Sister and brother, Ella Mae Charley and George Setuk were interviewed on May 5, 1998 by William Schneider and Don Callaway in Levelock, Alaska. In this interview, Ella and George talk about their subsistence lifestyle, and the changes they have observed in methods of transportation, in the environment and wildlife populations, and cultural attitudes toward hunting, trapping and fishing and living off the land. George discusses recovering from a childhood back injury and being out on the trapline in the winter with a dogteam and wroking as a commerical fisherman in Bristol Bay in the summertime. Ella talks about various seasonal subsistence activities and how they traveled to find the resources they needed. They also both talk about how their subsistence lifestyle has changed and been impacted by the establishment of Katmai National Park and an increase in sport fishermen and hunters coming to the area. They also discuss changes they are concerned about in the community, the Native culture and traditional practices.
Digital Asset Information
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Ella Mae's heritage, and what life was like when she was growing up
Ice skating on the frozen river and lake when she was a girl, and fishing for smelt and trout under the ice
George being sent to Mt. Edgecumbe hospital when he broke his back at age nine, and living up river when he came back home
Using and taking care of a dog team
Training a lead dog, and winter trapping up river with a dog team
Returning from winter trapping, and making preparations for the commercial fishing season
Working as a commercial fisherman and preparing for the beginning of the season
How people used to treat fish as a communal resource, and what his current subsistence lifestyle is like
Traveling with a dog team and when he switched to using a snowmachine
Changes in transportation used for hunting
Traveling and camping with dog teams, and Ella Mae remembers going upriver to cut wood
Fall activities of hauling fish, dogs and supplies from fish camp and getting coal from the cannery
Traveling the river by sailboat and being scared because of the strong current
The old cannery in the area, and when Ella Mae returned to live in Levelock and changes she has noticed
Changes in how people treat each other, share food, and what village life is like
Lifestyle changes, like young people not knowing traditional skills, speaking the Native language, and fighting over the few available jobs, and the introduction of sport lodges
Changes in land use and subsistence activities because of an increased number of sport fishermen and sport hunters
The impacts and benefits from the establishment of Katmai National Park, and changes in hunting attitudes amongst the generations
Changes they have observed in the weather, the animals, and types of transportation used for traveling and hunting
Traveling on the river and on the tundra, and Ella compares the lifestyle and people in Glennallen with those in Levelock
Cultural differences experienced when living in inland Athabascan communities
Wanting to go out camping and travel by dog team again
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.
Side A Bill: Okay, today is May 5th, 1998 and, uh, I'm Bill Schneider. Don Callaway is with me. We're in Levelock and we have the opportunity this afternoon to do an interview with, um, Ella Mae Charley and George, uh, Setuk. So, thanks for taking the time. I know George is trying to get his outboard motor going and, um, Ella Mae's been busy here too, but I really appreciate you, you doing this interview and this will become part of the series here. Uh, Ella Mae lets back up to, what, what do you remember of your heritage? Uh, can you talk a little bit about your parents and grandparents? Ella: Uh, I didn't know my grandparents. Uh, I knew my grandfather was Irish and my grandma was from up, around Stony River. Uh, my dad, I believe, was born in Kagayan. I have no, I don't know where my mother was born. Uh, in growing up we lived, uh, down at Coffee Creek. I don't remember that. This is what they told me. George: I, hmm... Ella: I remember lot, when I remember they were living in Levelock. George: Well, I left when I was nine. When I was a boy. Bill: Mmhm. Ella: But I don't, uh, uh, we went to school, we started school, went to school here in Levelock. I don't uh, uh, all my brothers, where my brothers were born. But there's like six of us. My mom and my dad. George: I didn't know where they were born. Ella: I don't either. Bill: Mmhm. Ella: I, uh... George: I never asked 'em. Heh, heh, heh. Ella: I was born over at the, the, I was born Kanakanak. I know where uh, uh, all my aunts and uncles all were from, lived around here. Some of, some of 'em were in Dillingham. Bill: Mmhm. Tell us what it was like when you were a little girl, living here and going to school. Ella: What it was like. Uh, we were, as kids we always had to do our share of the work in pu..., putting up fish. George: Mmhm. Ella: Our share of work at home. Wood. We burned wood. George: Teachers were strict. Ella: We burned coal. Bill: (chuckling) George: Well, they were. Well, we had a lot of tough kids. Bill: Did you? George: Well, we were out in the wild and y'know same thing probably, to me. Bill: Mmhm.
Ella: We always had to do our part. All our share. All of us. We had out turn doing dishes, we had a, I did all of the, most of the laundry and stuff. We were never allowed to, uh, as children, we didn't have an awful lot of play time and running around visiting time. Uh, course we did all the, all the stuff like, we'd all get together and go ice skating or play ball or... Bill: Ice skating sounds like fun. Ella: Oh, it was. It was lots... George: Well, you get a lot of sores, too. Heh, heh, heh.. Bill: Heh, heh, heh. Ella: We were, the river, we used to skate... George: I still got a knee that's hurtin'. Ella: ...on the river sometime. Bill: Hmm. Ella: And up through this pump, what we call Pump Lake used to be a big lake at that time. Bill: Mmhm. Ella: Which nothing there now, but it, we used to skate up there or on the river. If the river was frozen nice and smooth. Bill: Mmhm. George: You don't see that no more. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Bill: Let's talk more about skating. Ella: Aooooh. George: Heh, heh, heh, heh. Ella: Well, skating used to be fun 'cause we used to go out when it was moonlight or when it was windy even. George: And that's when the bruises and the bumps come in. Bill: Heh, heh, heh, heh. Ella: We were always, uh, we play crack the whip and when it was windy we'd just hold up either our coat or a piece o' cardboard and skates all the way down. Blow all the way down the river. Skate back and go do it again. But it was always so much fun 'cuz a lot of the kids at night used to go out when it was bright moonlight or whatever or just do, when the river was smooth it was fun. Um, ice skating. We used to go sledding. Don: What, what kinds of things did you remember eating at this time? What was your favorite foods? Ella: Uh, fish, heh, heh, heh. I guess, heh, heh, heh. We had a lot of fish. Uh, we used to ice fish right down on the river, down here. Uh, smelt and trout. George: Uh, this year was a good year for smelts. Had lots of smelts. Ella: And, uh, I don't ever remember going pike fishing and stuff like that. I don't know if I, I don't know if I did. I know they did it, I guess, but I don't remember it. I remember smelting and fishing for trout down here or we'd go up river and fish for, uh, trout. Bill: Hmm. And then you, you left here fairly early? Ella: I left here in 1951. We all left in 1951. George: I, I left... Ella: Oh, you left before. George: I left before they did. I left, when I was, I left when I was nine. Bill: Oh. George: Well, I went to Mt. Edgecumbe for,... Ella: He hurt his back. George: ...the only orthopaedic hospital there was. For a broken back. Bill: Huh. How did you break your back? George: Fell down the stairs in the house. Bill: Oh my. George: Yeah, when I go outdoors --
George: I go to the bathroom and 'boom' down, y'know, dark. But, when I was nine, let's see, uh, that's when I left. Couldn't even straighten up during the day she had to pack me home from school and, uh, sometime in the wheel barrow or... Bill: And so you went out to Edgecumbe? George: Mt. Edgecumbe, yeah Bill: And there was a hospital there? George: Yeah, I spent two years in the hospital and then two years at, uh, school. Yeah. Bill: And they were able to help you pretty well, huh? George: Well, until 1956, y'know. When it recurred. No tellin' what could have caused that. Mighta been all that... Oops. Might a been all that bouncin' around when I was in the National Guard doin', I was young, y'know joined up. Used to send us down to powerline with these six byes. Could have been that y'know bouncin' around all day and that y'know for, during training. It wasn't long after that 'cause I had started working for the government right there, ANS hospital. Eleven months later and I ended up in the hospital again. With that same ?. So, no tellin' what caused it, if it was just natural or bouncin', bangin' around like that could have aggravated it maybe. Bill: Hmm. And when did you come back here? George: Mmm, 1956. Somewhere there in 1956. I was nineteen. Then I moved, then we moved upriver, way up, about 27 miles up. Bill: Tell us about that. George: Hmm? Went out there and you went trappin' and cuttin' wood and drivin' dogs and havin' fun. That was the best part. Young kids, now that's growing up, the only thing, the only way to travel is like, nowadays, they get, there's some gets excited to get a car. Y'know same thing, you drive the dogs when you're young, y'know. Lots of fun. Bill: Tell us what a typical year was like, starting in, maybe, fall time. George: In a bounce? Yeah, we'd start that old ten-horse Johnson, y'know one of them old slow mo. And we had a nineteen foot skiff too. We got Diamond Jane. We used haul all, everything up with that. All the way up to, uh, Ben Courtney Creek. Probably, twenty, twenty seven miles I think, by the river. Bill: What was that creek a..., name again? George: Pardon me? Bill: What was that creek's name again? George: Ben Courtney. Bill: Okay. George: Can you remember that? Oh, Ben Courtney, OK. Bill: Uh-huh. George: OK.
George: That'd be dogs and all, the fish you put up, down there for, then you haul it, all that, up that way. To stay. For the winter y'know 'cause there is better trappin' up there. Well, we had dogs too, better place for them up there y'know. Kind of tough here, I stopped here, before I took off from the house down there, I had to run to the school and tell 'em to take your pet in 'cause I'm goin' by. Well, the Raymond's, Raymonds' dogs... Ella: Mmhmm. George: ... he didn't do it one day and I went up there, too and I got, went back and I 'fraid they took Membry. He got out somehow and, boy, the leader picked him up on the way by and he went through the whole team just, shaking, y'know they were kind of, kind of wild dogs. Come feeding time I used to have to, some of them I had to push the food to them y'know. And, half-wolves, I guess. Bill: Hmm. George: According to her uncle over there, he had a female that wandered off somewhere and came back with a bunch of pups. So he figured they were from a wolf. Bill: Mmhmm. So, I got this image of you in the boat with how many dogs? George: Well, we had seven to start with. Don: Seven dogs and all that fish? George: Yeah, and then I got six more in betw- y'know, later on during the winter. One guy abandoned his dogs down here and, well, I won't say who it was. So, but I'll... Bill: So you picked them up, too. George: He, he, well, he just left them. In other words, with no intention of taking care of them, or never asked anybody to take care of them. But I took care of them right there for, about a week. Then I called up, then this guy came down and I asked him what his brother's gonna, what he's gonna do with his brother's dogs. He said, 'Well, pick the ones you want and get rid of the rest.' So I took six of them. Out of eleven, I think, eleven dogs. So we ended up, we ended up with thirteen dogs. Dad said 'that's too many.' We said, 'team a piece.' Well, but we did, dad. But he used to have trouble with his leader, man, 'cause he had to get it from some woman that was. Remember Mag- uh Aggie, Aggie O'Hare. Ella: Mmhmm. George: He got leader from her, and...
George: Well, when you train a leader, sort of listens to you, y'know, doesn't quite listen to anybody else. That's where he had trouble. But I, I broke my own leader in. I ran right along side of him. He didn't go 'gee' when dad said it, I bopped him one. Bill: Heh, heh. George: Yep, I did, right on top of his head I bopped him like that, I said 'there he said gee, man,' kick him over and I had to run with him, too. So make sure he listened right away. Bill: Mmhm. George: You get tired after a while. Bill: Yeah. So you, fall time you'd head up the river? George: Yeah, that's where we lived then. In winter time. Bill: And tell me about winter time up there. George: You wake up four o'clock in the morning gettin' ready to go out in the trapline, y'know. Make, start stove, make coffee and cook. Then go out and turn all the dogs loose and let 'em run around and get excited and pee all over everything up there instead of on the trail. Yeah. Then, they used come right to me so I hook 'em up. Dawn, just about daylight, y'know. Come back sometime, um, pretty dark. Bill: Mmhm. George: We slept out under the trees a few times in that mode of travel. But we were prepared, y'know. And, well, when we had dog teams, we had your sleeping bag. We had axes, saws, chains for your dogs, extra food. Pretty harsh country, y'know. Well, when they got lost, these guys start with it. Nowadays, with the modern travel. They were looking for guys all over this year. Y'know, guys that are missing. Don: What kind of animals did you harvest? What kind of animals did you harvest? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Bill: So mink was one of them? George: Yeah, mink. Otter. Foxes. Uh, then when the beaver season opened we started trapping beaver, y'know, they trapped that for a couple months. Bill: Mmhm. George: Back then it was only fifteen to limit, so we had, dad and I got a limit a piece, now. Bill: Hmm. George: It took us two months. But, we had a lot of fun doin' it, too though, and he and me stayed pretty healthy, too. Don: Who was with you George? George: Well, lot of work, y'know. Long, long days. And mind you that's winter months. You know you got to cut wood in between and then you got to cook for your dogs, y'know. Take care of your dogs.
Bill: That noise we're picking up in the background is this monitor. Not like the old days when you had a wood stove crackling, now you've got a monitor that has that hum, huh. George: Yep, that 's it. Bill: You notice the difference? George: Well, this one here you know when it, you, you hear the fan kick in in this one. And the other one you hear the snap, crackling and popping, y'know, and the wood burning. And he said,' Ah time to get up,' y'know and coffee pretty soon. Sometime we didn't get up and dad would go, 'Ahhh.' Real loud, like he was really enjoying his coffee. Then we'd get up. It would, better get time to get going, his way of saying, c'mon get going. Ha, ha. Ella: I was not there with him. George: Well, that was winter time. Don: Who else was with you George? George: Pardon me? Don: Was it you and your dad and who else? George: And, and, my brother Ernie. Yeah, I could tell you a little bit about takin' care of their place, y'know. Don: Sure. Bill: So how long did you stay up there in winter time? Did you come back at Christmas? Ella: Well, there... George: After the river opened up, yeah. Y'know come back down with a skiff when, when the river opened up. On, uh, buddy and I we headin' down to fish. Gettin' ready for salmon, y'know. For the salmon season. They'd go to work in the canneries, y'know. I would, they used to send me to Igiugig. Y'know, of all places. And I used to want to stay in Naknek. Ha, ha. Well, all, all my buddies was up there, y'know. Ah, we still had fun anyway. Work hard, but a lot of fun. Bill: So they... George: Well, everybody, everybody was pretty honest with each other in them days. You didn't have to lock your doors. Y'know, guys come in. Your place is open. They had a cup of coffee or whatever, and then leave a little note or something. Said they stopped by and see you later, little bit later or whatever. Bill: For those folks coming from outside that might listen to this, tell them what cannery life was like. George: Well, I never lived in a cannery, but I worked for the cannery, y'know, but as far as, you mean during, when they're in operation. Bill: What was the workplace like? Yeah. George: I didn't work as a cannery worker. I was a commercial fisherman. Bill: Yeah. George: And, so I, I really couldn't tell you about how they work in a cannery, 'cause I never worked in a cannery. Bill: But when you went up to the Egegik, uh, what were you doing there? George: Oh, we got the boats ready for fishing. We went down and worked for the company, we get their boats ready and y'know make sure their boats are all painted and the bunk houses are all done and for the fisherman. Bill: Oh. George: Before the fishermen got there.
George: That was our job. Bill: Uh-huh. George: In the spring time. Bill: And what was that company? George: Well, I worked for a lot of 'em. Red Salmon, Red Salmon Canning Company, y'know. I was employed by, uh, Columbia Ward Fisheries, as a fisherman. But, yes, Bumble Bee and Red Salmon were somehow affiliated, y'know, so. We always ended up workin' for Red Salmon. Until they shipped us to Igiugig and that was Columbia Ward's down there. That's probably why they shipped us down there. They want their own fishermen down there. Well, you got to get the boats ready and place for them to live. Bill: Mmhm. George: Hook up all the water and, make... Don: What were you paid for that, George? George: About three dollars and somethin' an hour. Bill: Hmm. George: Money was pretty good in them days though, y'know. Bill: And then tell us about the fishing itself. George: Well, everybody went down, got their nets hung. You gotta hang your gear and fix your boat, paint it. Make sure it's running good. Bill: So they gave you a boat? George: Yeah, we, we leased their boat until we bought our own boat. Then I bought my own in 1965, y'know so then that's where, then we're independent. So, we're independent fishermen. Worked for, Bristol... what the heck was the name of that, Bristol Bay what, uh. That fishing outfit they got down there. And ran ever since they dinged us on that strike. Y'know so we didn't, I didn't pay much attention to them, they didn't, y'know. When you go on a strike you, guy working along side you may, he supposed to not work. And they did. So, I wouldn't want to work by that guy. Bill: Yeah. George: Well, if they desert you in a time like that, I wouldn't want to travel with them either. I, I couldn't rely on them then. Bill: Mmhm. George: That was our way around here. Everybody was, when they went somewhere, they was, we all worked, went together, y'know. Bill: Hmm. When did that fishing season end for you? What, what month? George: Usually in Au..., Au..., July. Y'know, but, unless, then we went fishing for fall fish and that ended August, y'know, so we... Bill: And that would be for your own use? George: No. Bill: No? Companies? George: For the company, yeah. I'm still talking company. Bill: Okay.
George: Uh, yeah, usually August and, and then from there, then you gotta take care of your own fish, in the pause. Y'know if you want to get your dog food ready and so you're back. That way, to the fish camps. Bill: So you had to go back to your fish camp. Which was, where was your fish camp? George: Well, right here and then up the river too, y'know. Because we, well you get lots of red fish up there. We used to set our net way up there by the point, y'know, right there, same place where, see ? where he sets net, yet. He still do it. Good place to catch fish. Y'know, there's certain current there if you know where to set the net, you get lot of fish. Trout included, any kind of fish. Bill: So it's getting kind of late in the fall then when you're doing your own fishing? George: And then everybody that travels the river just helps themselves to the fish that's in the net, y'know. Guy go up ahead of us, he could grab and take the fish out. You know, by the time we get there, there'll be a different batch of fish in there. Well, we always, it's the way they did it in them days. Everybody, that was for public, sort of, until they, lately we started doing that, tried it and then they just steal the net, now. Well, before they never did, y'know. Bill: Mmhm. So you have seen some changes in the yearly cycle? What's, what's your life like now out on the land? George: Umm, we work to survive. Y'know, we still go out, I still go out. I live in the country. I go up huntin' and stay up there, y'know. That's what I like to do. Bill: Mmhm. George: And probably go trapping again and try that out. Keep you healthy. Bill: Mmhm. George: Well, you got to cut wood everyday and walk around, wrestle with your snow machine out here, Honda. Well, that's what I do lately, and be wrestling with motors. In the old days, wrestle with the dogs. We had more fun.
George: Well, did. Yeah, I used to fight with 'em. Y'know and they'd get in the fight I'd get right in there with 'em too and bite their ears and, punch them in their nose. Well, one bit me right here one time, and then he ho-, y'see here where he bit, and he hollered like heck. But I couldn't hit him, I had to, ha, ha, I had to laugh at him because he hollered, y'know, because he bit me and he knew he knew he was gonna get bopped. To him, I couldn't do it, he's like going, and he hollered like heck and he went over off that way. He was a good dog, too. Yeah, I used to get in there and fight with them. They never left me. Fall off the sled, come right back. Don: When, when did you stop using dogs, George? George: I, I've got knocked off the, oh, I've got knocked off the sled a few times and they chasin' fox, ? fox come out in front of you and knock you off the sled. Yeah. They go a little ways and see I wasn't on there they'd turn right around and come back. Well, in that country, if you lose your dog team sometime, you're a long ways from home, too. It's the same thing nowadays, but we had snow shoes and still it's a long walk. God, I wouldn't want to walk all that way. Bill: Sounds like you had 'em trained pretty good. George: It's a do or die when I was with 'em and I let 'em know it. That we were together, hunting, whatever. So when we travel, it's I'm part of you, too, remember, Bop! Well, that's what brothers do, brothers and sisters do, we fight, too. Don: When did you stop using dogs George? George: Hmm. Seem like when I get my first snow machine. In the late '60s. Y'know, probably '67, maybe. The last year I crab fished I think, yeah. Um, last, '67 I would say. That was the last year we king crabbed in Adak, or so, it was '67. Bill: OK. Geroge: Crabbin', I bought me a snowmachine, y'know, my first snow machine. Bill: Did you get rid of the dogs right away? George: No, no I didn't get rid of 'em right away.
George: But, I started like to travel with a snow machine, it faster, y'know. Bill: Mmhm. George: Started get to like the idea of get there faster. Well, it was starting to speed up, too. Bill: How about, uh, how about four wheeler? When did you get your first four wheeler? George: Mmm, I never had a four wheeler. Bill: Or a three wheeler? George: I had a motorcycle or, y'know I went into a motorcycle, too. 'Til that almost killed me, so I got rid of it. Y'know, I guess, did, what I did getttin' a little too brave. Well, in the winter time, y'know, it pretty slick out there. And we, think it was pretty good and that frosty, sometime you get frost come out of the ice blower and sometime you overdo it. Bill: We, uh, in talking to folks up in Igiugig, they talked about the beginning of use of four wheelers and three wheelers out for hunting. George: Yeah, snow machines, too. Y'know, snow machines, three wheelers, four wheelers. It's, it's a faster mode of travel. Bill: Mmhm. George: Same, same thing you're after. Game, y'know. But you just go out there and you get it faster and easier. That's about the only difference. It's the speed. Don: How about hunting moose and caribou? George: Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. You can run a caribou down and run a moose down with these snow machines. It's like nothing and shoot right them right there and, boom, y'know, with a pistol, side to side. I've hunted caribou that way, y'know. Bill: Mmhm. George: Y'know, y'know missin', ruin all the animals you'd want to eat that way. Y'know like if you open up before, all these guys open up and you don't know how many they wound that get away and don't see 'cause they didn't see it. But if you like zing right along side of 'em, shoot 'em with a big pistol, you're not gonna kill no other ones. And take what you want and you leave. Before we travel four or five days sometime y'know before you even get a caribou or a moose, y'know. I used to go over there, Branch River and camp. Way, way up there next to the mountains up there, by that mountain. But, a whole bunch of us would take off, y'know.
George: Like everybody startin' to go get meat or whatever and, man, everybody'd, all the dog teams, everybody with dog teams would head out, go over. Y'know, we'd all camp together up there. You had to hear the noise at night, ooh. All them dogs, well, you get some 'barky' animals man, we had over seventy, eighty dogs there one night, y'know. Right next to the cabin y'know, pretty noisy. Everybody said 'SHUT UP!' Well, y'know the guys talking to their own dogs, 'shut up!' Bill: Mmhm. George: They quiet down for a little while until you go back to sleep and probably when they here you snore, they do it again. Bill: So, Ella Mae, Ella Mae you used to travel some with dogs too, huh? Ella: Oh yes, we travel- Bill: You travel a lot? Ella: Up river. We've gone to Branch River. We used to go up river and haul wood. Uh, many times. Go up there with a big, what do you call it, big saw. Cross-cut saw. Bill: Uh-huh. Ella: Or five-foot saw. Stay up there all day. I would just muck around, play around just, as long as I could go with dad on the sled. We saw down two, three trees and haul wood back. Go to Branch River, I remember going to Branch River with the dogs couple of times. Over, uh, Branch River Village. Diamond Jay, we used to go Diamond Jay. George: Coffee Creek. Ella: Coffee Creek, down river. I don't remember going up past, uh, up river very far just, only to get wood. I remember that part. But, I don't remember going anywhere like Kaskanak. George: Well, that's where we used to go, way up. Ella: I never did go up that way, I only went far as, uh, up here by Charley Jensen's or a ways past there. Yellow Creek, almost to Yellow Creek. Get wood. Bill: I guess that, uh, raises a question. Did people have to go a ways to get wood, for firewood, that were living here? Ella: Up river usually, yeah. George: You're not gonna cut the wood that's right outside your door. Ella: We didn't have too much wood anyways. Mostly brush. The way it is now , there was no, none of these trees like you see out there now, were not here. They were like... Bill: How, how far did you have to go for wood? Ella: Uh, how far is Yellow Creek? Charlie Jensen's? Three miles, four miles? George: Five miles... Ella: Five miles, yeah. We'd burn wood. We'd also, we'd also burn coal, which we got from the cannery. After the cannery closed down we used go down, down to, uh, Kaska Cannery and haul coal in the fall time.
Ella: Y'know, fill up sacks, sacks, sacks of coal that was left after the cannery closed down, got done for the year. We be haulin' enough coal for all winter. Bill: They just let you have it. Ella: Mmhm. George: I never had to handle the coal. Ella: Oh, I did. Ha, ha. That was my job. George: Well, I wasn't here, I wasn't here, so she tells me about handling that coal and I... Ella: Do you remember the eighty... George: I handled it afterward, but... Ella: We used to do that in the fall time... George: Ten pound sacks y'know. Ella: ...after we got all, moved all our fish and everything out of fish camp, down, we had fish camp down river. But we... George: No wonder when she grumbles at us we jump. Ella: ...we had uh, we didn't put up our fish, well, we did a couple times and then we moved from our fish camp from here down river. For a couple years we take all our dogs, my uncle's dogs, take 'em down there for the summer. And we put our eating fish and our dog fish. And, uh, this was back when they, you didn't even have motors, they had sail boats. They didn't have motors, yet. And we used to, they had, uh, uh, the fishermen, commercial fishermen didn't have motors. We, dad and I used to haul our fish in, our dried fish, our eating fish and then our dog fish, up, in the sailboat. George: She beat me, I never got to sail. Bill: Mmhm. Ella: But we do... George: I wanted to. Ella: ...we'd haul all our fish first and then we'd haul all the dogs next after we got all the fish at home. The dog fish and our eating fish. Then we go back down because we had, like, two teams of dogs. My Uncle Jimmy's dogs and dad's dogs. Our dogs. And then we'd go back down to the cannery and get coal. Bill: Lot of work. Ella: Yes. Lot of work. But it was, uh, my brother Eddie used to help us with those. Me, dad and my brother Eddie. We went, uh, one of us would fill up sacks, one of us would haul it or two of them. I'd usually end up filling up sacks 'cause that way I wouldn't have to do all the lifting. I'd be down in the coal filling up sacks. Eddie and dad would haul 'em down, put 'em in the boat. And when dad and I, when we brought the fish up from down at the fish camp it was only me and dad, we just... And I was little. I mean it was, 'cause the sail boats when they, when they got motors. What year did they get motors? George: In '52. Ella: Yep. George: And it was the first, first conversion put 'em on. Ella: 'Cause I left in '51 and it was before that- George: '51 or '52 not too much before that. '50s they were sailboat days.
