Wendy Arundale is an anthropologist who conducted extensive cultural and language research in the Koyukon Athabascan area of the upper Koyukuk River in interior Alaska. She has conducted oral history interviews in Allakaket, Alatna, Hughes and Huslia, and worked in conjunction with Koyukon elder, Eliza Jones, to help document Native place names of the region. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in psychology in 2005 from the Union Institute and University, publishing a thesis titled "The Healing Constellation: A Conceptual Framework for Treating Trauma among Athabaskan Women in Alaska."
|Interview Title||Archive #: Oral History||Project||Abstract|
|Steven and Catherine Attla, Interview 1, Part 1||93-15-21||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
Steven and Catherine Attla were interviewed on July 22, 1992 in Huslia. The interview took place in the living room area of their home. On tape Catherine talks about how she grew up, how she was adopted by her grandparents while still a baby, and how as a teenager she worked like an adult. With Steven, she talked about the summers while their children were growing up that he spent away working. She also talked about how through evening classes, she's managed to acquire roughly a 7th grade education even though as a youngster, she never went to school.
Finally she talked about some of her experiences interacting with government agencies. She worked as a translator right after the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was passed. She was hired to travel around to several villages in the Interior helping to inform people about the Act. She has also served for 16 years on the local Fish and Game Advisory Board, and in discussing her experiences, she talked about subsistence issues. She has also worked in the school passing on her knowledge of her culture. She believes this kind of effort is very important.
On the tape Steven talked about how Huslia came into being, shaped in its early days by the desire to have a school. Efforts by his father and Jimmy Huntington, who believed their children deserved an education, and the help of Bishop Gordon of the Episcopal church eventually led to a school being built, equipped, and staffed by a teacher. He talked about how this first school came about. Historic ties to the Kobuk area and the travel and trade those ties entailed were another topic we discussed. Steven also talked about various stores and traders along the river who had helped the Native people.
|Steven and Catherine Attla, Interview 1, Part 2||93-15-22||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
This is a continuation of an interview with Steven and Catherine Attla by Wendy Arundale on July 22, 1992 in Huslia, Alaska. This is a continuation from tape number Oral History 93-15-21.
|Susie Williams||93-15-45||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
We taped together in the bedroom of Susie's daughter-in-law's home in Fairbanks on November 16, l992. We have worked together taping information extensively before so this situation was very familiar and comfortable.
We began by talking about her family and her life growing up around Allakaket. Among the key people she mentions in addition to her parents and her Uncle, Billy Bergman, is her grandmother, Old Maggie. She also talks about the early days of Allakaket as a village and the founding of the Episcopal Mission. After her father died, Susie and her mother had to work very hard to support the family. She went on to talk about the epidemic of l925 when many people in Allakaket died. Various sources suggest that between l8 and 24 people passed away that summer. The missionaries sent Edward Bergman to warn people not to come into the village. When they got back to the village from spring camp, they camped outside of town. Susie's mother went to help the sick and grieving, but Susie was pregnant with her daughter Alice who was born that summer, so she stayed in the camp.
Susie talked about her life as an adult with her first husband, including a little of how they made a living and his death. Then she talked about moving down to Hughes and later marrying Lavine. Later in the tape she talks in greater detail about how they moved to Hughes living first with her Uncle Alfred Isaac and his wife, Julia. Her comments on living in Hughes include mention of many people who then lived in the Hughes area, both Native people, and white miners and storekeepers like Joe Hoagland, Jack Sackett, and George Light. Susie and Lavine had a winter camp in a nice place about 40 miles below Hughes where they trapped and hunted. Their son, Bill, has a house there now. In commenting about the hunting and trapping they did, Susie remarks that the animals are more dangerous today than they were in earlier times. She refers specifically to recent problems with grizzly bears.
She goes on to describe some of the activities of the early missionaries including Hudson Stuck, Miss Hines, and Dr. Burke. Then, responding to a question she talks about potlatches; their history, what happens at one, and why they are held. Her comments on potlatches conclude with a discussion of singing, for Susie is a talented Native singer and composer of songs.
