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Leo Jackson

Leo Jackson was interviewed on February 28, 2002 by Bill Schneider, Hazel Apok, and Eileen Devinney in Kiana, Alaska. In this interview, Leo talks about his family background, his childhood in the old village of Kiana, and using dog teams for transportation. He also discusses working in the mining industry, changes he has seen in the environment and the community, and what he thinks the younger generation should know about Kiana, living a traditional subsistence lifestyle, and abiding by Iñupiaq values.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2002-09-09

Project: Kiana Village History Project
Date of Interview: Feb 28, 2002
Narrator(s): Leo Jackson
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Hazel Apok, Eileen Devinney
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
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There is no slideshow for this person.

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Introduction and family background

Parents, grandparents, and family background

Attending school as a boy and hunting for his family when his father was sick

Supporting the family

Snowmachines being introduced, using dogs, and working in the mining industry

Stonewall Jackson

Training dogs

Archie Ferguson, coming home to Kiana, and playing games

People building kayaks, shooting at targets for competition, and tattoos

Changes in the environment, climate, and animals

Growing up in the old village

Activities with the tugboat and Klery Creek mining

What the younger generation should know about Kiana

What the younger generation should know about Kiana and sharing

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Bill Schneider: We have the pleasure of talking with Leo Jackson today. And it's February 28th, 2002. And Hazel Apok is here and Eileen Devinney and myself, Bill Schneider. And this is in the part of the series dealing with Kiana history, and we really appreciate you taking the time to do this. And Leo, when we talked a couple nights ago at the dinner, you were saying you were raised by -- that you lived here since you were five, and kind of raised up here. Leo Jackson: When I was brought up here. Bill Schneider: Yeah. Leo Jackson: I was born at Noatak, 1936. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Leo Jackson: And moved to Kotzebue when I was three years old, I think. Lived there a couple years before I was brought up. Hazel Apok: How did you they-- Leo Jackson: And been here ever since. Hazel Apok: How did you go from Kotzebue to here? By boat? Leo Jackson: By boat. Hazel Apok: By boat? Leo Jackson: Yes, my step-grandfather had a boat, tugboat, 18 horsepower. Bill Schneider: It was one of those single cylinder? Leo Jackson: Yeah. Bill Schneider: Putt, putt, putt? Leo Jackson: Palmer engine. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. What was the name of his boat? Leo Jackson: Hooper boat. Hooper boat. My father ran it for a long time. Something went wrong. Just too old, I guess, quit running. Then my uncle took over that boat. He got himself a 30-horse Palmer. Hazel Apok: What did they use the boat for? Leo Jackson: For hunting seals, walruses, beluga whale. Hazel Apok: Out in the -- out in the ocean. Yeah. Leo Jackson: Move people around from Kotzebue, Noorvik, or Kiana or to camp. Hazel Apok: Uh-hum. So he was one of the original people that had a tug? Leo Jackson: Yeah. Hazel Apok: Yeah. Leo Jackson: My father himself had a five horse. It didn't run very well, so he had to get rid of it. I was too small to remember how it ran.

Hazel Apok: What are your parents named, just for -- Leo Jackson: My father's name is Tommy Jackson. My mother's name is Emily, Emily Jackson. She was born at Golsovia, down south, south of Nome, I guess. And moved to Marshall. Married my father in 1918 or 1919, somewhere around there. I have seven brothers and sisters -- six brothers and sisters. I'm the youngest in the family. Bill Schneider: I think it's the clock that's ticking. And what was your grandparents' names? Leo Jackson: Charlie Tibbett. Oh, my father's father, I don't know, might have been Sammy, Sammy Jackson. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Leo Jackson: And my -- one of my brothers is named after him. The other one on my mother's side, I don't remember his name. Last name was Oney.

