Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Joseph "Joe" Beetus

Joe and Celia Beetus

Joe Beetus was a Koyukon Athabascan elder from Hughes, Alaska. He was born in 1915 and raised around Allakaket until he was about 14 when his family moved down to the Hughes area. His mother was Ida and his father Leon. Leon was a prominent member of the community that coalesced around the Episcopal Mission, St. John's-in-the-Wilderness, that was built by Hudson Stuck in l907-08 at the site that became the village of Allakaket. Leon died not long after Joe was born, and his mother married Little Beetus, who was from around South Fork. Joe grew up largely in camp, particularly in the Kanuti or Old Man River area. He grew up living a traditional subsistence lifestyle of hunting, trapping and fishing and moving camp as the season changed. Joe married Celia Koyukok in 1938, who was the daughter of Jimmy and Annie Koyukuk, and also from the Allakaket area. Joe and Celia continued to follow this traditional pattern with their own children until 1957 when a school was built in Hughes, and they settled in the village permanently. Throughout much of his adult life, Joe trapped and hunted in the winter from a cabin base camp on Hog or Hogatsa River, north and east of Hughes. Joe also worked in local mining camps in the summer. Joe was well known in the Koyukon region for his talents as a singer and composer of traditional and ceremonial songs. At the time of his 1992 interview, Joe was one of the relatively few men who was still active in this pursuit, which used to be almost entirely a man's province. Traditional style songs were composed for and sung primarily at memorial potlatches.

Date of Death:
May 15, 2009
Joseph "Joe" Beetus appears in the following new Jukebox projects: