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Ann Edwards and Elma Sam

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.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 93-15-54

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Nov 21, 1992
Narrator(s): Elma Sam, Ann Edwards
Interviewer(s): Wendy Arundale
Location of Interview:
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) Elma talks about her background and growing up

2) Ann talks about her background and growing up

3) Elders who taught a lot

4) About Uncle Frank Tobuk

5) Ann talks about Wilfred Evans

6) Elma talks about how Alatna got started

7) Elma talks of things from past that continue to be important today

8) Ann talks of things from past that continue to be important today

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: born -- Alatna, in tent\ father\ Nictune, Oscar\ mother\ Tobuk, Cora\ Alatna River\ Hope, Putu\ Bosei, Mamie\ Kitty -- her younger sister\ fish camp -- seining\ Tobuk, Grandpa\ tents\ smokehouse\ Tinuk, Grandma\ Tobuk, Uncle Jim -- made smokehouse, cut fish\ grandmother -- divided fish\ fish -- salmon, whitefish\ Napoleon -- family\ babysitting -- when people went seining; only seven at time\ Bertha -- one year older\ Rosie -- kind one\ hunting -- didn't go, happy when they came home with meat\ sheep\ hunting\ father\ Tuvak, Grandpa\ Nictune, Wally -- small, seven years old, went too\ brother\ Alatna River\ boat -- brought home meat; dried\ moose -- lack of\ bear -- women ate meat\ hutlanee -- restrictions regarding bear; not enforced on Alatna side\ father -- hunted bear in summer\ girls -- ate it; no other meat\ husband -- didn't like her to eat bear, hutlanee for him|

Section 2: born -- four years younger than Elma\ Eskimo -- Alatna side\ Alatna River\ Hope, Putu\ Hope, Sammy -- Putu's brother\ Bettles\ Wiseman\ fish camp\ smoke house\ Sinyalik\ Tobuk, Uncle Jimmy\ Wiseman -- tent\ Ester, Auntie -- made rice pudding\ fish -- lived mostly from; late August\ pudding -- like candy, precious\ fishing -- good\ Tobuk, Uncle Frank -- 1938\ Tinuk, Grandma\ Dinook -- same as Tinuk\ Tobuk, Grandpa\ Sheep Mountain\ Tobuk, Frank and Dora\ Rocky Bottom -- moose\ Alatna\ Tinuk, Grandma -- gave little moose fat\ seining\ freeze-up\ moose -- had never seen before\ food -- plenty; fish; berries; roots; rabbits\ meat -- caribou, sheep, black bear, grouse\ mother -- snaring\ snaring -- ptarmigan, rabbits\ foods -- berries; flour; sugar\ berries -- blueberries, cranberries, wild currents; jam\ Black Jack\ Sam -- family\ Sam, Selawik\ spruce hen -- like the head\ Umiaq, Grandma -- gave it to me\ steamboat\ Peter, Grandpa\ Tikitchuaq, Grandma\ Digijuak -- same as Tikitchuaq\ Bertha -- stayed with them a lot\ Bertha -- taught me language\ Kay, Miss -- said talk English only; believed her, lost our understanding\ language -- loss of\ Iñupiaq -- grandmother taught|

Section 3: Hope -- family\ Beaver\ Wiseman\ Hope, Johnny -- used to carry me when only six\ Bosei, Mamie\ Umiaq, Grandma\ husband -- her grandma\ Black Jack -- lived there year-round\ grandma -- had stroke, crippled hands\ Ronny -- her baby\ Shishmaref -- grandma from there\ Tikitchuaq, Grandma\ Nulaiyuk -- grandma married to\ Kopkun -- son that died\ Kopkun -- my husband named after\ Akpik, Grandma -- not related\ Tobuk, Grandpa -- his cousin, her husband\ Kobuk\ Sam, Selawik\ Kobuk -- all grandma's from|

Section 4: Tobuk, Frank -- weak as child; sick\ mission -- he worked there\ spring camp -- moved mission lady down there when too much water\ firecracker -- blew his fingers off as child\ Tobuk, Dora\ Frank -- all the girls across river wanted him\ medicine men -- Frank feared them\ hutlanee -- intermarriage\ Alatna -- had four kids\ Evans, Wilfred\ Wien Airline\ Bettles\ Evansville\ hunting trapping\ Wien Airline -- made living working for\ boats -- pilot\ pilot -- boats\ Evans, Wilfred -- worked for him\ hauling freight|

Section 5: Evans, Wilfred\ freight -- hauled it up in June\ trading -- furs\ Nictune, Oscar -- dad worked for Wilfred\ River -- ran with boat all the way to Koyukuk Station\ Koyukuk Station -- freighting\ store -- father got clothes and food for children for working\ August -- back to nothing again\ Evans, Wilfred -- kind man\ store -- first in his father's house\ Huntington, Jim -- in his old Allakaket store\ Williams, Jenny -- near her house\ store -- new one at end of village\ house -- moving from bank; rollers, logs, jacks, winch\ open house -- upper floor collapsed\ old times -- they were smart, did things easy\ Evans, Wilfred -- married to our aunt; mother's sister, became our uncle\ cousins -- Evansville\ Evansville\ Tobuk, Clara -- aunt\ Gray, Millie -- cousin\ Stevens, Jeanne -- cousin\ Imp -- Wilfred Evans' boat|

Section 6: Alatna -- started when they came down for Christmas; started living on this side\ grandpa -- had house on other side; before the Indians came\ Indians\ Tobuk, Grandpa\ Peter, Grandpa\ mission\ South Fork -- Huslia\ Eskimos -- live on Alatna side\ communities -- today, share school\ river -- cross on foot in winter, boat in summer; stay home with homework during freeze and break-up\ government -- just one\ Post Office -- shared\ intermarriage\ Tobuk, Uncle David -- married girl from Tanana\ Indian -- Eva\ Eva -- Indian from Tanana\ Eva -- learned to talk Eskimo; treated as one of Eskimos\ Hannah -- her daughter, Health Aide in Evansville; Rhoda\ Tobuk, Uncle David -- two years older than father|

Section 7: hunting\ fishing\ school -- don't go out anymore since kids have school; 1940's and 1950's\ change|

Section 8: schooling -- most important thing today\ camping -- can't seem to get taken out even for one night\ hunting\ fishing\ snaring\ trapping -- people should do more\ animals -- marten, fox, beaver\ beaver -- overpopulated today, good meat and fur\ fish net\ grayling\ tanning -- don't get much help anymore; people should learn these things|