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Henry Jackson, Sr.

Henry Jackson Sr. was interviewed on February 27, 2002 by Bill Schneider, Hazel Apok, and Eileen Devinney in Kiana, Alaska. In this interview, Henry talks about growing up around Kiana and traveling by dog team, caring for and feeding a dog team, and the region's dog team mail carriers. He also provides some history of the Squirrel River area and of Kiana, and shares his observations about changes he has seen in the environment and with animals. Henry also discusses living a traditional subsistence lifestyle, as well as working for a living, including in mining, longshoring, and as a heavy equipment operator.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2002-09-01

Project: Kiana Village History Project
Date of Interview: Feb 27, 2002
Narrator(s): Henry Jackson, Sr.
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Hazel Apok, Eileen Devinney
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.

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Introduction, parents, and traveling with dogs

Training dogs for upriver travel

Fishing Squirrel River, feeding the dogs, and storing food in caches along the river

Dog team mail carriers

Working history

Last time Henry had dogs

Squirrel River history

Changes in the environment, climate, and animals

Living the life his father taught him and changes in education

What the younger people should know about Kiana and its history

Barging and longshoring in the old days

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


Bill Schneider: Today is February 27th -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: Uh-huh. Bill Schneider: -- 2002. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Uh-hum. Bill Schneider: And we're here with Henry Jackson -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yes. Bill Schneider: -- tonight. I'm Bill Schneider. Hazel Apok is here and Ms. Eileen Devinney. And we really appreciate your coming over and talking a little bit about Kiana and a little bit about the heritage here and maybe looking at some pictures and talking about them. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Uh-hum. Bill Schneider: How did you -- how did you end up in Kiana? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Born and raised here. Bill Schneider: How about your parents? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, my dad is from lower, mouth of the river someplace down there. My mother is from upriver, Kobuk. And I don't know how they get together. And they -- they go by boats, I guess, or dog team. I don't know. Bill Schneider: I'll be walking around here just checking things out, making sure everything is working. Hazel Apok: See, you could see yourself on the camera there. (Indiscernible.) Eileen Devinney: Or don't look that way if you don't want to. Hazel Apok: So you were born in the old village? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Old village over here, yeah. Born and raised here. 77 years old now, you know. In my young days they had nothing but dogs, you know, no machines, no snow machines. Only dogs to travel with. Summertime by boats. Hardly any outboards either. I mean. Two, three of them have five-horse boats and some of them had outboard boats alright, but not all of us. Bill Schneider: So that's something maybe we ought to talk about that few people know about tracking up river with dogs pulling the boat. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. That's how we get up to Squirrel River (map) with dogs, in the boat with dogs. I mean, my family.

Bill Schneider: Can you tell us how you train the dogs to do that? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, they know. Once they are trained with the team, you know, they -- all you need is a good leader. That leader will lead them, you know. The man behind the rope, pulling -- holding the rope, you know, mushing all day long. Pulling the boat all day long. I was about 16 years old when I took my mother and dad up the river one summer. We have nothing but dogs, you know. Swift current there. Hard work sometimes. But them days was golden days, you know. No smoking, no nothing. I wasn't drinking them days. Bill Schneider: How did you -- how did you handle that swift current with the dogs? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, I -- Bill Schneider: Did you have to help them? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah, we -- yeah. If you got three or four dogs, well, they don't-- if they are not strong enough, you could add more dogs to that -- to the -- to the team, you know. Four, five. That will pull a heavy load, five -- five dogs. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Henry Jackson, Sr.: With -- Bill Schneider: I'm going to pull up a little bit on your tie here. Can I move it down? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Huh? What's that? Bill Schneider: I'm not picking up in the microphone here. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Oh, oh. Don't know much about picture of me. Bill Schneider: That's okay. But how did you -- how did the dogs run on the bank? Was there a trail that they followed, or -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, the bank, yeah. Once you had a good leader on, no problem. But with no leader, you have a problem right there. We use -- we used to have good leader, though. All day long, in hot sun, month of August, run all day long. I won't do it anymore. Bill Schneider: And then how did you get them to cross the river when the bank changed? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, sometimes we put them in the boat and then row across. And sometime we just let them go swimming across. Turn them loose, you know. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Just the harness on. And watch your dogs, follow them across the river. We used to have 16 dogs sometimes, you know. Bill Schneider: That's a lot of dogs to feed. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Yeah. Of course, that -- they haul lots of wood in the wintertime. That's the only transportation we have is them dogs, wintertime.

Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, we go fishing up there. Hazel Apok: For salmon? Henry Jackson, Sr.: For salmon. Anything. Trouts, you know. Whitefish. My dad usually go up there in the wintertime and do some trapping, you know. And when you get up there, why, the fish is there already towards Dahl Creek. Hazel Apok: They used to leave caches. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Uh-hum. Hazel Apok: Of food. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Hazel Apok: In different places. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Uh-hum. We built a cache there at mouth -- mouth of Omar River. That's where we used to stay. Eileen Devinney: What kind of cache did they make? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Out of logs, you know. Eileen Devinney: Above the ground? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. And just like building a little house. Eileen Devinney: Okay. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Log house. Hazel Apok: I remember when we used to go way up and pick berries and leave the berries up there. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Uh-hum. Hazel Apok: Wintertime go up and go get them. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Hazel Apok: So they would have different caches of food -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: Uh-hum. Hazel Apok: -- for the dogs. Bill Schneider: 16 dogs, was that one team or two teams? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, sometimes two teams, you know, sometimes one team. Heavy load, you know, you gotta have more dogs. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum.

Bill Schneider: Do you remember any of the dog team mail carriers in this country? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. I was about 9 or 10 years old when the mail carrier came in. Bunch of dogs, lots of dogs. 16, 20 dogs, I guess. I think his name was Murphy. Some Eskimo from Kotzebue. Murphy. I forget his last name. (Itauqsauraq?). Hazel Apok: Uh-hum. I -- I wrote it down somewhere. Itauqsauraq. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Itauqsauraq. Hazel Apok: Uh-hum. Henry Jackson, Sr.: I think he was a -- he was mail carrier. Also I think Harry Panuk -- Panuk. Harry Panuk, wasn't he -- Hazel Apok: Yes. Henry Jackson, Sr.: -- a mail carrier, too. At the time. Hazel Apok: How often would they come? Henry Jackson, Sr.: I think once a month. That's when we would get our mail, once a month. Hazel Apok: Uh-hum. Just mail? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Just mail, yeah. Bill Schneider: And what was their route? Where were they headed? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, Noor -- Kotzebue to Noorvik (map), from Noorvik to here. Then from here to Selawik (map), I guess. Then up to Shungnak (map), Kobuk (map), and then back again. That's a long trip, you know. Hardly any trail, they had to break their own trail. When it's storm comes, you know, they spent a few days in one tent, I guess. Storm bound. Hazel Apok: Where would people get mail from? Where what kind of mail did they get in them days? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Chicago. Massachusetts. I think the mail comes by boat, summertime. Hazel Apok: Somebody mentioned Sears and Roebuck catalog they used to get. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Them, too. Walter Fields. Montgomery. Hazel Apok: Uh-hum. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, what else do you want to know? Bill Schneider: Yeah. That's -- that's pretty interesting about those old dog team carriers. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Yeah. Bill Schneider: There aren't very many people that can talk about them, you now? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, they -- they did all coastline all the way to Barrow, from Kotzebue all the way to Barrow, follow the coastline, I guess. Bill Schneider: Yeah. I think -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: From out there all the way back again, you know. Dog team. Mail carriers. Bill Schneider: Yeah, I think Jonas was talking about Faye Nusunginya's husband was a -- was a mail carrier? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Bill Schneider: From Barrow down this way. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. I think so. Bill Schneider: Yeah. Then the airplane came in. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. I don't know when the mail plane came in. I don't know. I don't remember.

Hazel Apok: Did you work away from the village? Did you have to find work -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, 1940 I turned 18, 18 years and they took me to Candle, mining, mining camp there. And I started working there. And I worked til - up until 1946, I guess. Until I get to Nome, work over at Nome, '46 to 49. They build that hospital there when I was there. Maynard McDougal Memorial. That's where I worked the last time there, you know. No, this time that's the last time I worked there, dredging company. In Nome. Then '57 I joined the union, 302, Operating Engineers. And that's when I start going to Fairbanks and work over there, and then Prudhoe. Retire from Prudhoe you know. Got my hours in. Bill Schneider: Yeah, you know, even Prudhoe Bay, people that worked up at Prudhoe, that's -- they're aren't -- they're aren't a lot of people left that were in there in the early days. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Nobody up there now, hey? Bill Schneider: No, there's not too many. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Not many now. Bill Schneider: It's slowing down. Henry Jackson, Sr.: What, no more oil? Bill Schneider: Well, I think, you know, it's -- I think they are on the downslide now on that. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Oh. Bill Schneider: But there may be other developments, I don't know. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Now they are talking about gas line huh? Bill Schneider: Yeah. So your last work was up there at Prudhoe, huh? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. In '82. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Henry Jackson, Sr.: That's when I retired.

Bill Schneider: Let me get back to dogs for a minute then we'll get off the dog subject here. When was -- when was the last time you had dogs? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, I owned dogs here when I was out working, you know, and that's -- my last bunch was Siberian. I would have had a good team there if I mushed with them, but I was busy working, you know. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Henry Jackson, Sr.: And then when they start getting old, I gave them away. Ray Foster got em. None of them pulled, you know. They are just pets, I guess. Bill Schneider: Yeah. You never got involved in the racing up here? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, short races. I champion sometimes. Hazel Apok: Remember Ray? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah, Ray, my brother. Geez, until he gets to Noorvik and - he moved to Noorvik and tried mushing down there. It was lots of fun, though. Bill Schneider: Yeah.

Bill Schneider: Let's talk about Squirrel River (map) a little bit. Do you remember some of the history up there? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, Squirrel River is nice country, clean country up there. People lived up there all their lives, I guess, before we were -- before we come around, you know. Lots of old igloos up there, every place. Old places, where they live, you know. Sod houses. Hardly anybody up there, nobody up there now. Just my house, one house. Well, Park Ser -- I mean, what's his name? Eileen Devinney: BLM, I think. Hazel Apok: Ray Barr? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Who built that -- a -- a -- a school teacher tried to build a house there. You know, below Omar River. It's -- it's somebody. But NANA, NANA owns it now, I guess. I think it's never been used for a long time. Occasionally, I guess. Bill Schneider: But, you have a place about 40 miles up there? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. I have a house up there, camp. Camp house. Hazel Apok: I flew -- I flew over there that way this summer. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Going to Noatak, you can fly over it. Hazel Apok: Yeah, fly right over it, and lots of bears. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Hazel Apok: Lots of salmon. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Bear country up there. One got into my house one time and messed up inside the house, you know. He eat everything what he could find. He even - that starting fluid, mosquito dope. I think it was starting fluid. He busted it and -- it doesn't taste too good, I guess. Hazel Apok: Did you ever -- didn't you ever hear Nasraqpalik talk about they -- our ancestors, those were tribal warring grounds back there? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Oh, yeah. Hazel Apok: They used to have wars. Henry Jackson, Sr.: From here it's about 8 or 9 miles just inside the slough between Noatak and Kiana, fought wars there. And I think bad man comes in here. There was two of them fellows (in a storm) live further up the river, Squirrel River. And these Kiana people lived under -- under the ground, you know, underground. And they had a tunnel going out, tunnel out towards the river, you know. And these guys were back here watching them, Noatak people. And they send two guys go up through there and then go -- go get those little two guys, you know. And they did. They went out and went up there. And next day I think those two-- little two guys coming, nobody can hit them, you know. I think they -- they won the war at -- Kiana did. I don't like to talk about it either myself. Hazel Apok: No. No. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Because some young, young, young fellows in Noatak, they don't like to hear too much of it you know. Hazel Apok: It's like taboo. Like, you know. You -- you hear about it once and that's it, you know, you're not supposed to dwell on it or talk about it. Henry Jackson, Sr.: 'Cause, early days people up there among themselves they fight like that. Selawik and Buckland. They fight like that, too. Just like Noatak and Kiana.

