Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Moses Henzie

Moses Henzie

Moses Henzie is a Koyukon Athabascan elder from Allakaket, Alaska. He has long been known as a fine hunter and trapper, and he is a fiddler of considerable talent. Born in 1930 to Titus and Elizabeth Henzie, Moses parents and many of his close relatives were associated with South Fork, a small community at the confluence of the Middle and South Forks of the Koyukuk River. His father's parents were Old Henzie and his wife Julia. His mother's father was Old Linus, who was one of four brothers associated with the South Fork community. The others were: Big William, South Fork Henry, and Old Henzie. Moses' father died when he was three, so he was raised largely by his mother, who made a living by hunting, fishing, and snaring small game. Eventually, his mother married Paul Koyukuk and the family moved to Allakaket. Paul became sick and died, so they stayed in Allakaket only about two years. Paul's father was Big Beatus, and for one winter, Moses lived with his Grandma and Grandpa Beatus in Old Bettles. That winter was about the only opportunity he had to go to school. For a time when Moses was about ten, he and his mother lived with Old Henzie and his wife Grandma Julia.

Most of the people who lived at South Fork during the time Moses was growing up were descended from members of the traditional South Fork Band of the Koyukon. This band occupied an area surrounding South Fork extending primarily to the south and east. They were distinguished in part from the neighboring band that occupied the Kanuti-Allakaket area by some minor linguistic differences and a subsistence pattern that relied even more heavily on lake fish and small game. When the lean times came for large game, particularly moose and caribou, around the turn of the century, out-migration to the Rampart area and other places with better hunting was probably heaviest among this group, as their subsistence base left them the most vulnerable.

Moses learned how to play the violin as a young man, and he has a much treasured violin, as well as a guitar and amplifier that this wife Marie bought for him as a gift. Sometimes he comes to Fairbanks and plays at the Athabascan Fiddle Festival held every year in mid-November. Moses is marred to Marie Koyukuk, and they have a son, Moses Jr., and a daughter Catherine Marie, adopted from Catherine and Stephen Attla in Huslia and several grandchildren.

For more about Moses Henzie, see Moses Henzie -- A Biography: Allakaket by Curt Madison and Yvonne Yarber for the Yukon-Koyukuk School District and published in 1979 by Hancock House, North Vancouver, British Columbia.

Moses Henzie appears in the following new Jukebox projects: