Grant Uiugaaguqruak Ballot was interviewed on February 8, 2018 by Susan Georgette and Karen Brewster in the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge's office in the IRA Traditional Council's building in Selawik, Alaska. Nichole Hanshaw sat in and listened to the interview. In this interview, Grant talks about growing up following a traditional nomadic subsistence lifestyle, going to mission school, trapping, fishing and hunting. In particular, Grant talks a lot about muskrat hunting, preparation of the skins, and the fur trade. He also talks about other people and families that lived in camps and settlements along the Selawik and Tagraġvik Rivers, and changes that have led to the loss of cultural traditions and the importance of passing these along to the younger generations.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Land Use and Environmental Change, Selawik National Wildlife Refuge
Date of Interview: Feb 8, 2018
Narrator(s): Grant Ballot
Interviewer(s): Susan Georgette, Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Karen Brewster
People Present: Nichole Hanshaw
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Personal background, childhood, and family
Brothers and sisters, and family history
Place names: Nauyaqtuuq and Selawik
Introduction of fur traders and Rotman's Store
Niliq and sheefish spawning
Settlement at Second Forks on the Selawik River, and 1950 census in Selawik
Muskrat hunting at spring camp and trade and use of muskrat furs
Trade fair, sharing, and Christmas feast
Lack of caribou, working hard to find food, and fishing
Different kinds of mukluks (boots)
Charlie Wood and coming to Selawik from Kobuk
Trapping with his father, and fishing on Fish River for humpback whitefish (Ikkuiyiq)
Muskrat hunting with his family at Paakłiq
Traveling to and from Paakłiq and on Selawik Lake
Activities at Niliq and along the Tagraġvik River
Construction of new homes, use of fuel oil instead of wood, and changes to the community and traditional lifestyle from modernization
Teaching others traditional values
Selling muskrat furs, and preparing the skins
Trading muskrat furs at the store
Grave on the Tagraġvik River, Christianity, and shamans
Going to a mission school near Dillingham
End of muskrat hunting as a money-making activity, and wage employment
Traditional stories that his father used tell
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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
KAREN BREWSTER: This is Karen Brewster, and today is February 8th, 2018. And we're here in Selawik, Alaska speaking with Grant Ballot. Joined by Susan Georgette and Nichole Hanshaw. And this is for the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge Project. Thank you, Grant, for coming today. We're in the IRA office. So, just to get us started, can you just tell me a little bit about yourself? When you were born, and where.
GRANT BALLOT: Okay, I was born 1941, August 18. That -- that was the time when people were really self-sufficient. They operated on their own without any outside support year 'round back then. And then the reindeer herders -- the government brought in reindeer herds, that really helped. And then I saw one of their government paycheck and a hundred dollars a month. That's a lot of money, because you could -- in them days you could buy five cans of evaporated milk for one dollar. Guess what it is now?
So, I went to mission school when I was fourteen years old. I ended up being the only person there who spoke my language. The elders did not speak any English at all. Just like they were around here. And their language was Yup'ik. And they taught me. I got to learn how to communicate with them. I'm not very good at it, but I could communicate with them. When they ask a question, I answer it in their language. It took me four months, maybe.
After being gone for the last two years, I came home the first two summers for a week, maybe, and then, what I couldn't do was understand my own parents when they talked Iñupiaq when I came back. And it took me several months to -- I started driving a dogteam right away, and the elders, they were all teachers. Subsistence-type teachers. Kids had to know. There were many dangers they had to be aware of. That was the elders' responsibility. And they taught whoever they took out hunting with. About driving a dogteam. What to look for in a caribou herd. Moose, what's usually better meat at certain times of the year. All this was taught.
And -- and when I get done with this, I would like to talk a little bit about it because this quick change really hurt our people, our families. And -- and this change is really hurting. So --
KAREN BREWSTER: Were you born here in Selawik or out at camp? GRANT BALLOT: My birth certificate, even lists -- what they call those mid-wives? KAREN BREWSTER: Mid-wife, yeah. GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. There're two of them listed on my -- that we were living across here at the Point, and I was born with mid-wives. Not in the hospital.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: And who were your parents? GRANT BALLOT: Paul and Bessie Ballot. They're my -- there were thirteen kids. Many of them born before the -- I mean, died before they got really old, but there's seven of us left, yet. I've have two older sisters. I'm the eldest of the -- of the whole Smiths/Ballots. That family. 'Cause I'm 76 now. So, I'm coming along in age. I didn't expect to, but I'm here.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: Could -- could you say who your brothers and sisters are who are still alive? GRANT BALLOT: Okay. Helen is in Noorvik. Helen Wells. The reason why she's Wells is because she has never drank once. She has never smoked. And she said she married an elderly man because she didn't want to marry anybody who drank. That was her explanation. But she's almost in her ninety now. And still very -- her mind is very sharp, but -- but I'm getting to be that way. There are days when I forget something easy. Like my dish. Water running, and good thing it don't -- kept flowing. Froze out the other -- it comes.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so, besides Helen, who are your other brothers and sisters?GRANT BALLOT: Okay, I got -- ones that are living, I have Marie next to me, and then there are three boys after that, Hendy, Joseph and Lee. Lee's the youngest one. And then we adopted two girls, Arlene and Ethel. But they're part of the family. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm. GRANT BALLOT: My parents adopted them.
The -- one time way after my mom died, I was living up in Barrow, we invited my dad to go up to Barrow. To go stay with us for a while because we have a lot of relatives up in Barrow. And he -- he knows a lot of people up in Barrow. My dad does. So, we took him up there. But, one day I asked him, I -- because of my being away from the family when I started fourteen years old, there's a lot of things I don't know about my family. And I asked him to make me a cassette tape. He made me two of them. And he gave me a panoramic view of the development here in Northwest. So (phone rings) how each family became --
Then probably when the polar ice cap was melting and receding, Nauyaqtuuq is what they call it. It's a small creek with a series of lakes. And it was probably place where they went to spawn. And when they got there, it was nothing but mud flats. But they talked among themselves and said, "We could -- we could make a living here. There's enough fish we can store. There's enough wood." But they had to go up into the hills to get materials to build their sod huts, because that's what he said, it was nothing but mud flats up by where that -- this place called Nauyaqtuuq. It's the original first settlement of the people who eventually became Siiḷviŋmiut. Siiḷvik. The Russians spelled it C-H-I-L-I-V-I-K. Sii-ḷ-vik. The "Siiḷ" stands for the sheefish. Okay. So, Siiḷvik is a place where sheefish, great spawning area for sheefish. So that's how that thing -- But it's, you know, with generation after generations things get distorted, so it's Selawik now.