Bill Schneider: When we think about the history and talking about the history, have you seen some changes in the environment or the climate? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. It's -- everything's changed. They say when missionaries come, you know, everything's changed. No -- hardly any Eskimo dances, dancing going on. All the time when these missionaries come, you know. Here in Kiana, they used to have Eskimo dances, some days. And then missionaries come and told the people that isn't right. I don't know. That's what they say anyway. I don't know myself. Bill Schneider: But have you seen changes in the animals or -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Yeah. The animals, them days we didn't have any caribous at all. All we had was rabbits and ptarmigans for meat. Muskrats and all that, you know. No moose, no caribou. And starting '40s, late '40s, I guess, that's when the caribou, moose start coming from -- from Fairbanks, they say that the smoke, forest smoke, drive them over this way, I guess. And then caribou start migrating, too, by that time, late '40s, they're coming back of our yard, you know. There was reindeer herders here -- Erik Wilson down there. Louie Commack, them over at Selawik over there them days. And when caribou start coming, they took all them reindeers away. Bill Schneider: Was that recently? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. '50s, I guess. Hazel Apok: I remember -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Hazel Apok: I remember going to Arthur Gray's reindeer. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Deering just lost theirs last year, a bunch of them, go with caribou. Karmun's herd. Changes like that, you know. Hazel Apok: Was it Arthur Gray or Lawrence Gray? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Lawrence Gray. Hazel Apok: Lawrence Gray. Yeah, I remember went to his herd. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah, there was a quite a few guys. York Wilson, Louie Commack, Lawrence Gray. Also government herd, Chester Seveck used to be the chief herder there, I guess.

Bill Schneider: When you were growing up, how did you -- was it your dad that taught you how to live in the country? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Yeah, my dad told me not to smoke, not to play cards. He mean it too, you know. When he found out I was smoking, I had my -- some stain was from smoke -- from smoking, you know, he saw my hands. What did you do, you smoking? I tried to lie, but can't lie, you know. I got big spanking for that. Bill Schneider: How old were you then? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Nine years old, I guess. Bill Schneider: You've probably seen a lot of changes in education, too? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Yeah. But the education we had some days was most likely -- it was pretty hard, for me. Not like nowadays. But I have to go to Noorvik to go to school when I was 7 years old. I got no room here. Bill Schneider: No room in the school? Henry Jackson, Sr.: No room in the school. They had a little log cabin for school room. 1930s, '30. '30 or '31, I guess. Eileen Devinney: Did you stay with relatives when you lived in Noorvik? Henry Jackson, Sr.: No. I didn't. We -- we all moved down there, the whole family. Bill Schneider: And was your dad still able to get -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Bill Schneider: -- to Squirrel River and all? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Uh-hum. They took us down there late October -- I mean September. By the time we get to Noorvik, our raft it was iced up, you know, already frozen. And the raft, we got there, we used dead wood for fire, you know. But then I don't know - we went to come back to Kiana and back up to Squirrel River whatever, I guess, from there. Try to get some fur, you know, skins. Bill Schneider: Well, fur prices were probably better then than they are now. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Yeah. Well, the groceries in stores was way lot cheaper than they are now, you know. Them days. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Ten cans of milk was $1.00. 50 cents for a pound of coffee. 50 cents for a pound of tea, I guess. Way lot cheaper them days you know. Bill Schneider: Yeah.

