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Ellen Demit, Interview 2, Part 1
Ellen Demit

This is a continuation of the interview with Ellen Demit by Don Callaway and Connie Friend for Mendees Cheeg Naltsiin Keey': An Oral History of the People of Healy Lake Village (annotated and edited by Donald G. Callaway and Constance A. Friend, Revised June 2007). This second interview was conducted on August 16, 2000 in Healy Lake, Alaska. Ellen also gave a speech to her relatives on January 19, 2001 where she tells more about her personal and family history at Healy Lake and Big and Little Gerstle. In this second interview, Ellen talks about the 1927 Potlatch at Healy Lake given by Chief Healy, potlatch preparations, preserving cultural traditions, rules and taboos related to animals, men and women, preparation of traditional foods, and being a strong, self-sufficient woman.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-105-02-PT.1

Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Aug 16, 2000
Narrator(s): Ellen Demit
Interviewer(s): Don Callaway, Connie Friend
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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1927 Potlatch at Healy Lake

Potlatch preparations

Other villages attending potlatch

Potlatch songs

Preserving cultural traditions

Laying out potlatch gifts

Treating people with respect

Returning to home villages after Healy Lake potlatch

Proper way to raise children and teach them life skills

Learning skills and lessons from parents

Using animals parts to create strength in a baby

Taboos and rules about eating moose and caribou and young women and hunters

Rules for young women

Respect for your husband

Being a strong, self-sufficient woman

Native medicine

Different teachings for men and women

Not bragging about a potlatch

Explanation of place names at Healy Lake

Preparing moose stomach and filling with dry meat

Preparing moose heart

Knowing which parts of moose are good for what type of cooking

Being a careful hunter and caring for special foods

Mother's emergency cache in a lard can

Ellen's encounter with a bear and protecting yourself without a gun

Importance of being properly prepared

Importance of being strong and not being lazy

Special foods and protecting against starvation

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DON CALLAWAY: This is Don Callaway. It’s August 16th (2000) and we’re continuing to talk with Ellen Demit. Ellen, go ahead.


Over there in old village.

That’s my teenage days to where I growin’ up,

and I gonna talk about this morning

over there old village.

The name that’s Indian word, Mendees Cheeg. That’s Healy River.

He had biggest potlatch [famous big potlach of 1927 given by Chief Healy where he invited bands from Upper Tanana and Copper River area)

People come from all over:

Copper Center, Tazlina, Northway, Tanacross, Tanana, Nenana, Fairbanks. People all over.

The back days you never jump in a car and a boat.

Big boat, people travel around to village over there.

Up there where Paul and them stay that’s where boat land.

I was young. I thought that's war goin’ be. Whatever people I thought they was gonna shoot us out, but it didn’t turn out like that. That’s potlatch. (customary greeting is for approaching band to fire shots and host band to return volley of shots)

Potlatch, people going call sol chee.

That's the people goin' come visit us.

Share the love with us. The saddest day.

That biggest potlatch I ever see when I was small.

Okay, I gonna start it all over again.

I makes up my mind to talk.

We had beautiful five days maybe two week potlatch,

and we had all those Native food.

Who makin’ potlatch? My mother and Daddy,

Chief Healy, John Healy,

Paddy Healy, Mary Healy.

And he all get together

the potlatch.

Back days they don’t bring stuff inside.

I had to use some my Native word between and I gonna explain my English word.

They have (Athabascan) all the way to hillside.

(Athabascan) he have blanket, gun, beaver skin,

hare, moose skin, moccasin, skin coat, jacket, everything, moccasin, everything.

He put it there.

During the night he covered.

Very injii. (spirits and supernatural forces were powerful influences for traditional Upper Tanana people and not to be ignored)

That's superstitious.

Us say, he have a stick.

Clean special stick go for all the way up to the hill, the one each place potlatch.

Each house end of that stick, lot of stuff,

just almost halfway up the hill.

The stuff, every one of them makin’ potlatch and he all work together.

Each house he cook, dry meat, fish.

The women, they makin’ biscuit.

Back days you even use moose grease to makin’ your donuts.

Even back days I remember he makin’ donuts with moose grease,

even though he have lard from store and everything.

But that’s way potlatch.

And if we are Native, we have to use our own food to cook.

I ‘member almost two week and he take it down.

Back time our chief, Chief Healy cut all his hair off.

Shave his hair off. (hair was sometimes cut or singed by Upper Tanana people as a physical sign of grieving or to drive off evil spirits)

You know why he do that?

He’s soooo happy his relative from all over visit.

One of Walter Northway (chief of Northway village) ask,

”Gee, shee’eh, why you do that?”

That’s mean,”Uncle, why you cut your hair?”

That’s what it means,”Diigha t’inde’en shee’eh.”

Chief Healy say, ”Tsinaa’ee. ” “Ts’inaa’ee shaa nahdeedl.”

In my English say, Chief Healy say, "Thank you to come to have a tea with me.”

He don’t say potlatch, no.

He just gonna say,”Have a tea with me.”

He have a tea for two weeks

and no more boats. Close to fall time.

After potlatch, two week potlatch,

he gave dry meat, dry fish, everything.

And some boat go through to even to very cold.

Some even go back with boat with a gift of gun, blanket, moose skin, all Native work.

He had a very long potlatch.

People danced every night.

One night some people say, “Alaski fire fires,”

and you know what's it mean?

He wants “chew.”

So what my daddy did, he got case of snuff. My daddy open little bit.

This is funniest part. It’s not real funny but to me.

Back days I’m teenage days.

He opened each can snuff, opened little bit and he say,“Alaski fire fires” and my daddy just throw out there on the floor.

Some open.

People sneeze, sneeze, sneeze. And us we peekin’ from out there. We peek little thing mouth, and we look through and we just laugh, laugh.

Nobody see us. Out there bunch of kid.

And the back days you real strict. Pretty strict.

We never go out there where people cook.

We never ask for food.


