By, um, by, uh, January or December, they come home, to the village and, uh, till about Mar..., um, March, latter part of March, they go out again, do spring camping. And hunt muskrats and otters, whatever they could trap on the subsistence required to, at time, people was, uh, pretty poor in Alas..., uh, here in the area. So, and uh, pe..., uh, people are changed now, um, um, they, um, new generation come up with everything, and, uh, they've got in airplanes and boats and so forth. Uh, early days they use, uh, sail and ? oars. Uh, the most of the people used, old people used kayaks and canoes and so forth, they have to row up and down the river. Wait for nice weather, take their time and go subsistence fishing and hunting at same time.
John: And after that they, when the canneries come in they go down and work in the cannery in, in summer. And the people come down from the, uh, Lake Iliamna, all over then they, uh, work in the cannery in spring time. And by fall, after fishing season and things like that, they go back to their home, um, village. And do the same thing over again, every year. Later on the win..., uh, reindeer herders came to the area. That time there were no caribous or moose around, except rabbits and ptarmigans. What they did usually, for meat in winter time, um, reindeer herders, they bring the meat down. They sell it to white people so they can have meat. And, um, they, um, just before Christmas, and then at that time, there were no airplanes to bring in the feed, the what not. All the, all the food they buy from the, from the canneries, surplus, leftover food from the canneries. There's only, there's only one or two trading posts around the village. And, um, I learned that they, uh, they, uh, do the same thing over again. Whatever the furs, they sell to the fur buyers and what little they make they buy groceries and food for their families. There was no, you only get mail once a month, so, the mail didn't work out too good them days. Nowaday, mail come in every day. Ha. And people didn't get no social security money or old age pension those days. And people have to make their money out of the cou..., out of, uh, uh, hunting and so forth. The winter time. Bill: Let's see how we sound. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Bill: Let me ask you, uh, let me ask you, uh, a question. You were born in 1919. John: Yeah. Bill: Now, that was right after the big flu epidemic. John: I'd, uh, the flu was going on near the coast. Not in the interior. Bill: Uh-huh. John: See, yeah, flu started coming down from up, uh, up north side? of the Yukon, St. Michael's, something like that, along the coast, but interior, flu didn't, they didn't bother the, uh, people. I think that time, the flu came in, blew in southwest wind...
John: They call it Asiatic flu. People walk from their, from the house, walk out, fall down. And, in, uh, places like Levelock, uh, whole bunch of people died in the houses and people gathered 'em together and put 'em by the, put 'em by the church, down here, wrap 'em with the canvas and cover them up and put one big cross in there. Same with all the villages around the area, that time, when I figure this out, er, the wind was blowing from, uh, Germany or from Europe, over this way, that time they used poison gas. I think that blow over this way and, a lot of the coast, and migrated down to Pacific side. You get, you get the idea of it now. Bill: Mmm. John: I think the time we used, Germans used poison gas. Bill: Mmm. John: And wind blow it, takes about a couple of years to get over here and then they, and they hit the people, uh, along the coast. Bill: Hmm. John: Because Interior didn't have it. Bill: Let me... John: Guys, guys that stay out in the spring camp didn't have it, except when they come to the coast, they got a flu. People we? were well today, uh, next minute, out. Bill: Let me ask you your brother-in-law's name. You said you came here to be with your brother-in-law. John: Ernest Peck. He was radio operator, wireless operator, they used to have cannery in Levelock at that time, but the cannery went, sold out in 1927. Bill: Mmhm. John: Cause there's fire here. Mmm, tundra fire. At that time. Bill: Mmm. Well, let me ask Mary about her parents and where she grew up. Mary Tallekpalek: I born, Big Mountain. Iliamna. He had, uh, my dad got reindeer long time ago. Before I born, he got reindeer, up, uh, other side Kokhanok. First he... John: Talk louder. Mary: The government, right there Mama told me. Other side, then they moved down and, uh, too wolf, moved down reindeer. In about Kvichak, too, before I born, Mama told me. Yeah, then they could, he could tie it here and the reindeer go. They go far away, New Mountains, they move up, and, uh...
