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Altona Brown
Altona Brown

Altona Brown was interviewed on August 10, 1972 by Karen McPherson in Ruby, Alaska. In this interview, Altona talks about her life, living off the land, being a trapper, healing from polio, traditional medicine, and doing sewing and beadwork. She also tells a traditional Athabascan story about a time of famine and a medicine man sacrificing himself. (Photograph of Altona Brown courtesy of Claude Keogh.)

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 91-12-73

Project: Raven's Story
Date of Interview: Aug 10, 1972
Narrator(s): Altona Brown
Interviewer(s): Karen McPherson
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Alternate Transcripts
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1) (Interview begins abruptly) A story about a time of famine and how the old medicine man sacrificed himself.

2) Continuing the sacrifice story.

3) The end of the sacrifice story and how she learned it.

4) Her father and her own life as a trapper.

5) Her life as she grows older.

6) Stories of her youth, especially how she healed from polio, and a little bit about her sewing and beadwork. (Interview ends abruptly)

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


Section 1: Koyukuk\ great-great grandfather\ grand-uncle\ fall -- early\ snow\ fish -- trap\ fish -- net\ willow -- bark\ fishes -- location\ grandfather -- elderly\ wives -- young\ Indian Mountain\ travel\ cold -- severe\ beaver\ creeks\ winter\ days -- length of\ medicine man\ camp\ food -- shortage\ sheep\ mountains\ illness\ starvation\ snowshoes -- eating\ sleds -- eating\ blame -- grandfather\ grandfather -- death\ cache\ mountain -- proximity\ house -- frames\ houses -- dugouts\ houses -- spruce boughs\ teepees -- caribou\ berries\ moss|

Section 2: directions\ hills\ village\ houses -- construction of\ burial\ girls\ walking\ caribou -- disappearance\ snow\ rivers\ creeks\ beaver -- disappearance\ grandfather -- prediction\ survival\ families -- preparation\ families -- providing\ food -- sharing\ wood -- cutting\ wood -- pile\ song -- medicine song\ Koyukon\ fire\ death|

Section 3: grandfather -- death\ wood pile\ fire\ caribou skin\ song -- instructions\ song -- continuation\ starvation\ grandfather -- value of\ murder\ death -- manner of\ Christ -- cross\ fire -- building\ spark\ spirits -- communication with\ wood -- burnt\ spark -- move\ site -- sacrifice\ place -- sacred\ food -- criticism of\ eating|

Section 4: father -- Big Joe\ name -- Koyukon\ Yukon River\ light -- lack of\ winter\ doll -- picture of\ travel --dogs\ walking\ snow -- wet\ snowshoes\ spring\ beaver -- trapping\ traps\ trap line -- length\ camps\ furs -- sales\ Northern Commercial Company\ Ruby\ May, John\ beavers -- houses\ work\ pelt -- size of\ trapping -- lifestyle\ Fairbanks\ Nenana\ Anchorage\ alcohol\ drinking -- none|

Section 5: son -- death of\ Michigan\ marriage\ Mt. Edgecumbe\ drink -- bet about\ children -- number of\ wife -- nurse\ grandchildren -- number of\ great grandchildren\ husband -- death of\ debt\ foxes -- sale of\ cross fox\ red fox\ work\ son -- honors student\ Ruby\ daughter -- honors student\ house -- purchase of\ house -- location of \ house -- condition of \ house -- maintenance\ health\ lifestyle -- limits on\ gun -- shooting\ defense\ mishaps -- lack of\ dog team\ snowshoes\ walking\ sickness\ polio\ mother\ brother\ polio -- cure\ massage\ baths\ hospital\ doctors\ pills -- pain|

Section 6: mother\ medicine men -- stories\ healinig\ performance -- not seen\ kids\ fractures\ swelling -- treatment\ cuts\ sister -- ?, Rose\ chest -- cuts\ polio -- pain\ brother -- fishing\ exercise -- poles\ walking -- wobble\ father -- anger\ polio -- cure\ limp -- lack of\ health -- heart\ fever\ work -- fishing\ health aide\ doctor\ satellite\ heart -- condition\ wood -- cutting\ heart attacks -- number of\ wood -- splitting\ logs\ marriage\ beadwork\ mother -- learning from\ sewing -- amount of\ sewing -- orders\ orders -- filling\ slippers\ mittens\ dolls\ skin -- moose\ skin -- calf\ face -- beadwork\ clothes -- old fashioned|