Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Project Jukebox Survey

Help us redesign the Project Jukebox website by taking a very short survey!

Mary Ann Olympic, Interview 2, Part 1
Mary Ann Olympic

Mary Ann Olympic was interviewed on March 9, 1995 by Bill Schneider and Don Callaway at the school in Igiugig, Alaska. In this first part of a two part interview, Mary talks about fishing, gathering wood, and smoking fish at her fish camp. She also talks about picking salmon berries, collecting grass for making baskets, and other fall and winter seasonal activities. Mary also discusses the important Yup'ik values of sharing and respecting the animals harvested, as well as the puberty rite of passage she went through that is no longer practiced.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 95-33-02

Project: Katmai National Park
Date of Interview: Mar 9, 1995
Narrator(s): Mary Ann Olympic
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Don Callaway
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.

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


How she still likes to get out to go fishing and gather wood

Where she will go to get wood and fish when Winter Carnival is over

Winter and Spring foods

What kind of wood she likes best for using in her smokehouse

Where she fishes near her smokehouse in Igiugig

Picking salmonberries

Where she would go for salmonberries

What berries are picked after salmonberries and what the Yupik words are for them

Fall activities

Hunting, fishing, and shopping during the Winter

Picking grass in the Fall for baskets

The importance of sharing and helping out the elders and little kids

Who shares with her and changes in the amount of sharing that goes on in the community

What she was taught about sharing and being friendly to people

Children not being able to pick berries or hunt before a certain age, and the first squirrel Mary trapped

How she was taught to be humble about animals she caught

Restrictions she had when she became a woman and how no one follows these anymore

Respect for animals and how to treat them

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.


Bill: Okay, I wanted to ask you today, now, that you're in your sixties, now? Mary Ann: I'm 63, yeah. Bill: 63. But you're still running around. Mary Ann: Yeah, I still wanna run around. Bill: Yeah. Tell me about what you do each part of the year. Maybe we'll start right now. Right now you're doing some fishing? Mary Ann: Yeah, fishing. Go manaq, manaryaq. Bill: Is that jigging? Mary Ann: Eh, manaq's fishing. Bill: And whereabouts are you doing that. Out here in the lake? Mary Ann: Lake. I start thinking about going down with the motor. Kaskanak, I fish. Later, not, after Carnival over. That's what I'm gonna do. Get some wood, scouting wood. Bill: Down at Kaskanak? Mary Ann: Some 'round here in lake, you can ? by Big Mountain, with Honda. That's what I'm planning, after I run, after I go anywhere. This is going to be two more carnival for running around. I still wanna run around. I tell my girls, they tell me, Lydia and Martha, "Gee you mom, too travelling, too much, even 62 years old." I tell 'em, "Lots of time when I can't move around, I could stay home no more move." So that's my plan. Right now I could go, got no more stay home to do. And only I want to clean my house when I home.

Bill: Tell me where you wanna go with your four-wheeler, after the carnival. Mary Ann: Big Mountain. Get some wood and fishing same time. I still thinking about go back up to Kukaklek, riding around on the lake. That was how I lived when I used to stay. But somebody with me, I can't go by myself. They tell me not to go by myself, I don't know why. And I have to be somebody with me. I don't mind go by myself, but they don't want me let me go by myself. laughs When I stuck, maybe, when I stuck I can't take 'em out, that's what I figure they Bill: So you wanna go with your four-wheeler? Mary Ann: Thinking about when I go with my snowgo, go Kukaklek. I got snowgo, too. Little Elan, 12 horse. I could use that one for Kukaklek. Bill: Why would you take snowmachine? Mary Ann: 'Cause lots of snow up there. Not like around here. Around here no snow. Up Kukaklek there's lots of snow. I see 'em up in there, when they come from Dillingham. See, that my home, lots of snow. That's why I want a trip up there, before April, after carnival over.

Bill: Will you be hunting, fishing? Mary Ann: They're thinking about looking for ptarmigan. Used to be lots of ptarmigan back there. Bill: Oh Mary Ann: Around here not, not too many. No ptarmigan, qangqiiq. Bill: You're going to teach us Yupik. all laughing That's good. It's good for the kids to hear this. Mary Ann: Yeah, we call 'em qangqiik. I miss out those stuff. 'Cause we used to have, that kind ptarmigan winter time. And spruce hen. Porcupine. Bill: And you miss that. Mary Ann: Ehh heh. Some time, specially, I miss that. Spring come, no go hunt that, you know, get some birds, squirrel, fish, moose for dry meat. For those kind of stuff I miss out while I'm chopping fish, you know.

Bill: How about in summer time, what do you do now? Mary Ann: Summer time just workin' hard with the fish. Check the net and first get some wood for smoke house, for the smoke. That's first part workin'. Bill: Where do you go to get that wood? Mary Ann: From down there, down, specially down from Kaskanak. Bill: Kaskanak? Mary Ann: Yeah, those beaver cutting, fire already, just saw. Bill: Are you looking for cottonwood or birch? Mary Ann: Birch. I don't use cottonwood. Only birch. And driftwood, I use those kind for my, I like flavor that kind of stuff for flavor smoke. Bill: Your favorite smoke. Don: Flavor. Mary Ann: Flavor. That Christmas tree, it's not good for smoke. It tastes like a Christmas tree. laughing Dry fish tastes like a Christmas tree. Some of 'em does, I know, taste way when you eat some other places. Some of them taste like a Christmas tree, is dry fish. laughs Bill: No good, huh? Mary Ann: Ehh, not very good.After I put the fish, fill my smoke house and watch 'em for 'til they get dry, 'til salmonberries come. I start movin' laughs. Bill: Let me back up a sec.

Bill: Where do you fish? Mary Ann: Outside of my smoke house up there, just put my net out. Bill: Oh, right here in Igiugig. Mary Ann: Uh huh, yeah, when it starts fish run, ? , good run, steady. Don: Do you take reds and kings, or mostly reds. Mary Ann: Mostly red. No, no king up there. Only when you want a king up, down, you have to go down Kaskanak to get the king, king care down there. Good spot for king. Bill: Kaskanak. Mary Ann: Uh huh, Kaskanak.

Bill: And then you said you go salmonberrying. Mary Ann: And start salmonberries, I have to go anyplace. Walk lots. Some lady, the one that come with me, getting tired out! Even my daughter don't want going with me. "You mom too much walk!" Cause I like to walk, that's why I'm pretty good shape. You have to walk, walk. And I try to talk, my sister can't follow me no more. Bill: You have to go alone. Mary Ann: I have to go alone. Me and my gun and dog, that's all. I have to take dog with me. Bill: What happens after salmonberries? Mary Ann: Just put 'em away for winter. These days now we've got a good, freeze 'em in refrigerator. This kind of freezer, just keep 'em froze.

Don: Why do you take the dog with you, because of bears? Mary Ann: 'Cause, ah, I, when I picking I don't watch around. I need, I don't looking around. Just picking. That's why I have to dog with me. Good dogs could let me know when they start barking laughs, that's why I take dogs. Good for have the dog with you, when you're alone. Bill: How far would you go, Mary? Mary Ann: Many place! Up there, across there, down the river, Kaskanak flat, back there. You have to look for berries. Lots of walk. Bill: Yeah. Would you camp over night? Mary Ann: No. Bill: Just lots of walking. Mary Ann: And I go down the river with this boat. Bill: Oh I see, you take the boat down and then walk from there. Mary Ann: Uh huh. While we're checked up there places. Bill: And what are some of those places you stop for berries. Mary Ann: Over between lagoons, specially. Across there. And when I walk back there I have to put my Honda up swampy place. From there I walk back there. Don: Do you bend down to pick up the berries or do you sit and pick them, or, how do you pick them? Mary Ann: I just pick peel and all, and you bring 'em home, let 'em stay for two nights, peel coming off, we have to take 'em off. Lots of work to pick salmon berries.

Bill: And then what happens after salmonberries? Mary Ann: You start picking blue and black. Bill: Where do you go for them? Mary Ann: Especially back there. Blue, berry patch, we call 'em, up on the point. Bill: Up by the point? Mary Ann: Uh huh. We call 'em berry patch. Most of the, most of the time. Igiugig berry patch. Mostly, only the place to pick black berries and blue berries. Don: What are the Yupik terms for each of the berries. Mary Ann: Huh? Don: What is salmonberry in Yupik, all the berry names? Mary Ann: Atsalugpiaq , call 'em Atsalugpiat , lily berries. But not leeley berries, though, to me. they never live long, before summer over, falling down. Bill: How about blue berries? Mary Ann: Curaq Bill: Curaq Bill: And how about black berries? Mary Ann: Tan'gerpak And we call 'em, cranberries, Tumagliit. Bill: When do you get those? Mary Ann: Laaaaate. Those are late ones, blueberry, I mean, cranberries latest one. Bill: After freeze up? Mary Ann: No, before they freeze, you know, it getting soft. Before they ripe on the bottom, on at only top, just little red, you pick 'em for jam. Bill: Uh huh. Yeah. Mary Ann: For sauce, you know. And good for sauce before it get too ripe.

Bill: Good. And what's next? In the year. Mary Ann: Summer, or? Bill: No, after you pick berries. Mary Ann: I'll stay home, not really, 'cause I was working for a long time in the school. I finally get off from work last spring. I am busy back and forth. When I come back from picking, I have to go down to school, clean. Janitor. Bill: Do you hunt in the fall? Mary Ann: Yeah. Birds. Bill: You hunt birds? Mary Ann: And caribou, porcupine. Just looking for, not hardly, though. Those kind of stuff. Bill: How far do you go for those? Mary Ann: Down mostly flat. In the back there, in the back, pond back there. Go for that much, flat in back there. Bill: In back of town. Mary Ann: Uh huh. Bill: And no trapping now, huh? Mary Ann: nnnn, no more trapping now. Retired for trapping. laughs Same time retired for work and everything retired. That's why I run around so much this year.

Bill: Um, any other thing going on in winter for you? You're hunting, doing some hunting for small game and caribou. Are you doing any ice fishing in winter? Mary Ann: Uh huh. Bill: Whereabouts? Mary Ann: Especially down there, below. End of the one way, that slough, we're right there, fishing, early winter. The first freeze, good ? , good spot to fish. Bill: What do you call that place? Mary Ann: They call 'em Napalek, got that scow, old scow, like it tree, Christmas tree on there. We call him Napalek. Napalek qikertaq, "tree island." Bill: Tree Island. And what fish are you getting there? Mary Ann: All kinds mixed. Trout, grayling, lake trout and Dolly Varden. It's for fish. We first fish. Right now it not no more good. That's why I move up there. The lake. Bill: How about around Thanksgiving time and New Year's. Are you out hunting or out fishing? Mary Ann: No, I have to go shop, three weeks. Bill: Have to go shop? laughing Mary Ann: 'Cause my daughters out there, used to live, I visit them, too. When breaking from work and school. I have to go to town, Anchorage. Bill: Yeah. So then you pick up in the spring, fishing.

Bill: What did we forget? Mary Ann: Oh yeah, picking grass, fall, fall time, too. We make big basket, basket weave. Bill: And are you doing basket work? Mary Ann: Uh huh. That's what I'm gonna do this time. Bill: Where do you get the grass? Mary Ann: Back there in, on the beach. Bill: Right around town here? Okay. Mary Ann: Uh huh. I'm gonna teach my grandkids, one of my grandkids, to show 'em how. Alexander, he like to sew. I'm gonna teach her. Bill: Good for you.

Bill: Do you have some questions? Don: Yeah, let me ask a few. One of the things that we've noticed is sharing is very important. And could you tell us a little bit about what your parents and grandparents told you about how you need to share, share food and ... Mary Ann: Yeah, when you share, good to have, they tell me to have to share. That's why I do. Got lots of friend that way. Talk to people, even some other places. You have to talk to 'em, and friendly with 'em. That way you have to have lots of friend. That's why I am right now. It's important, they said important, "Live that way." 'Cause some of them don't, don't go see them. They don't mind. They say, call 'em "danger people." I don't want to be like that. I want to be friendly. Bill: What do you call "danger people." Don: They don't share. Mary Ann: They don't, like assiitut , assiitut yuut laliuqetaiitut , not friendly. Don: How about sharing with elders? What were you taught about that? Mary Ann: I like to help elders. Good for you, in the future. That's what the elder, you have to help. Especially the one, they tell me, especially take care of little kids, you know. Little kids and old people. That's the kind they tell me to take care of, good. That why I am, too. Don: OK.

Don: Who shares with you, now that your daughters are out of town? Who brings you things? Mary Ann: My daughter did, two of 'em, it's the one that live in Anchorage. When you come up they have to bring some stuff with me. And share with me, my son-in-law. When he got a meat, he bring me some. And even Gary, her niece's boyfriend, when he get something, he have to bring me some. Make me happy. Don: Have you noticed any changes in the amount of sharing that goes on? Did there used to be more than now? Mary Ann: Ah these day looks change, every place I go looks change. You don't have to more share. You have to pay, they wanta money. I'm not that kind of person, though. Change, lot different life change these days now, to me. When I watch the people. Really change. No more share with nobody. Even my little sister, Dallia, don't share with me no more. Only when I invite 'em to come my house, they come over and eat with 'em. I don't know why. Even they get moose and stuff and they wouldn't share with me no more. I don't know what make 'em that way. That's why the people change like this.