But Nauyaqtuuq is really where it started, and they eventually got a reputation, even over in Nome, that they stored food, because all they had to do was scrap off the dirt, dig a hole in the ice, and then line it up with whatever they did -- they probably grass. And layer. For their personal consumption. Food. There were probably skinned -- I mean, the scaled, you know, so you can just dig one out and start working on it.
But, the -- some of the people that traveled around from the Nome area, found out about it so they go visit and -- and they loved their food. And they had plenty of it stored. So, dogteamers, one guy, Cleveland, he brought his dogteam to Nauyaqtuuq and his dogteam gathered wood for them -- But they were feeding his dogs. Giving them -- re-strengthening them. And up to the day he died, he used to talk about it. That it was such a precious thing that happened to him.
Eventually, they -- when -- when they started -- fur traders start coming in, it was Rotman's Store. The ones you see in Kotzebue. They have one here, too. Rotman's Store. But the original Rotman's Store was a fur trading post. People go in there with their furs and trade for whatever they had in their store. That's where Rotman's Store really started.
And -- and then there were many other fur traders that came in, but most of them didn't operate only in Selawik, but they were all up on the Kobuk River, so they might spend a summer here and then they're here, they're somewhere else. But --
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you remember the names of any of those other fur traders?GRANT BALLOT: Tom Barryman. Even Nelson Walker came over here, he's got a store. I really don't know who they are like -- like I tell you, I moved out when I was young. And then after I got back, I moved out with the BIA relocation program. When I got home from that, I got drafted in the Army. So, I haven't been in Selawik a lot. So, I'm a Vietnam era veteran.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: And so when Rotman's came to Selawik, they went to Niliq, right, to build their store? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. There -- there's a warehouse standing up there yet. But that erosion last spring really did some damage to it.
KAREN BREWSTER: Did -- did you ever hear why they decided to go to Niliq? The Rotmans, why they decided to have a store there? GRANT BALLOT: Well -- KAREN BREWSTER: Instead of someplace else? GRANT BALLOT: Along the river, in the Second Forks, Harry Cleveland, that clan, his parents, and then himself. That used to be their area. It's also plentiful with all kinds of wildlife. Now, the Second Forks is further up from -- from Niliq. That also was a place where they caught a lot of sheefish. Sheefish spawned all the way past the Second Fork, all the way up, and -- but, you know, the water depth, currents, all changed. And they spawn further down now.
When -- when people go out with boats, they can see 'em and fish for 'em. Only the giant fish went up there. The young ones stayed around here. Selawik Lake is a permanent home for some, but some of them come in from the -- through Kotzebue nowadays.
So, now, when I was talking to somebody there are seven major spawning areas for sheefish, nowadays. But a long time ago, they thought Selawik was the only place where you're going to find sheefish. The -- they -- they have a bone in their -- in their heads. It's like a -- like a tree rings. They can cut that open, they said the -- the oldest one was about forty-nine. It'd been alive forty-nine years. That's a long time for a fish. So, probably they wan -- start wandering around.
So, that's how Niliq became a -- a trading post. Because they could trade with people up those two forks. And there were probably other areas where people lived. And then, they could go up from -- well, this -- this really wasn't populated until the schools started building schools. And then, eventually everybody had to come in.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: The -- the settlement at Second Forks, was it on the -- what side of the river was it on? Do -- do you know where the settlement was up there at Second Forks? GRANT BALLOT: It -- You know that Kuugruaq goes north? SUSAN GEORGETTE: Hm-mm. GRANT BALLOT: Over toward the Kobuk. And then there's Kuutchiaq. And then that Selawik (River), it continues on. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Right. GRANT BALLOT: And then you get up to the Second Fork -- I mean, that's why we call that -- the first one you get to going up, First Fork. I don't know if it's right or wrong. But, that's my impression.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: And so, on Second Fork, you can either go up Selawik or you go up Tagraġvik. GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. SUSAN GEORGETTE: And the settlement was right on the Selawik side? The Selawik River side? Or do you know where people -- GRANT BALLOT: Yeah, well, that's part of Selawik River. It just goes on up and go up -- you know, what's that English name up there? That big mountain. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Yeah, Purcell Mountain. GRANT BALLOT: Yeah, that one. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Yeah, and -- Yeah, okay. GRANT BALLOT: Yeah, that -- You know that hot water? SUSAN GEORGETTE: Hm-mm. GRANT BALLOT: Flows down Selawik River. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Hm-mm. GRANT BALLOT: So --
KAREN BREWSTER: So the -- were they living on the Selawik River side or the Tag River side? At that forks. GRANT BALLOT: Right there at the Forks. My dad explained it to me. Right there, the river goes on up east, and then they're going -- starts going down. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Uh-huh. GRANT BALLOT: Okay, right there. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Right there on the left side there going up? GRANT BALLOT: Right. Kinda right in the middle. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Okay. GRANT BALLOT: But they're probably here and there. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Yeah. GRANT BALLOT: But that was a long time ago. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Yeah, okay.
KAREN BREWSTER: Did your dad ever say how many people lived up there? GRANT BALLOT: No. Even -- even in Selawik, first -- probably, 1950, when they -- I heard about the first census. They were counting people. 258, always the number I have heard for Selawik. That was all the people that was living back then. So, that had around 1950. KAREN BREWSTER: That was just here in the village? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Or all the way up river? GRANT BALLOT: No, no, just here. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. GRANT BALLOT: Just here or the -- it's probably the census. Because I was nine years old by then. Now I was pretty understanding of my numbers. I was learning. I always remember that. 256. Somehow.
And the only houses were right along the bank, where we're away from the river nowadays. And there were some in the middle island, but most of them were on this side. On the what we call the "school side."
When the first traders came in, it was a family affair. Everybody in the family went to a certain camp that they are stayed. Hunting started around two o'clock in the morning. That's when they would start coming out of their holes. KAREN BREWSTER: This is for muskrat? GRANT BALLOT: For muskrat. Springtime.
So, some older men had their own kayaks. Our oldest brother, he used to stay out there three days sometimes. He's trying to -- and he wouldn't come home with a -- all he would bring home he'd skin 'em himself out there. Sometimes close to 300 pelts he would come back with.