Bill Schneider: Are there some aspects of the history that you would like to talk about of Kiana? Leo Jackson: Well, I was -- I just can't remember too well. Just little kids playing around all the time. Bill Schneider: Maybe you could take us through a year of what you did in summertime and fall time, winter and spring. Leo Jackson: Yeah. Fall time. Bill Schneider: When you were a boy. Leo Jackson: You have to go to -- I had to go to school when I was six years old. And some -- some winters we don't have no school teachers there and had to skip a year. That was during World War II. Then after that I barely went up to sixth grade here at Kiana. I was sent to White Mountain to finish 7th grade. I didn't finish 7th grade. I had to come home again. My father was very sick. And my mother, and I -- had to make -- try and make it through hard times. I had to go out hunting caribou, rabbits, ptarmigans, ducks, muskrats, anything I could get. I was still young. My father taught me -- I mean talked to me about hunting. Using those techniques. And I was sometimes lucky, but not all the time. Come home empty handed, too. Hazel Apok: How did you used to catch rabbits? Leo Jackson: Well, sometimes I put snares or just shoot 'em with a .22. And then sometimes a whole bunch of us would go out, drive the rabbits. Hazel Apok: That's what I've heard before, too. Leo Jackson: It was a lot of fun doing that. Hazel Apok: Uh-hum. When you're driving 'em. Leo Jackson: Some people set net on the other end, far end, whole bunch of them driving down. Hazel Apok: Uh-hum. Leo Jackson: We would leave two people down there on the other end to shoot off them rabbits. Hazel Apok: And how did you catch muskrats? Leo Jackson: Kayaks. Traps. That was always a problem when I was a small kid. They set a trap for me. Every 15 minutes I think. Hazel Apok: To check it?

Bill Schneider: Sounds like that was a hard time, though, when you had to support the family. Leo Jackson: Well, that first year, I didn't have no dogs, but I had a big female dog. But my sister had a big dog, half breed wolf which someone gave her. My brother-in-law used this big leader to -- made it -- get me seven dogs altogether. After the first year and I start going out hunting caribou by myself, too. Spend two and three days, I was 17, 18. Come home with a sled load. My father tell me about hunting caribou. I used those techniques and I get a few, maybe five or six of them, and come home with half a load -- I mean, half of what I catch and go back and get the other half. I had to haul wood, carry water, chop the wood. No chain saw of any kind. Deep snow, hardly travel. Wind blowing, snow -- stormy. Hard times we had. In 1955 I went to work to Fairbanks and worked there at the mining camp and at the civil service. In 1958 I got drafted in the Army for two years. I got out of the Army, spent a few years in Seattle before I come home. Start living life all over again. But hunting caribou wasn't as bad as it used to be. They were nearby here, in Kiana, which was good for all of us. I start building me a boat. Bought a outboard after fire fighting and I built a couple boats in my lifetime.

Hazel Apok: Weren't you one of the first people to bring a snow machine here? Was that -- Leo Jackson: My brother. Hazel Apok: Your brother. Okay. Leo Jackson: He had a five -- five and a half horse Polaris. It was a good machine. I liked that. Hazel Apok: One of those old-fashioned kinds? Leo Jackson: One of the first ones. Hazel Apok: Very first? Leo Jackson: I don't remember. But yeah, we went. I still got it by the old house down there. Hazel Apok: Uh-huh. Bill Schneider: It would be good to go get a picture of that. Eileen Devinney: When it thaws out! Hazel Apok: Yeah. I remember it so well because I had come home on some kind of break or something and your brother let me ride around. And first time I ever hold, you know, with my thumb, and my thumb was so sore for how many days because I never held that way before. Leo Jackson: Oh, the throttle was on the side. Hazel Apok: On the side? Oh, okay. Whatever it was I was -- Leo Jackson: The throttle was on the side. Hazel Apok: Oh, okay. Leo Jackson: Just a certain way. The gas tank was -- what was it, maybe a three quart. Goes a long ways, that tank, though. Bill Schneider: But you -- you kept dogs for quite awhile, huh? Leo Jackson: Well, from 1953 to '55, then I went to Fairbanks to go to work. I lose them all. My brother -- my brother-in-law always take my dogs away from me. He wants to raise -- I raised good dogs in them days. Good pups I raised. He always, take 'em away from me for raising. Bill Schneider: Where did you work in Fairbanks? Leo Jackson: I worked for the mining camp at the Fairbanks -- at Fairbanks Creek, and the other time I worked at the -- at the Dome Creek they call it. When the season was over, I got me a job out of town at Eielson Air Force Base, civil service. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Leo Jackson: Until I got sick. Pneumonia. Almost killed me. Bill Schneider: Hmm.

