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Greta Akpik, Part 2
Greta Akpik

This is the continuation of an interview with Greta Akpik (Suvluuraq) on March 14, 1982 by Wendy Arundale at her home in Atqasuk, Alaska for the Chipp-Ikpikpuk and Meade Rivers Oral History Project. In this second part of a two part interview, Greta talks about living in the Chipp-Ikpikpak and Meade Rivers area, herding reindeer, trapping, hunting and fishing. She also talks about life in the region during and after World War II, living in Barrow and Atqasuk, and raising her children to be hunters and helpers. Finally, she mentions traveling and camping along the Meade River and her early memories of sites and families they visited. (IHLC Tape #00037)

The transcript with Iñupiaq spellings was completed by Kathy Itta (now Ahgeak).

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 87-101-02

Project: Chipp-Ikpikpuk and Meade Rivers Oral History Project
Date of Interview: Mar 14, 1982
Narrator(s): Greta Akpik
Interviewer(s): Wendy Arundale
Transcriber: Katherine Itta Ahgeak
People Present: Bill Schneider
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
North Slope Borough, Iñupiat History, Language and Culture Commission
Alternate Transcripts
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Reindeer herding with her husband, Walter.

Quitting herding after 1938.

Returning to Barrow after trapping season.

Working for the Browers in Barrow.

World War II in northern Alaska.

After World War II.

Wartime conditions around Barrow and the fear of a Japanese attack on the town.

The job situation in Barrow during and immediately after World War II.

Which of her children were born in the hospital.

Her family's bout with influenza during the winter of 1939-1940.

Walter's mother and Greta's brother helping after the birth of Lolly at Itqiuraq.

The children getting old enough to start hunting and helping out.

What she and Walter did and where they lived after the children were grown.

Use of the Meade River between their move to Barrow in 1946 and their move to Atqasuk in 1976 or 1977.

More of her early memories of camps and the families with whom they visited.

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.


Wendy: This is Wendy Arundale and Greta Akpik and we're going to pick up where we left off on our other tape, on March 14, and we were talking about reindeer up around Peard Bay. Greta: There's no, there's no Eskimo boots all the time. I don't know how to put the patches on the bottom of their soles. That's pretty hard, I just having a hard time to make, yes, and unmarried boys was helping. They got no rubber boots or any kind of shoepacks, they just got Eskimo-made-boots. Lighter, I think that's why they like them. Wendy: So you ended up patching boots a lot, huh? Greta: Yes, but Walter knows better than I. Wendy: So Walter was helping with the herding reindeer then? Greta: Yes, he was, before we get married he knows how to take care of the reindeer. Traveling a lot, yes. Wendy: Did you and Frankie go with the herd too, or did you stay in one place while the herd moved around? Greta: I always keep my kids all the time. I got parents. They love them so much, and I always try to have them myself. But when they get bigger, they always stay with my parents when they go hunting a little, Shooting Station or fishing sometimes. Wendy: When you were herding reindeer how often did you have to move? Greta: I don't know. I don't remember that. Maybe Walter should tell the story about it in Eskimo. Somebody might tell it.

Wendy: Okay. How many years did you work at herding? Greta: Until I got three kids. Frankie was born in 1934 and Florence was born in 1935 but Henry was born in 1938. Wendy: So after 1938 you stopped herding, what did you do then? Greta: We start to go hunting ourselves, in the fall time. We start to go to Qikiqtaqturuq. By boat. That was Isuqtuq's. We stay up there all winter and springtime after trapping seasons close we go back to Barrow.

Wendy: And then what did you do in Barrow? Greta: Helping my parents, my father. He's a hunter, you know. Whaling. Wendy: Did Walter whale? Greta: Yes, he's helping a little. Helping. And my father got a crew. Wendy: Was your father an umialik? Greta: Umialik? Yes, captain. My father was captain. Wendy: And then what did you do in the summertime, after whaling, you and Walter? Greta: Sometimes he just go help walrus hunting and working a little for Brower sometimes, carrying pitch from Pitt Point. They brought to Barrow by boat or in winter time bring some pitch to Barrow by dog team. That's for the energy for the house.

Wendy: Earlier you talked about working for Browers. When did you work for Brower? Greta: After while when I'm getting old, I just start to work. After I raise all my kids, when they can do it themselves, I was. Wendy: And you cooked for them? Greta: I work in the hotel, cleaning in the hotel changing beds every morning, after I work, change in hotel first and then go helping in the kitchen, maybe more than twelve hours, sometimes less than twelve or...that's the way they always treat me...slave...maybe that's why I'm getting weak. I never have vitamin or anything, because I...what shall I say? I working hard, maybe I got low blood, I was always thinking many many things about my stroke.