Mary: Move up on the Big Mountain. My dad and my family, all of 'em, my uncle, too. My apa, too. Only full house I born right there on the Big Mountain. Mmm, I know, uh, got reindeer around all the time. When they get them. When it get's spring time, bring it up, uh, below Kokhanok. All the time, reindeer. Mama hunt squirrel, hunt same time. On November. And they'd go down Big Mountain after they'd finish. There used to be a sailboat, that time when I go down and, my brother gets baby born up in Big Mountain in 1919, that time on the floor, we go in our house on November. All of 'em, reindeer skin and, um, all of 'em, we had a cache. Bring it in, them guys. We get money. My dad gives money to both girls, big chunk, he did stuff, us guys and older, older stuff ?. That is why I think, when every, every spring he move up, uh, reindeer, get uh, get young babies. Uh huh. And, not Big Mountain, one year Big Mountain, and rolled down and die. Then they, then they go down. On November. You did stuff, us guys, all the time. Now, he's get, after get grown up, I married a long time ago. We come over by Branch River. The guy got, uh, I, he told me to Mama, we were staying in Naknek two years, that's all. Reindeer coming all the time. He don't like the place, too. Um, my oldest brother, Mama told me, us guys, let's go back to Kokhanok. The reindeer, too much work. Hee, hee. And when I, a village I grew up, and they never go up and they stop in Alakanuk. Branch River, you call. Then they, then they married, I, uh, they let me marry to the man. Then we move all the time after that, never move no more and stay Branch River, all the time. We got all of 'em, Branch River people, except us and Charlie, Deafy, and me. Uh, uh, we get cannery, Branch River, Alegnak, you call that. Not Alakanuk. ? cannery]
Mary: [cannery. We call, Branch River, muddied Branch RiverMuch inaudible. Everybody call, uh, Branch River. Not Branch River, Alakanuk, all the time. John: Mmhm. Mary: Then they stay with, and after that get, uh, married. He die, my husband. And, uh, married the other one. Only half a year and then he got sick, yeah, he died. That's why I got this land right there. Before Mary John. John: Uh-huh. Mary: Then we fishing. After get married, fishing. Down at old cannery, Nakeen. Nakeen. Then we fishing. One time, uh, one year, one summer, one time I feed them up?, down women, two of 'em fishing, fishing by skiff?, one brother, and, uh, my little, my boy, Tony, when you could, before he'd grown up, I prayed for fishing good at that time. After that, no more fishing. Stay home. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: The other one, gonna, Mama getting older and she stay with grandchildren. We quit now. Hee, hee, hee, hee. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Bill: Did your Mama stay with you? When she got old? Mary: We've got a step? house, the other house, my brother house. He didn't have to? come over here, and, uh, his girl? die. Charlie's sister, he want to bring it over. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: And was close by to hospital in Dillingham. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: Then I, I happened to fish one year, a summer here. I brought? a fish right there. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: That's all. After he die, go back to Branch River again. Bill: After your grandma die? Mary: My mom. Bill: Your mom. Mary: Mmm. Bill: Right. Yeah. Yeah. What do you call that place up on Branch River that you have? Your camp up there? Mary: Uh, we just call, uh, (what you go by) Didocton. Hee, hee, hee. Bill: OK. That's good. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- John: And, uh, back in 1954, I went out in tugboat, to Seattle as deckhand. So, I look that thing over, I only made $500 a month. So, next I came along, I went back out in Seattle, I got my...
John: Engineer's papers. From the Coast Guard. Then I make $750 a month. And that's no good. Too much, not, in other words, not enough money to take care of my family when I get old. So, I went up to the Coast Guard and asked the Coast Guard for captain's license. I was a little bit slow, I was about 85% of answering the questions. Supposed to be 150. But anyway, I studied that book, during the night, next morning I went back to the Coast Guard, and fill out a paperwork. And I went over the, over the hump and they gave me my license. Coast Guard Unlimited. Bill: And how do you use, how did you use that license? John: Here? Bill: Did you, did you run tugboats? John: I run tugboats after I got my license. Bill: Tell me about that. John: And I was, oh, all the way from Seattle to Alaska, clear up to Nome, all over, everyplace in Alaska. Of course, I was coming from Seattle, on the, out in the ocean, coming to the river, and they run the boats up river, like, freight, haul freight for the trading post and so forth. Smaller boat. Coming from Seattle, you use a bigger boat to bring in the barge. Bill: Mmhm. John: And that's going on 'til I was 65. And then retired. At that time I wanted to get Old Age pension so I get a little, little bit better. Bill: Mmhm. John: And after I got, quit, I learned the, uh, sport fishing came in. And used my cabin over in Alegnak River. And I lease it to him. So, the, after a while he was pretty loaded money. I only charge him $5000 a year. Well, after five years, then I raised the price up later on and after he makes the money. So, that work out good for me and my wife and, uh, and, uh, that way we wouldn't run out of money. Bill: Mmhm. John: You know, uh, uh, if I, if I turned around and sell, sell the land to the person, I would have money today. Tomorrow I wouldn't have any. Bill: Mmhm. And Mary, that's your... John: Yeah, yeah. Bill: ...camp up there we're talking about? Mary: Mmhm. John: Yeah. So, we work it out that way so, and if we sell it, we have to pay, turn around and pay taxes on it. Bill: Mmhm. While we're on that subject, uh, how, how has that, those lodges worked? When did they first come in? John: Who? Bill: The lodges.