Now, when some of these, like the Harry Mitchell family, they ended up with boats, plywood houses, because their men -- when you get up -- up to 2000 pelts after being up there and they could sell 'em for two dollars each, that's big money in them days. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
GRANT BALLOT: So, when the first silver dollars came in, they used to throw 'em across the river. They couldn't buy anything anyway. That -- that was a -- Even I felt that way. Fifty -- fifty cents. What are you going to buy fifty cents, 'cause, I mean, I was used to catching my mink and every once in a while I was a muskrat hunter. The prices have gone way high ever since then.
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you remember when you first started to get the actual money instead of just trade? GRANT BALLOT: Okay, when I get to that in the end how all this sudden change really destroyed our villages, that's the only time the BIA stepped in with general assistance. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, well, why don't we hold that to the end. Let's keep going with -- 'Cause you said you want to talk about that at the end.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: Did you use guns to hunt muskrats or traps, or how did you catch them? GRANT BALLOT: They already had guns by the time I -- I started realizing. One thing I do remember, though, up here a ways when we heard about -- when they heard about the Japanese were coming. They really were afraid. And by then, Muktuk Marston, had started the Alaska Territorial Guard. I remember sitting on the ground - 'cause I was born 1941 - maybe I was a year old, and I remember this guy with a whole uniform, long coat. Long rifle. Standing by me while the women were picking berries.
Everybody was afraid. That's why I think I was born malnutritioned, because nobody was hunting. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Hm. GRANT BALLOT: Japanese were coming anytime. That was a real belief that I started hearing as I get older. So, that really happened.
So, muskrat hunting was our season. Our critical season was the spring, and the fall. First time the people were relaxing was during the summer. Dogs still had to eat. They still had to catch fish, but they could relax.
But all the time, they were getting ready. With clothes. You had to -- furs, fur pelts and everything that they used for -- Probably rabbits around here and muskrats for inner clothing. Then you had caribou parkies, wolf parkies, fox.
We didn't -- we had very few people. First time they went down there to Kotzebue, my oldest sister, Helen, talks about it. My dad and his older brother, Walter, and my dad was next, in Kotzebue they cried, 'cause they wanted the Niliq food. Course they got nothing like that down there. Yeah, you know, that --
So, the muskrat hunting was critical. In the falltime, gathering fish for every family was absolutely a must. Otherwise you and your dogs were gonna starve. Because dogs were the only way of transportation. No planes, no boats. No --
And then, that fall also, after freeze-up, well into October, they could trap for mink, marten, beavers, land otters. Those were all plentiful around here. Wolverines. Part of their clothes. When they start talking about the sunshine -- KAREN BREWSTER: Ruff.
GRANT BALLOT: -- ruff, they -- around here was always known as uuyuuqtak (shunshine ruff). That means it was pieced together. You know, depending on what kind of fur and what kind of layers you wanted.
And it seemed to me that every woman, when I start getting to my senses, always had a uuyuuqtak. That was probably a woman's personal ID ruff. But the men didn't wear it. That's what I remember. That uuyuuqtak was designed strictly for women to wear. And the girl becomes a woman, she start wearing one of those. So, it -- it was kinda interesting.
Sometimes people think that they were poor and dumb. But when you had to live off the land, absolutely necessary you have to learn. Otherwise you suffer.
You can be in severe weather, if you're not unprepared (means if you're not prepared) mentally, physically, they're going to suffer. And you had to have the appropriate clothing. Every mom knew what kind of clothing her child would need for cold weather. What kind of a change they could use with ugruk bottom. It was becoming easier to get ugruk from Kotzebue.
That's another thing that my dad told about in Kotzebue when they have a trade fair. He -- he said this one guy came up from way up north, and he had the narwhal tooths. Those were his riches, is the way my dad described it.
If anybody wanted those, he was ready to make a deal, so whatever he didn't have, he could -- they could trade. That's the way it functioned. Even the Siberians. He said the Siberians Natives, used to spoke our language. It's the Russian language that messed it up. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Mm.
GRANT BALLOT: See. These are things I had never heard, but when he made that tape he was explaining this to me, that's why I was quick to say, "Yes, I will help you." Because I've -- I've heard it, and a lot of things even some of these younger generation - my peers - they have no idea what I'm talking about, see. Unless you really want to learn, that's where you are. Brain stagnant.
So, muskrat hunting and then the fur hunting and trapping, 'cause here's the thing, they were pretty well off Christmas time. Everybody had to donate when they had Christmas feast. They'd prepare for that during the summertime.
We would put away our barrel -- in wooden barrels, our berries. The only thing you couldn't put away was blueberries. That's what -- my dad, he said, "They're not food." But, we got freezers now. You get it, bag it, freeze it. Good for anytime, but then it wasn't like that.
Like my aunt, Clara, her daughter -- have -- have some frozen fish. She said, "You don't eat frozen fish in the summertime." It's -- Clara's been alive through it, but Mary didn't know. These are little things that come out.
So, Christmas time, everybody brought in a portion that they had prepared to give to Christmas. All the families did. And they enjoyed all the different foods that they had prepared for this feast.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: So they all came in from their camps at Christmas time to Selawik? GRANT BALLOT: Right. It was -- SUSAN GEORGETTE: Fun. GRANT BALLOT: -- prepared, and they kept it safe, cool, whatever might be. So when the occasion came, that's what they brought as part of their Christmas feast. Probably a lot of pilgrims you hear about doing that, you know. They were doing the same thing around here.
KAREN BREWSTER: So, how far would people travel to come to Selawik for that feast? GRANT BALLOT: Dogteams. KAREN BREWSTER: No, how far though? From way up Selawik River and up there? GRANT BALLOT: Where -- where ever they were located. There weren't -- we were -- there's a few places that are -- that they mention close to Purcell Mountain, but there were probably daring people who wanted -- they were always would take off just to find out what's out there. Because they knew how to survive. They didn't pack a lot of food. They got whatever they need to eat, otherwise they walked along.
So, Christmas time, when that was over, it was a big event. People who hadn't seen each other were finally together. And they kid each other just for laughs. Sometimes fearlessly. And so when somebody laughed, they spent the next summer preparing for that guy. Just -- just laugh. But, they enjoyed each other.
I caught up with them. When they get together, those old people, just kid each other. Laugh like crazy.
So, Christmas, and then here -- here's a potential again. When you didn't store away enough food -- we didn't catch caribou them days. They were -- after I was grown up they started going up Klery Creek, above Kiana. My dad used to be gone two weeks sometimes. He wouldn't come home until he had enough to bring home to -- for the family.
But he would leave with us, five dogs. My sister, Mildred, and I used to harness them up, we'd go get willows so we can survive. To keep warm during the wintertime while the main dogteam was gone, 'cause the main provider was our dad. Every dad was.