The tape concludes with her comments on some of the important lessons life has taught her, and some messages to Park visitors and employees. The life lessons are a confirmation of the values her mother imparted: don't use cross words with friends; don't be mean -- nice people live longer; never lie; treat each other well; and show hospitality to visitors. To Park employees and visitors she emphasizes the need for communication and listening to one another, the importance of sharing information and helping each other with the knowledge we have. She talks about how people help one another if they are to get along. She expresses concern about the Native corporations and the fate of the "afterborns," those born after l971 who were originally denied the right to hold stock in the Native corporations. At the end of the tape, she observes that there aren't many old people around anymore to transmit the values and lessons people have learned in the past. She reiterates the idea that we are all dependent on one another. To live, we must all take care of ourselves and each other.
|William and Effie Williams, Part 1||93-15-15||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
I interviewed William Williams with his wife Effie in their home on the afternoon of November 20, 1992 in the living room area of their house in Allakaket. Although there were some interruptions during the taping, we talked about a wide range of interesting topics. The tape began with Effie telling about her background and growing up. She described what it was like to live with Big Susie and Tilly, the two older women who raised her during her early years. She also recalled the year she spent at the Mission when Miss Thompson and Miss Boyce were the missionaries. After a year at the Mission she returned to her birth parents whom she didn't really know. Her mother had given Effie away because other children in the family had died. It was a common belief that when children died, if the next one born was given away and adopted by others, subsequent children would live. As she grew up, Effie remembers baby-sitting for her siblings. Effie also talked about getting married at 16. Effie has long been active in the Episcopal Church. In the l950s a photograph she took of the church in Allakaket won a national Episcopal church photo contest. She talked about the changes that have taken place over the years in the mission that is now the village church. She noted with sadness that fewer people attend services in contrast to the old days when everyone went to church. She mentioned Delbert Vent, Lydia Bergman, and Jenny William as leaders in the church today. She recalled with sadness the loss of Joe William, Jr., the Native priest who served the community for seventeen years. He died about four years ago. She lamented that when she was young, the elders taught us to go to church. Now the youth don't listen.
|William and Effie Williams, Part 2||93-15-16||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
This is a continuation of an interview with William and Effie Williams by Wendy Arundale on November 20, 1992 in the living room area of their house in Allakaket, Alaska. This is a continuation from tape number Oral History 93-15-15.
|Bobby Vent, Interview 1||93-15-55||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
At the time of this 1992 interview, Bobby Vent is one of the older people living in Huslia. He is married to Mary Vent. Their daughter, Mabel, runs the village store. Bobby was born October 12, l913 and grew up near Anvik. From comments made by various people in the village, I think his father may have been Canadian. His mother died when he was six years old, and his father sent him to school at Holy Cross for a couple of years. This experience was his only formal education. His father made his living by trapping and cutting wood, and Bobby grew up doing the same. Although today he is well along in years, he is still quite spry and active.
Bobby is known as one of the original "Huslia Hustlers", a group of men from the Koyukuk River region who were quite successful at raising winning racing sled dogs. Jimmy Huntington was another. Sled dog racing is a sport that has gone on in interior Alaskan villages at least since early in the 20th century and perhaps even before. Bobby and Jimmy, though competitors in local races, traded ideas about how to successfully, raise, feed, and train their dogs to compete with outsiders in Fairbanks and Anchorage. Their experience provided subsequent successful Koyukuk River region dog mushers and breeders with a path to follow. In l973, Bobby entered the Iditarod, and even though it was his first big long distance race, he came in second, a very significant achievement. His trophy still occupies an important corner of the living room. He used the $8,000 prize money to help start the store.
Bobby sees the biggest change in dog racing over the past 20 years as the much larger amounts of money people have to raise and spend to be competitive. Today, he feels, mushers need the best of everything for themselves and their dogs or they stand no chance of winning at all. These changes all make it much more difficult for someone from one of the rural villages to compete since its even more expensive for them with the additional costs of shipping in high quality food, shipping out dogs for races, and so on. Although Bobby no longer has a dog team, he remains very interested in dogs and mushing. When I visited him he was carefully raising a female coyote-dog mixture and her pups. He felt the pups, who were sired by a dog, would eventually make very tough, strong sled dogs.
On the tape, we talked first about his early life growing up around Anvik. Then we focused primarily on his dog mushing experiences, his efforts to run the Iditarod, and his views on how dog racing has changed over the years. We made the tape sitting in his living room late on the afternoon of July 22, 1992, the same afternoon that I taped with his wife, Mary.
Bobby Vent passed away in 2006.
