Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
David and Kitty David

I interviewed Kitty and David David on the evening of November 20, 1992 sitting around their dining room table in their cabin in Allakaket, Alaska. At first David was rather quiet, but he spoke up more as he became more comfortable with working with the tape recorder. One of Kitty and David's granddaughters who lives with them quietly watched a video with a friend while we taped. Kitty began the interview by talking about her family and her experiences growing up in traditional camps on the Alatna River, and then moving into the village of Alatna to attend the missionary school in Allakaket run by Miss Bessie Kay. Out in camp, her father helped her learn to read with magazines, and she managed to get a fifth grade education. Kitty also talked about her relatives on the Kobuk River. She told how her father traveled there by dog team to trade. Kitty's discussion of the missionary nurse, Miss Hill, and how she struggled to treat people with almost no medication led Kitty to talk about tuberculosis and how it affected the community. In the old days, most elders with TB died. When treatment became available, people had to leave the community, going to places like Fort Yukon, where her sister, Bertha Moses, and her husband, Johnson, went, and Mt. Edgecumbe near Sitka, where her father was sent. Kitty also talked about her work as a community health aide. She describes how in becoming a health aide she is following in the footsteps of her sister Bertha, who was Allakaket's health aide for many years. Kitty was inspired also by the missionary nurse, Miss Amelia Hill, who spent almost thirty years serving the people of Allakaket. Kitty feels that local patients feel more comfortable and are more open when they are treated by a local person. At the end of our discussion Kitty talked about the values that are important to keep for future generations. Subsistence is very important. Education and jobs take people away to the cities where they can't hunt and trap and too much television isn't good for their health. Women need to learn traditional skills again, sewing and making mukluks, fishing, berry picking, how to store food for the winter. She lamented that people don't go out to fish camp very much today. Like his wife, David talked about the values he felt people should keep and pass on to future generations. He talked about how important it is today to get an education. In today's cash economy young people have to learn a living. But he also talked about how important it is to go to fish camp and be on the land. He says that having a mixed economy is best, and to do so one also needs the skills to continue subsistence. David also talked at some length about raising and training sled dogs, for he is known for this skill. He talked about his first experience driving dogs. He was nine and he had two dogs. He used dogs for hauling wood and other chores and over the years the size of the teams he drove grew. He got into racing with seven dogs in l955, taking a third place. Over the next several years he continued racing placing in some of the big races in Fairbanks. He finally stopped racing and even keeping sled dogs because of the cost.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 93-15-53

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Nov 20, 1992
Narrator(s): David David, Kitty David
Interviewer(s): Wendy Arundale
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) Kitty talks about her background and growing up

2) David talks about his background and growing up

3) Getting married and adult life

4) Ties over on the Kobuk River

5) Raising and training dogs

6) Kitty's work as a health aide

7) Sickness in the old days

8) Important values to keep in culture for generations to follow

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: Alatna\ mother\ father\ Kobuk River\ camp -- living out from village\ Alatna River -- off the land\ subsistence life\ trapping -- father\ Black Jack Camp -- nine miles up\ Hughes -- dog sled down with five dogs, no trail\ Old man Sammy\ mother -- died, Kitty nine years\ children -- mother's; eight, six sisters, two brothers\ Nictune, Oscar Sr.\ Tobuk, Cora\ born -- 1933\ school -- fifth grade; out most of the time\ father -- read magazines to teach\ school -- missionary building, one through eight\ river -- during break-up, couldn't cross for school\ husband -- South Fork River\ clothes -- two pair: school and home\ teacher\ Kay, Miss Bessie\ Hill, Miss -- minister, nurse|

Section 2: father\ South Fork David\ mother\ Eva\ South Fork River -- stayed year round\ school -- third grade\ father -- died when three\ William, William\ William, Henry\ trapping\ camp\ Henshaw Creek -- south fork\ Tsaalaatna\ trail -- old times\ Old Man Creek\ hunting\ caribou\ Beaver\ Stevens Village\ William, William\ tracking\ Grandpa Joe -- first hunt with at eleven\ Tsaalaatna -- muskrat, 1943\ pike -- cooked on stick\ May -- hunting trip\ Tsaalaatna River -- rowed down\ Kanuti River|

Section 3: marriage -- both nineteen\ children -- eight; six boys, two girls\ Williams, Jeanie -- adopted one out to David's sister|

Section 4: Kobuk River -- relatives\ Ward, Jonas -- father's half-brother\ father -- Kitty's, traveled over by dog team\ trading -- moose hide; rope; seal oil; fish\ culture -- didn't know Allakaket and Alatna were different people when growing up|

Section 5: driving dogs -- David's first experience at nine; two dogs\ hauling wood -- with dogs\ dog team -- grew\ racing -- seven dogs, 1955; got third place\ training -- run them steady, not fast\ Anchorage\ Redington, Joe -- bought favorite dog\ Whitey -- good worker, good racer\ Fairbanks -- 1960; fourth place\ North American Classic\ Moses, Beatus -- champion, 1961|

Section 6: health aide\ Bertha -- sister\ Allakaket\ clinic -- start without training, 1978\ Tanana Hospital\ health -- patients feel better with local aides; more open\ Hill, Miss -- nurse\ medication -- lack of\ delivery -- babies; first one 1965|

Section 7: Tanana Hospital\ tuberculosis\ tuberculosis -- people died\ pneumonia -- no medication; leads to tuberculosis\ disease -- spread\ sanitation -- didn't know about\ elders -- most died in old days\ treatment -- people had to leave for\ Fort Yukon -- sister Bertha and Johnson went to\ Mount Edgecumbe -- father went to\ children -- stayed with other families when parent got sick|

Section 8: David, Kitty -- values\ subsistence -- keep the traditions\ education -- jobs take people away to cities\ hunting\ trapping\ television -- not good for health\ women -- learn to sew, make mukluks\ fishing\ berry picking\ storage -- food for winter\ fish camps -- nobody goes out today\ David -- values\ school -- get an education\ cash economy -- got to earn a living\ fish camp\ economy -- mixed is best\ sleds -- used to make for money\ David, Kitty -- recommendations\ alcohol prevention\ sewing -- classes\ children -- need to learn from elders, get back skills|