All this village, they all get together.

Makin’ party for the uncle, brother, the one lose loved one been gone long time ago.

They all take it out.

Right now you’re goin’ have more than potlatch.

Once again I have to use my own language.

Naniida’a tah etts’aay ‘iin ey ‘iin xxaadaxuxda’aal xunadet’ey elt’eey ch’axoxtahdiil ts’axoxdey’.

That’s mean I say, “You dig it out that person die long time ago.

The hurt inside so bad."

(Athabascan) That’s mean lot o’ tear run down to your cheek.

Right now young people growin’ up can’t understand what potlatch.

People makin’ potlatch, but yet no one perfect.

No, myself, I still learn.

I learn from my mother and daddy and my grandfather.

And our chief.

That’s where all I learned these ever since my young days I growin’ up.

I grown up with love.

I reach down to old grandpa and old grandma.

I goin’ put this little story for what's love mean.

But I want finish this potlatch. There’s quite a bit, little bit story, long time story.

After two weeks the biggest cook. Whole village. Maybe fifty pound flour been cook.

Biscuit, oven biscuit, donuts, dry meat, lot of Native food, special food.

Right now we never think fix special food. I would.

I still remember how my mother and daddy passed me on to me.

I could do anything with Native food.

Special way, special food I could fix it.

This potlatch,

after two week each one who goin’ make potlatch talk with our chief. "We’re goin’ do this, we’re goin’ do this, it's okay with you?”

Chief not goin’ say nothing. He don’t answer.

That's mean, "Oh oh."

Then later on he think, he say, ”You gotta do this, you gotta do this.” "You have to do this."

So everybody all get together. Everything okay.

Back days one gotta get up speech.

From our village, other place, other chief from other village.

Back days you don’t just come in to village potlatch. No.

I still respect.

If Tanacross people invited, Tetlin,

all, every, each village the chief gotta go ahead of them.

And little ways from village they goin’ shoot.

From village our chief goin’ shoot two time.

Other chief goin’ shoot two. That’s four shot.

And then he goin’ meet. This is really bad too part I talk about.

He goin’ meet each other chief. He goin’ speech out there where he meet each other.

Other one from other village and other one from this side. He goin' speech. He goin’ talk over.

If everything’s okay, then he goin’ come to village.

He goin’ bring all that thing into village.

Back days, like yesterday I talk about little bit but not whole. Today I goin’ finish it talk about this potlatch deal.

They have a all those things.

Everything ok and they all goin’ get together.

People dance. They have hats on.

You lose loved one in the morning time you get up early. Sadness, you go for walk. Maybe you see moose. Maybe fox.

Anything ahead of you go through. You just stop stand.

That’s where music come out.

Very hard to make music. Not that easy.

You have to make song for big person. You gotta put lot of word in there.

You just don’t make it anyway, don’t make song, no.

You gotta take a your time to make song.

This is I talk to Healy Lake potlatch way I don’t know how many years ago.

I ‘member what year, but I can’t, I don’t want to make a state(ment).

That’s biggest potlatch we ever have for me when my young days.

Also I want keep this village exactly I growin’ up.

I gotta talk about. Put all the kids together before we’re goin’ have this little potlatch for my nephew.

We’re goin’ feed children outside.

Just old people are goin’ stay inside this community hall.

We gotta do it and we gotta keep up our a culture. (Ellen's word for "culture.")

We don’t have to give up our a culture.

We don’t have to act like we different person, no.

Even though we have to go college, we have to go high school, we gotta keep our a culture.

Our a culture is more than everything and good for the children and the future.

Our kids goin’ learn. Kids listen. Me, I couldn’t do.

That’s why I guess we have tape recorder.

I had lot a pressure for this thing when done I run into. Lot a sad.

But today I’m very strong for that now.

Yesterday it's real hard for me.

And when potlatch ready each house he bring that stick.

He take it down.

He bring blanket. Everything.

Inside community hall, inside community hall he put...

He don’t put blanket in there.

He don’t put blanket in there. He put caribou skin, tanned one, sewing together make like huge canvas.

Right now he gonna use tub and everything, visqueen,

but back days chief makin’ potlatch.

Chief’s son makin’ potlatch.

Sew caribou skin, tanned one he sew all together.

He put it on the floor.

Each one that place he gotta put skin in there and put blanket and gun and arrow

and moose skin, beaver skin, lynx, all kind animal skin out there on the land.

That’s what we try to do in this our village.

I doin’ the talk lots with this my grandkids, my niece and his kids.

I got talk with them all time.

They don’t do right I say, "Stop."

The word not right for me I say, ”Don’t say that.”

We have to help each other. Other one don’t do good you have to softly say, ”Don’t do that. I don’t think it’s right.”

Gotta respect for the one you not related, clan Naltsiin (Naltsiin is one of the major clans of the Upper Tanana). This village that's Naltsiin village.

Is very special village.

Very strong. Strong village.

And I don’t brag for my village but only I know very strong people used to live over there. Big people.

Chief makin’ potlatch.

No one bring that stuff before chief.

Chief gotta tell all her son and bring her stuff.

That special gift he wanted he go out and bring herself.

He bring it all that potlatch stuff.

And then he goin’ tell one of son, one of daughter.

My mom and daddy they all bring that stuff.

But you never come before chief. You gotta respect.

And he bring all stuff and that community hall, biggest community hall we ever had.

That’s first community hall I growin’ up.

The chief he decoration with fur.

Inside community hall I ‘member lynx skin, beaver skin hang on the wall, fox.

Rosa just tan one.

That’s what we doin’ right now.

Whatever we do right now goin’ go down to all my family and my grandkids everyone of (unintelligible).

I want even though I have to use somebody community hall I still goin’ do and my own a culture from this village.

The one come visit you, you real gotta treat them good. Make sure the person got place to sleep and eat good.

That community hall all full people, there's no room to sleep.

Some and people invited the house,

but no matter old man, old granny, you have to treat them right.

