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Betty Johnson
Betty Johnson

Betty Johnson was interviewed on January 13, 2002 by Karen Brewster and Debbie Turner at the Springhill Suites Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska. Betty lived in Kenai, Alaska in the winter, but returned to Holy Cross every year for subsistence hunting and fishing. In this interview, Betty talks about her memories of childhood in Holy Cross, holiday celebrations, potlatches, Mission activities, trapping, running the store, and the importance of respect. Betty loved the subsistence lifestyle and most of all she discusses many memories she had of traveling on the river, moose hunting, and being out in the country during all the seasons of the year. At the end of the interview, Betty describes photographs from her collection that she had been asked to bring along that she felt represented her life. The photographs add another layer to understanding Betty's life and the history of Holy Cross.

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


1) Her personal and family background.

2) Growing up in Holy Cross.

3) Getting an education at the Holy Cross Mission.

4) Knowing English and her parents' cultural backgrounds.

5) Her mother's talent as a seamstress and beader, learning these skills from her mother, life at summer fishcamp, and changes she's seen with the fish and the river since she was a child.

6) The quality of education received at the Holy Cross Mission, her work and residential history, and her two marriages.

7) The hospital work she did in Anchorage and Mountain Village.

8) Raising a family in Anchorage, Alaska.

9) Enjoying being outside instead of inside sewing.

10) Potlatches and dancing in Holy Cross.

11) Christmas in Holy Cross when she was a child.

12) Other celebrations during the year.

13) Reindeer at Holy Cross.

14) The early days of trading and bartering, and gardening in Holy Cross.

15) Her experiences as a store keeper.

16) Her civic contributions.

17) The hardest thing about her life.

18) Her favorite childhood memory, her grandchildren, what she is most proud of, and disappointments in her life.

19) Raising a family.

20) What Betty thinks is important to pass on to the next generation of the kids today.

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.


Section 1: birthdate\ Holy Cross\ parents\ Demientieff, Eluska\ Demientieff, Frances\ brothers\ Demientieff, Joseph\ Demientieff, Luke\ sisters\ Nerby, Alice\ Demientieff, Mike\ sister -- death|

Section 2: father -- death\ mother -- work\ poor\ sewing\ making a living\ Holy Cross Mission\ Sisters of Saint Anne\ Jesuits\ beadwork\ fur work\ Demientieff, Joseph\ wood -- collecting\ Barn Road\ Wood Camp\ Brother Ryan\ dogteam\ kids -- all worked\ childhood -- nice\ Holy Cross -- happy place|

Section 3: school -- Mission\ home -- living at\ Mission -- living at\ Demientieff, Luke\ Nerby, Alice\ siblings -- ages\ father -- death\ Mission -- education\ reading\ writing\ art\ Mission -- rules\ school -- discipline\ education -- quality of\ college\ Mission -- 8th grade\ education -- missed\ brother -- cared for|

Section 4: language\ English -- speaking \ mother\ father -- four languages\ English\ Russian\ Yupik\ Indian\ St. Michael\ mother -- arrival in Holy Cross\ Bettles\ steamboat\ Nulato\ mother -- marriage\ Kuskokwim River\ Kamakovsky\ Chuathbaluk\ Russians -- fort\ Holy Cross -- Indian town across river\ Jesuits\ Ghost Creek\ flood\ Holy Cross -- Indians moved to|

Section 5: Mission\ sewing\ clothing\ Holy Cross\ beading -- learning\ chores\ clothes -- washing\ clothes -- drying\ clothes -- mending\ clothes -- ironing\ sewing -- calfskin\ work -- always\ water -- packing\ dogs\ Yukon River\ mother -- learning from\ mother -- perfectionist\ sewing -- technique\ sewing -- ripping out\ work -- outdoors\ dogteam\ dogs -- skiing with\ dogs -- care of\ fishcamp\ game warden\ dogcare -- job\ summer -- fishing\ fish -- cutting\ salmon -- preparation\ dog salmon\ fishwheel\ Alaska State Department of Fish and Game\ dogs -- feeding\ fish -- changes\ fishing -- regulations\ Bethel\ fish -- glowing\ fish -- sick\ river -- changes\ fish -- not coming back|