So when they started the -- the cities, they called them "atanauraq" (leader, ruler, council/board member) -- they're -- they put together, and they were the -- kind of the, like, IRA council, city council. They were powerful. Every single one of 'em was in full control of their families. They're not like that anymore. That's why you see so much confusion.
So, that's the first time, if you didn't prepare enough you -- you're start running out of food. By the time March -- my dad was real good, he told me one time that he knows where all the underwater rivers are. Underwater hills. Drop-offs.
And he could tell for here, like -- like when you're down here by Ikpik's, you know, where they fish. You line yourself with that one over there. That's called Ikpik, too. You know, between here and Buckland. You line yourself between those two and then you go out far enough so that you get down from the shallows when they drop off. It's there, if you drill a hole right there, you're gonna find a fish.
He knew where those holes were. And then he'd go down there by himself, and then he'd come back with a load. "I have several stacks of fish down there. If anybody will go down and go pick them up, you are free to." He used to do that year after year.
And then, when people find out where he was catching, they themselves start catching, too, so here again, people survived.
Springtime was a -- he told me one time, he said, "There are two seasons you don't want to die. Falltime and springtime." And I -- I think I know why he said that. Those were the most exciting times for me, even.
So, in the springtime, first of all, there were the birds, and then lots of fish fill up the rivers. Lots of fish. And you can preserve them by drying them. If you don't allow rain to fall on them, they will stay white and dry all summer long. And you can still eat 'em in the falltime, plus you make some more in the falltime.
So people who weren't lazy, they were always prepared for any kind of emergency. That included clothing, mittens, different kinds of boots. You could -- They used to make these caribou legging waterproof boots. Just like these, but these are too heavy for me now. KAREN BREWSTER: Your bunny boots. GRANT BALLOT: Waterproof. And then they had what they call the ugruk bottom. They would line it up with grass. They're light. Ugruk bottom lasts a lot longer.
But the ones that my mom made for cold weather. My dad always hunted for bull caribou because the skin around the neck is a lot thicker than it is around anywhere else. That's good for the bottom of the cold weather mukluk.
So, he had at least three different kinds of mukluks he had ready for whatever the conditions were. In other words, if it's warm, you go out with your -- your sealskin bottom. When it get cold out there on you, you take those off, put your warm layers mukluks on. They were always prepared. Different kinds of mittens. We didn't --
If you see a picture, you go down to hotel, I think they still they sell them by -- you'll see his picture, all dressed in fur. Charlie Wood. He's the guy that was named -- he's named after me.
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you want to tell us a little bit about Charlie? GRANT BALLOT: Who? KAREN BREWSTER: Charlie Wood, you want to talk a little bit about him? GRANT BALLOT: He -- his -- one of his relatives was at -- he just -- just died. Wood. Raymond Wood's dad. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Wesley. GRANT BALLOT: Wesley, yeah.
I remember a little story about him. He was going to sign something with his name. "People would sure laugh. I wrote Wes, but I can't remember the last part." 'Cause the -- he had a reputation for that. "I'm not -- I'm not, not forgetful. If I were, I wouldn't play piano for you."
KAREN BREWSTER: So, you said you're named for Charlie -- what's your Iñupiaq name? GRANT BALLOT: Uiugaaguqruak. U-I-U-G-A-A-G-U-Q or K. R-O, rook, -R-U-A-K. Uiugaaguqruak. KAREN BREWSTER: Does that mean something? GRANT BALLOT: No. I -- I don't know.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: Was Charlie Wood from Selawik? GRANT BALLOT: No. The upper -- upper Kobuk. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Upper Kobuk, okay. GRANT BALLOT: Kobuk was the only community at that time. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Right. Did he come around Selawik, though, or not? GRANT BALLOT: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That -- for he knew my family. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Okay.
GRANT BALLOT: So, every summer, I guess, he came down with a boat to go visit. That's what they used to do in them days, when you wanted to go visit. SUSAN GEORGETTE: He'd come down Kuugruaq, or he'd come all the way down Kobuk River and around? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah, Kobuk River and then they'd portage there. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Yeah. GRANT BALLOT: They were strong people. So --
KAREN BREWSTER: Did he come down here to hunt or just to visit? GRANT BALLOT: No, no, just to go visit. Just to visit people. A lot of people knew him.
And -- because they knew I was named after him, they're talking about him -- but it was like he was fastidious. You know, he would never park down river from where people were living. It's dirty. That was his reputation, and I did that. That's the way they talk about him here.
One -- even that Wesley Wood, he was with him, Charlie Wood told him to go down and didn't tell him what it was like. He was young, following him around, and he had an accident down river. He come running down there. He -- he knew he was going to happen, but "Charlie Wood," he said, "He's a liar." I mean, not -- I mean, Wesley Wood called him a liar.
KAREN BREWSTER: He was teaching him a lesson, maybe? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. That -- that's the way they did.
When my dad took me out, he'd go check his trapline, he'd be out for eleven days. I'd be alone with the dogs.
And here I was probably thirteen. Maybe twelve. I get to go out with him up Fish River. There used to be sometimes up to twelve camps when the cisco, long-nosed fish (humpback whitefish), go up that river to go spawn. When they start coming back, that's when they -- after the ice freeze up. Put poles, like this, and then they get these narrow things, put them on this, block it off, except where they have a dip net.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, like a fence of poles? GRANT BALLOT: Uh-huh. Under -- under the ice. And then they'd go through. They have, you know, be a part of the fish, so they could see the white. And they could see the fish passing over that marker.
And then when they figured they'd got enough -- I used to do that. Pull it, dump it in on the ground, and then you -- after you're all done doing that you close that back up and then you start hauling all that fish up to where it's going to be stored for the winter.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: There'd be a lot of families doing that? GRANT BALLOT: Oh, yeah. Not so much families, but the men. Men would team up. My dad and I were -- were the ones way up there as you go into the hills. You know, that bluff? Right across is where my land allotment is. That's where he set it up for me, when they were giving out land allotments. So that's mine up there where we used to do our fishing.
KAREN BREWSTER: And what kind of fish were you catching? GRANT BALLOT: Cisco. KAREN BREWSTER: Cisco -- SUSAN GEORGETTE: Humpback whitefish. GRANT BALLOT: -- whitefish. They call it a long-nosed.