Wendy: During World War II, what did you and Walter live, where did you and Walter live? Greta: Qikiqtaqturuq. 1941. I heard when Walter go to Barrow, I heard we better put something on top of my window out there. We always covered, something, skin or...not to light. Wendy: Black-out. Greta: Black-out. One time when I wake up in the morning, I hear something making little noise out there. Scary that time. Maybe... I hear plane or...because we got no radio that time, poor people. Maybe Frankie was about seven, eight years old, when we were up there. Wendy: Did World War II make a big impression on people up here? Greta: I think so. Yes. As Walter go to Barrow, left us in our house up there. Sod house. And he went to Christmas down there. He's having Christmas down there, and he heard that everyone should getting ready their sleds or getting dog team harnessed, dog team ready to take off as soon as the plane start to come, they better go, go away. Wendy: Were they afraid that they might attack Barrow? Greta: Yes. They almost. But I heard that only two go. The planes were stuck, almost crashed, too much cold. They can't go along in that how many below. Forty-fifty below.

Wendy: After World War II, what kind of a life were you living? Greta: We were down there at Barrow. You know, we were moving. We never stay in the summertime up there inland, but when it start to winter, coming, we always go up there, try to get food. Where the caribou or fish for winter supplies. Wendy: So you would be in Barrow for the whaling then, too? Greta: Yes. Wendy: And then after whaling, what would happen? After World War II, I'm trying to understand where you were at different times of year. And I'm wondering after whaling did you stay in Barrow or did you go somewhere else? Greta: Maybe we usually stay in Barrow because of our kids. School. Wendy: And then after school was out, what would happen? Greta: One time, maybe two or three times we were to Uqpiksuu before the school brought to Uqpiksuu. We usually stay up there in the summertime. While we were with a dog team we usually go up there to Uqpiksuu. And when it start to fall, we go to Barrow by boat and let our kids school. ( Airplane and World War II) That's why they start to come to Barrow, wind and blowing snow and maybe 50-60 below, almost stuck airplanes while they were coming to Barrow and I heard Stanley Morgan was radar, weatherman.

Wendy: During the war time, where did you and Walter live? Did you live in Barrow, or did you continue to travel up the river to hunt, or... Greta: After that we were at Barrow. We were at Barrow. That year. At Christmastime when the Japanese start to come to Barrow. Stanley Morgan was the weatherman. Maybe he's operator for the radio, uqautitaqti, radio man. They got a big dog (St. Bernard) like that. He just follow kind of carry the rope, side to him, walk around town. They just walking. If the plane should come for landing somewhere...and try to bomb it. Wendy: Did you have an air observer corp in Barrow during the war? Where people could watch for planes? Greta: I don't know. We don't have any, maybe. That's the radio station should be man. Wendy: I see. After the war began, after the first time when people were afraid, what happened then? Did you and Walter live just in Barrow or did you continue to come inland? Greta: No, we stay in Barrow. Stay in Barrow. I should have a baby that time, stay in Barrow all year round.

Wendy: What did Walter do? Did he work, or? Greta: No, that time they never start working. He just hunting, we live by just hunting. In 1946 when the Navy start building at Barrow, now the work start. Wendy: Did Walter work for the Navy? Greta: No. But he's National Guard, know, Marston, that was ATG, Alaska Territorial Guards. Joining them. We got the books at our fishing camps up there. And when Maktak Marston quit, they moved to National Guards, right now they're running National Guards Armory. But he quit scouting. Wendy: After the Navy started building, what was the biggest change that you noticed in Barrow, after the Navy came? Greta: Men start to work, at base, that base on Brower side. That was in 1944. Sam was born in 1944. We were at Uqpiksuu that time. We go to Barrow by boat, and Sam was born in October. Then we start to go to Barrow, when we start to go to Barrow by boat, there's empty drums. I thought they were just like milk cans. They were unloading from the boats to shore. That big crane. Moving those cans just like milk cans. It seems to me...I just thinking. They're amazing. I was amazed big job.

Wendy: So were most of your children born in the hospital or born at home? Greta: One is born at home because no room in the Hospital. That was Henry. And Lolly Hopson was born at Itqiuraq. That's only kids was born not in the hospital. But the doctor and the nurse, they came over and helped me, to having a baby in my house. But when we were at Itqiuraq, when Lolly was born in 1940 we were Walter's parents and us. We were up there. Salomi was helping me. That time was flu... almost struck us up there.