Section 6: education -- quality of\ Mission -- school\ Holy Cross\ Mission school -- closed\ Athabascan\ Yupik\ Mission -- mixed races\ Anchorage\ Mission staff -- mixed nationalities\ equality -- learned\ races -- no differences\ Holy Cross -- left\ Mountain Village\ employment\ Bethel\ hospital -- cook\ marriage\ Michigan\ construction\ McGrath\ children -- number of\ Glennallen\ Richardson Highway\ lodge\ homesteading\ Kenai Peninsula\ Daniel's Lake\ Norman, Leonard\ husband -- death\ Johnson, Jim\ Walkersham Motor Company\ hunting -- moose\ Holy Cross -- visiting\ Demientieff, Joe\ Demientieff, Luke\ Bethel\ store -- need for\ store -- Holy Cross\ supplies -- barged in\ land -- ownership\ Turner, Frank\ City Council\ Reindeer Lake\ cabin\ Alzheimer's Disease -- husband\ Holy Cross -- duplex\ teachers -- living quarters|

Section 7: jobs\ Alaska Native Hospital\ Anchorage\ laboratory\ work -- media preparation\ hospital work -- enjoyed\ Bethel\ Mountain Village\ Superintendent -- woman\ work -- house cleaner\ wages\ job -- first one\ money -- sent home\ prices -- cheap\ nurse -- wanted to be\ education -- lack of\ doctor\ hospital -- cook\ surgery -- assisted\ Dr. Levine\ Brooklyn, New York\ nurse -- training\ mother -- prevented|

Section 8: Anchorage\ beading\ sewing\ work -- hospital\ husband\ work -- heavy duty operator\ summer\ winter -- work\ children -- names\ children -- death of\ grandchildren -- number of\ great-grandchildren -- number of\ Big Lake\ Kenai\ grandchildren -- visit Holy Cross|

Section 9: rabbits -- snaring\ transportation -- across Yukon\ dogteam\ snare -- building\ snare -- pole\ snare -- setting\ snaring -- materials\ rabbits -- food|

Section 10: Holy Cross\ potlatches\ roles -- men and women\ Paul, John\ Innoko River\ slough\ kashim\ potlatch -- first one\ Holikachuk\ Shageluk\ Anvik\ scared\ doorway -- bearskin\ hallway -- caribou hide\ kerosene lamps -- use of\ benches\ dancing -- women\ gift giving\ fabric\ food -- piled in middle\ potlatch -- Nulato\ potlatch -- Holy Cross\ Holy Cross Mission\ potlatch -- in homes\ partner -- gift-giving\ singing\ drumming\ village -- greeting ceremony\ potlatch -- changes\ elders day -- Holy Cross\ Crane Dance\ rabbit\ dance -- teaching\ tradition -- Holy Cross\ fiddle -- playing\ guitar -- playing\ Demientieff, Henry\ Crosby, Bing\ music -- learning\ singing -- mother|

Section 11: Christmas\ Holy Cross\ childhood\ Christmas -- preparations\ mother -- preparations\ clothes -- new\ shoes\ socks -- knitted\ pies\ cakes\ stairway\ Christmas tree -- candle\ light -- short time\ Midnight Mass\ fire hazard\ church -- attending services\ home\ goodies\ house to house -- eat\ stayed up late\ Holy Cross Mission -- events\ Christmas\ New Year's\ games\ outdoor fun\ fun time\ people -- other villages\ Paimiut\ Christmas -- big celebration\ toys -- lack of\ Christmas -- church\ Christ\ Holy Cross Mission -- theater\ stage -- big\ Christmas -- plays\ songs\ painting -- canvas\ painting -- birch trees\ movie -- simulation|