Old grandpa, old grandma, this one goin’ give you good life.

Right now you think you young.

It’s okay, but that work will come out, hit you sun’s goin’ down.

Nasaate’e’aa de’ sheg de’, naasheg taatuuxatatliil.

That time it’s too late. The one try to touch you.

You ignore. It’s too late.

Maybe that person goin’ be gone.

This one all I growin’ up.

Today I prepare for this one. That’s why I have to tell whole story.

I don’t want make a (mi)stake.

After two weeks people go up Healy River. We pack the gift: dry meat. No more boat.

People walk up all way up to Healy River.

It connect with Ketchumstuk, Northway and all go back walk.

Even young girl and go with her husband. They all walk. Some pack babies.

Connect with they call k’aay kee’. (Literally means "marmot den". Also name of place where old Chief Healy's camp was about 12 miles up Healy River from its mouth a the Tanana River.) That mean Native word,

but that one I don’t know what's it stand for k’aay kee’ but later on I goin’ think it out and I goin’ speak it out. But it called k’aay kee’.

At Tanacross, Ketchumstuk, and at Healy River

people pack the stuff, the gift all the way back to Tanacross.

From there all, everybody go home.

Some and go home.

Show direction. Some go home boat.

Take good maybe six days to come back to that village.

And it’s long walk.

On the way sometimes they kill moose and have a good time. Sit together and talk about potlatch deal.

And it's lotta thing.

They all, it close to fall time everybody all come home from this village. All over.

In the end, chief, when all people go home, chief he put necklace on everyone of’s neck and tell good-bye, shake hand each other,

hug each other with necklace.

Back days all kind necklace real pretty expensive.

The chief did. Everyone of them he told,”Thank you very much.”

And they end this potlatch, Healy Lake potlatch.

And the other hand from there I goin’ talk about other things.

And this village, it just seems to me a lot of respect. I still do.

I hope these young children in the future listen to this tape learn something about it.

Nice to have things like that to remember.

We tape a thing, new sound, make new music.

In the summer time you could do a lot of things for you out there for your own food. Prepare.

And right now I goin’ talk about little baby, newborn baby.

Mother and father of the baby think two questions.

Back days I really listen my mother and my dad and my grandfather.

Whatever my mother tell me to do, I gotta do.

I had to train my baby. I don’t feel sorry for my baby. Even my baby...

Many people think their youngest daughter is one of precious to them. It’s not for me anymore.

Even my youngest daughter.

Always talk very strong with her.

We have to taught them.

Right now young kids sit onTV. Have short on. No socks. I see lots my grandkids do that.

I don’t let Darrel (Felix, Ellen's grandson, son of her daughter Daisy Northway) do that in my house,. Darrel, he had to get dressed early in the morning whatever I say.

I throw them out of there in the snow. I tell them run for one block.

I don’t make this story. That’s what I did Darrel, ‘member?

I throw them out. Go out and run.

When you come back, don’t stand next to stove.

We don’t baby our baby, no. We got taught them.

The one we spoil them if we gone how do that baby goin’ be survive?

How do that girl goin’ be mother?

How do that girl goin’ take care of her kids? Cause she don’t listen his mother.

He don’t listen his daddy.

He don’t listen his grandfather.

Nothing to pass on.

Sometimes I don’t even want see my grandkids and just too much TV.

Sit there all day just like nothing to do.

“I’m bored,” kids gonna say.

I wonder what’s it mean,”I’m bored.” I can’t understand.

Lot of things to do. Us women too got lot of things to do.

We go out pick berries.

All out there on the land we gotta ready.

The husband gotta go out hunt for wife and the family.

Hunt moose, anything.

Bring back that food. We gotta work for.

Make sure our food don’t be spoiled.

This word goin’ be really tough word. I goin’ talk about whoever listen.

Sometimes kids gets mad; mad at the mother. Some maybe little bit of change.

To me that guy, whoever, should go out work.

My grandson come home. He’s thirty-two years old.

He ask me, it’s okay he spend time with me.

Nobody visit me so I accept him.

But I make him work for room and board.

He cook for me.

Sometime he clean house for me, best he can.

And meantime I preach to his ear all time.

When he go out, he goin' go someplace, I told, "Grandson, “I love you.

Don’t run into the sharp stick.

Stay away from the sharp stick. Don’t run into.”

That’s mean you don’t run into trouble.

Keep you life clean.

Don’t make story, the one you don’t know. If I don’t know something, I don’t have to talk about.

This is my culture I talk about, the whole village.

The baby, even newborn baby,

if snow out there, we have to grab a baby. Run. Run one mile.

Huge branch out there, just wet, freeze, we just put our babies, swing around them.

We don’t walk slow either. We don’t worry about baby goin’ get sick.

Maybe two mile when we get with the babies. Train.

That’s way when cold weather, our baby already been train.

You don’t have to worry about your baby’s goin’ be cold.

That’s what it mean, “You gotta train your baby.”

Gotta make sure your babies eat good. Make sure it’s clean.

But you have to train.

I do got train, that’s why right now I still take care of myself.

I never let ignore my mother and daddy. When he talk to me, I just sit down and listen ‘till I fall asleep on them.

The best time that we learn from grandfather and mother and father and the baby, we bring them back, we goin’ bathe them, dress them, feed them good.

Three time we goin’ do that.

And then, the diaper, we cut little piece.

We goin’ put it on caribou trail and caribou trail we put little piece of diaper.

Caribou walk ‘round. Caribou’s light. Caribou’s not heavy.

And mile, mile why we do that. Our little baby when he grown up he started doin’ her own life.

That baby we train already, he not goin’ be tired.

Maybe how many mile, mile that whoever we taught goin’ work, get the moose and the food. That’s why we do that.

And then at home we cook ling cod.

Out there on camp fire, we have a dishpan under.

We get the ling cod juice

and if little boy we goin’ wash the legs, all over them.

