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Dennis Schmitt, Part 1

This interview with Dennis Schmitt took place on September 26, 1992 with Steve Ulvi in the clapboard Naval Arctic Research Lab building next to the airstrip in Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, which has served for several years as a ranger station. There were steaming cups of tea and a brisk north wind under the building's eaves during the interview. Dennis had not visited Anaktuvuk Pass for a number of years. He was awed but not surprised by the tremendous development and pace of town life. His mastery of the Nunamiut language startled people as he renewed old acquaintances. As Dennis recalled his experiences living with the Nunamiut in the mid to late 1960s who were then on the brink of tumultuous change, snowmachines roared by outside, bearing hunters off to intercept the migrating caribou as they always have in this windswept mountain pass.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 93-15-08

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Sep 26, 1992
Narrator(s): Dennis Schmitt
Interviewer(s): Steve Ulvi
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
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1) Personal background and how Dennis ended up in Anaktuvuk Pass

2) Reception upon arrival in Anaktuvuk Pass

3) Finding Elijah Kakinya on his second day in town

4) Elijah Kakinya

5) Caribou migration patterns, the Myth of Creation, and how Nunamiuts differ from the other Eskimo groups

6) The fall migration of Caribou

7) The ways caribou were used after the hunt and how they were selected to be killed

8) How caribou were set up to be killed

9) Nunamiut world view and the use of dogs

10) Women roles in hunting caribou and daily life

11) Other activities besides hunting during the winter of 1965

12) Description of a typical sod house

13) Music and dancing styles of Nunamiut

14) Church, Christianity, and spirits

15) John Hugo and subsistence lifestyle

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Section 1: born -- California\ University of California, Berkeley -- BA Anthropology\ OEO Program -- now VISTA\ mountaineer -- Yosemite, Anaktuvuk Pass\ Bereman -- cultural anthropology professor\ Thibideau, Jules\ Chandler East Fork (Place)\ Arctic Village\ Kutchin\ caribou\ Tritt, Abel -- taught how to hunt\ clothes -- caribou skin\ Anaktuvuk Pass -- lodgings, tent\ houses -- description, sod (igluruk) subterranean tents -- description, skin\ hunting -- use of rifles\ tea\ masks -- as barter\ subsistence -- food|

Section 2: Anaktuvuk Pass\ anthropologists\ scientists\ contact -- western\ Tannik World\ airplane -- commanchee\ VISTA Volunteer -- excitement\ Morry, John -- became Eskimo father\ Morry, Ayapana\ Morry, Sven\ Morry, Riley\ rituals -- visiting\ Anaktuvuk Pass -- 1965, late summer\ Anaktuvuk Pass -- reception in\ Kakinya, Elijah\ Anaktiktok Valley\ Nunamiut|

Section 3: Kakinya, Marie\ dog -- packing\ fish -- thick in stream\ Hugo, Henry\ fishing -- with stones\ subsistence -- fishing\ Anaktiktok River\ Anaktuvuk River\ Napaktualuit Mountain\ Ahgook, Noah\ tents -- description, canvas\ food -- caribou\ Iñupiaq -- learning language\ Tulugak -- the raven\ lures\ snares -- grass\ raven -- signs to leave Elijah's meat alone\ Nunamiut\ Ahgook, Noah -- served as translator\ hunting -- caribou\ stories -- told while hunting\ dogs -- breeding with wolves\ stories -- pulling caribou out of water after it was killed|

Section 4: Kakinya, Elijah\ Christianity -- Elijah Kakinya\ Kakinya, Elijah -- cultural resource\ Unokuks -- Shamans\ Tulugak (person)\ Hemingway, Ernest\ Nunamiut -- identity\ Iñupiaq -- how to become\ culture -- borrowing\ outsiders -- suspicion\ "cookie people" -- accepting the ways of others\ "cooking people" -- defined, lost ability to live off land\ fish -- frozen\ food -- caribou\ food -- sheep\ ptarmigan\ willows\ subsistence -- food|