KAREN BREWSTER: What's it called in Iñupiaq? GRANT BALLOT: Ikkuiyiq. That -- that's why the river is called Ikkuiyiq. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Humpback whitefish. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, humpback whitefish. Okay. SUSAN GEORGETTE: They spawn up there, right? GRANT BALLOT: Uh-huh. Yeah. They -- there's about seven different kinds of whitefish. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. GRANT BALLOT: All over our area. Some are really good for dried fish. Others are really good to freeze and save for winter food.
KAREN BREWSTER: So, did you go out muskrat hunting when you were a little boy? When you were -- before you left? GRANT BALLOT: I followed my mom.
KAREN BREWSTER: So, the women went muskrat hunting? GRANT BALLOT: Oh, yeah, the whole family did. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, the whole family, okay. GRANT BALLOT: The whole family that was capable of carrying a rifle, and -- and knew where the muskrats are. 'Cause year after year we'd go to the same place in the springtime for muskrat hunting.
And like I say, there're some families that really prospered because their -- their family were good at it, and they gathered a lot of pelts. And they were able to buy boats with inboards, and stuff like that were, you know, non-existent before. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm. GRANT BALLOT: Just --
KAREN BREWSTER: So -- so where would your family go? Where did you go back to? GRANT BALLOT: That Paakłiq. That's -- you get to this Niliq, you go past it -- No, no. No, I'm not -- I'm talkin' about the wrong thing. Near the Inland Lake over here. You go across, southeast, and there's a creek that's Kuutchiaq. You go up it and then there's a little creek that goes this way. That's where Niliq -- I mean, Paakłiq. It's called Paakłiq.
One of the Ramoth boys, Ralph Ramoth's oldest brother, Edward, said he heard about Paakłiq through -- that has camps. Long time ago camps were -- ditches are still there where they used to store their fish for the winter.
And close to here, all around, you see where families had lived. They weren't in one place. The idea was in those days you didn't all park in one spot. It's because you didn't want to deplete the resources. That's why they were scattered. That's the way my dad explained it.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: Paakłiq is kind of towards Nauyaqtuuq, right? I mean, isn't Paakłiq on the way to Nauyaqtuuq? The place where your camp for muskrat, it was kind of near that old settlement, right? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. Yeah. You go -- you go through a series of lakes and there's a creek blocked off by beavers. Can't go up there. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Yeah. GRANT BALLOT: But, that's where it is. That Nauyaqtuuq. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Yeah. Real pretty country, there. GRANT BALLOT: Hm-mm.
KAREN BREWSTER: So, were there other families near by you at Paakłiq? Or just your family? GRANT BALLOT: No, not really. The mouth of that river going into Selawik Lake, because of west winds, the water when it gets real low. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. GRANT BALLOT: It's real low.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: And you'd get -- doesn't the ice stay late in the -- in Inland Lake? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. SUSAN GEORGETTE: So you have to wait for the ice to melt to get back to the village? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. One time we did. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Okay. GRANT BALLOT: It froze up thick, and we couldn't get out.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you would go up there by dogteam, and then wait for it to melt, and then come back by boat? GRANT BALLOT: Well, I -- I -- I -- it blocked out of my mind. I -- I -- me and my sister, we could see the fish running under the ice, but it was about four inches thick. That's how -- so our boats -- I don't -- I can't recall much. There are some things I really don't remember -- KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm. GRANT BALLOT: -- that well. SUSAN GEORGETTE: That's okay. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, you're remembering a lot.
I was wondering about muskrat hunting. You -- what time you go up and how long you're there before you come back from camp? GRANT BALLOT: I was born in 19 -- August 18. Two times we have gone up there in the falltime. And we had to come back before it froze up, so we didn't -- and we used the boat going up and back.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: And in the springtime, you'd go by dogteam? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. SUSAN GEORGETTE: And come back by boat? GRANT BALLOT: No. SUSAN GEORGETTE: In springtime, or -- ? GRANT BALLOT: I mean, what my older brother and my dad did, they would haul a boat up to our camp, 'cause our dogs had to come, too. And then, it was big enough so we could put all the -- whatever we were going to bring. All the fish we want to bring.
A lot of it was stored right there at the camp on siġḷuaqs, we call up on poles to protect them from animals. And -- and during the wintertime when it freezes up, my dad go up there to go pick 'em up. Or pick up what he could. Even there're probably lots all the time.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then after muskrat hunting, you'd take the boat to come back down here? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. GRANT BALLOT: So, after -- after breakup had --
KAREN BREWSTER: So did you ever spend any time at Niliq? GRANT BALLOT: No, not -- not really. I've been there several times. The way they -- even Ralph and Emma used to -- Ramoth, they used to go up there and stay.
But, you know, their -- our Grandma Ruth (Ballot), her -- whatever land, if they don't make a will, it -- you give a few inches to this, to this, to this, to this, to this, to this, to this, to -- That's the way it -- They didn't like that. They don't go up there anymore. Because everybody got a little piece. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Yeah. Yeah. GRANT BALLOT: So things are quite contrary to what it used to be.
KAREN BREWSTER: What about the Tag River? GRANT BALLOT: Tagraġvik. KAREN BREWSTER: Tagraġvik, you ever spend time up there? GRANT BALLOT: When you go up there, I think it's still standing, and people -- my dad himself used to say, "I was twenty-three years old when I took all the branches except for the tip." The last time Hendy and Ralph went up there by snowmachine, they went up, it was still standing. SUSAN GEORGETTE: I bet.
GRANT BALLOT: That's the way he used to -- Even up there, at Ikkuiyiq, at our camp, that's what he did. SUSAN GEORGETTE: To mark it? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah, just as a marker. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Right. GRANT BALLOT: Somebody needed wood, so they cut it down. We didn't -- we didn't go up there anymore anyway.
So, if you don't mind, I'll -- I'll tell you what happened. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. GRANT BALLOT: We never got any welfare, any kind of welfare, until this took place. When they built the new houses, ASHA, Alaska State Housing Authority, is these little ones with quarter-inch shell on the outside. Some of them were put with Visqueen before the top of the floor. When moisture goes in there, it kept warm that would just frost. Vera Skin's family, Andrew and Vera Skin's family, said they were on a bed it suddenly went like that. One of the legs went through the floor. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.
GRANT BALLOT: Because of that Visqueen, it wasn't staying dry and rotted the floor. And they were designed in Albuquerque, Texas by -- In Colorado, huh? Albuquerque. SUSAN GEORGETTE: New Mexico. GRANT BALLOT: New Mexico, yeah. That's where they were designed, the houses. And they were built them up here. The Alaska State Housing Authority. Most of them are still standing here, incidentally. Some of them are empty, but they're still standing.