John: Lodges started... Bill: This area. John: ...coming around 1980, er, '78, somewhere around that. Bill: None before that? John: Not before that. Of course they look at the river with an airplane and see if there's any fish in the river. And they spotted it, and they started make lodges. And they comin' that way, of course, we were putting up smoked salmon and so forth. "Could we have lodges over here?" Go ahead, that, uh, that's your business, not mine. Bill: Mmhm. Mmhm. John: So, but, when I went to Anchorage to BIA, and I told the BIA not to hunt, only sportfishing. So, they made us, we went with the, with the lodges. Only in summertime. Bill: Mmhm. John: No hunting. Bill: But there are a lot of lodges in... John: Yeah. Bill: ...this area now. John: Yes. Five of 'em over there. Bill: Mmhm. What has, how has that, how has that worked out? Has that been good? Has it been bad? John: Well, they, uh, they don't bother us. And, uh, we put up fish. And if we need something, they give it to us. Bill: Has it been OK with the fish? John: Yeah, yeah. Bill: Mmhm. John: We get a lot more the lodges, real good and see? everybody. And the people of Levelock, they're different. Bill: Mmhm. John: Course they, they have these, uh, uh, village council and so forth. Bill: Mmhm. John: They never go over there in the su..., in the, uh, during the summer when the lodges in. Bill: Mmhm. John: Only me and her that stays over there. Bill: Yeah. Let me ask Mary a question now. Mary, what changes have you seen over the years in the, uh, in the resources, in the animals and the fish? Mary: When they, when you married, I fished in here. Him. Only I stay one year. After get married. And, I don't like, uh, Leve..., Levelock. Bill: Ah. Mary: Yeah. They got no hunting something, snares. No ptarmigan much. We can't set the net on, on the big tide, and full of junk all the time. No fish. Branch River better. Whitefish and pike and trout. Anything. Ptarmigan. Uh, rabbit, beaver. Not much beaver, long time. When we? fished in the, uh, stay in the, not many beaver. Now we get, get beaver now. Have to get before my Daddy? Charlie's dad. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Bill: You seen some, so, you've seen some changes around here?
Mary: Mmm, I can, enough to get hunt. Lotsa, lotsa beaver. My brother, before married, yeah. Before married and only my mom and my brother, Charlie's dad. And family Deafy. And Eau, trapping and snares. He got no money, only it's mama do, got nothing, before get them kind. Then I got limit, he tell me, I skin, me and mama, all the time. I help my brother. I got limit, mama got limit, uh, her limit, that's all. Bill: Did I here you right? Did you say that now there's more beaver in the area? Mary: Yeah. After get the, after get, before get die, he got people in there. He die, all of 'em now move, after get move, he die. Us guys and all the time, all summer. Stay over there. We got church, too, at Charlie's place. Bill: Alakanuk? Mary: Mmm, Branch River. Alegnak, yeah. Good place. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: And they stay over there and the first thing, can't do it. After come over, school, eh, the other guys and my pa, trying to hunt, um, ?. ? kitchen? ? sometime. Not like up Branch River. Bill: Hunh. Mary: That's why I don't, I don't hunt around there. I getting old, getting old, anyway. Getting you can't go far. I born in Big Mountain, me. That's all, I see it. I got lots to say, that they learn me. When they was young, let me learn how to split fish, too, my mom. And even, he get tired, he never get tired to let me split fish when you was young. He told me that when you grown up, need to, need to care for, old, old people the way taught?. I have to learn how to split, then I learn how to split. I help mom in the, mmm, uh, Kokhanok before move down. Learn everything. Pick, let me pick berries, too. When they, when they doing something, too much my mom. And I go over the little ways and I pick berries, sometime, then supper. And then we go talk a little. When they was salmon, ? and pick berries. Hee, hee. That's all I see. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: Mmhm. Bill: Hmm. Mary: Pick, uh, after get, uh, married...
Mary: Kind of, sometime I get sick. I, I had. That's why, uh, my, my ?, let me schooling my youngster, Paul, before he die. Let me school here. And I stay over there and get, get pneumonia all the time, me. Old car too much, I think. Every, go up, go Dillingham. And I'm stay over there, my niece told me to stay in Levelock. When you go over there, no doctor over there. That's why I listen and come over and stay. Even they don't like, uh, Levelock. Hee, hee, hee, hee. That's all I see. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: Mmmm. Bill: John, what changes, in your lifetime, since you were a little boy, growing on up. John: Yeah, it changed quite a bit because the people gives in to education and so forth and they earlier, they didn't have too much education. Course they pick up language, whi..., uh, white people's language, at that time. But now, it's a, half of the people that is not understand our language. So, most of people around the area, they talk English most of the time. Them earlier days the people talk their own language. So, that much has changed, all together, from back, you know, now they have schools and everything. The people talk English, most of 'em. If you see our Na..., Native, uh, kid, a boy or a girl, they talk English. They didn't know how to talk Native. Bill: Uh-huh. John: Our language. Bill: What about the animals? John: Animals. There were no animals around the area. Because only thing you got, beavers, muskrat, mink, foxes, very few wolves. And there were no moose, there were no caribous. Only ptarmigan, porcupines, and rabbits around the area. Bill: And now they've come in? John: Now they come in. Seems like they come from back, Interior. Comes over this way in wintertime. Wintertime. Before that, there were none. Only, only reindeers they have, the reindeer herders, like Mulchatna, Iliamna, that area. 'Til the Lapplanders came over. First group came back in 1937. They bring the reindeer cartel? down to, uh, Naknek area.