Ella: 'Cause I was like eight, nine, eight, maybe. George: Yeah, you got to sail and I didn't. That's what I wanted to do, sail. Never did. Ella: So even if like as small as I was... George: I still do. Ella: ...it used to scare me 'cause there was no, to me there was no motor, nothing to stop us, just, we come up with the current, y'know, come up with the tide. George: Well, you had motor power, pair of oars, and a sail, y'know. To make it back and forth. Ella: I can remember coming up when we had a load of dogs, and we had a load of fish. George: Had to be work, y'know, had to be work to that. Ella: My dad was, uh, we were coming up, we had a load of fish 'cause I went crawled, I had to go up to the bow of the boat and tie it to this piling that was there. Tide was coming in, we was goin', we was goin' pretty fast, I thought so. George: You'se goin' really fast. Ella: And dad says 'well, you got to tie it to that piling 'cause if you don't get the first time we tie it, we're gonna go. You know, we're gonna go. George: You go down river. Ella: We were, so I was, well, I crawled over all this fish and went up to the bow and got this rope. 'Bout ready to cry 'cause I was scared. I didn't think I could do it. I was, must have been seven, eight. And after I put that rope, on that thing, I grabbed the pole... George: Scary when you got power. Ella: ...like I could stop, y'know, like I could stop it. But I had a hold of the pole anyway, the piling. It was, it was a scary, to me it was a scary feeling 'cause there was nothing to stop us, there was, we could just keep going, y'know. George: Yeah, you would. Ella: 'Cause we were coming up with the tide. We had a big, rip roarin' tide. That's what we, how we came up. We got out of Coffee Creek. And we... George: Pretty hard to stop it, even with power. Y'know it gets that strong current... Ella:Yep. George: ...maintain RPM's. Ella:Yep. George: That's why I say, I wanted to try it. Well, had to do some fancy maneuverings, y'know it was first timer, not a, away you go. Ella: I was scared half the time, anyway. George: Well, you got a lot of water right there in front of Kagayan and the current swift, pretty swift right there. Ella: That was when all those pilings were down here in front of Andy Fisher's place, what was those? George: They had a, they had a cannery up there, too. Ella: Well, the cannery was up there. George: Yeah, but I didn't, I wasn't here when they had the cannery. Ella: Well, I was here when the cannery was running. I remember when that was running. The cook house and all the workers... George: I wasn't here when the cannery was operating.
Ella: I was here when the cannery was working. They had a cook house. They finally made one into a show house. I remember when they got done, I remember when they used, well, I was pretty small. But I remember it being there, 'cause they'd jar, we did our fish, the cannery, uh, after the cannery got done, with all their commercial fish. They used to jar fish. We'd put out our nets and catch fish and they would jar it for each family. Whoever brought fish, they would can it for us. I don't even know what year that was. I don't, I don't know. I don't know what year it was, when that cannery shut down even. Bill: Hm. So when did you move back here? Ella: Uh, I moved back to Levelock, I came back to Levelock in 19- nine years ago. To, uh, I came back to commercial fish, and then I just decided to stay. And I went to work, went to work for Miss Berry Hill for eight years. And then, uh, and now I'm unemployed. I'm not working anymore. But, but it's been, uh, different, different, the change. In the, uh, evening, you're, uh, uh, your people mostly I suppose would be the biggest change. Course Levelock grew since then, but it's, uh, your biggest change would be, it's more or less a younger generation of people. There's very few of the elder people, that were elders when we were young. There's very, hardly, there's no one besides, in our age group, people that are here. So, it's all of the younger generation and it's just, um, yeah, I don't know how you say it, um, change. Bill: Hmm. Ella: Um.
Ella: there's none, you don't see anymore of the, uh, um, um, helping each other. You hardly see any more of the, uh, helping your elders. Not as much used to be. I don't think, I don't see it. The younger generation of people, to me, are not taught this, seem like, y'know. For, but it's just not the way that we were to taught to care for our elders. To help our elders. To help each other. Not only elders just, I mean, help each other, y'know. You don't see that anymore. Could be, not only other people, but even in a family themselves. You just don't see it anymore. It's not there. George: Lots of sharing. Ella: Yep, lots. Don: Why do you think that is? George: Well, you shared everything. Ella: Uh. George: And that's a living. Sharing. What's mine's yours and same thing, y'know, in them days never abused, nobody abused that ? y'know. You had access to everything he had. Just like he had to mine. And there was a trust. You just don't see it no more. Like I said, we never locked our doors. But, you don't dare leave them open now. That's what I see. Bill: Hm. George: Like she seen it, y'know. Same thing. Nobody helps us. Nobody helps anymore. I still do. Don: Don't you still share? George: I' m not gonna change just like that. Pardon me? Don: Don't you still share fish though? Or when somebody hunts don't they give it to other households in the community here? Maybe not at the same level, but, but isn't some sharing still going on? Ella: Oh, you see a little bit of it, you see some of it, you see... Like in my own family, my brothers, my, we share. When, like if those boys go get a moose, well, I always get meat, y'know. We put up fish, we share fish in our own family. Well, of course I better not say that, 'cause we do help other people for, for fish. But, uh, you don't see near as much as you used to. But you still do see it, you still see some of it. Yeah. Don: Why do you think the change happened? 'Cause of money, cash income, or, or...? Ella: Uh... George: I would say, probably money. Y'know. And... End of Tape, side one.
Side B Bill: So, Don was asking you the changes, what caused it, huh? Ella: I think everything nowadays, even the meat you eat, you got too many conveniences. Like you got propane stoves. Nobody hardly burns wood anymore. Nobody goes off after wood. You'd all running water. Everything is made too easy. Uh, kids that are growing up are, the parents, 'well, go sit down and watch television.' Y'know they never make them go and work on their fish. I know kids in this very village that are old, that don't even know how to cut up a fish. And, uh, but there's no, uh, they're just let..., not living by their culture. They're not doing the subsistence part, y'know. There's just nothing, nothing is being taught to them, to the younger, younger people. George: It's a shame. And you're losing the culture really. Ella: Yep. George: When you come down to it. You don't have any more native speaking children hardly. And, they're losing their ways. They're losing their cultures. I mean it's just going. Bill: Well, maybe some of the things you said on this recording will excite kids to get back to some of that, uh, those old days. George: Well, they have to buy all this stuff and that all takes money, y'know. And, to me, they all looking for the higher jobs, and they're fightin' each other over this and that, and that's what I see. Bill: Yeah. Let me, uh, ask you another subject. Uh, you've seen the growth of, um, lodges, fishing lodges and hunting lodges in the area. Um, when do first remember them coming in and what do you think their impact has been? Ella: I wasn't here when they came in. They were here when I came back. But I see a lot more. George: Well, I first help with the Kvichak Lodge. Hauling in lumber for them guys. And, um, in '60 or '62, one of the '61 or '62. That, first, see I remember them, back then. 'Cause I helped them haul the lumber up there. Startin' in Iliamna, first. And these guys didn't come in 'til later, y'know. Then they started in on the Branch River. Bill: When do you think that was? George: Pardon me? Bill: When was the Branch River lodges? George: Uh, in the seventies.