Bobby Vent was also interviewed in 2003 by William Schneider (Oral History 2002-27-11, click on Bobby Vent, Interview 2 in Digital Assets Information to access this later interview).
|Johnson Moses||H93-15-24||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
This interview with Johnson Moses took place around the dining room table in his and Bertha's home, the managers' apartment at Tanana Chief's Patient Hostel in Fairbanks. Johnson is a well known elder from Allakaket. When he was interviewed in 1993, he was living in Fairbanks and working for the Fish and Wildlife Service, but he plans to retire and move back to Allakaket in 1994. He has extensive knowledge of the local geography, Native history, and Native place names. He is also an active fiddler.
|Mary Vent||93-15-38||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
I worked with Mary Vent during the mid-afternoon on July 22, 1992. She lived with her husband, Bobby, near the village store that was run by their, daughter Mabel. Mary was a very skilled bead worker. She also knitted beautifully, and when I was in Huslia she was busy making heavy socks for the upcoming potlatch. Working cooperatively with another woman, she was knitting the decorative tops for heavy winter socks and her friend was knitting the feet. Together they were turning out a pair of long socks every two days. I had just about completed the task of setting up the tape recorder next to the couch when someone came by with two good-sized King Salmon for Mary. She asked him to put the Kings in her shed. We recorded about half of the tape, then took a break while she cut the fish. I helped her hang the pieces to dry and clean up. Then we went back to the house and completed the taping. Mary's conversation ranged widely. She talked about how she grew up and what it was like to live out on the Huslia River as a child. Her account includes descriptions of various kinds of subsistence activities and an account of how they spent the Christmas holidays. She talked about her great grandmother whom I had never heard about before. She told several humorous stories about how people of her time had learned about white people's lifeways. In one of her funnier accounts she tells how the owner of a new wood stove built the fire in the oven instead of the firebox. Her tape concluded with an excellent description of how people used to play football, a game played on the ice with a skin ball stuffed with animal hair. Everyone played, adults, young people, children, elders, even women with babies on their backs. It was a favorite pastime. Her discussion of this topic may have been stimulated by some of the xeroxed copies of photos from the Episcopal Archives in Austin, Texas that we looked at before we began to tape.
|Bertha Moses, Part 1||93-15-12||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
This interview with Bertha Moses took place around Bertha's dining room table in the manager's apartment of the Tanana Chief's Patient Hostel in Fairbanks. Bertha is from Allakaket, and is the manager of the Tanana Chief's Patient Hostel in Fairbanks. This facility provides housing and other services for rural residents who need to be near the hospital, either for treatment themselves or because a family member is undergoing treatment. Bertha has devoted a significant portion of her life to health care needs of her people.
|Bertha Moses, Part 2||93-15-13||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
This is a continuation of an interview with Bertha Moses which took place on May 12, 1993.
|Steven Attla||93-15-57||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
This is a continuation of an interview conducted with Steven and Catherine Attla at their home in Huslia, Alaska on July 22, 1992 with Wendy Arundale. This is a continuation from tape number Oral History 93-14-21 and 93-15-22. Although the first interview was with both Steven and Catherine Attla and took place on July 22, 1992, this second interview is just with Steven Attla and took place on July 24, 1992. In this interview, Steven talks about old timers he remembered who used to live along the Koyukuk River.
|Lydia Simon||93-15-10||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
Like her sister, Mary Vent, Lydia Simon had the chance to learn traditional stories and lore from her parents. She and Wendy Arundale worked together in the late afternoon of Thursday, July 23, 1992 in the living room area of her home. In the taping session, Lydia tells the story of the first potlatch held by the animals. The story is told in English with appropriate sound effects and exclamations by the participants. She also sang some of the songs the animals sang at the first potlatch. Several aspects of the story parallel and explain current potlatch practices. Lydia also talked a little bit about how people prepare for potlatches today.