Bill: You mentioned fire earlier. John: The fire started in 19..., during the summer, in, uh, in, uh, 1927. Right here in Levelock. It went all the way down to Bear Creek and up river, about 20 miles of it, 27 miles of it. And after that years, it, uh, the vegetation and everything grow back again. So, it just, they? leave ashes on the ground. Everything look flat. No trees. Burn up all the trees. Bill: How did people make a living when, after that big fire? John: They, uh, they go the same as before, but, uh, like, uh, go out spring hunt, hunting and, uh, in the fall hunting and so forth, camping. And in them days, work in the canneries and so forth. We'd go out fishing. And, uh, do mostly subsistence in the fall and the spring before the canneries come in. Bill: Uh-huh. John: Live out, live out of the country. Bill: Yeah. John: Yeah. Bill: Even after that big fire? John: No, the, only in the north side of the river was the fire, but south side of the river was OK. Bill: OK, I see. John: Course they didn't, they didn't bother the fish. The river's, like whitefish and, mmm, trout and so forth. It didn't hurt them. Bill: Yeah. John: That start the, where everything grow back again. Bill: Mmhm. Mary, do you remember that big fire? Mary: Before move here and, uh, some. My apa, my grandpa told me to smell the smoke and I asked him. My grandpa, how come you get smoke, smell like smoke. Down below, he said, Levelock, torch? for Levelock, Kvichak. It burned, he said. Bill: Oh. Mary: Us guys, and we stay in before move up on the, before move up Big Mountain. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: Yeah. That's all I know. Bill: Yeah. Mary: They, uh, they never watching no more. Uh, my oldest birthday? she pulled an outside, uh. I, Big Island and Big Mou..., Mountain. Take? over her two guys, take? over in the sailboat. Nobody watch when the reindeer move?. His uncle do's it, too. He die, too. That's why I have to gets all over, nobody watch this, our stepdad, er, our father, too. He gettin' old. He can't walk too far.
Mary: That's why he let go, and, uh, up, Big Mou..., uh, Big Mountain and all over. Injured?, that's why. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: Nobody gets to, after get sick, everybody sick. Oldest one of you die. Bill: Mmm. Mary: That's why he scattered? all over, reindeer. In the mountain. Big Mountain. Bill: Hmm. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Bill: Was there, have there been other fires since then? John: Yeah. There was another fire, uh, back in 1935 when I was at the river, there was a small fire. And, uh, but it didn't expand it too far. Bill: Uh-huh. John: And it didn't hurt the people, nobody lose anything, except a little tundra fire. And, of course, there, well, they make it grow back again. Bill: Do you notice, uh, uh, changes after a fire? John: No, it didn't change. Bill: Did different animals come in? John: Yeah, they come back again after that. When the ?. Bill: OK. John: There was small fire, and, uh, little thing's about fifteen, twenty miles long. Bill: Hmm. John: And everything burned down. Only rain started hitting. Heh. Bill: Yeah. You said that the caribou and moose started coming in in the '30s. John: No. Bill: No. John: No. No. After, back, uh, around 1950s they started come around. Bill: Oh, 1950s. John: Yeah. Bill: Why was that? Why did they come in? John: Because, uh, too many of 'em up there in the wintertime in deep snow and what not. And, uh, small, less snow down here. Wintertime. And there's lots of snow up on north side of the, uh, Alaska. And then, they were decided less snow they eat more of the, uh, vegetation and so forth from the ground. Bill: And what about snow now? Have you noticed changes in snow this... John: Yes, sn..., snow's changing. And winter's changing, also. Earlier, they used, they used to get 40, 50 below zero. And lots of snow on the tundra. Now they change, and the freeze-up in November. Older days it stay 'til about later part of April. And, uh, the climate is changing all the time. Here in Alaska. And, you know, there's less snow ?. Sometime, in wintertime, you have about a half, uh, five or six inches of snow in the middle of the way? and rivers are going dry. Like last year, 'cause people couldn't go up the lake and so forth because there's no water. If there's snow in the mountains, all over, water right up.
Bill: So you had trouble gettin' up river? John: Yeah, in the falltime. Because there's no water drops. No more, you know, uh, uh, winter itself adding fresh? changing all the time. Bill: Yeah. John: Every year, seems it getting, seems like, I think it's more cold winter down in South 48. Bill: Yeah. John: Back east. Bill: Yeah. Do your, did your parents ever talk about weather changes like that? John: Yeah, used to talk about that. The weather's changing all the time. It'll be..., my parents used to watch the weather. There was the rain or windy ?. They watched the clouds and sunsets. Sunrise and sunset. You have a red, uh, sunrise in the morning, you have warning. And you have red sunset in evening, you'll be in clear water. And if your clouds turn dark, snow comin' up. If they turn white, it's gonna be clear day. Bill: Are there certain, are there certain land features that they look at to see if... John: Yeah, yeah, certain kind, like, uh, these birds. If they fly high that means cold winter in springtime coming. You, uh, springtime when they come in from south, if they fly low that means nice weather. Bill: Uh-huh. John: That's the old-timers stories now. Bill: Yeah, yeah. Can you tell us some more of that? John: Eh? Bill: Can you tell us some more of that? John: About old-timers? Bill: About old-timers and weather. John: Yeah, the people used to talk about that kind of stuff. Old-timer. Long time ago, the old people. And they, they, you know, they tell stories. I used to listen to them. And, uh, uh, uh, when I started getting the, reading the Bible, Bible's the same stories they tell in Alaska, from the old-timers. They didn't have no books them days. They didn't have no, no, but stories they tell, it's accent? like Old Testament writings. Bill: Uh-huh. John: The history of the Alas..., uh, Alaska. Bill: Uh-huh. John: Pretty hard to believe, but it's, uh, it's, it's true.