George: We didn't have, didn't have any over there until the late, early '70's, probably. Then they start coming up. Hard to say what they do, y'know. I've heard a lot of different stories, 'bout them just, sportfishermen just bangin' caribou, and shootin' caribou and leaving them, y'know and... But I never seen it, so I couldn't say. Bill: Mmhm. Ella: I have seen it. George: Huh? Ella: I've seen it. George: You've seen it? Ella: I saw it up river. George: Yeah. But I've never seen it, I never seen it. Ella: All they did was take off the horns. That caribou was just driftin' down the river. The whole caribou. George: But, I've heard about 'em doing it, so... I've heard from a pretty good source, so I figured it was right. Bill: How about impact on fish? Have you noticed an impact on fish, that you attribute to the lodges? Ella: Sports fishing. Sports fishing boys, not, y'know, this, like before we used to go when we were younger we used to go like to Branch River. We used to enjoy going to Branch River. We used to go to the village. We used to go up river and go fishing. We used to go picnicking or whatever. George: Camping. Ella: Camping. And now you go over there and there's just... George: Can't do that now. Ella: ...people and tourists and lodges and everything all over. And it's not the same. There's just... George: You can't, there's no... You can't. No more. Ella: Not the same. There's just a big influx of... George: Unless you wanna go way up... Ella: ...tourists. George: ...up to the forks. That's where we used to go. Um, right where they took, Branch River forks. Money to contract it, money to design it. Good huntin' up there. Good fishin', y'know, sport fishing. Bill: Have those lodges provided some employment? No? Ella: Not, not a big influx. Only thing that I've seen... George: I don't see it. Ella: ...I've seen is, maybe because of the lodge we have to send people over to, uh, our trespass officers in the summertime. See they send up people from here for, for trespass officers, for people trespassing on our property over there. It doesn't, it does not employ any local people. None of 'em. Upriver or Branch River. It, it just doesn't happen. It isn't so.
Bill: Hmm. Ella: We get trespass officers and they're employed all year out of our corporation. That's corporation, part of it's corporation land. Bill: See, the other question we had is that, uh, this a National Park Service project and so, we're interested in the changes that you've seen given the establishent of the park and the establishment of the preserve. How has that impacted positively and negatively your life here? George: Well, let 'em find another river to fish in. And let the people go back and enjoy that river, like we used to. Ella: I think it has... George: We used to go up camping and we'd all drift down and get moose or, fall time, y'know. You can't do that no more. They pretty much run the animals out. You know. In the fall time it's pretty rare to get a moose over there now. Unless you go way upriver. Don: Is that because there's so many people out there... the moose? George: Yeah, there's so many boats and jet boats and everything runnin' around over there, y'know. During the summer. It's not funny, and even in the fall. Bill: Hmm. Ella: Really limits what we always enjoyed. But it, y'know, on the other hand, maybe it's good that it is a park because then there's more protection for our part. But then we don't get to utilize it like we used to. George: Good. Maybe we'll have the Park Service behind us. Don: Have you noticed a change in attitude that, uh, people have towards, uh, uh, animals in terms of respect and the way they're treated? Do you think between your generation and the next generation, they're the same attitudes and beliefs? Ella: Well, I don't know if the attitude change, um... George: Well, we never wasted anything, y'know... Ella: ...you see, you see a lot more now. George: ...we, we didn't waste like they do now. Ella: Just a, it's a different generation of people. We were taught not to waste... George: Yeah, that's how I would see it. Ella: ...but the generation now doesn't have that same, not as much. You see it a lot. George: I used to go behind a few of these guys around here when they, when I knew they had a kill up there. Leave some good parts behind, and I, I took 'em. ? they were good parts, y'know.
George: Every time I heard he had a moose, my brother and I would go. Took our snowmachines, we'd go up there, and, right where he killed him and we'd get the rest of the meat that he left, 'cause we know it was good, good parts, y'know. Bill: I guess, uh, one other thing that we've been asking folks about is in their lifetime what environmental changes they've seen. Change in animals, or changes in the climate, or changes in the land? George: Well, we get less snow now. Ella: Yeah. You need warm coat. George: Warmer winters, warmer winters, we never used to have warm winters, y'know. Rain, we never had that hardly in, in the 50's. Like that, it was cold, y'know. The winter, winter months were really cold. 50, sometimes 50 below, 50 somethin' below. Ella: We had a lot more snow. George: Now you're lucky if it gets 20 below, y'know. Bill: How do you think that's affected the animals? George: They're more abundant, y'know. There's more animals now than there was then. Ella: More accessible, easier access, too. Bill: How has it, how has it affected the way you get to the animals? Ella: Mmm. Make it easier actually. George: Like you said. Where's your friends? Hold it. They've already got a moose, y'know. Bill: What I was getting at was, uh, whether you, whether four wheelers were more important than snow machines, more often, um? George: Well, both just as popular, y'know, for hunting. Bill: But with low snow cover does it make using a snow machine harder or doesn't it matter that much? Ella: Less, one year, two or three years, when I... George: Tracks all over the tundra, y'know if you can look it at that way, you can always tell where Honda and a snow machine has travelled. Bill: Mmm. George: Y'know if they traveled many, lot of times like between here and Naknek you were, you fly over there in the summertime and you can see exactly where they, where they were travelling. Bill: They would have to have some impact then. Ella: Mmhm. George: Well, sure. It tears up the country, y'know. Where as you had a single trail for a dog team, y'know, and it took so long to get there, you just didn't wander around all over there, over there, and over there, and over there, y'know. You're travelling with your family. But if you're hunting, it's different. Bill: I guess that raises another question. With a dog team you would stay on a, on a trail because it'd be easier going for the dogs. George: Yeah.