Bill Schneider: (Referring to the picture of Stonewall Jackson) Talking about Stonewall? Hazel Apok: Yeah. Leo Jackson: The other kid. That guy used to mix, me and that other kid, some Kool-Aid. Hazel Apok: Uh-hum. Leo Jackson: He'd mixed it -- would mix it and he looked around and find a bottle of vinegar. Open the cap. Put a little bit of vinegar in that Kool-Aid, taste it and start playing drunk. Hazel Apok: Stonewall did? Leo Jackson: Yeah. His wife, his wife hollered at him, don't do that to these kids. Hazel Apok: There's some pictures here you want to look at and see which ones you want to -- Leo Jackson: My eyes are not very good. Hazel Apok: Yeah. Leo Jackson: My right eye is okay, but my left eye is bad. I don't know about these. Hazel Apok: I can't look at these either. They are kind of faded. There is a picture of your brother in there someplace - Fred. Leo Jackson: Hmm. Being the youngest one in the family, I had to do all the work myself. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Leo Jackson: My older brothers, two of them, don't do anything at all.

Bill Schneider: I think while you're looking through those pictures we'll talk a little bit about dogs. How did you train those dogs if you didn't have a leader? Leo Jackson: Well, they taught me which way to -- gee and haw was, and I could train my one -- one dog like that. Made him learn -- he was pretty good. Half-breed wolf. That female dog I had was a half-breed wolf. It's pretty strong. One dog will pull a big sled load of wood. Hazel Apok: Did you have any pictures at home? A few maybe? Leo Jackson: Well, no. My -- my sister Lena might have taken them. Hazel Apok: Okay. I know when -- when they show me how to -- how to train a lead dog, too, the first thing they tell me was gee is right and haw is left, and you're to go up front and, you know, show the dogs which way they want to go. Leo Jackson: You can train a dog real well. Use your -- use your hands or arms to make it turn. Or either way. You stop them. Shhst! And look back at you. (long pause) You lose the dogs, take off after something, you holler at them. You can let 'em come back to you. The dogs go after caribou, though. My dogs are very hard to stop. They are strong. I almost shoot my leader a few times. The one thing I try to do is get one, one caribou, let 'em go. They'll go --; they'll go to that dead one and stay there, keep it there. Yeah. This is Stonewall Jackson. He used to make me Kool-Aid. Hazel Apok: Was it hard to get Kool-Aid them days? Leo Jackson: Blankenship Trading Post used to get them. That's about the only -- oh, Ferguson's, too. There was one guy that had a store named -- John Mellon used to have some. After he died, then Blankenship was the only one. And Ferguson's. Archie Ferguson opened a store up here, too.

Bill Schneider: So he had a store as well as flying business, huh? Leo Jackson: Yeah. Uh-hum. First airplane ride was with him from Noorvik to Kiana. I was just a small boy yet. Bill Schneider: How -- how -- can you tell us about that? Leo Jackson: It was on the way to Fairbanks with another passenger. He was going to work. My -- my father and I spend about two, three weeks down there at Christmas week. And I wanted to come home. I missed Kiana, my -- my sisters. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Leo Jackson: Decided to send me home on a plane. My airfare was five dollars. Hazel Apok: I was just going to ask, how much money? Leo Jackson: My airfare was only five dollars. Eileen Devinney: If we just break, we can undo the cords and make it longer. That's why we can't move it. Bill Schneider: Yeah. Let's -- let's take a break for a minute and readjust the tape recorder. Leo Jackson: Them days -- we used, we used to have foot races, dog races, and nobody earning any prizes. We had fun. We had a lot of fun doing that. Hazel Apok: And it was all volunteer work. Leo Jackson: Yeah, all volunteer. No prizes, no first places, second. Hazel Apok: How about in the summertime? Leo Jackson: Sum - same thing. They -- old people, old men get some darts or they make -- cut out some willows maybe, inch, little over an inch, and so long, and throw them, to a post. The one closest to it gets more marks. Bill Schneider: What did they call that game? Leo Jackson: Oh, I don't know what they called it. Almost like horseshoeing. Bill Schneider: Yeah. Hazel Apok: Who was it that mentioned that? Eileen Devinney: I think that was Walter. Hazel Apok: Walter. Yeah. Eileen Devinney: He mentioned that game, mana manaa. However you say it. Hazel Apok: Yeah. Mana manaa. Leo Jackson: Yeah. They have kayak races at Fourth of July.