Bill: Mmhm. What I wanted to ask you now was, today, how, how is life different than when you were younger. When you were, had started your family. How is hunting, fishing, trapping different? John: The peop..., well, people used to hunt them days, only days, nowadays, don't hunt. Uh, only go out and shoot the moose once in a while, or a caribou. Whatever they can get out of, out of the village. Because nobody go out and trap no more. And, uh, they don't know how to put snares, uh, beaver trap ? nowadays. They, uh, too much local work to make money at. They don't go out spring camp. They stay ho..., right here in the village. The most of 'em are. Are everyplace. Long time ago, earlier days, they used to go out. Oh, clean the village out. Everybody go out, go spring hunting. Same thing in the fall, they come back in the winter. Changes, lots difference because if you tell the, one of the kids to go out and catch a beaver, they wouldn't do it. And if they go someplace outlying, hunting ? if there's no cabin, they wouldn't go because it's too cold. Long time ago, we used to kill the moose, in the f..., in December, without the sleeping bag or nothing, with just skins. Skins of ?, moose, and used to like to stay overnight. With a campfire. Two, two ? sleep together and the one, uh, ca..., moose hides. Heh, heh, heh. Bill: You have to be careful it doesn't freeze on you. John: Yeah. One side of the, one side of the skins torn up? and one side of the ? frozen. You gotta ?. Heh, heh, heh. Bill: Mary, do you want to add anything to that? Can you tell us about how things have changed from your perspective? Mary: Yeah. Some, um, long time ago, we do that, uh, us. Us young guys and even ?. I don't know. I, um, tell 'em to not to do that. What's that mean? What's that mean? You guys go and do everything, you don't listen old people. That's why I talk to 'em. And that ? nobody, when you was grown. Us guys, they tell us, ? of anybody listen. Most of 'em all the time, us guys, long time ago. Not kids like that. Even big school ? mischief now. They scared to...
Mary: Own his life is spoiled, too some, some place?. He don't want to listen to old people, that's why. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: And there was mother, and, uh, his dad. They never talked of him. That's why when you was little, them people sometime, ?. That's why the old people said later on, after while, we gonna never ? to eat ? himself. Now we do that different. Different people now. Long time ago they never tell us, they tell us to listen to old people good. Then they tell you November. And now, us gettin' November now. I think, sometime, my kids, boys, not, they talk not, not like us. Like a long time ago. We talk to grandpa and grandma, us guys. We were, when you read something, I never read them kind?. No say anything like that. And they even need to, need to write ?. That's what, uh, old people tell us like that. Uh, when you, now these boys, girls, they are scared nothing. Not like us. Change it. Changing people now. Bill: So there were certain things you weren't supposed to eat? Mary: Mmmm. Gonna eat, eat something and spend time with the mama in Kvichak?}. Alaska spinach, too. We call gutaqan. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: Good fishing?. Very nice. I do that, me. I watch my mama, that's why. And they, uh, was scared to walk, on the? too far. Them guys, them ? in springtime. Brown bear, too many, Branch River, when you walk around. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: In springtime, them kind ?, Alaska spinach. Eat some, mmmm. Bill: Agutaq? Mary: Mmmm. Good ?. After boy fishing, and then it's cooked, them kind. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: It's cooked like that. And put little bit grease in it. It taste good like that. Mama told me. Hee, hee. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: And wipe it. Still, uh, no, nobody around in the kids. They don't know, they don't want to talk to 'em. That's why the kids, they don't know nothing. I talk to 'em, us guys, when they were smarter and try and get a look around. Look at. Sit down. Us guys never do that when he was li..., like you never touch around nothing. Just sit down, watch it. That's all. Us guys. Long time ago. Not look around all over.