|Tony Sam, Sr.||93-15-35||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
At the time of this interview, Tony Sam was the traditional chief of Huslia, Alaska. He and his wife Emily, who is Lee and Eliza Simon's daughter and originally from Allakaket, live in a large, two story house at one end of town near the school. Their own children are now grown, but their house is still busy with returning children, grandchildren, and visitors. The interview took place in the living room area of Tony and Emily's house in Huslia, between about eight and nine in the evening on July 20, 1992. The interview was quite relaxed, for even though I have not interviewed Tony before, I have known him for some time. Emily was busy working in the kitchen area during the interview. One of Tony's main interests is in music. He plays the fiddle, like his father who was a noted fiddler, and the guitar. He owns a fairly extensive amplifier set-up that he loans or rents for various community functions and dances. Much of our taped conversation focused around music. He talked about how his father, Sammy, first acquired a violin and learned to play, in part with help from a old wind-up gramophone. Tony also described how he and his brothers learned to play music together. Today, Tony learns new pieces in much the same way as his father, but now he listens to tapes instead of records. Very poignantly, he talked about how his father almost quit playing music when his brother, Ross, was burned to death. People came to Sammy and told him the village just wouldn't be alive without his music. So he began playing again, as did Tony, even though a couple of the other brothers did not. Tony found that the death of his daughter, Darlene, affected him much the same way. He found it hard to play for quite a while, but others would not let him quit, and ultimately he's glad he didn't. On the tape he also discusses how he and his brother, Wilson, as well as others play at funerals, potlatches, for holidays, and other special occasions. Tony's family is like his father's in that some of his sons are excellent musicians, mostly guitar players. The main difference is that they play primarily rock-n-roll, rather than fiddle tunes and gospel music. Tony has a fancy violin that his wife, Emily, bought for him as a special gift. Painted blue it is decorated with flowers and stars and equipped for amplification. A white ermine skin hangs from the scroll. Tony played two songs for the tape, one a slow waltz and the other a jig. The waltz is the first tune he learned; the jig, "Arkansas Traveler", was a favorite of his father's.
|Ann Edwards and Elma Sam||93-15-54||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
I recorded Ann Edwards' memories together with those of her older sister, Elma Sam. Ann is four years younger than Elma. We taped in Elma's home in Alatna, Alaska around mid-day on November 21, l992. Although her husband, Frank Sam, is no longer alive, Elma's house is still busy with the comings and goings of various children and grandchildren. Various members of Elma's family came and went quietly during the taping, sometimes pausing to fix something to eat. Like Elma, many of Ann's early memories center around various subsistence activities and the seasonal round. She talked about how fish, berries, roots, and rabbits were common elements in their diet, but moose was very scarce. If they had meat it was likely to come from caribou, sheep, black bear, or grouse. She mentioned various places on the Alatna River, such as Rocky Bottom and Black Jack that were important to her family's seasonal round. And she mentioned many early members of the Alatna community and her family who were important to her growing up. These included her grandparents, Sam and Putu Hope, her uncles Frank and Jimmy Tobuk, Selawick Sam, her Auntie Ester, and Omaik. Although her sister taught her Inupiaq, the teacher Miss Kay, discouraged the children from speaking their native language, and now she has lost much of her ability to understand Inupiaq.
|Stanley Ned||93-15-51||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
Stanley Ned and I talked in one of the recording studios at Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks, on the morning of December 11, l992. Stanley's comments were very articulate and wide-ranging. Stanley is from Allakaket, Alaska and is married to Virginia Moses, whose parents are Johnson and Bertha Moses, and they have two sons. Virginia is a teacher in the school at Allakaket. Born in March 1950, Stanley is one of the younger people I interviewed. We began by talking about Stanley's family, early experiences, and growing up. Some of his favorite early memories are of the spring, summer, and winter camps his family used. He talked about the various camps, including the village of South Fork, the resources that came from various locations, and their importance to him and his people. For Stanley, the older people in his family were his most important teachers, his "professors". He especially remembers his Grandpa Joe Williams, and recalled how at spring camp he brought in muskrats in the early morning and cooked hot cakes. His uncles, William Williams and Jimmy Koyukuk, and his aunt, Effie Williams, were also important teachers. They taught him how to live in camp, trap and skin muskrats, how to hunt and take care of ducks, and other hunting skills. In the context of learning, the effects of missionaries and the school came up. Stanley sees many of these outsiders as lacking an understanding of his people. He feels they depreciated Native ways of doing things and restricted Native cultural practices and language use. The missionaries criticized Native rituals and ceremonies, calling them "devil worship." Some of the teachers punished the children for using their Native language, in some cases using such harsh measures as spanking them with a paddle or washing their mouths out with Borax soap when they spoke it. Stanley drew an important contrast between the teachers he encountered in school and the true teachers of his own culture who were his grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and older brothers. They taught by telling stories about hunting and other life experiences and then by having young people actually gain experience themselves by living and working in camp. They learned about the resources; when to take animals and when to leave them alone. They also learned about values and traditions, especially respect for the natural world. From this store of knowledge, Native people have valuable things to say, and outsiders need to try to listen to them. Stanley went on to talk about his high school experiences first at Mt. Edgecumbe in Sitka and then at Lathrop High School in Fairbanks from which he graduated. He also recounted his military experience which culminated in a combat tour in Vietnam. As with many men who served there, his time in Vietnam has left an indelible impression on the rest of his