Hazel Apok: People used to build their own kayaks, or -- Leo Jackson: Yeah. Hazel Apok: -- was there like one person that built it for everybody, or -- Leo Jackson: No. People build a -- build their own. Hazel Apok: Own. Where did they used to get the materials from? Leo Jackson: Blankenship's. Hazel Apok: Yeah. Leo Jackson: They used to get these tarps, canvas tarps, 10 ounce. And make the frame themselves and cover it up with that canvas, 10-ounce canvas, and use paint, maybe two or three coats of it. Bill Schneider: Tighten it up? Leo Jackson: Yeah. Eileen Devinney: What kind of wood did they use for the frame? Leo Jackson: Hum? Eileen Devinney: What kind of wood did they use to make that frame? Leo Jackson: Oh, spruce. Spruce trees. And of course, they had to dry that too, you know. And make it lighter. Hazel Apok: So they would have kayak races? Leo Jackson: They, they used to, yes. They would get their .22s, shotguns or heavier rifles and they'd start shooting. Hazel Apok: What would they shoot at? Targets? Any kind? Leo Jackson: Targets, any targets across the river. They make a group, one group here, one group there, to see who wins most points or... They used to have fun, laugh at each other. The elders do that. Hazel Apok: Was it your mom that had -- have marks on her or tatoos? Leo Jackson: No. Hazel Apok: Who was I thinking of that had tattoos? Leo Jackson: Annie? Hazel Apok: Yeah, Annie Hasway? Leo Jackson: Annie Hasway, and who was it, Lucy. Hazel Apok: Gooden? Leo Jackson: Gooden. Hazel Apok: Uh-hum. Leo Jackson: I don't know, maybe Mulluk - Bob Mulluk's mother. Hazel Apok: What did they tell about why they used to do that? I mean what do you know about it? I never know. Leo Jackson: I don't remember. No. Maybe it's like those people down Africa somewhere. Marks -- just mark to recognize who you are. Hazel Apok: Didn't people used to do that like with their own nets, you know, not the (Inupiaq) -- even the (Inupiaq) would have certain marks to identify who it belonged to. Leo Jackson: Yeah. My father used to have "I V";, or three, three marks. Bill Schneider: What was the "I V" for? Leo Jackson: Just a mark. Bill Schneider: Just a mark? Hazel Apok: Or just a Roman Numeral. Leo Jackson: Yeah. Hazel Apok: I see lots of people with three marks. Leo Jackson: They do that to paddles, oars, anything - some poles. Hazel Apok: Sinkers, floaters. Leo Jackson: Sinkers, floats. And whatever they could.

Bill Schneider: Since you've been living here, have you noticed changes in the environment or the climate? Leo Jackson: Oh, yes. No more dog team. It's snow machine. I used to live over at village, old village. While I -- while I was gone they moved down this end, go to school from up there in deep snow. The kids. Had to take -- take off from old village kind of early. Bill Schneider: Have you noticed changes in animals or in seasons? Leo Jackson: There is a lot more caribou and wolves. You don't go very far to hunt those. They come -- they come in a lot closer than they used to. In them old days, they go way out. Sometimes be gone for a month or two, month and a half with a dog team. Summertime, they go on foot. How -- how far out, way out, I don't know. They talk about it. Go from one mountain, go to another mountain. Must be way out past Noatak somewhere. Walking. Packing. Caribou. They come home with good caribous, though. Caribou hunting was very hard in them days. And now they come to us. Instead of going out to get them, they come to us. Bill Schneider: Why is that do you suppose? Why is that? Why are the caribou coming in? Leo Jackson: I guess there is a lot more. I don't know. Then there -- in them days, a lot more caribou. Of course, reindeer got mixed up, mixed with them. A lot of reindeer herders lose a lot of reindeer. Like my father, they started out with a hundred, a hundred head, and they lose them all. Bill Schneider: When did he lose his reindeer? Leo Jackson: Before I was born. I don't know when.

Bill Schneider: And you said you were born in 19 -- Leo Jackson: '36. Bill Schneider: -- 36. Uh-hum. Hazel Apok: Still a young fellow. Leo Jackson: Yeah. I liked it when I was young. Because I was lively. And I could move a little faster than nowadays. Eileen Devinney: So you grew up for a little bit in the old village? You grew up in that old village for a little bit? Leo Jackson: Yeah. I left -- I left in 1955, when I was 19 years old. Went to work Fairbanks. Eileen Devinney: How was it living over there, when you were young? Leo Jackson: It was good there. I liked it over there. Quiet, nice and quiet. Only -- all's you hear is them dogs howling, barking. Eileen Devinney: Did most people have a dog team? Leo Jackson: Oh, yes. Eileen Devinney: Yeah?