Mary: Scared to. Like that. Now these kids, they come over, look around, do that. Look around, what they see on TV and everything. Not us guys. Do that. Change is good. Dem... Bill: Yeah. Mary: ...young guys. Never scare, there was anybody, man and woman. Not like us. What do anyone comes over. What you cook? I watch it. You're cooking oil?. Hee, I tell them. He do, he do, he asked me right away sometime. What you cook? I cook ? and leftover lunch. I use, all the time, eh, some of 'em. Not like, uh, uh, when you was born. Dem kids. He never talk about with his grandma. No more grandma now. All of 'em now, kids, I told, I told the sons come over cause, to sit down with them, listen. Us guys never touch around, never play around somebody's house. Sit down. Watch it. ? November? Good. I'm trying to...I'm tired. That's all I says. Not like, uh, fish, too. Sometime old people talk about what it, long time ago. Sometime short for fish. Salmon fish. Summertime. Mama told me, too. When you get short fish, then you get, uh, us guys get hungry, sometime. Anybody, no more animal pretty soon, too, he said. Old people talk about, they knew us guys got, us guys and uh, get hungry. Maybe get hungry. Them kids. That's why I told ? particular when you, when you eat something. Mmhm. When you get really hungry, you got nothing to, to eat, then you eat it. That's what, uh, I talk about, me and my, my grandma. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: My mom, too. And even she little, fish, tie 'em up and split, and, uh, put 'em up. With fish coming, no more fish coming, everybody's gonna be hungry. That's what they tell us. Old people. When you was young, too, and my, my feet, my hands?. Don't let me ? call you once. And the feet. After what you clean? in the ?, get swell up. Like that. Uh, what you call it? Bill: Arthritis? Mary: Uh-huh. When you get wet, you... They never let me wet my ? and, uh, ? asking and they let me get up the stove. That's why I, even this young. He swell up. His hands. It's cold. That's why. Cold feet, too. His body there, uh, like something swell up. ?. Bill: So they'd never let you get your hands wet? Mary: Mmmm. Not, uh, not a blue sky?. Gotta warm up. End of side A
Side B Bill: OK. You were telling us about what, uh, grandma told you. What the old folks told you about... Mary: When you, when you act right. Do what, ? in sleep. You hands don't like it. Not cold all the time. And you could add ? or you could livin', livin' good. That's why we do that. And everybody, yeah, when they was young. His, his mother and, uh, maybe never ? for something. Never show 'em how, that's why. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: They show me and ? cut it for something. He gotta, let me, show me. My mom, I made it different? too. When you was little. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: Then I, then I know, then you will know, you will know when you're grown up. I do that. Sometime. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: Mmhm. Bill: Let me ask, uh,... Mary: Yeah. Go ahead. Thank you. Bill: Thank you. That was wonderful. Uh, I want to ask you about st..., starvation times. Were there stories that the old people told about starvation? John: Yeah. Uh, mmm, back in, uh, way back, far away, we had, uh, ashes, burn, volcano ashes dropped in the river and killed all the fish. Very little, uh, there was very little left. And the salmon run, in summertime, just disappeared. Didn't come in no more. 'Til the water all cleared out. Only, volcano ashes. And since there was animals, birds and everything, they couldn't live out of the country. Like, what they tell you, the animals, they always live on the, ? seasonal, on the tundra and so forth. It was all gone. So, only fish they, only thing they live on, the little blackfish. And stickleback. Along the coast. And Interior. Only things that live, uh, on the, on the country them days. There were no animals. No nothing. Very few that came, went to, back, Interior, someplace. Not along the coast. Because, ah, everything, went dead. Completely dead. Some fish that stays away from the ashes, they live. I will go back again, spawning? again, after four years.
Bill: When did that happen? John: Way, way back. Couple of ? years ago. Years ago. Maybe about two hundred years ago. Bill: Was that before the Katmai eruption? John: Yeah. It was before Katmai eruption. It was a long time ago. Bill: How about the Katmai eruption? John: Ka.., Ka..., Katmai erup..., eruption didn't bother nothing. Maybe a little bit here and there but nothing else. Caught away in Yukon? at that time. I wasn't on board. Bill: Hmmm. Uh-huh. John: Ha. Ha. Bill: What did people do in the old, old days, at that time when there was a big eruption? John: They, they look for different areas. Some of 'em, most of the people, some of the people starve to death. So, starvation. No fish, no animals, no hunt. Bill: Mary, do you want to add to that? Do you want to say something about that? Mary: This was a, tell us, but I never seen, too. They tell us that, grandma and grandpa, too. They tell us, some of the days, some of the days, uh, there's no fish come in. Run short of water, too, us guys. ?, sometime. That's what, uh, they tell us, too. One, two, water play? with them too much. And might you think about you, when water short, sometime. Bill: Yeah. Mary: Some of the days, us guys, too. Bill: What did they do about the water? Mary: That's, that's where the...Us, water, water, and, uh, spring water. You'd get water, too. Liskuya? Bay. Spring water. They, they'd look around and they found, maybe. Some people. That's what, that's what... Bill: Springs? Mary: Mmhm. It seems that somebody in, uh, way above us, that give us water. Bill: Yeah. Mary: Mmhm. Look around. That's, not, not, I'm, even he's getting old I sometime, and, uh, I listen people and, uh, I talk to kids. Sometime. Bill: Yeah. Mary: That's what, uh, they tell us to, wa..., water short. And, ? stuff. And when you never growin' up and, uh, never growin' up in the ground. Berries, too. No berries, sometime. Some other time. No grow. Bill: Yeah. Mary: They die off. Some of 'em live, now. They die off, blackberries to live. Die off, too. Some of 'em. Now, start, er, I watched. Some of 'em, blackberries, live. They die off. Bill: They die off? Mary: Mmhm. Some.
