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Johnson Moses, Interview 1
Johnson Moses 2003, Bertha and Johnson Moses in front of Tanana Chiefs patient hostel, Fairbanks, Alaska, 1993.

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. 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.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History H93-15-24

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Apr 21, 1993
Narrator(s): Johnson Moses
Interviewer(s): Wendy Arundale
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) How people made a living in earlier days

2) Early days continued

3) Johnson's background

4) Hunting

5) Coming back in falltime from hunting in the mountains

6) Lush trap

7) Trapping season

8) Thanksgiving memories and learning to play violin

9) More on Thanksgiving and playing the violin

10) Playing the fiddle

11) Winter activities

12) Changes in hunting

13) Activities at spring camp

14) Lining with dogs

15) Fourth of the July in Allakaket

16) Evening of July 4th

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: seasonal round\ Fourth of July\ fish camp -- getting winter food\ hunting -- drying meat to prevent spoilage\ moose -- scarce in past\ rabbit\ fish\ porcupine -- August\ ducks -- proper treatment\ July -- molting geese; taking\ dog salmon\ Allakaket -- no sheefish above\ Henshaw\ South Fork\ Koyukuk River\ Bettles\ Alatna River\ whitefish\ grayling\ pike|

Section 2: fishnets -- making with shuttle and gage\ Sheep Mountain\ Alatna River\ John River\ September -- first time father came back from fishcamp\ sheep -- meat\ hunting -- stories\ Big William\ grandfather\ story -- leave in July\ John River -- stay 'til slush ice\ mooseskin boat -- haul meat\ skin boat\ mooseskin boat\ Allakaket -- brought dry meat to, no fish\ Kanuti Flats\ blackfish -- trap\ Bergman, Billy -- father\ mother\ Kanuti Flats -- winter, people traveling lake to lake for blackfish\ caribou -- also scarce in past\ moose -- many in 1900\ Old Man Camp\ gold rush -- 1898; moose population crashed\ Wiseman|

Section 3: born -- July 5, 1924\ Allakaket -- much sickness, mother gave away to save life\ Big William -- grandfather\ Abby -- Big William's wife, died two months later\ grandfather -- didn't want to give me back\ Bergman, Billy -- father\ Bergman, Ceza -- mother\ Moses, Henry -- mother's brother; Lucy\ memories -- like a dream\ Big William -- went to live with at twelve\ sickness -- parents hoped to save children by giving away|

Section 4: John River\ Anaktuvuk Pass -- some walked to\ Big William -- had friend there; doctor-healer\ Sheep Creek\ Crevice Creek\ hunting -- sheep, grizzly, black bear\ sheep -- many\ skins -- sheep, caribou\ moose-skin boat -- preserves skin, keep wet\ today -- more grizzly; nobody eats\ bear -- sightings, used to be bad omen\ hutlanee\ grizzly skin -- used for houses, door, dog pack\ dog pack -- stiff skin, doesn't poke into dog|

Section 5: winter -- freeze-up\ Henshaw\ fish trap -- lush\ snowshoes -- construction\ sled -- construction\ father -- worked all the time\ spruce hens\ parents -- explored areas to trap in winter\ trapping -- mink, marten, otter\ animal signs\ beaver -- hardest to catch|

Section 6: lush trap -- construction\ cottonwood trees\ ice -- let form\ current -- needs to be straight, catch fish all winter\ trap -- funnel shaped; foot long, tapered\ poles -- formed fence\ willows -- put between poles to form fence\ cotton tree -- split, formed perimeter around trap\ trap -- just off streambed\ grayling -- first catch, good trap\ November -- start catching lush|

Section 7: October -- many people left then\ freeze-up\ old people -- watched fish traps\ Henshaw -- mother checked trap\ Bergman, Billy -- caught 300 in several days\ Alatna -- more lush\ Koyukuk -- less fish\ lush -- good, rich fish\ fish -- freeze them\ trapping -- all winter, not quantity, good price|

Section 8: Thanksgiving -- best ever at age thirteen\ falltime -- 1938\ violin -- first learning\ grandfather -- coming to town with\ Henshaw\ dancing\ brothers -- played music\ Bergman, Edward -- oldest brother\ Oldman, Abraham\ William, William -- grew up with; cousin\ Koyukuk, Grafton -- first cousin, played mandolin\ Koyukuk, Walter -- played guitar\ music -- the idea got in\ camp -- had violin there\ Jim River\ South Fork\ Effie -- sister\ song -- learned just one\ grandfather -- offered to walk to Allakaket for holiday|

Section 9: Thanksgiving\ trip -- three dogs, no trail, long\ Fish Creek\ William, Art -- family there\ camping -- tent\ William, Robert\ South Fork -- people there\ Old Henzie -- Moses Henzie's grandparents\ Henshaw -- trail to Allakaket\ Linus, Cathleen\ brothers -- off hunting\ Todaalltonh Dinh -- translation "big lake"\ Lake Todatonten -- Todaalltonh Dinh\ missionaries -- Allakaket\ Kay, Miss -- gave chance to play violin\ Miss Hill\ dance -- kids danced\ fox trot\ one step\ Christmas -- had fiddle to himself\ Edward -- quit playing\ William -- quit too\ Henzie, Moses -- got started on fiddle|

Section 10: AK Boogey\ Eagle Island Blues|

Section 11: hunting\ trapping -- marten, fox, wolverine, mink\ mink -- ate baked\ grandfather -- Old Chief Moses\ marten -- good meat\ caribou -- started to come back from South\ Tanana -- caribou crossed above\ Kanuti Flats\ caribou -- no more from south in 1940's\ western herd -- come from North\ South Fork -- migration|

Section 12: western herd -- small\ 1970's -- caribou crash\ pipeline -- stopped migration\ Kobuk -- Selawik herd\ Bettles\ Alatna\ Hughes\ moose -- came back\ South Fork -- deep snow, lots of moose, 1937\ Black Jack\ Sam family -- Frank & Harding\ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- nine years employment\ board -- Alaska Department of Fish and Game\ brother -- Edward\ Alaska Department of Fish and Game\ meetings -- attending to learn|

Section 13: spring camp\ muskrat -- hunting and trapping\ Allakaket -- April 1st, gather to get boats\ South Fork People\ boats -- haul out\ Tsaalaatna\ Kanuti River\ Cheechako -- was one, liked to ride along\ dogs -- sharing to line up river\ potlatches -- April\ New Years -- potlatch\ food -- sharing\ dance -- every night for week\ spring camp -- out till June 10\ traps -- muskrat\ summer -- move to town again\ Kanuti River\ Old Man River -- twelve miles below Allakaket\ lining -- low water, mid-June|

Section 14: dogs\ lining -- pulling boats upriver with dogs\ boats -- 24 feet or larger\ lining rope -- 100 or more\ dogs -- three or four; one person leading\ rope -- tied mid-boat, balance\ Sam's family -- trained dogs well\ Simon, Pollock -- tour idea|

Section 15: Allakaket -- Fourth of July\ gathering -- begin about June 20\ camp -- set up for holidays\ fish nets -- catch a few whitefish\ Fourth of July -- potlatch\ dance -- nightly\ music\ visitors -- Hughes, Huslia\ Allakaket -- biggest gathering point on Koyukuk River\ Evans, Wilfred -- brought food, bought furs\ Dubin, Sam -- store\ Evans, Wilfred -- store\ sports -- bow and arrow shoot, foot race, driving nails, three-legged race, wheel barrow race, jumping|

Section 16: baseball -- men vs. women\ willow ring -- hit hole with spear\ game -- dropped off in 1940's, old game\ grandfather -- stories of early day games|