Anyway, some of those houses were given oil burning stoves. We had no way to get oil. Was -- They used to have to bring it up by barrels. A family could order how many.
Here's -- here's the thing again. When you caught enough wintertime fur pelts, make all those, you have enough money to buy how many drums for you to last throughout the winter. They were really our only sort of money, fur trading. And it was like that for fur trading.
So, when that happened, the next thing that happened, we -- we started burning oil. It was NANA after they got -- became a corporation, they built those fuel storage tanks. Not those, but there were other ones. And people -- I didn't have to go get wood anymore. My dad decided he was going to burn stove oil. See, one thing, that thing.
And then, when they built the sewer and water, it seems like the parents did not need their children's help anymore. When we quit the subsistence lifestyle where all the kids had to participate as they grow up, more and more responsibility, they were being taught stamina and discipline. They had to do it. They had to obey their parents. I had to.
So, when they got sewer and water, it seemed like you didn't even have to go get ice or water. So, kids had nothing left to do. And then that's when after that those kids grew up with no self-discipline themselves start having kids. They're not fit to be mothers and daughters. Simply because they didn't grow up.
Now those kids without discipline, some families admitted their kids were telling them what to buy, not what they need. I knew things were getting backwards, but I got into alcohol just like a lot of other people did. But I knew what was going on. Alarm bells should've been ringing. Our kids that aren't getting the disciplinary training that they should be.
And sure enough, those kids started committing suicide. It was -- you know, how shocking it is. But it didn't take long and another one. Another one. You start wondering who's going to do it next. Like the shock effect is disappearing from the suicides. It was happening to our people right here.
There's a lot of people I don't think that they're -- what they're hearing, they've heard. They're still wondering what happened.
But I've been really trying -- if I'm going to help people, I have to understand what happened to them. So, to do some offspring, because they, you know, they don't know how to give counsel. They don't know how to train up. They don't know how to prevent bad habits from taking -- taking over their kids.
So, I've -- I've been trying to help my -- my self, so this is the last thing I'm doing. When -- when Kathleen was -- we adopted, I had no idea what I was going to do with a little girl. One day old, while I was standing at the airport.
When I'd come to my senses, I'd gone to mission school. So, I start praying. "Give me love for this baby, so I can love her like you love her." I think that's the greatest thing that happened.
And I started treating her like an adult. Talking to her in English. Priscilla said, "She doesn't understand you. She's not understanding you." But I told her, she's gonna have to. So I didn't stop.
So now, she got two boys. One is six years old, and four year-old program, two subjects he excelled in. One is reading. No mistakes. In math, only three mistakes. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Mm.
GRANT BALLOT: Now he's in kindergarten. When I ask him, "Do you understand your teacher? Are you learning?" He says, "Yes." 'Cause I told him, "I want -- I want you to be on top of your class, every grade." He said, "I will."
But there's another thing that the other -- the uncles have been teaching him. Ever since, he knows how to shoot. KAREN BREWSTER: Basket -- basketball? GRANT BALLOT: Basketball. He says, "I'm gonna be a basketball player."
Now, here's what his younger brother is doing. Kathleen doing the same thing to him. Talking to him like he's an adult. David slept late. He didn't have any clothes on, and Damian wanted to go play out. This -- this is what his mom told me. He said, "Come on, Bro, put your clothes on. Let's go play out." His older brother had to comply. I'm worried what he's going to be like in school.
KAREN BREWSTER: When was the fur trading at the highest around here? What time period? GRANT BALLOT: Hm? KAREN BREWSTER: The fur trading and the muskrat skins, when was that the highest? GRANT BALLOT: Oh, trading? KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm. GRANT BALLOT: Oh, I think it went up to $2.75 one spring. I think they always said this Northwest had the finest fur. The -- the buyers.
KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm. Do you know what they used the muskrat for? GRANT BALLOT: I -- I have no idea. I helped catch them, but I don't know what they do with 'em.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then would you stretch the skins and dry them? After you caught the muskrat, who would put them on the stretching boards and do all that? GRANT BALLOT: For my family, I did. My dad made some wooden things, about that wide. KAREN BREWSTER: Six inches wide. GRANT BALLOT: Like with a long point. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. GRANT BALLOT: And then -- but I also had a pole after you nail it up, stretch it out, you had to put a -- that pole so it wouldn't stick tight to the --
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, you put a pole over the top of it to keep it flat? GRANT BALLOT: No. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Underneath. KAREN BREWSTER: Underneath? GRANT BALLOT: Inside the skin. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.
GRANT BALLOT: Against the board inside the skin. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. GRANT BALLOT: So -- so you could take that skin off. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, so it didn't stick to the board? GRANT BALLOT: No, it's to -- it's to make room so you can pull it off when it's dry enough. SUSAN GEORGETTE: It doesn't shrink and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. SUSAN GEORGETTE: -- stick to the board. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
GRANT BALLOT: It's a stretcher, but you had to put a pole in it to keep it stretched out enough so you could pull it up. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. GRANT BALLOT: Otherwise you couldn't pull it off, if it was sun dried and really tight on the wood. But, a pole, you know, sliding pole. KAREN BREWSTER: Just like a willow stick or something? Or -- GRANT BALLOT: Just board. Pieces of board, whatever. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. GRANT BALLOT: Whatever was handy.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then would you put 'em outside to dry? GRANT BALLOT: What -- what my dad built was, you know, was this chicken wire fencing. Put it up on a board and then you'll line them up. Maybe forty, fifty at a time. It was my job to skin 'em, put 'em on that drying rack, turn them over when they needed to be turned. I finally learned how when they're dry enough, I'd pull the nails out, pull the things out, and then they would bag 'em into gunny sacks. Maybe a hundred pelts to a gunnysack. They were ready for market. So that -- that was my job.
My other job was helping my mom wash 'em, hang them. So, I'm qualilfied. KAREN BREWSTER: So, how would you wash 'em? GRANT BALLOT: You -- when my mom -- she's left handed, but boy she's fast.
My -- my washtub would get soiled, so I'd have to empty it out. By the time I got it refilled, there would be a big pile of fish (probably means muskrat, since he was just talking about washing and hanging muskrat pelts) all ready to wash and hang. I did good at that, too. Yeah, there's some things I have self-confidence in.
KAREN BREWSTER: So what -- when you had those bags of muskox (meant to say muskrat) pelts, those sacks -- GRANT BALLOT: Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: -- would you take 'em to the store or they would come pick 'em up? GRANT BALLOT: No, we'd take 'em to the store.