life. Resuming his education after his military service was not easy. In l973, Stanley went to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and stayed two semesters, but found that either he wasn't happy with the University as it existed then, and perhaps the University wasn't quite ready for him, either. He went back to Allakaket and started trapping and living a subsistence lifestyle. His teachers were the older people, and he stayed in Allakaket until l989. When he returned to the university he found attitudes had changed; there was more interest in understanding Native ways and Native students. He completed two more years of college, then went to work for Tanana Chiefs Conference in wildlife management. Stanley contrasts his experiences at the University of Alaska in l973 with what he found when he returned to college in l989-l991. Although some common problems of Native students remain, he describes some important changes in attitudes toward Native students. He eventually plans to return to school and finish his degree in Rural Development. Stanley went on to discuss his work for Tanana Chiefs Conference, where he is a staff researcher for the subsistence program. He sees his role in part as that of cultural translator, of helping to educate non-Natives about Native life. He sees one of the most enjoyable aspects of this job as the chance to work directly with his "professors", the older people who have so much to teach. For him, the project that excites him the most is an effort to collect all the information he can find on potlatches. The potlatch is a crucial ceremony for Koyukon people; Stanley compares it to a last supper, an ultimate expression of respect and a chance to say a final farewell to the deceased. People bring out their best food, delicacies saved as well as fresh meat. It is a time when a village is like one big family, when people share and support each other spiritually in very special ways. It is a central element in Koyukon life. For Stanley, the potlatch embodies what he sees as the importance of traditions passing between generations. Stanley also sees the changes taking place, the development going on, as like a malignant cancer that cannot be stopped. Among the on-going changes that concern him are: language loss, the lack of knowledge and understanding among younger Native people of their heritage, the loss of knowledge of place names and the information they represent because the kids don't travel on the land and learn the names, the impact of state and federal regulations, the influx of outside people, the growing private land ownership, the increasing pressure on the land and its resources, the conflicts that pressure is engendering, and the disproportional impact of lobbyists and special interests which the Native people often don't have enough money to fight. Stanley's interview concludes with a discussion of subsistence issues and some of the critical problems that face those dealing with this problem currently. He comments on what he sees as some of the future directions he'd like action on these issues to take. In this regard, he also comments on the local effects of and reactions to formation of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. As with many other federal actions, the hearings held and the actions taken have been almost perfunctory. Little of the information or advice provided by Native people seems to be heard or used. He offers several valuable comments about resources, the spiritual importance of areas within the park, and potential problems of visitor use. His final comments deal with the importance of elders and Native lifeways and the contrasts in values and lifestyles between non-Native and Native people.
|Marie and Moses Henzie||93-15-50||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
Moses and Marie Henzie were interviewed on November 19, 1992 by Wendy Arundale in their recently built log cabin in Allakaket, Alaska, which in the old style, they have left as one large room. A clear finish on the log walls and wooden ceiling give it a gleaming warmth. The afternoon light, which began to fade toward the end of our session, streamed in through a large window where Marie sits to sew. In this interview, Moses talks about his family and growing up, especially how his mother made a living by hunting, fishing, and snaring small game, in particular how she would snare rabbits. In addition to talking about his family and his experience growing up, Moses talks about how he has seen a lot of change from the old days. He talks about the significant impact airplanes have made compared to the old days when people traveled with dogs working so hard to break trail for them on snowshoes. He describes how people hauled mail on the trail from Tanana to Allakaket and eventually up to Wiseman. He also recalls various mail carriers, such as Andy Kockrine, Johnny Smoke, and Edwin Simon who was hired as a young man to break trail for the mail carrier. He also talked about how people hauled freight to Wiseman by dog team on contract. By 1937, there was a tractor used to haul freight before eventually the airplane took over. Toward the end of the tape, Moses talks about the diseases that affected Native people in the Allakaket area in earlier times, especially tuberculosis, unlike many of his relatives and neighbors. The missionary nurse helped a little, but it wasn't until the Public Health nurses began coming in 1948 and they began taking regular chest x-rays that things got better. He describes, too, how his Grandma Cathleen nearly died from measles and how Eva nursed her. In the old days, people put a blanket over the tent to keep it dark when someone had the measles. Moses also talks about how he was one of the last people in Allakaket to keep a large dog team after Snogos (snowmachines) became popular in the late 1960s. He describes how he and Marie had a team of fourteen dogs. But they became ill at spring camp, where they had no medicine for them and they all died. After that, he and Marie got a snowmachine. He notes, though, that the price of gas is so high that people are starting to talk about using dogs again. In November 1992, Moses was paying $165.00 for a 55 gallon drum of gas. Marie talks about her family and her experiences growing up. Much of her conversation focuses on the traditional skills she learned from her family, describing how she learned them, how they are done, and how she works at them today. EDITOR'S NOTE: Since the Koyukon language does not distinguish between masculine and feminine pronouns, many people for whom Koyukon is their first language sometimes use pronouns, such as 'he' and 'she' or 'him' and 'her' interchangeably. In reviewing their tapes, some interviewees were conscious of this speech form and concerned that it might reflect poorly on them or what they had to say. To prevent this problem, we offer this explanation of this local speech practice so that listeners will understand why it occurs.