Wendy: This was in 1940? Greta: That was in 1939. That was in December, I think. We start to go up to Itqiuraq. Trapping, we got only.... four kids, and the fifth one should be born. Yes, she was born January 4, 1940. That year, Walter got sick. Flu epidemic, anything like that. He's the first one who get sick. And after him, we started. While we were up there. Nothing. Pretty soon we got no food. Our dogs, no dogs pretty soon. Wendy: So you had to eat your dogs? Greta: No, no, no. Wendy: Dogs got sick? Greta: They got no food. They're frozen, they're having a hard time now. No caribou around, but Walter caught how many fox. So we eat them, they're not very fat though, but we eat them. Maybe Fannie tried to tell you guys yesterday. Did she? Wendy: I don't know. Greta: Ai'imna Utik? (Did she, Utik?) Walter: Ii, uqallaktuaq. (Yes, she spoke about it.) Greta: Yes, she mention it, Kiiriq and Fannie was with us. Wendy: Oh, that's right. She did. Greta: She did. And we were..I never forget that. I got a baby, my daughter was born up there, no food. I'm nursing them, both of them Henry and Lolly. Maybe I lose weight that time. We got no food, never eat much. There's some..(unintel.) and Fannie was up there, and they never try to feed us, or something to make broth or anything. I should say, they're different from the people. They never pay attention to other people when they were hungry, when they got no food. That's the way the people do. They're always like that.

Wendy: So Walter's mother helped you with that birth? Greta: Yes. She helped me. And Walter walked from Itqiuraq to Tikiġluk. His grandparents were staying up there. Now he's many days did you walk, two days? One day..after he's resting a little, two days or one day, he's resting. You know my parents were staying at Payugvik that time. Then he start to walk up to them again from Tikiġluk to Payugvik. You know Payugvik? He goes up there, before my brother's married. That was Kenneth. And they start to take us with his dog team. And we start to go to my parents up there. That was in late last part of January or in February. Coldest part of the year. What else? Wendy: I was just thinking about that whole experience. That must have been quite a time. Greta: Yes. But I always tell Walter not to forget all about that we having a hard time without food. Bill: Did anyone die that time? Greta: No. Just really hard. Bill: Your parents came up then, or.. Greta: No, my brother. Walter and Kenneth start to come. Bill: Did they have food down there at Payugvik? Greta: Yes, Payugvik, you know my father always fishing. They got lots of food that time. Wendy: So- then you had a chance to eat and.. Greta: Uh-huh. Bill: How about the people at Tikiġluk? Were they okay that time, or did they run short too? Greta: Maybe they're short too, but they got the fishing under ice that time. Maybe Henry and them were staying down there for Nayukok's place right now. Maybe Elizabeth was a little girl that time. Maybe Henry might tell you a story about it. Bill: So Walter stopped here first and then went down river? Greta: Yeah down there to father's Tuvaaq.

Wendy: ...become old enough so they could start hunting and helping Walter? Greta: Yes, in the springtime maybe, he likes to hunt. Frankie was. He got four hundred ten shotgun and he's helping him a lot by killing ptarmigan. After that, having a hard time that time, that year- Wendy: So this is the year when you all had a hard time, Frankie was able to help you. Greta: No, not yet. Wendy: When? At what point did Frankie do that? Greta: That year, he was born in 1934. And Lollie was born that year we were having hard time. Frankie was six and Florence was little over a year, little bit than Frankie. Wendy: So he began hunting when he was.. Greta: No, he never. Just helping in the household. Wendy: How old was Frankie when he began hunting? Greta: Maybe when he was nine or ten years old, when we... Maybe you can find our little house way up there by Uqpiksuu. We go by boat from Uqpiksuu and go up there by dogs, pulling a boat, up Uqpiksuu River. That's our little house up there. It still stand. We always herd. Frankie was nine or ten years old that time. He start to hunt. Wendy: And was that the year that he killed so many ptarmigan, or was that later? Greta: No, before that. Maybe when he was seven or eight years old and he can hunt caribou when he was nine or ten years old.

Wendy: After most of the children were grown, say by 1950,...where were you and Walter living? Greta: We were at Barrow. I never go anywhere that much. We make a little house that time, at Barrow. From the dump lumber. Bill: Oh, the lumber from the dump? Greta: Yes. As the Navy came in, that was in 1944. Wendy: So you built this house in 1944? Greta: Yes. 1944, 45, somewhere around there. And when he start to work in 1946 when Joe was born, we started having a house instead of dump house. Wendy: Then you had a regular house? Greta: Yes, like regulars right now. It was down there. But it's too old right now, but it's not.. Wendy: Is it still there in Barrow? Greta: Yes, Mary has it. Walter make wills to Mary to having it. Wendy: And did you live in that house until you moved to Atqasuk? Greta: Yes. Wendy: And when did you move to Atqasuk? Greta: That was in 1976, 77.