Bill: Are there stories the people told about sharing? In the old days? Mary Ann: Yeah. Good to have share with, good for your life when you share with people. That way you got lots of friends. Bill: Do you remember any of the stories they told about sharing? Mary Ann: Tell me what? Bill: Did they tell you any stories about sharing? Did they tell you any stories to illustrate, or make that point? Mary Ann: That it make the point. Bill: About sharing. Mary Ann: Uh huh, sharing, good for a point for us. They tell me, "If you don't share with nobody, you've got no friend." These day lots of people, that's the way I look. Even me, I go anyplace in the carnival time, nobody's there with the same, like. Bill: Really. Mary Ann: Yeah, it's really change. My grandpa's right, when you live your future, it's gonna be, you gonna watch the people, gonna change their life. Nowdays they change. Bill: That's what your grandpa said? Mary Ann: Uh huh. But they tell me not to do that way. You have to be, talk with the, even first time I see, I have to talk to 'em. When somebody talk to, you don't talk to 'em, I wouldn't talk to 'em. When they talk to me, I talk to them! Yeah.

Don: Did your parents or grandparents talk about how to show respect for the animals. Mary Ann: Yeah, my, I don't know about my grandpa and stuff. Only I heard him talk story by my parents. They said they can't hunt 'til what, twelve years old, somewhere around there, can't hunt nothing. That's the way I heard. Even she can't, woman can't even pick berries 'til she twelve years old. I wonder why. Bill: Why is that? Mary Ann: I don't know. When they first get them stuff, we have to be invite a lot, the village people do let them potlatch right away, when he first got man, the boy got first some animal, or something. They have to, everybody, their parents, they parents make potlatch, invite everybody to eat in the house. That's the way. When the woman, girl, start picking berries, when she's twelve years old, they have to same thing, their mom and dad. Parents same thing. Bill: Did they do that for you? Mary Ann: They did, mama did when I first, I was, I didn't forgot that yet. When I had a first squirrel, one first squirrel to trap. I was so happy, and come around and bring him home. And I give it to mom, "Look, mom, I got that squirrel." They take him and threw him in that dog Bill: Throw them where? Mary Ann: Throw him in that dogs, dogs eat him! laughs Bill: Oh. Mary Ann: I was so cry ? proud of my squirrel. Bill: What were they telling you? Mary Ann: They tell me, "In the future, you don't have to, you know some people have bad luck, that kind of, they can't have that kind when you do that." You get bad luck, some people talk about bad luck. Can't get nothing, can't see nothing. That kind of stuff, they said. Don: If you act too proud about things, about taking the animal. Mary Ann: Yeah, yeah, that's the way she said. Don: You have to be humble when you take. Mary Ann: Yeah.

Bill: So you think that's what they were telling you? Mary Ann: Yeah, that's what they tell me. I was so cry for my little squirrel. The second time I get anything they don't do that, only first one we get. That's the way they used to be, long time ago. Bill: What do you mean, that's the way they used to, a long time ago. Mary Ann: That's the way they plan it, I think, used to be. Don't wanna be bad luck in the back, in the future. Don't have to be bad luck and stuff, can't catch nothing, can't see nothing.

Don: How 'bout, uh, did your parents tell you about traditional knowledge about when and when you couldn't take animals. Like when to stop taking seagull eggs, or... Mary Ann: Gee. and that thing, too, when I first woman. ? for come up woman, I can't do nothing. For three months I can't do. Bill: Three months. Mary Ann: I can't pick berries, I can't pick that new grass, live grass. I do it in June month. I was so tired with stay, 10 days let me stay in the house. I never go out. But three months I can't pulling stuff, live one. If you don't like that, I see lots of young people gotta problem with their hand, arthritus leg. They catch on that. That's their, that's the way the story come. That's what my momma told, tell me that way. Bill:You had to stop Mary Ann: Uh huh, you stop everything for the three months. Don: Do they still do that? Mary Ann: No more now. that kind of stuff no more, they stay. That's why everything change to me. If I walk around with a bare foot, my feet, my legs gonna be bad start, bad. I think it's right. They say lots of young people got a leg problem, hand problem, arthritus and stuff come. I think is right, we, tell us.

Bill: I'm still confused about the squirrel that they, your first squirrel that, because you were, because you were making a big fuss over it, they took it away? Mary Ann: That's the way they said, that's the way they used, they used to, when we first got animal. We have to throw it away, for it, give 'em to dog. Like got from, give you luck from in the future. Don: Did uh your parents talk to you about um, how you needed to hunt the animals all the time, or that, that there would be problems if, if you weren't, if you didn't always hunt the animals? Mary Ann: Yeah, when they have animal, got a animal, have to keep it neat. Don't throw the bone in any place. You have to throw 'em in the water. They said when he, the bone, when he dry outside, they start thirsty. That's, some time I test when the dry bone, and they float, in the ground, I throw them in the river. They floating. Just like a wood. Too dry.