|Angeline Derendoff, Part 1||93-15-32||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
I interviewed Angeline Derendoff on the evening of Thursday, July 23, 1992. We worked together around a table in the kitchen area of her home in Huslia, Alaska. Although her husband, Richard, is still alive, he is blind and has significant health problems, so he lives with one of their daughters. In this interview, Angeline talks about her family and growing up. Her mother was an especially important person to her, tough, but a good teacher. She also remembers her younger years in Cutoff. Other topics we covered were early stores and storekeepers, how she struggled to get some schooling and finally as an adult made it to about the seventh grade level, and her memories of various missionaries. Angeline has been very lame with one badly deformed leg from the time she was a young child. All of the elders have had to struggle with various problems throughout their lives, but with her disability and other problems, Angeline has had a particularly difficult life. Angeline talked about what it was like to grow up with a disability years ago. One result was that she married at age 27, about ten years later than most young Koyukon women at that time. She talked about her marriage to Richard Derendoff, and how the Episcopal Bishop insisted that anyone living together should either marry formally or break up. Unsure of what she should do, she felt pressured by the situation. At the very end of the tape, Angeline describes the group wedding nearly 50 years ago on August 8 when the Episcopal Bishop, Bishop Bentley, married her and Richard, Edith and Fred Bifelt, and Laura and Peter Mark in a group ceremony at Fred's home in Cutoff.
|Angeline Derendoff, Part 2||93-15-33||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
This is a continuation of the interview with Angeline Derendoff by Wendy Arundale on July 23, 1992 in Huslia, Alaska. This is a continuation of tape number Oral History 93-15-32. In this part of the interview, Angeline talks about her wedding to Richard Derendoff nearly fifty years ago and the group wedding held on August 8 when the Episcopal Bishop, Bishop Bentley, married her and Richard, Edith and Fred Bifelt, and Laura and Peter Mark in a group ceremony at Fred's home in Cutoff.
|David and Kitty David||93-15-53||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
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.
|Lindberg and Lydia Bergman, Part 1||93-15-03||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
I interviewed Lindberg and Lydia Bergman in their home in Allakaket, Alaska during the afternoon of November 23, l992. We sat around the living room area to make the tape. Since this was the first time Lindberg had ever been interviewed on tape, he was a little worried at first but soon became comfortable with the process. Lydia had a cold and a bad cough, but we still managed to make an excellent recording.
Lydia began by talking about her parents, some of her experiences growing up, and her brothers and sisters and other close family members. In this section of the tape, Lydia talks about the seasonal round and a variety of subsistence activities including various trapping and snaring techniques. In talking about close family members, she remembers her grandfather, South Fork Henry, and how he would babysit in camp and tell some of the many stories he knew. Some of these stories taught people how to behave with respect toward such powerful entities as bears and thunder. Others who are still important to her today are her Aunt Elizabeth Bergman, her Uncle Edward Bergman, her grandparents, Old Linus and Kathleen Linus, and her Uncle Joe Williams with whom she was quite close. She recalled how Uncle Joe, who was a good singer and speechmaker, worked hard to teach younger people how to live properly. She also remembers her best buddy from younger days, Jeanie Stevens, and another good friend Kitty David. She remembers, too, that in l945 her mother was not well so she stayed in town and went to school part of the time. She also played all sorts of ball games--softball, volleyball, football--and loved it, but when she got married, she had to stop playing games and be a like a grown up woman.