We don’t worry about babe.

Little boy goin’ be stink. We bathe them with whole that ling cod juice. (Traditional belief was that juice would help make child swift and fluid in his hunting which would make moose "sad" because his chances of survival would be lessened.)

And then we let them stay maybe couple hour and then we goin’ bathe them, dress them.

The moose goin’ be sad, real sad. This one we wash with ling cod juice, he go out goin’ be real sad.

The moose goin’ be sad.

I really believe that ‘cause I talk lots families like that.

And you go out, you hunt, you know which one moose fat. Just look.

You know which one’s fat.

You know which one’s skin(ny).

And we taught baby like that.

And beaver, beaver we don’t train our family for ‘cause they live on dirt.

If we use beaver too much, our little baby goin’ be poor.

He not goin’ make money.

He goin’ be lazy.

So we take little part out the beaver bone, shoulder bone.

We tie to baby, maybe three days,

and the baby goin’ be real, real strong. No one goin’ beat that baby if you train with beaver bone to your baby.

That boy goin’ protect himself. Goin’ be very strong. No one goin’ beat that little baby with train with beaver bone.

But this is story for little baby up to grown up

and beaver bone we use to be strong.

And the moose, too heavy; too heavy. We don’t taught our kids with moose.

We just train our kids how to get moose real easy,

but we don’t taught our children with baby moose or ....

Baby moose, you make a steak. You real hungry.

Nothing to eat.

Make a steak. If you got a cow, you gotta get that little baby moose go right along with mother. You don’t let suffer that little baby moose.

And old people, old grandma and grandpa eat that little moose.

Young people never eat cause the moose, too heavy.

He never run fast like caribou. Caribou’s light.

He goes a mile, mile, but not baby moose.

So old people it’s all eat.

And it's superstitious, and you don’t...

Young teenage you begin woman, you don’t eat moose head. You don't eat moose whole work, whatever, moose heart.

Good part you never eat. That’s superstitious. (Strong cultural taboos existed for young women and hunters, such as not having young women near a hunter's equipment or she being careful to not walk near or step over a hunter's equipment.) You gotta believe that.

And that moose quarter, inside soft one is one you gonna eat.

Maybe it two, three weeks, maybe one month sometime.

And you’re not goin’ walk around.

You’re not goin’ walk around; you’re not goin’ even touch man. That’s very superstitious.

You gotta respect for man if you begin woman.

You really gotta treat yourself. You go out special branch, use by you bed even though blanket gotta be.

Under blanket you use that special branch to sleep on.

You train yourself.

He put a special tent.

I want this so some young girl gonna hear: He put...

When we begin woman we never stay inside. We go out. He let us move out, out of the house.

Our mother and daddy he get us tent.

Sometime mile out from the home.

Inside the tent he put mosquito net, kind of like mosquito net.

Pitch dark we gotta sew.

No light we just put little bit few little stick and little light come in that’s where we sewing.

We make lot of sinew.

Back days you gotta sew with sinew.

Even though you got thread and you gotta make lot of sinew to sew.

Right now maybe they goin’ call antique that sinew.

I still use sinew. I still make it my own.

And the young girl, maybe three month, never look around the country. Gotta have head scarf.

If man hunt, you don’t watch man goin’ shoot. That ‘s injii. (Something forbidden or taboo used as a warning or comment on someone's behavior in order that they not offend the spirits of animals, supernatural beings, or the deceased.)

That’s superstitious, English. Real pretty strict I grown up.

And I’m glad today I use that.

I still take care of myself.

That’s what this injii mean.

When you young, you don’t listen to that injii, when you get old you gonna be cramp.

You whole body gonna be cramp and suffer and pain, but time it’s too late.

You just think you should listen to you mother and daddy.

You don’t wash man’s clothes with woman.

You keep your husband clean.

You keep your husband’s clothes separate.

You cook for your husband very clean.

You don't feed your children before your husband.

You husband’s the head of the house.

You have to cook for your husband first.

Then you goin’ feed you children.

This is real hard, hard for young people right now. But it is good.

If someone use it and you husband have to gettin’ old.

You gotta respect for him,

what he done for you, what he share her love with you.

You had children together.

And your husband had to be all before you.

You have to love him. You have to take care of him good ‘till the end.

I did my husband. My husband paralyzed.

I never get mad at him.

Even though I take care of my children, cut wood.

My husband’s s’pposed to do for me.

I end up cut wood. I end up trapline.

I end up do anything ‘cause my husband’s paralyzed.

I never nag at him.

I never tell him he was just sittin’ around for nothing, no.

I’m glad I did. I never hurt his feel ‘till the end.

My husband died.

My son two years old, my oldest one twelve my other one three years old when my husband died.

You mad at your husband, you don’t treat,

when he’s gone you gonna be empty house.

No one goin’ do heavy job for you. If you ready for that one.

Nothing is hard for me. Me, I work just like a man.

And I raise three children with on the land. I don’t ask for thing.

I never go next door ask for, “I want this one”, no.

I don’t raise up myself like that.

My mother used to tell me, “Don’t ask for food.”

The one you ask for food, he might gonna get mad at you.

You hungry, do something.

Summertime you could go out get your fish.

That’s what I did I growin’ up.

I do so many thing, nothing hard for me. It’s still right now.

I always laugh for young people.

Young people, young girls they,”Oh, I’m so tired.”

“Oh, I want sleep little bit more.”

For me I just, I always laugh for them right in the face.

The person that have a little bit of pain wants lay down, maybe little bit of headache wants lay down,

I don’t believe that.

I don’t believe a run to doctorin’. You go out. You use you Native medicine.

You know which one to take.

You know which one to make it.

You know which one to make tea.

You have to do thing out there on the land.

You don't need to buy medicine. You know which one.

He have Native medicine for TB.

He have Native medicine for arthritis.

He have Native medicine you headache so bad.

But you have to get which one.

I drink right now my Native tea at home. I pick it from all over. I know which one to get it.