Bill Schneider: Can you tell us more about the -- the activities with the tugboat? How did they come upon buying a tugboat that you were talking about? Leo Jackson: Well, how -- who first brought 'em up, I don't know. Used to come in with a barge, and they haul food up on a barge using horses. That's what I heard. Bill Schneider: Oh. Leo Jackson: They start getting tugboats up. Tell me they used to use horses to haul the food up, the groceries. Which came in on a ship or barge or whatever. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Leo Jackson: And they -- they used to have a lot of horses there in Kiana hauling stuff up to Klery Creek, too, the mining camp. Hazel Apok: Who used to own the horses? Leo Jackson: Gee, I don't know. Hazel Apok: Oh. Bill Schneider: Did you ever see pictures of that? Leo Jackson: No, huh-uh. Bill Schneider: I guess that mining activity was something up there, huh? Leo Jackson: Huh? Bill Schneider: I guess they had quite a bit of mining up Klery Creek? Leo Jackson: Klery Creek is a lot of gold -- gold mining there. Bill Schneider: Uh-hum. Leo Jackson: Right now, no one -- no one is mining. I guess there's some gold yet, but hardly anybody goes -- goes out.

Bill Schneider: What are some of the things that you think that the young kids should know about Kiana? Leo Jackson: Well, a lot of them are drinking, smoking, stealing. In them days we didn't have no VPSO (Village Public Safety Officer), nothing. Only the council, city council. Or a group of men that will straighten you out if you don't. They have to -- to punish you, you have to do something like cutting wood, hauling wood. No jails. They don't take you off to jail. Hazel Apok: Was there -- did you ever hear of anybody being banished from the community? Leo Jackson: No. Hazel Apok: No? Leo Jackson: Only I've -- only I've heard there was one guy they sent to, what they call, school. Hazel Apok: Like reform school? Leo Jackson: Reform school. I guess he was gone 15 years and come back to Kiana, though. Steals too much I hear. Hazel Apok: And that's something you'd like the kids to know, right, about long time ago? Leo Jackson: Yeah. They should know about it. Hazel Apok: Uh-hum. But, I mean, it didn't happen every day that somebody steal or vandalize like it's happening now, huh? Leo Jackson: I try to tell it to my nephews. I mean, tell them about stealing, but it goes in one ear and go out the other. Hazel Apok: No respect for property. Leo Jackson: No. Hazel Apok: Or people. Leo Jackson: And my -- my father always tell me not to steal. I always remember -- remember him. I've stolen. Believe me, I've stolen. I thought it was little, little thing when I stole. Right now when I grow up, get this old it's a big thing -- big thing to me. He always tell me to ask to buy it from the person. He always tell me to buy it. Go ahead, keep after him. Keep after him, or the person that have it. If he don't want to sell it, beg him for it. Beg him for it. You let -- let him know you really want it. If he don't give it to you, then you can steal it. So he will know who got it. That's what he used to tell me. I always remember that. I'll never forget it. If you can't get it from him, one way or another, steal it from him, so that the person will know who got it. That's what he used to tell me.

Hazel Apok: Did you ever have to go in front of a council before? Leo Jackson: No. Hazel Apok: No? Leo Jackson: I never have. Hazel Apok: They used to have 'em long time ago, though -- Leo Jackson: Yeah. Hazel Apok: (Inupiaq) Even when they talk about them today, we know how it was a powerful group of men, you know, held your future in their hands. So, even the most wariest, you know, get a wake up call. I wonder how they -- Leo Jackson: My -- my parents always tell me the old days, the elders, do something for 'em. Don't get paid for it. If they want to pay you, go ahead and take it. And don't ask for pay. Help. Rich or poor. That's what he always tell me. Not only -- not only elders, it was someone that need help. Maybe some day they will help you, too -- came out. Some younger fellow could be doing something, they come to me right away and help me out. I remember what they tell me, my parents tell me. And I like that. Don't go by a person that need help, help him. Help him. Hazel Apok: Uh-hum. Leo Jackson: Give food. Give something they -- what they need. That's what. If you have enough, you know you have enough, give it to 'em. Right now, young -- younger people give me caribou, fish, anything. I like it. Hazel Apok: That sharing is a big part of our life, huh? Leo Jackson: Yeah. They also tell me to share. Share with somebody that doesn't have.