Lydia spent some time talking about how she first began to work for wages in l971 when she started babysitting for one of the school teachers. The next year she became an assistant cook at the school, and since l979 she has been the janitor for the Clinic and the City Hall. She also sews and sells the items she makes for income. I also asked Lydia about her interest in dog mushing. In l969 Lindberg bought a snowgo, and Lydia took over the dog team, feeding and running them. She started racing about 16 years ago and her living room attests to the trophies she has won. She is most proud of the trophy she won for winning the Allakaket Carnival race for three years.
Toward the end of the tape, we talked about Lydia's involvement with the Episcopal Church. Lydia recalls that she wanted to be a preacher since way back; now teaching her grandkids about the Lord is very important to her. A major aspect of her church activity is her opposition to drinking. Lydia recognizes that she herself is not perfect. She, too, drank, sometimes quite heavily, between l964 and l975. But she quit, and she sees how much quitting has changed her life. She sees, too, how much drinking hurts the community, and she wants to help others. In l99l, Allakaket built a new church building. This is at least the third log church building on or near the same site since Hudson Stuck had the original church built for St. John's-in-the-Wilderness Mission in l907-08. She describes how the community raised funds through a raffle and other fund-raising efforts, and volunteers from the community cut the logs and built the building.
|Lindberg and Lydia Bergman, Part 2||93-15-04||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
Wendy Arundale continues interviewing Lindberg and Lydia Bergman and talking about their paid employment and their life around the Episcopal Church.
|Madeline Bifelt||93-15-49||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
My conversation with Madeline Bifelt took place in the comfortable and airy back room of Cue and Madeline's old, but relatively spacious house in Huslia, Alaska where Madeline has been doing a lot of her sewing. It was early afternoon on July 21, 1992. At the time of the interview, her husband, Cue, was away working on a barge. Although I have never interviewed Madeline before, we have known each other casually for some time. It was a relaxed and friendly interview that I thoroughly enjoyed. I took some photographs of Madeline's smoke house, dog yard, fish racks, and beadwork. Madeline had been busy during the summer with traditional activities: cutting and smoking salmon, tanning a moose hide, and sewing slippers and mitts, knitting socks, and doing beadwork. Much of this activity was in preparation for a big potlatch to be held in Huslia in September l992. One of the people to be memorialized at the potlatch was her son, Ralph.
Madeline began her tape by talking about her family, where they lived, and how they traveled. They had a cabin twelve miles below Allakaket at the mouth of the Kanuti River and a spring camp at Tsaalatna. This camp was not far from the ones used by Billy Bergman's family and Julia Simon's family. In early summer, they camped at the mouth of Old Man Creek or the Kanuti River. She talked about her father working for Wilfred Evans on his boat hauling goods from Koyukuk for his store in Allakaket and at Evan's sawmill, and about other members of the Evans family. She also talked about her father working for Sam Dubin who had a store in Alatna and a store and sawmill in Bettles, working with Steven Bergman and the incident in which Steven struck a match to light a gas lamp without closing the fuel container and the resulting fire destroying the Bettles store and killing Steven, though Sam Dubin got out alive. After that, her father did not work in Bettles again. She talked some about how her father had also worked for Les James, the storekeeper in Hughes.
We talked quite a bit about the seasonal round of activities, including how people would "spring out", traveling down the Kanuti River together. She talked about how people really enjoyed this trip, stopping to hunt and fish as they needed to and appreciating the beauty of the river, especially the canyon area with its late spring flowers. Because her family spent a lot of time living out on the land, Madeline only finished the fourth grade at school. As she talked about how her family made a living when she was growing up, she mentioned many people prominent in the recent history of the Allakaket area.
Like most older people, disease and death have also been important elements in Madeline's life. She talked about how, when she was 14, her sister Isabel died of influenza. She also recalled how devastating tuberculosis had been while she was growing up. Her mother died when she was eighteen, her first husband Harding Sam, died of tuberculosis while she was carrying their daughter, Isabel, and she also lost sisters to tuberculosis. At one point her present husband, Cue, spent 14 months away in Seattle and Anchorage undergoing treatment for tuberculosis.