By the time I got into it, it was Rotman's or Nelson Walker. They were here. They would load it up onto our boat so we'd come down. Some of it was our debt. You know, they let us get supplies from their store. And our agreement was that we'd pay it off as -- whatever amount of skin it took.
SUSAN GEORGETTE: So they'd give you credit at the store so you could get things ahead of time? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah, so -- so we can go camp. 'Cause it was a four-week camp. But most of it is done in two weeks.
KAREN BREWSTER: That's it? Two weeks for all the muskrat? GRANT BALLOT: No, the whole process done over and over. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. GRANT BALLOT: So by the time you're done, it's usually between three or four weeks. And then the muskrat pelts are in bags. Load them on and they go to the store, and they do whatever they do with 'em. They go to the buyers.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then you go back out and do it again? GRANT BALLOT: No. KAREN BREWSTER: No, just that one time? Okay. GRANT BALLOT: Just that one window. It's like fishing in the springtime. You got a short time, otherwise it gets too hot. Your fish don't burn (meant to say dry), they start burning instead. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. GRANT BALLOT: They don't dry, they start burning.
So it -- if you kept your net on in the summertime, you set it at night. And then you pull it out in the morning, because that sunlight will burn the fish even underwater. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. GRANT BALLOT: 'Cause our water is shallow around here. I mean, twenty, twelve feet, but it's shallow from other places.
KAREN BREWSTER: Did we cover everything on your list here? I know there were things you wanted to talk about that you had in mind.
GRANT BALLOT: I don't know Charlie Cook. The only -- the only thing I know that Charlie Smith. This guy he didn't like Charlie Smith at all. That's my aunt's husband. So he wanted to become Matthew instead of Charlie. He didn't want to be -- that's -- that's how they treated each other, see. And everybody would laugh. But this Charlie Wood that -- he must've been a friend of the family. Our family. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
GRANT BALLOT: Okay. The Wood family, they always call me Aŋatchiaq because this Charlie Wood was their uncle. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. GRANT BALLOT: So they call me that, that family: Hadley Ferguson, Pauline Gooden, Martha --
The Tagraġvik, I don't know -- there had to be people up there, too. Ralph Ramoth took me up there to see the one -- one gravemarker. It had a round hole on it. He said, "That signifies he was an aŋatkuq." (shaman) SUSAN GEORGETTE: Hm. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. GRANT BALLOT: That guy that's buried. There were lots of 'em in them days. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
GRANT BALLOT: So, they always heard that some day -- they call it Iivaqsaaq. They go around Alaska from the south, and they were coming to preach. It turned out to be Uyauk, Ralph Uyauk. He -- his original family was from Nauyaqtuuq.
So he went down to Nome. He was introduced to Christianity. He was the one that came up along with others. And they're the ones that when they start talking about the Bible, Jesus, there's a lot of 'em got together and didn't want this demon stuff in 'em anymore. So what they'd call that in movies? It's -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, exorcism, kind of? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Oh, yeah.
GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. And some of my cousins knew that one. He's buried across here. His demon didn't want to come out. He was elevating. Demon didn't want to come out. But he did.
That's what -- what they were doing with the Christianity when they came home. This is why people blame them for stopping dancing and stuff, because they -- they thought that everybody that danced was doing the demonic stuff, but that's not necessarily the truth. You had to do more than that to become demonic.
God prevents demons from coming into me. If -- if my -- I give myself to them, that's authorizing them to get in me. And many had done that.
There was this guy named Maniiḷaq. You know Maniiḷaq? KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm. GRANT BALLOT: He would set up a pole one day a week, and he said there's a god up in heaven. That was before they had Bibles, but somewhere along the line, I think it's the Holy Spirit. There was a godly person even in the worst places.
People, you know, they'll probably be resurrected the first time. People who obeyed. We had many people that are like that around here. Jimmy Foster, when he was being tempted, he'd take off, go hide someplace to go pray. He didn't want to sin.
William Foster gave him a dog named "Shit." Lead dog. But he changed that name, "Anaq." He didn't want to say, "Shit." That -- these are real happenings that --
So, I don't know much about Charlie Cook other than -- it was before my time anyway, but -- So, if you're satisfied, I'd -- SUSAN GEORGETTE: I'm done. KAREN BREWSTER: You -- you're done? SUSAN GEORGETTE: I think I'm good.
KAREN BREWSTER: I'm deferring to Susan with all her questions. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Where -- where was your mission school? GRANT BALLOT: Aleknagik. It's twenty miles from Dillingham. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Yeah. Okay, that's a -- yeah, that's a long ways. No, I think I'm good, actually.
KAREN BREWSTER: So, why did you go that far away for school? GRANT BALLOT: Somebody say, "You want to go to mission school?" What happened was, this last time we were up at Paakłiq, we went out with the Stephen Griest family. My dad was up in Barrow.
Only my mom, grandmother, Hannah, Neal, and -- I wanted to go hunting because I -- I knew where to hunt. Ralph and Stephen Griest, they were going to take the kayaks, so they dropped me off on the other side. I was catching muskrats, too.
She tried to make a makeshift boat and go get me, and we fell through the makeshift boat in the water. And the ice was probably about that thick. KAREN BREWSTER: Couple of inches. GRANT BALLOT: So, I was able to walk back out, but she had -- she was kinda a sickly person. Drowned. And I spent couple of days over on the other side of the river. When they woke me up, I was totally warm.
I always think there was some reason why I was kept alive. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Mm. GRANT BALLOT: I think I know why. Because I'm picked to start trying to re-build the families. And it really is. There's more younger peoples really working on their kids. Talking to them in good English, that they know how --
Because I'm telling them that if they know the English language well enough, when they go to four year-old program, right off the bat they start understanding the teacher. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm. GRANT BALLOT: If you speak to them in broken English, broken Iñupiaq language, everyday up until they're four years old, they're gonna have -- they're not gonna understand the teacher. See, I'm trying to point these things out. And it's working. At least with Kathleen, but there's several other kids. There's two other girls that are keeping up with David. And they're learning. If we keep that up, pretty soon those kids will start graduating rather than dropping out.
Then the other thing I'm telling them, these teachers who teach by the book are not taking into consideration that the English language is not our first language. And if you give an assignment out without explaining how they're going to solve it, those kids are not going to understand it. That's why Steve Springgate I think is quick. They were probably told to just quit.