Mary: Some of 'em, not all of 'em. They had to, uh, walk around. Some of 'em. Bill: Mmm. Mary: Used to be lots of blackberries here and Levelock. Only lots of brown bears. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: They tell us, long time ago, watch it. When you never watch it they don't know. They never listen. They don't know you. And I listen. Bill: Mmhm. Mary: There's a water, some... That's why we started a new ?, short water, us. Last year, too, us. Branch River, Alakanuk. Here, too. And, uh, Kvichak. Water dry up. Some of the days, water short, too. That's what it started like that, I think. That's what old people like that, they talk about ?. Bill: Yeah. Mary: Mmmm. Bill: Uh-huh. OK. We want to talk a little about canneries. And the, when canneries came in here. Can you tell us the history of canneries coming in here? John: Yeah. There's the canneries come in here, to the, uh, to the Bay in summer, uh, in springtime with their own boat. From Seattle, or San Francisco. Sail up. Uh, later on they use, uh, earlier days they use sailing ships. And, uh, later on when the power started to come in, they started to use power, steam, uh, steam die..., receiver?. That's all the cannery used to use. Use steam engines and so forth, to run the cannery. And after that, the cannery gets power, electric power, they convert everything. Bill: But, uh, lots of canneries around here. John: Yeah. All the canneries used to run between here and Naknek. Bill: Huh. John: The earlier days the canneries, long time ago, before I born eve..., come up here in the river and seine the fishing. Put 'em in a boat and take 'em home. Put 'em on a barge. Never used dipnets. That's the..., that's stories now. But later on they use, uh, sailboats and, no power now. Everything, uh, on, by, uh, head up ?. Now, now they got, now they got, just like their home. Their boats. They got everything in there. Refrigeration, fishing, and everything. Even nice rescue...
John: ...power rollers to bring your net in. Long time ago they only use, uh, wooden roller pull a by, um, ?. I've, uh, I've done that, too. Bill: Yes. John: And I'm running, I already have, I can't even bend 'em. Bill: So sore? John: Yeah. Gotta soak 'em. Heh, heh. Yeah, hard work some days, when you go out and fishing in sailboat. Bill: Yeah. John: Heh, heh, heh. Bill: And you had to know what you were doing out there, too. John: Right. Now you got power and everything else. You come in. Bill: Yeah. A lot of tide and a lot of current. John: Yeah. Yeah. Bill: When did people start working in the canneries? John: Um, back in, uh, 1945, the people of Alaska?, the cannery go up north. Pick up some Eskimos and, and build a cannery. That time, they, gabardines, wore, I started, stopped, uh, bringing the canneries, cannery work force out of South 48. They use Eskimos ? from up north and bring these canneries. Course they fly 'em in. Bill: Mmhm. John: Before that, when you, uh, before that they used to bring, uh, bring 'em in by ship. Whole cannery crew. Fishing men, cannery workers, everybody fish. And, uh, cannery helpers and everything. Bill: Yeah. John: Come in by sh..., ship from south, from Seattle. Bill: You're talking about your dad? Mary: Mmhm. On November. With, uh, with, uh, kayak. Bill: Kayak? Mary: Oooh. All of 'em go down. Lots of canneries at ?, East ?. My, my, uh, grandpa, too. When they get sea lions, sell it to Naknek. Come down in Kokhanok, go down with the kayak. Selling sea, seal. You know, like otter, long time ago. Before I born. That's with the story. Lots of cannery around. Bill: Yeah. Mary: We stop over there, other side, of, uh, Branch River. Alakanuk, too. And town near ?, Nakeem. Naknek, too.
Mary: They took kayak and started to, them kind of skin. He said, before I born, hunt around the, near the ocean over there. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: My, uh, my grandpa family. Long time ago. Before I born. That's what they talk, talk about when you was young. Was thinking of married and, um, my dad, my mama, he stay with 'em, too. When you was young, used to be my mama, when you was little, young, first thing you get married. He said. First thing in the married. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: My dad, went with 'em. He stay with 'em over there. Hunting, them guys. Lots of canneries that mama told me. With the wood?. He go with this, my dad, with the kayak. He selling for sea lion. Before everybody get money, he get money like that. Family... Bill: Yeah. Mary: ...from Ko..., uh, no, Kokhanok, us. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: My grandpa family. Bill: Yeah. Mary: Lots of..., lots of people. That's why long time ago, he said, now, there's no more young ones to ? Kokhanok. Hee, hee, hee. Bill: Yeah. Mary: Hee. Bill: We were asking about the cannery here at Levelock. Mary: Yeah, I, I seen, too, when you was small. I'm, my brother bring down in, uh, uh, meat. Caribou, I mean, reindeer meat. Fill 'em up in the cannery. Right there, too. And the other one that I call on to take 'em. Take 'em and, cannery take 'em. Before get the ?, everybody get freezing. In the cannery. We be, he buy it. Long time ago. We had the butter. We buy it. Pure, salted butter. Bill: Butter? Mary: Mmhm. Yeah. And, and, uh, toast and, uh, ?. Box all the time. Wood box all the time. No, no people box. Wood box all the time. Bill: Mmhm. Mary: But, need the? wood box. Bill: Hmm. OK. Let me ask you about the, about the Park Service. How has the establishment of the park changed things here? Mary: Changes that them guys. Uh, after get grown up, my oldest brother, all gone now summer. Must be, must be, uh, on November. Up on Big Mountain. All summer he gone. Must be he coming, this, bring us flowers, sugar, and everythings. Everything, coffee, and tea, pretty much. You know, uh, this kind, too. And, uh, take one. He used to bring the, he used to bring the tent. Them kind, too, he bring them. Then mama make tent, too.