Madeline also talked about sewing in the early days, and how hard it was to get materials. She described how she tans moose hides, and also talked about how sewing has changed over time. She concluded with some comments about how technology has changed over the past several decades, and the impact those changes have had on Native people's lives.
|Fred Lee Bifelt||93-15-48||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
Fred Lee Bifelt was interviewed on July 24, 1992 by Wendy Arundale in Huslia, Alaska. At the time of the interview, Fred was one of the younger leaders of the Huslia community. Because it was fishing season at the time of the interview, and Fred Lee was busy getting in fish for his family and dogs, it was hard for us to find a time to tape. On my last day, however, we got together at the village office for a very articulate and effective interview. We worked during the early afternoon. We began by discussing the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, how Fred had learned about it in school, and how he saw it having an impact on his people and his community. His account of how he gradually learned about the act and its implications is very informative. He talked about how the village corporations have had to learn about business the hard way, making mistakes early on and acting more astutely with experience.
We also discussed subsistence, and Fred Lee talked about his frustrating experiences serving on a Fish and Game Advisory Board. He spoke of how he wished federal agencies would really listen to and work with local people. So many outsiders have little respect for the extensive local knowledge in rural communities. When I asked him for his view on appropriate management, he talked about the need for more local control, not simply an advisory role for local people. He also noted that managers need to place more value on local knowledge and on-the-ground experience. Instead, it often seems that only the information gained through a college degree is considered worthwhile.
From Fred Lee's point of view, the lack of employment is the most crucial local issue his community faces. He believes that if there were reasonable jobs available, many of the serious social problems that afflict rural villages would largely disappear. He noted how hard it is to feel good about yourself when you can't work. He also talked about tolerance and the importance of teaching his children that at a basic level there's no difference between people. He sees getting along with and being able to learn from people who aren't Indian as important skills for his children to learn. At the same time, he believes respect must be mutual, for prejudice runs both ways.
Ultimately, Fred Lee views subsistence as remaining a key element in Native people's future. It is the backbone of Native life and must always be there for Native people. Resource development will be needed too, but it must be compatible with continuing subsistence.
|Joe and Celia Beetus, Part 1||93-15-23||Gates of the Arctic National Park||
Joe and Celia Beetus were interviewed on November 15, 1992 by Wendy Arundale in Fairbanks, Alaska. When we made this tape, Joe and Celia Beetus were visiting Fairbanks for the Athabascan Fiddling Festival. I picked them up downtown on a Sunday afternoon, and we drove to the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Because it was a quiet place to work, we taped sitting around one end of the big conference table in the Institute of Arctic Biology's library, a place where we've taped together before. The tape began with Joe talking about his childhood growing up in the Allakaket area. He talked about several of the places where his family camped, activities that they undertook, and the general outline of their seasonal round. He also talked at the beginning of the tape about how he and Celia had raised their family with everyone going to trapping camp in the winter. This pattern continued until l957 when the school was established in Hughes, and the children were required to attend. Toward the mid-l950s, Joe began hiring Wien Alaska Airlines to fly his family and even some of his dogs to camp. It was the easiest way to get his large family, which by then included eight children, to camp. Joe and Celia both recalled incidents from the time when their kids were growing up, but Joe's contributions also included memories of several of the old-timers from around Hughes, some of whom Steven Attla also remembers. They include Joe Hoagland, Ernie Wingfield, and Les James. Joe also talked some about Wilfred Evans who had a store at Alatna. Joe also commented on how he learned to sing, what singing means, and how many of the "high words," the special vocabulary used in songs and speeches on formal, ceremonial occasions, have been lost, even to people of his generation. Celia talked about her own growing up in the Allakaket area. Her family, like Joe's, spent a lot of time in camp. She talked about various camps where they stayed, some like Tsaalatna, in the Old Man or Kanuti River area. She also talked some about her family's fish camp below Allakaket. She recalls how she and Joe were married by Bishop Bentley in a group ceremony with Martha and Abraham Oldman, and Henry and Sophie Beetus. Such ceremonies were not unusual, for the bishop would make a trip up the river almost every year by boat, holding services, baptizing babies, and marrying couples along the way. Toward the end of the tape, Joe makes a very heartfelt and eloquent statement about what he feels agency employees and park visitors should know about Native people and the land. He points out that subsistence is integral to Native people's way of life. His very basic question, "How would Native people make a living without subsistence?" addresses more than just how would people put food on the table and wood in the stove, although those issues are very basic to his statement as well. He recognizes the need for some regulation, but he also sees the need for a greater understanding of and meaningful involvement of local users. Although legally, parts of the land may belong to the federal government, in cultural and emotional terms it is still Koyukon land and Joe makes a strong case for treating it as such. In concluding the tape, Celia echoes Joe's sentiments and concerns for how their children and grandchildren will make a living if the land and the right to harvest its resources is taken away from them.