Even right out there, and I see lot of medicine right out there. The people don’t know.

You walk around on good medicine.

Some taste like sugar.

Rose hip, you vitamin C.

Rose hip you could mix with cranberries and maybe little bit of sugar.

That’s you vitamin.

And the young men and the young young lady come up.

Man, we gotta train them different.

We train woman different.

And we gotta work real hard with man.

If father die, you gonna be mother and father, both.

I did. I raise up my son.

I use his daddy culture for my son, my culture for my son.

“Don’t do this. Don’t do this.”

My son’s married when he’s thirty, th-, thirty years old.

He’s married. He have beautiful children.

You still have a time to take a you time to be married.

You're too young you get married, you goin’ divorce. You goin’ suffer your children.

All those don’t believe, there lots thing you can do.

Like two week ago we get together in this buildin’, community hall.

We get together and we eat together and we have really wonderful time.

You have potlatch, you never talk about again.

Superstitious, you don’t talk about.

You don’t brag about how big potlatch you got either. No.

My mother used to tell me, “Don’t go potlatch all time.”

Her Native word she say, “Nts’e’el k’eetitdiil gha che?” Goin’ go potlatch.

That's mean if I run to potlatch, maybe I goin’ have gift, gun,

but I when I, my turn to makin’ potlatch someday, seem like I gotta return.

Not same person, but I gotta return to other relative. Maybe I goin’ give a gun.

This is potlatch.

I talk about there and there.

I can’t talk ‘bout same word long time. I put each word little bit.

Maybe some day, maybe I goin’ make it whole, whole.

And he call this lake “Mendees Cheeg.”

That’s Mendees Cheeg go for Healy Lake.

And he call way over there close to river one lake he call “Taagos Menh"

and my English that’s Swan Lake.

Taagos, that’s swan, Swan Lake.

And he call that one place Healy Lake he call "Ch’endaag."

Ch’endaag Menh, that’s mean where moose come, eats all of dirt, all of special plant.

Moose eat her food.

That always moose have a trail and all the way down to lake you can see.

It look like ball field.

Healy Lake boys call “ball field."

What he call “ball field” that means "Ch'uxeel."

That’s uh back, back days they call basketball. "Ch'uxeel."

That’s basketball.

Right now they call basketball English so he call English that hill and ball field.

And just like he play basketball.

The way in the back the person never didn’t top that che'endaag where moose always come down the hill.

The man’s name, back days they call this man real funny name, back days.

They call Ch'uxeel, this person.

I guess back days he’s big man, I don’t know. That’s way before this, my grandpa tell me this story.

I used to laugh for all time.

Then my grandpa gets mad at me, I don’t laugh anymore.

But that’s what it mean ch’uxeel. That’s basketball.

Ch'uxeel Ddhel.

And he call right now Healy Lake moo-. . Healy Lake, I don't know what Healy Lake, but he call Dendiig Ndiig.

And other one’s Ch’endaag.

That’s where moose eat.

Whatever moose eat, special food, dirt, where moose come down. Maybe salt in there. We don’t know.

Moose just eat all the time there.

And this other place you call moose Ndiig.

That’s where our huntin’ place.

And this hill he call "Teyh ts’eeg."

That’s mean long field.

Connect with Swan Lake.

Connect with Swan Lake he call "Teyh Ts’eeg." That’s long hill.

And that’s what mean Teyh Ts’eeg.

It’s not small, but big hill.

And then five mile hill and the lake he call "Xelt'aaddh." Xelt'aaddh Menh.

That’s another place have moose.

Good place for moose.

But I can’t, don’t know how he call that big branch leaf on the lake.

Has some little yellow leaf, yellow flower in there.

I real...I don’t know how he call English, but us, we call Xelt'aaddh Menh for that thing growing in the lake.

And that’s Indian name, Xelt'aaddh Menh.

That’s five mile hill.

Now, I got talk about Healy Lake, Healy River, Ts'aadley Ndiig.

That’s stand for the fish.

Big fish come out in that creek.

They call big fish Ts'aadley.

And he call .... That’s why he call Ts'aadley Ndiig. It connect with K'aay kee'.

And once again, I don’t know what stand that K'aay kee' for English.

Maybe some kind of animal, I really don’t know.

And all I know, he call K'aay kee'.

And, but it’s hard to complain (explain) English, but that’s our chief’s home.

Our chief trapline, our chief’s house.

From there come down and close to us to lake one big hill.

The creek, once again that Ts'aadley Ndiig. Right down there to big hill he call Tuu Eeyaat'ee.

Tuu Eeyaat'ee stand for the open place.

You climb that big hill. You go down in the valley.

You see whole, all over you gonna see.

That’s what mean Tuu Eeyaat'ee.

And from there come a close to Healy River, the one flat one valley.

He got cache there.

That Dahtsaa Di' ee'aa. That’s Native word, you say, “Dahtsaa Di' ee'aa,” That’s means in English you say, “high cache”cache there.

It mean that that’s our chief’s cache.

Our chief’s camp.

We call that one “high cache.”

From there I come close to lake,

one special lake you call Ts'elbeet Menh.

That's means fish ducks in there all time.

Make funny noise in that lak,e in that fish lake.

Got fish ducks all in there all time. They have little one in there so we call Ts'elbeet Menh.

And that other creek connect with Ts'elbeet Menh,

we call beaver, Tsa' Tu' Cheeg.

That’s mean Beaver Creek, English.

That Beaver Creek connect with Ts'elbeet Menh and Fish Duck Lake.

And from there to lake and Mendees Cheeg Menh.

And from there right over there where we come out with boat Taacheeg Ndiig that’s go down to connect withTanana.

And down little ways under that hill we used to have fish camp, all Native fish camp.

In fall time we move down. We dry our fish for wintertime.

And of Xts'iith Kenin'aay.

That’s mean fish trap go through to creek.