KAREN BREWSTER: So do people still go out muskrat hunting in the springtime? GRANT BALLOT: No, no. It's all over. KAREN BREWSTER: How come they stopped? GRANT BALLOT: 'Cause it -- like first time these things started happening. For the first time, people were getting billed -- getting bills for the first time in their life, there's no way they could pay. No jobs.
KAREN BREWSTER: So they needed the cash? They needed money. GRANT BALLOT: So -- so BIA stepped in with general assistance. That's when the -- the -- that kind of money started coming in. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. GRANT BALLOT: Welfare.
KAREN BREWSTER: When did the guys start going and working at the canneries? GRANT BALLOT: Oh, they were doing it before I was seventeen. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Nineteen fifty -- GRANT BALLOT: They were having trouble finding -- KAREN BREWSTER: 1950s? GRANT BALLOT: -- workers. They used to bring in from Filipino. We used to work with Filipinos at Larsen Bay, Chignik.
And one time, our Selawik crew got nice bonuses. It canned the most salmon. They were just hard workers. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm. GRANT BALLOT: They didn't know what "arii" (it hurts) was. KAREN BREWSTER: What -- GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. Yeah. Your grandparents' duty --
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So they -- they did that 'cause they needed to earn money now? The trading wasn't -- GRANT BALLOT: Well, it -- it was all seasonal. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. GRANT BALLOT: There were no year round jobs. The only ones that had year round jobs were the few in numbers. The Postal Service, Rotman's Store. The school was usually the highest employer. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm. GRANT BALLOT: Still, they only went nine -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. GRANT BALLOT: -- nine months out of a year.
KAREN BREWSTER: And you say, they needed money. You couldn't trade with fur anymore? GRANT BALLOT: No. KAREN BREWSTER: No, you needed money. GRANT BALLOT: No, that was -- that was stopped. That just stopped. KAREN BREWSTER: So, when in 1950's? GRANT BALLOT: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Somewhere in there? GRANT BALLOT: Later than that. It was early '60s. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.
GRANT BALLOT: So the National Guardsmen, only when they go in camp and the stuff were bringing home money. But they were bringing home alcohol and -- My dad said in his tape, one of the things that they brought in was alcohol. He'd seen so many deaths in his life because of alcohol. He said that's the single most thing that shouldn't have happened. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm. GRANT BALLOT: But, they'll go on.
But I think -- I think if -- if young people begin to re-learn how to train up a child, they'll start teaching them how to behave. For a while, that was totally lost. And that led to a lot of suicides.
And the churches weren't helping. They were -- no matter how bad a suicide was, they were sending them to heaven. These kids are listening. "Boy, if I want to go to heaven, that's all I have to do to myself." You know, I don't know how they think, but -- There's combinations of this and that but --
KAREN BREWSTER: Was there anything else on your father's tape that you had wanted to talk about? From the long time ago? GRANT BALLOT: Well, he told me some stories. This Iñuunaiḷaq. In Eskimo, that means "he didn't allow other people to live." Lived in Kotzebue. He had just like a dogteam, two polar bears. But he also had alligators as pets.
And there's people who claimed long time ago that they found skeletons on the tundra. So up there, he's buried up at Kobuk.
He heard again, that Iñuunaiḷaq killed another person. People walking and they were spreading mess -- no telephones, no -- not anything as people who walk from village to village. Just, you know, walking was nothing to them.
So he started preparing a weapon. He was one of these strong men. And his wife was also very athletic. She insisted on following him.
My dad says it was probably in the early fall when the river was icing up that he went down to Kotzebue. He stayed there several days. He and his wife. You know, around Lockhart Point. Getting their strength back up.
And he had some furs. He wrapped his wife up, so an animal couldn't get at her from top or from the bottom. And started dragging her along. And sure enough, you know, when they start getting close to where Arctic Lighterage area -- area around there, they started roaring or whatever noises polar bears make. Two of them were attacking, but he had two weapons. One was a lance, the other was a sling. And that stone had spikes like this. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm.
GRANT BALLOT: So when it landed, it could do a lot of damage. So the first one that came, he slinged it and broke its back. It -- it fell down. The other one, he didn't go like this or anything, he just wait for it -- wait for the polar bear to skewer itself. And he killed both of them. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.
GRANT BALLOT: So, he unwrapped his wife and they went back there. "I'm going to go find out where that guy lives." So they were walking around on the tundra, he saw this sod hut with smoke coming out of it. So he sneaked up, looked in the window, that elderly big white man, white hair, he was warming his fire behind him.
And there was one of these midget people. Iñugaqałigauraq we call them. He was one that you couldn't shoot with a bow and arrow. Was just too agile. He was enjoying a human foot.
So he shot the old man and when he fell over on the fire, the -- that little guy startled and shoot an arrow through him. And he jumped in and there's nobody else.
So he left, and he start looking for those alligators. They kept walking, and they see this skin dome on the ground. And there was a ditch. There were two alligators. So he jumped down there with -- start poking holes in 'em. And he jumped back out.
He said it must've been early in the morning, because the alligators tried to follow him, but their limbs got stiff and they died. So he went back down. His wife was preparing to leave. She had become so frightened with what was going on, she was going to leave.
So after that, there were no -- nothing else like that in the Kotzebue area. So people from all over, that's why he thinks Kotzebue belongs to everybody. You will find people from all over. People think that they are original settlement, but that -- that's one story. SUSAN GEORGETTE: That's a good story.
GRANT BALLOT: But there were -- there were many stories that people think that are not true. One of those stories that he tells is right out here south of Selawik. There's a gravel plateau, gravel hills. But, you know what they're sitting on? Hardened lava that hardened up. There's no evidence that that lava lifted the gravel. It was put on top. That's part of the stories he told.
Up over here, on this side of Hotham Peak, there used to be another mountain. This elderly woman didn't like it, so she moved that mountain. It had to be that one. SUSAN GEORGETTE: Hm.
GRANT BALLOT: I -- I mean, the Bible says if you have a place bigger than mustard seed, you can move mountains. I believe that happened. There's a line of gravel between that and that bottom of Selawik Lake. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. Neat. GRANT BALLOT: Enough? SUSAN GEORGETTE: Yeah, good, good. That's good.
KAREN BREWSTER: So, whatever you -- if you're done, we're done. If you want to do more. GRANT BALLOT: What -- what time is it? SUSAN GEORGETTE: It's three. KAREN BREWSTER: Three o'clock. GRANT BALLOT: My wife gets off 3:30. I got to -- SUSAN GEORGETTE: Okay. Yeah. It's good. KAREN BREWSTER: Aarigaa! I'll turn it off.