Section 5: myth of creation\ great spirit -- created Nunamiut\ Nunamiut -- creation\ Kutuk Pass\ survey pass\ Gubser, Nicholas\ Nunamiut\ Noatagmiut\ Kobuk People\ North Coast -- culture\ Eskimo -- culture, marine mammal intensive\ marine mammal -- technology\ Nunamiut -- "land people"\ Nunamiut -- distinguished from other Eskimos\ caribou -- hunting\ Kakinya, Elijah -- proud man, admirable|

Section 6: Kakinya, Marie\ dogs -- packing\ food -- caribou\ caribou -- fall migration\ Ahgook, Jesse\ Stefansson, Viljhalmur\ Western Arctic\ caribou -- hunting\ Ahgook, Jesse -- as a cultural resource\ Anaktuvuk Pass\ Anaktiktok River\ Kongumavik Place\ caribou -- range|

Section 7: hunting -- caribou\ hunting -- caribou, techniques\ caribou -- cow skins\ caribou -- bulls, rutting\ caribou -- use of\ rope\ metal\ hunting -- bow\ caribou -- blond, supposed to be magical|

Section 8: caribou -- migration\ dogteams -- caribou migration\ Mekiana, Justus\ hunting -- caribou, behind rocks\ Ahgook, Jesse\ caribou -- selection, fat, healthy\ hunting -- considerations\ hunting -- fall, individualistic\ hunting -- winter, communal\ Kavik Creek -- upper Anaktiktok\ Kavik -- translated "wolverine"|

Section 9: Nunamiut -- world view\ hunting -- caribou\ caribou -- killed by dogs\ hunting -- for others\ dog sleds -- spruce\ dog -- wolf hybrids\ uvlupak -- translated "today"\ dogs -- breeding with wolves\ harnesses -- binary lines\ dogs -- operated in pairs\ rope -- bear skin\ caribou -- February kill\ caribou -- women roles|

Section 10: women -- roles\ sex -- roles\ women -- mothers, sewing, preparing meat\ men -- hunting\ sex roles -- adaptive\ adoption -- freely, flexible\ "communal family"\ Nunamiut -- communal sharing|

Section 11: wind\ willows -- as fuel\ migration -- following caribou\ willows -- collecting\ games\ teasing -- as an indoor sport\ ritual -- visiting|

Section 12: house -- sod\ bed -- caribou skin\ bed -- one takes up side of room\ floor -- plywood\ floor -- willow branches and caribou skin\ stove\ "honey bucket"\ lamp\ "You're darking me"\ grooming\ school\ Hulee, Eddie\ places -- communal\ Kongumavik\ dancing|

Section 13: music -- drum, large flat, willow stick\ songs -- used to dance to\ songs -- chanting\ songs -- stories\ dancing -- sex roles\ dancing -- women, wave hands\ dancing -- men, stretch hands, stomp feet\ music -- men beat drums|

Section 14: church\ Christianity\ Presbyterian mission -- organ\ Barrow\ Webster, Don -- bible translator\ Simmonds, Samuel\ Bible -- translation\ Taltuk (person) -- healer\ religion -- animistic\ religion -- conflict of beliefs\ spirits\ death -- "weight of mistakes", keep offending spirits\ Brooks Range\ Kakinya, Elijah\ Ahgook, Jesse\ spirits -- different between animals and inanimate objects\ animals\ bears -- inua controversy\ Riley, Rachael\ wolves -- inua, only animal with one|

Section 15: Hugo, John\ Tulagak Lake\ trapping\ Shining Lake\ wolves -- being circled by\ wolves -- have human feelings\ subsistence -- lifestyle\ wage -- work\ fire season\ masks\ parkas\ trapping\ postmaster -- Barrow Eskimo\ school -- maintenance\ biologists -- caribou studies\ Rausch, Bob\ Nunamiut\ stores\ Tulagak People\ economics|