And Xts'iith Kenin'aay, that’s fish trap. We made it by hand and that’s our camp there.

We work for our fish.

And from there, from there and once again go back to lake.

And out there in the valley he call Taak'etth Ndiig. That’s clear water.

We used to go in a boat to get that clear water.

From village we used to get drink that clear water.

And he call that one Taak'etth Ndiig.

And then for we go up little far on a hill.

Hill go across to... and we call that hill, he call that hill, all way down to Trading Post, that one connect one hill, he call um, Cook Hill. Cook Hill, that all that one hill.

And that’s where we used to go and that name down there, that little creek, he call “Seejel Ndiig." That’s graylin’.

We got lot o' graylin’ down there.

The reason he call where Cook Hill,

Fall time we all camp out there for that creek.

We get our moose and we get our caribou, and we all camp out, all way down to that hill.

And we all get together with cook and campfire.

Caribou, all Caribou Lake we cook long side o' camp. From there, and my grandpa used to cook caribou liver.

He just, he clean it and he put campfire. You just push those dirt.

Me, I stand there watch, I'm not goin’ eat.

And my grandpa, he throw that liver in the fire. Nothing in there. He covered with dirt, he don’t care.

Guess what, when after we come back, we pack meat all day, we come back, my grandpa break those marrow and he take the caribou liver

and he clean it with out there on a branch, clean special branch

and he clean it and he slice it and he eat. Me, I say, “I not goin’ eat here.” I gets in there.

Boy, delicious, good eat.

That’s what I say, “You gotta learn how to cook campfire.”

And he call Cook Hill, "Ch'ech'el Ndiig."

And from there, little far down, ‘nother creek, "Taak'etth Ndiig." That’s another clear water.

That’s where my mother, my aunt left house for me.

My aunt gave me that house,

she gave it to me and I never went back ever since my kids grown up.

And she have big creek down there called, "Taak'etth." Taak'etth, it go for nice and ice cold water.

And we used to drink nice water.

And from there all way down to fish,

we call Fish Lake, now we call "Tehts'a'a."

Tehts'a'a Lake and that lake a towards to springtime, only time you gotta work for, hunt rats. You have big bug in there.

Enough they scare you.

That springtime, that bug fly all over. Very huge.

And I don’t know why that lake all full up of rats, very big rats, just like little beaver.

That’s where me and my sister, we used to trap for rats. Camp out in the tent.

They call Tehts'a'a.

That’s name for that bug and I don’t know how he call that thing in English, maybe “beetle.” Um, I don’t know. Lady’s bug? No, I don’t think so. Not lady’s bug.

It’s... I think it’s this big and black and uh I can’t.

I really don’t know how he call English. I don’t (pay) ‘tention to.

I know but um someday to go down. You go other side the hill Jiiz Ndiig. That’s Good Pasters, English. Jiiz Ndiig, that’s “Camprobber.”

From there to you go back to village again and you go back to Cook Hill again.

And from there you come back a close to lake to little ways from village and you have to climb that big hill for caribou.

And go in top, you, in top that hill nothing to build fire with. You, you gotta pack you wood. You gotta pack you water.

They call that "Daditthogh Ddhe_." Daditthogh Ddhe_ stand for the one you tan moose skin with.

Rock, Indian stuck rock.

And that Healy he have lots those, you can find, walk around out there you can find. Indian Daditthogh.

That’s the one you gotta fix it and you gonna turn you moose skin with and beaver skin. Anything you gonna turn with it.

That’s Indian.

That’s long ways you call that Daditthogh Ddhe_. That’s long ways and big hill to climb, the one mother gotta pack baby.

And knock you out a breathe before you get in top.

But that’s where people travel ‘round for food.

And one little thing, I forgot it. And my grandchild he asks me. He wants how to fix moose marrow, dry meat.

We camp.

We camp and we dry lot of back sinew. We call "tth' eex tthiin'."

And we make dry meat special way. We take sinew out and English we goin’ say, ”back sinew.”

And we take it out, that one, whole you got take our sinew out for you for sewing and then we cut that dry meat real thin. Just huge dry meat.

We have caribou meat and moose dry meat together.

And moose stomach, if you take care. You take it out without ‘n whole.

This one I said, “Pat want it. I put it there.” I hope someday he goin’ listen. Pat wants whole story.

That moose stomach, one moose stomach, just think four different kind in there, and I can’t not talk.

On one we call sausage,

and one we call a "ch' etthii' niikonn, ch' enadhuht' een, and ch' etel."

That ch' etel connect with we call moose stomach and “ch' emet.” Connect with moose stomach. You take it out real good, without ‘n tore.

You take it out, looks like little liver.

You know how to cook it.

You goin’ cut open, you goin’ stuff with moose fat.

With all full moose fat and you goin’ build fire and you goin’ cook it in a campfire with stick ‘til real brown and you goin’ take it down and you slice it. You eat. “Umm” so delicious and a good.

Also ch'enadhuht'een. I don’t know how he call English.

But I on I goin’ use my Native word for that, "ch' eshaan sh'u'."

You got moose, moose stomach you open the outside that like hat ‘n look like net you goin’ take it out real clean and you wash that ch' eshaan sh'u'. You goin’ turn around and you put

you stuff in with that whole ch' eshaan sh'u', and you leave out for while and goin’ be clean.

And this sausage you gotta take it out all those inside and you goin’ wash it without ‘n whole. You goin’ make it dry, little bit.

And I goin’ talk about this "ch'emet at-tthayh."

And then the last one connect with moose stomach, "ch'etthii' niikonn'."

That’s Indian bucket.

This is real serious one I talk about.

Someone gotta ‘member that. ch'etthii' niikonn', you goin’ take it out, you goin’ wash it. Dry little bit.

And then you empty moose stomach inside. If you have that ‘long side a river, you gotta rinse it out.

For this dry meat, you gotta rinse it out real good.

You goin’ wash it. No ch' eshagh' in there. You gots wash real good and you let water drain out, on a stick real clean.