Wendy: Between 1946 and 1976 or 1977 did you continue to use the Meade River at all? Greta: Yes. Wendy: When would you come? What time of year? Greta: You know, when we were at Uqpiksuu in the summertime, we got the boat, and we come up here to Tikiġluk Fourth of July, in the summertime. That was in 1954, and after that while Walter's parents living up there, Henry and Frankie always visit them. Always visit them. Wendy: So did you come up other years other than 1954? Greta: No, we never Mary was born in 1952. The last baby. Wendy: So you were pretty busy with children and other things. Greta: Yes. Wendy: Well, that's pretty good.

Greta: Maybe in Eskimo. Uvvauna itqagapku Atuqtuaq, Ikpikpamiinnapta. Ikpikpamiinarugut taimani, agnaiyaaguvluakiimma. Suitchuq, no Brower's camp down there. Just, Alaqtaq. Alaqtami. Tommy-tkuitchuq, suitchuq, Uarut-kuitchuq. Ikpikpamiinnapta. Takananili Atuqtuatkut, Pausauratkut, Markukulana taimna tigualuak. Taapkuak tuqtuatkuk. Qairaqtuq, Atuqtuaq isiqattaagiagagigaatigut takannakii three four miles from our camps. Pisuaqhuni anaqami isiqattaagiagaqtuq uqaguliqamikiaq imma. Aapaga uqaqatigisuliqamiu, uyuguuguummivlugu, uyuguliqimmivluni. Mark tavra agnaqatiginivlugu uqautisuugaluagaa, akisuruaq'imna Mark. Uqautiuragniaqtuni. Pisualgunivlugu uqautisuugaluagmigiga qitigusigiallaaguraquvlugu kamatchayuinmiuq. Taapkuak uvva ukulangum tiguuviik Pausauratkuk, Atuqtuaglu. Alaqtami takananikiimma ukiiarut. Ikpikpamili pipkaqhunta. Ukua, taimna aaqyuqtuuguraq Ivaatkut imna aayuqaaik, tiguuviik. Samarualutkuk. Tatpikaniinnaptaimma ilisimarua qavuaainaisa taapkua Samarualutkut. Uvvauvagut aliasuitchurugut samma, nukatpialukkiuvva taamna Iva. Pinaasii nukaalua. inauvvauna. Araa, piiguqtaqua maanna. Kinauna. Piiguqsimammigigaliuvva. Kina. Iglaqhaurayuk'imma. Akaatchiaq. Taamna agnaiyaaqtauq. Tigualusuainnaitkiu wa qanuq'ukuq, naumi. Taamnaliqauna Samarualutkuk paniak Akaatchiaq. Ivaaq aglaan uw a taamna tiguaa Taaatkunninm tavra tatpikani. Immalu aayuqaksraq Qaattauraq. (I started when I remembered Atuquaq, when we were living in Ikpikpak. We lived on the Ikpikpak in those days, when I was a little girl. There was nothing there, no Brower's camp down there, just Atuqtuaq, at Alaqtaq. At Alaqtaq. Tommy and his family were not there, or Carl Ungarook and his family. When we lived up at Ikpikpak. And down there were Atuqtuaq and Pausauraq, Mark Kukulan's adoptive parents. Atuqtuaq and his wife. He would always come to visit us from his camp down there, maybe three or four miles from our camp. He would come to visit by walking to our camp in the evenings, probably when he would feel like talking. When he would want to talk with my father, and always addressing him as his nephew. He would tell Mark that he was his cousin, but Mark was hard to talk to (akisuruaq - lit. expensive). Even as he would be talking to him. He would tell him that he used to walk a long way, that he should come over and have lunch, but Mark never did. Pausauraq and Atuqtuaq were Kukulan's adoptive parents. They wintered down there at Alaqtaq. While we lived on the Ikpikpak. And who was Ivaaq's adoptive parents. Samarualuk and his wife. When we lived up there that time I remember them before they left for the east. We would have lots of fun together. Ivaaq was a young boy then (teen-age). And his younger sister Akaatchiaq. She was Samarualuk's natural daughter. But Ivaaq was their adopted son from Taalak and them. And also an old man, Qangattauraq.)