Mary: He know how so he got some of us in like that. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: My ma only was in the, in the tent, too. Bill: Mmhm. Mary: Must be in the fishing. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: ? Close us guys. Mama ?. Used to be like that, no more. Long time ago. When you tell us, them kind?. Them kind. He had pants?. That's all he. Hee, hee. Takes shoes, too. Bill: Mmhm. Mary: ? that far. Hee, hee. Bill: Old-fashioned. Mary: Old-fashioned. I see him in the, he been, uh, I stepped out. He buy 'em, too. Them kind of pants he had. Bill: Mmhm. Old-fashioned clothes. Mary: Mmhm. Bill: But, uh,... Mary: He had the sewing, Mama, dress, make me dress, too and, uh. Sewing. Bill: Sewing machine? Mary: Mmhm. Bill: The kind you had to turn? Mary: Yeah. Bill: Yeah. Mary: Them kind, too. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: He got it in the ?. Bill: Uh-huh. Mary: Mmm. Long time ago he do that. Bill: Uh-huh. What I wanted to ask you about was the National Park. Katmai National Park. John: Uh-huh. Bill: Can you talk about, can you talk about the Park and how, and, and its boundaries and how they have, how that's worked out for people here? John: Yeah. We woke up before they, uh, Park Service came in. Tried to do a lot. Uh, people go out hunting on the open season of the year. Regulation, regulation of Alaska. But, uh, somehow or another, um, tourists and big game hunters came in. They couldn't go hunting in the Park. Because the park is closed season altogether. You can't even cut, uh, fish a stick out of the o..., ?, build a campfire. So, uh, people doesn't go in too far into the area. And, in other words, they all right, big game, small game, fishing, and so forth. With, with sport fishermen they go in there, do some sportfishing in, inside the park. But the people around the area, they don't go in to that area. They always get down to fishing along the river, here and so forth. And in the falltime, they go up river and do some whitefishing, pike fishing, and so forth. And most of the time they go to the island ?. ? enough to eat.
John: And, um, remember going to the park, people in the area. Of course, they can go in there, hunting, but it's too far. You got no cabin in there. People nowadays, you got to have cabin in the center you, where you going. Long time ago, I, of course, I then, I sleep under the tree in 20 below zero. Bill: Heh, heh, heh, heh. John: But there's nothing got a, and, uh, sleep, heh, heh, in the camp forward?. Keep, keep the fire goin' rest of the, all night. Just to keep warm. Quite a, go out with your dog team ? and so forth. No snow machines. Bill: Yeah. Snow machines were a big change, huh? John: Yeah. I, I was the first one to buy a snow machine up here. From Anchorage ?. People asked me how does snow machine work? Good. Bill?: When was that? John: 1960. Bill: 1960. John: I was the first one to buy a snow machine here in Levelock. Bill: Heh. What happened to your fingers? You had a accident that you lost part of your fingers? John: My finger? Bill: Yeah. John: Dropped an anchor on top of it. Smash it. Bill: Oh. An anchor, huh? John: Yeah, on the barge. Bill: Ooh. John: On the power, uh, barge. Bill: Hmm. And then you, uh, you saw four-wheelers come into the country, too, huh? John: Yeah. Went up the Kuskokwim River, Yukon Rapids?. Over ?. Bill: Yeah. But, uh, we're talking about changes and, uh... John: Well, it, it... Bill: ...changes? in technology. John: It change everyplace. Not only here, but everyplace. They change. Bill: When did you get your first four-wheeler? John: Oh, about ten years ago. Bill: Uh-huh. John: Heh, heh. Bill: Do you use it out hunting, in... John: Yeah. Bill: ...the country? Mary: ? John: ? Sixth one. The sixth, heh, heh, wheeler. Not this one here. Bill: Sixth six-wheeler. A sixth four-wheeler. Yeah. Heh. John: I learn something every day. Here, ? old and last longer. Bill: Uh-huh. That's right. John: In other words, I burn 'em out, ? Bill: Yeah. John: Heh, heh, heh. Bill: Well, you, this has been a good, uh, good interview. You folks are... John: Uh-huh. Bill: ...are good at this. Uh, you want to add anything more? Mary: I got tired. Hee, hee, hee, hee. Bill: You got tired. Yeah. OK. Let me unhook you and we'll call it good. Thank you very much. End of Tape