And then you dig the ground out there where swamp place, big.

You put in tub moose steak.

You put stick in there where you gonna put grease in there and then whoever make a dry meat goin’ build fire out there. He goin’ cook that moose marrow all day.

We call ch' eshagh, that's moose marrow.

Back days you don't either waste little things.

All day he going work at that ch' eshagh and he pack around big bucket. He goin’ cook big bucket and he goin’ fill that big bucket with moose grease.

He goin’ put out there on canvas.

He goin’ put big rock middle.

And you goin’ pound this moose dry meat. You pound. Soft one you gotta pound it real good and you goin’ do like that with your hand, make sure tender.

Then you put it to moose stomach. It’s already got moose stomach inside the ground.

You put that moose stomach in there and you cool off you grease. You fill that moose stomach with dry meat.

You don’t have to put salt and pepper, no.

The very very special word I talk about.

And he put that moose stomach. My daddy do that one time. I watch.

When he’s ready for that moose stomach, he told me, “You better go in inside. Don’t watch me, injii.” He say,”superstitious.”

And he all put that grease in there. He have a stick, he stir, make sure all grease gets in that dry meat.

And he all fix it real good and he sing. He have special song. He stir inside the ground that moose stomach.

He stir ’til real that grease gots in.

That Indian name ch' etsis wutaay.

And, and again I can’t talk English.

I don’t know how, White people don’t know, that this is real special food.

I don’t think he have a word for dry meat, but not... Maybe he call dry meat “jerky”, and I goin’ say, “shi' gayh.”

And he make with shi' gayh.” .

He make with shee’ kai and then I cut tent open ‘n I watch my dad even though he don’t want I listen. I cut little place.

Brand new tent I open and watch my daddy an’ I never get catch. I run ‘way.

And my daddy, he’s blind and old so he don’t see me.

And he finish it and then he tie together and he take it out.

He leave out there on top some kind canvas, he put it there.

Huge, this big.

Whole goin’ pack to village and when the time, he cut it real thin.

You lucky you eat this big.

That’s little bite. Oh, we want eat some more, but he don’t let us eat that special food.

And then he take moose heart out. Outside fat.

We goin’ wash it inside, dry little bit too.

And fat and all you goin’ fry and you goin’ fill with dry berries, low bush cranberries, mix with, again, moose grease. You goin’ fill it up.

And that sausage, when you’re ready, if you have to be along side the creek,

that means you goin' open this much with stick

and you just put it in the creek and all soakin’ wet and then you go down creek and you already you grease.

Right there you just pour grease,

and one person goin’ put berries in there.

Long sausage just hang there and the reason you do, if you do out there, and you goin' to cut it up and you goin’ waste you grease.

So when you put, filled up the sausage,

all full with grease when you take it out and special food.

If you want to, you can put little bit of sugar.

Dry berries and cranberries mixed.

He mixed and, ch'etdziid.

Once again I can't say English. I don't know how you call ch'etdziid. All special food.

That one moose stomach connect with lot good stuff.

If right now he cut meat any old way. It’s not like old days.

My days he skin moose just real perfect.

And we know which one hard meat. We know which one is tough meat.

We know which one boil meat.

We know which one fry meat.

Back days, me, right now, I still know which one fry meat.

I know which one tough meat.

I know which one I goin’ boil.

And one more that we call "ch' etthii' niiko 'nn'. I can’t say in English, but it connect with moose stomach.

And you gotta big cold, if you was up there someplace.

I tell this one I think yesterday I record it,

so that’s other half right there.

And this one, lot of people wants learn. Lot of people ask me for this one, but I don’t share my life with other people.

This is first time I ever in a put it on recorder. Gets mad when people tell me wants record a me.

And my ideal, I think it’s good to do that for this village and my family.

Maybe this sometime my family goin’ listen.

Wants to be learn something how survive out there.

And he kill ducks with arrow.

Make sure you shoot the head with arrow.

Anything you shoot, you gotta shoot the neck.

You don’t shoot moose or guts.

You gotta shoot in certain place or you gonna ruined you meat.

And out there we don’t sit in tent.

Yes, if fall time it’s real cold, we gonna sit in tent, but before too cold we pack to our meat to village.

I don’t know how many trip. Maybe we can pack one meat, we don’t know. It’s dry meat.

Also you skin the caribou, he goin’ give you canvas right there. You don’t have to have a plastic bag or nothing.

And if walk on you caribou skin inside, real good you take all inside little thing and you dry and you put special food for it.

All special food you goin’ tie with one whole caribou. You goin’ pack, you don't feel.

Sometime you put some extra and you don’t feel like you pack one moose ‘cause it's already dry.

And he don’t throw it away even little piece of bone.

I still real believe it:

Caribou feet, caribou, moose, my mother inside the tree with it. Tie to tree good.

My mother say,”ts'edoghanih.” ”Ts'edoghanih" mean you prepare.

You goin’ go someplace, you got stuck, you goin‘ ’member that. You hungry, you goin’ ‘member that where you put that caribou feet.

My mother have a can, old fashioned lard can.

He puts a little bit o’ sugar, little bit o’ tea and little bit o’ dry meat, little bit o’ fat.

He put it inside that moose.

Lots of caribou head inside between and he goin’ tie with wire.

My daddy do that, cause men always that strong.

My mother’s can’t do that much.

And last couple years ago, I come back.

I don’t know. I think five, six years ago. Maybe eight years ago I come back this village.

I start a walk my mother n’s trail.

Where my mother and I we used to pick berries.

Where I have stick in my daddy’s hand. Green wood.

An' where I used to take, go around with my grandpa.

But to be learn.

Ever since I growin’ up, I real have serious mind.

I want to learn. I never think, ”No, I’m young, I don’t need to learn.” No, I never think like that. I use it today.

Nice to be learn something.

And I run in to this something hang in that tree, broke.