Section 12: Easter\ Holy Week\ Stations of the Cross\ Holy Thursday\ 4th of July\ fish camp\ work -- four seasons\ winter\ fall\ summer\ spring\ berrypicking\ berries -- blueberries\ berries -- red berries\ berries -- mockberries\ berries -- preservation\ food -- storage\ berries -- raspberries\ berries -- salmonberries\ berries -- cranberries\ fish\ food -- jar\ geese\ ducks\ food -- pressure cook\ season -- preparation\ wood -- cutting\ work -- always\ mischief -- lack of\ subsistence -- seasonal round\ trapping -- beaver\ Flat\ mink\ otter\ weasel\ wolf -- numbers of\ moose\ caribou\ food -- meat\ reindeer -- roundup\ herd -- fenced\ Holy Cross\ Kalskag\ Holy Cross Mission -- reindeer herd|

Section 13: reindeer\ reindeer -- getting\ brothers\ reindeer -- number of\ food -- fish\ food -- year's supply\ food -- rabbits\ moose -- lack of\ reindeer -- purchase\ wolves \ reindeer -- decrease\ reindeer -- ownership\ Demientieff, Joe\ reindeer -- price of|

Section 14: trade\ Holy Cross Mission\ store -- Gayheart\ food -- staples\ food -- frozen\ food -- canned\ flour\ sugar\ tea\ gardens -- vegetables\ garden -- Holy Cross Mission\ boat -- steamships\ supply villages\ potatoes\ greenhouses\ cucumbers\ tomatoes\ strawberries\ garden -- at home\ school -- student|

Section 15: Kenai\ Peninsula Builders\ lumber\ electrical supplies\ plumbing\ food -- animals\ housewares\ work -- enjoyed\ knowledge\ homesteaders -- Kenai\ electricity -- lack of\ homesteaders -- needs\ supplies -- ordering\ store -- building\ Johnson, Jim -- husband\ electrician\ plumber\ carpenter\ work -- lots of\ soft drink cases -- too heavy\ groceries -- buying trip\ store -- sold\ store -- running\ store business -- enjoyed\ boss -- Kenai\ Betty -- good salesperson|

Section 16: Iditarod School Board\ Johnson, Jim\ community involvement\ city council\ physical presence\ school -- donations\ school -- raffle\ store -- name of\ Johnson's Store|

Section 17: children -- death of\ husbands -- loss of\ relatives -- losing\ life -- best part of\ children -- enjoyed raising\ children -- stayed home with\ job -- being a mother\ son -- Joey\ children -- first time left\ hunting\ Kenai Peninsula\ cousin -- Mike\ airplane\ children -- not missed her\ death -- never knowing\ death\ mother\ brother Joe\ daughter Donna\ son Joey\ old age\ luck|

Section 18: possessions -- few\ village -- small\ things to do -- few\ movies -- school\ entertainment -- created own\ childhood -- good\ story -- favorite\ Holy Cross\ Onika -- granddaughter\ nest -- eagle\ Kenai\ airplane\ airplane song\ grandchildren -- enjoy\ grandchildern -- smart\ life -- proud of\ work -- all life\ Johnson, Jim -- hard worker\ regrets -- none\ boss -- difficulties with\ Mr. Swanson\ life -- disappointment\ husband -- death of\ children -- raising alone\ children -- worked\ disappointment -- death of children\ daughter Donna\ son Joey|

Section 19: husband -- French\ strict\ discipline\ whipping -- belt\ mom -- never spanked kids\ chores -- after school\ daughter -- Carol\ school bus -- misbehaving\ whipping -- last time\ Norman, Donna\ Norman, Carol\ pillows -- protection with\ children -- raising alone\ son -- Joey\ car -- Bucko\ work -- after school \ work -- grocery store\ job -- mechanic\ job -- operator\ job -- crane \ North Slope\ ice road -- construction\ cancer\ education -- use of|

Section 20: work -- lack of\ computers\ parents -- too lenient\ values\ religion -- importance of\ school -- prayer in\ Holy Cross -- outdoor kids\ respect -- need for|