Bill Schneider: What are some of the things you think that young kids should know growing up about Kiana and the history of the place? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, they should learn how to survive. That's the main thing, learn how to survive, you know. Hunt, fish, and work at home, you know. Not stealing, not -- not bothering anybody. Vandalism right now is bad. Too many vandalism. Bill Schneider: Do you think those survival skills are still important? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Eileen Devinney: Do you think most kids aren't learning them anymore? Henry Jackson, Sr.: What was that? Eileen Devinney: Do you think most kids aren't learning them any longer? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, they -- if you teach them, they learn. Yeah. Bill Schneider: Who are some of the old-timers that we should remember? Important people in the history. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, John Mellon an old storekeeper there, owns the store. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Henry Jackson, Sr.: He was an honest man, I guess. Bill Schneider: He was a storekeeper here? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yes. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Henry Jackson, Sr.: When I was growing up, he was the storekeeper there. 'Til Blankenship put up his store there. Walter Blankenship. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Then later that Schuerchs built his store there which Dorsey bought from Scheurchs. They got native store at Noorvik, was there a long time ago, before I was born, I guess. Bill Schneider: Goes way back, huh? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Uh-hum. They had a hospital there, too, in Noorvik (map), you know. And nice. Bill Schneider: I guess that community had a different type of history, though, huh? Henry Jackson, Sr.: No. Bill Schneider: No? Henry Jackson, Sr.: It's the same. Same as here. History is about the same. Bill Schneider: Who started that place, Noorvik? Henry Jackson, Sr.: I don't know. They -- they say they moved -- moved down there from Oksik. Oksik, that's where they were living there. And from Oksik to there they moved to Noorvik. I don't know what year. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Hazel Apok: Maybe we sure would have (Inupiaq) if it was still in Oksik, right down here. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Right down here. Hazel Apok: Not very far, about what, maybe about 12 miles. Henry Jackson, Sr.: 12 miles maybe. Hazel Apok: The original Noorvik was. Uh-hum. Eileen Devinney: Was it on this side of the river the same as Kiana (map) or the other side? Hazel Apok: The other side. Eileen Devinney: Oh. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Between here and Noorvik there's an old place there they call it Oksik. Bill Schneider: And that's an old village site? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. I think the old village site caved in. Water, you know. Every spring it caved in. And if you look down there I think you can see - still can see where old people lived you know. Yeah

Bill Schneider: Were you ever involved in any of the barging activities out around Kotzebue? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, not really, but I work in there longshoring for a while, until I find a -- until I find a steady job, you know. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Some of the kids coming up might like to hear about what longshoring was about. It's kind of hard for them to imagine that today. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Heavy load sometimes. Hundred pounds was too heavy for me. Bill Schneider: How did -- how did you do that longshoring? Click here for image. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Well, I had to carry 100 pounds far, you know. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. That's from the -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: From the boat to the store. Eileen Devinney: How far was the store from the boat? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Oh, probably 150 yards maybe. Bill Schneider: Just for context here, we have big ships, right? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Uh-hum. Bill Schneider: That would be anchored off -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: Uh-hum. Bill Schneider: -- and then smaller boats would take the goods to shore? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Uh-hum. Bill Schneider: And then you would -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: Start longshoring. Bill Schneider: -- pack them in? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Hazel Apok: They used to put a plank from the boat to the shore there. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Hazel Apok: And that was called longshoring. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Heavy loads, huh? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Heavy load. 100 pounds was too heavy for me. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Now everything comes in the airplane, huh? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Bill Schneider: Some barging. (longish pause) Well, you've probably seen this village grown some, huh? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah, grows a little bit. I don't know. We -- Eskimos lived further back over there, you know, and white people lived down here. Kiana is an old, old village way back, old huts, those old igloos around. You could find some artifacts down the beach. Eileen Devinney: Oh, right down below -- down there? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah, down here. Eileen Devinney: So there used to be a long time ago -- Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Nobody knows when there was an old village here. Just like what you call that place up there? Below Ambler (map), that old, old village. Eileen, Bill and Hazel : Onion Portage? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Onion Portage. Yeah. That's when those people lived, I think. There was there was old villages -- old village here in Kiana (map). I found an old lamp there standing around down here at, oh, let's see, from Schuerch's warehouse down the bluffs here, on top of the bluffs there. I was standing there and I stepped on rock. And I looked at it and here is this -- it was a -- it's that black stained. So I picked it up and there was an old lamp. And I give that old lamp to that schoolteacher, traded it with a phonograph, with radio. He got a radio and it had phonograph. I trade. Man, that guy was happy. Bill Schneider: Well, there's a lot of history around here, huh? Henry Jackson, Sr.: Oh, yeah. You'll never -- you'll never tell it all. Bill Schneider: No. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Lots of people here. I know I never -- I don't know how many people lie, you know. I don't know. Bill Schneider: Yeah, there's probably some of that, too, huh? Well, thanks for sharing what you're sharing tonight. Henry Jackson, Sr.: Yeah. Yeah.