I go over there. Bunch o’ caribou feet and my mother’s lard can.

I open that lard can: little sugar, little tea and that dry meat just white, just like paper.

That many, many, many, many years ago hang.

I just sit there and cry.

Very sad for me and I just cry out and I feel good.

And I keep walk my mother ‘n’s trail.

All over I walk.

That make me feel good.

I don’t pack gun. I don’t scare. I don’t know how to be scare.

Out there bear, don’t talk about bear too much. It’s all I hear people talk about, bear.

We calls "sts. u tl. g."

We goin’ say in the morning,”Shch 'aa' kek' eeneghul'aa de 'ndeg tihaal de' suushdaacheegh su' u natuudaag shk' a' kol ha'.”

That’s mean,” Please, Grandpa, don’t go in my way. ("Grandpa" is the Upper Tanana Athabascan way of referring to a male bear; it is disrespectful to talk about him and to say his name.) I don’t have a weapon in a my hand.

Don’t try to scare me. I not goin’ bother you.”

That thing, animal understand you.

Last summer and bear come right in to my porch. You think I’m shook up? No. Why should I shook up?

He looked through at me window, and I sew beads.

Something move, but I don’t ‘tention. I sew.

Pretty soon I look at window. There’s old Grandpa watch me.

Hum. I keep sewing. “You better not touch my window.” I sewing. He look at me. Finally I go out.

I open door. I talk with my Native words, I say, ”Xunaan taghinhaal shk' a' kol ha'.”

“I don’t bother you, you don’t bother me."

I say, "You walk down that way, look for food. I got nothing to give you.”

And he stand up and turn around look at me. “Hum, I understand you.”

He walk real easy. And he go in brush and turn around look at me. xunaan taghinhaa_.

And you know, that thing never come back.

You have to... That’s why I real likes to have a culture. We’ve gotta keep it up, a culture.

You got stuck out there, something, animal attack you, you know. How you goin’ stop it?

Talk to.

And wolf, you gotta cut long branch. You goin’ do. (Ellen whistles a long whistle.) That’s a bad. Wolf sure don’t like that thing. When he hear that one, he gotta run.

That’s you protect right there if you don’t have gun.

And lots way you gotta protect without ‘n gun, without ‘n axe.

You gotta carry ‘round little rock in you pocket.

You know what doing. You gotta use expert for that rock. I used to do that.

I got gun.

My mother bought me a .25/.20 and automatic. I growin’ up with.

And but I never pack gun. Always I think it’s too much trouble to pack gun.

My mother always tell me,”Gee, ts'edoghanih”

Ts'edoghanih. It mean: From Tok we left bad weather. Maybe I don’t smart enough. I just have this a one.

Maybe I just have little thin pants. Maybe I don’t have socks. Maybe I don’t have food.

That’s what it means, ts'edoghanih.

When you go, before night, you gotta prepare. You gotta take your food, warm clothes, extra clothes. Enough for it you're goin' be warm. That's what it means, ts'edoghanih.

Our Native word. That's been English. Real to explain real good you gotta prepare.

Just don’t get up, run out and jump in the car without nothing. That‘s ts'edoghanih

I always tell my grandkids,”Don’t go out empty stomach.”

You gotta feed the man food.

Man can always work hard. Also woman work hard. I did. Work hard. Man job, both way I work on all these many many years ago.

I never think,” I want sleep some more.”

I don’t like go people’s house.

People sleep too much. I want be alone and do.

Sometimes, four o’clock in the morning I get up. I sew.

You want make potlatch, don’t sleep on. You hardly don’t come. I say this. Someone goin’ listen.

Ghalii', you slow, ghalii'. That’s your money, the one you goin’ make potlatch.

If you sleep too much, you never think about it, that money.

Very slowly you can’t get ready.

Right now I can’t get ready for my party, ‘cause maybe I’m lazy. I don’t know. I not try hard.

But to me, I can’t see good anymore. One side I have paralyze.

I can’t do that much. I try best I can.

Sometime I get up four-thirty. I sewing.

Try to make little thing for my party.

Potlatch give you lot of pressure, but injii.

You gotta be strong for that potlatch.

Injii: superstitious.

You don’t think you don’t got nothing. You don’t think you got not enough.

I don’t copy other people, no, I don’t believe a that. I learn.

This is from my a culture, my own a culture from my own village. I feel free to talk about it.

And other village, sometime a culture little bit different from ours.

Every each village, they have different their own a culture.

But I have deep feel for my a culture in this village.

And I want keep it up like that.

Maybe someday I not around. Even though one of them live, he goin’ use that a culture.

Keep it up.

We just can’t give up on our a culture. And this is, that’s why I talk about a lof of food deal.

And the fish, he take care special way. They have sour fish.

You dig the ground.

Our chief used to like that sour fish.

Back days we never say, ”Um, smells too strong." No, we never say that.

And you cook something.

You eat moose bone. You eat with knife and you fill.

After you finish and this bone nothing in there, you grab a and you go out. You don’t throw out moose bone. That’s superstitious.

You take this moose bone, you go out. You goin’ hold and if you see tree, you put it under tree real good so some animal goin’ chewing and you don’t throw it away. Whatever you eat, throw...

They have special history word for that.

One day starvation!

Right now we go back to backwards now.

It’s there, out there, but yet our children don’t know.

People say,”Oh, early fall.”

Other people know.

One day that starvation come.

What our children?

Our children eat right now chip, ice cream, pop, candy and rotten teeth and...

I growin’ up they told me, ”Don’t eat blueberries,” when I began woman. Cranberries, anything...

That’s why I have my teeth this long, not short time.

I got gum disease. He pull all my teeth out.

That lotta injii. You gotta really believe a that.

Pass on to young people. Pass on to young boys and young girls.

And the clan, the clan’s name: "Naltsiin." You gonna say,”American people.”

Dik’aagyuh that’s other clan. Ch’aadz, that’s other clan.

Tsesyuh, that’s other clan.