George: Yeah it was. You had a broken trail. It was like, travelling with snow ma..., four wheelers, too. Same thing. I've travelled over the snow machine tracks with my three wheeler, and it was winter time, after they pack it down, y'know. Makes for a good highway. Bill: Mmhm. George: Y'know, pretty smooth. What, couple hours to Naknek? Two and a half probably at... Ella: Yeah. George: ...at, uh, thirty five miles. Y'know, that's a pretty good average in rough country. And really rough, y'know. I'm talking about ice chunks between here and big niggerheads (tussocks) going over that way and then, plus... Ella: Couldn't use the river this year, anyway. It was too rough. George: ...bunch of rivers and creek. Bill: Couldn't use the river this year? Ella: It froze too, it has too much ice chunks. We had to go on the tundra more. I've seen it where it was down on the river, where you could just sail, just fly. Take you and hour and a half, hour, or hour and a half on a Honda. Bill: Hmm. Ella: 'Cause you could just go all the way down the river. George: Nice, when it freezes... Ella: Mmhm. George: ...smooth, y'know, go all the way below Kagayan, y'know. Then you climb up and then just hop, skip, and jump, Naknek then. But this year, it was pretty rough. You had to cross river ?. Ella: More inland. George: Still get back to the dog team trails, y'know, even you got power. But, well, where the dogs went, too, you had broken, there was hardly any more bumps. It made good snow machining, too. To the edge of this, you can tell it's been used. Bill: Anything else? Don: Yeah. Um, Ella, what's, ah, what is the difference you've noticed between living in Glenallen and then coming back to here? Is there a difference between the amount and the way they share in Glenallen vs. Levelock here? Is there is a difference between when you first moved over there to Glenallen and when you move back to here? Is there any comparisons you can make for us? Ella: Oh, there's a lot of comparisons. Well, those are Athabaskan Indians living up there and they're, their culture is different. They're, they're, but they, yeah there's a lot of difference compar... I see, I saw, I was just amazed, apalled, when I first came back here and they, um, over there they take, they respect their elders. Their elders are very well respected. Very well taken care of and then, uh, the, uh, lot of their language, and they teach their language, their culture. They have a lot more, y'know, teaching of their culture to their, the younger generation.
Ella: Where I never saw around here, I just, in the things that... I don't know, it's just different. 'Cause I was, a lot of the things that I learned in life was out from the Athabaskan people because I was there for twenty something years. I lived over there. And, uh, the, uh, uh, sharing part was, uh, it just wasn't there. Not in the way the I knew it. The way I'd learned it. It just wasn't there, to me. Of course, now that I been here a little bit longer, I see a little bit more of it, where when I first came back, I didn't see it 'cause I didn't, it was just, I had to get to know all the people, 'cause they were all just a different bunch of people. They were all kids. Some of them weren't even kids when I was here last time, y'know. So it was, I just had to get to know everybody all over again to, to know how they were in their, but there was a lot of difference. Yeah. Don: How about ceremonials, the potlatches are a big thing among Athabaskan people. Do they have any equivalent here? Ella: Nothing. Don: Nothing. Ella: Nothing compared to what they have there. No. George: Different, I know. Ella: Yeah. Don: How 'bout you George with Eklutna and coming back here? George: Well, they're Athabaskan, too. And, uh, all the fifteen years I was in Eklutna I never went in, not one of their homes, y'know. Bill: Hmm. George: I did the one next door neighbor once, when we first got there. He, he was from on the Aleutians. He was an Aleut. And he used to me invite over. He said ' Come on over and have a beer.' Talk over Bristol Bay, haven't seen it so. Bill: Hmm. George: Well, that was the only, only house I went into. I just, um, they're a different breed. Bill: Yes. George: Different breed of Indian. And they care for just themselves and themselves only in that particular little town. Bill: Mmhm. George: No sheriff. Well, the guy come over here and work, um, from Red Dog, the summers, he was a cook. Well, he was dyin', so he says to me. And I says 'how come you didn't stop and see us.' Well, he was scared of carin'. And that part, sees part of that tribe. They're just, to me, I can see that they think of them only, y'know, each person. And they were gonna let him die. Wouldn't help him, wouldn't feed him and that's why I bawled him out and I told him, why he didn't come see me. And he was scared of carin'.
Bill: Well, I guess each culture is different and we all have ... Ella: Oh, yeah... Bill: ...different ? to each other. Ella: ...very much so. George: Oh, yeah. You could ask that same guy and he, if you come down over here, if he's cook this summer, you ask him the difference, uh, between Bristol Bay natives and the natives that are in that country. He, he went up North. Y'know, around where the high civilization has moved in. ? different. Bill: Hmm. Well, thanks both of you for sharing so much with us. George: Oh, well, hey, brings back memories. Bill: Brings back those dog team days, huh? George: Well, you're darn right. I wouldn't mind doin' it. Y'know just go out campin', travel with dogs again. Don: You might go ? racing. George: Keeps you healthy, y'know.