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Luke and Alice Demientieff, Part 1
Luke and Alice Demientieff

Luke and Alice Demientieff were interviewed on April 17, 2002 by their granddaughter Tess Paul, her husband Eugene Paul who is the village chief, and Karen Brewster from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program at the Demientieff's home in Holy Cross, Alaska. In this first part of a two part interview, Luke and Alice talk about their lives, his work in construction and as a carpenter, attending the Mission school, raising a family, running a business, their extensive subsistence fishing, trapping, and hunting, and spending time at their Reindeer Lake cabin. Luke discusses what you need to know to survive out in the country at different times of year, and tells many stories about his travels and adventures. Alice talks about going to school at the Holy Cross Mission, learning to knit and sew, and what daily life was like at the Mission. She also discusses traveling with Luke on the trapline and for other hunting and fishing, traditional subsistence activities and food preparation, raising a family, and gardening. At the end of the interview, Luke and Alice describe photographs that they selected from their personal collection which they felt represented their lives. The photographs add another layer to understanding Luke and Alice's lives and the history of Holy Cross.

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


1) Their personal and family backgrounds.

2) Their childhoods and what they learned at the Holy Cross Mission.

3) Subsistence as the main factor of life, and girl's and boy's activities at the Mission.

4) Mentors and teachers who they learned skills from.

5) The type of education they received from the Holy Cross Mission.

6) Luke learning to trap from elders.

7) How education is different today than when they were young

8) How Luke and Alice met, and getting married.

9) Raising a large family.

10) Type of values they taught their children.

11) Providing for their family.

12) Luke's most memorable experience while hunting.

13) Alice's most memorable experience when trapping.

14) Surviving in the wilderness, and changes seen in the snow conditions.

15) Being prepared when you are on your own in the wilderness.

16) Survival items that are important to take with you in the wilderness.

17) Dressing warmly for traveling in the wilderness.

18) Types of transportation used for hunting and trapping.

19) The longest period of time Luke and Alice stayed out together.

20) Homesteading on Reindeer Lake and changes they've seen in the animal populations.

21) Luke building a canoe.

22) Incidents with animals at their Reindeer Lake cabin.

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: Demientieff, Luke -- born\ Demientieff, Alice -- born\ Dillingham\ Nushagak River\ parents -- Alice\ Withrow, Al\ Bidlusca, Molly\ mother -- TB\ Holy Cross Mission -- sent to\ Catholic Mission Orphanage\ Holy Cross -- arrival in\ orphanage -- remained until married\ Luke -- Holy Cross Mission\ Bethel -- moved to\ Holy Cross -- returned to\ Holy Cross -- yearly hunting trips to\ father -- Luke\ father -- death\ carpenter\ sleds -- mail carrier\ mail delivery\ dog team\ Holy Cross\ Flat\ Anvik\ priests -- transport\ Yukon River\ Akulurak\ Catholic Mission\ travel -- dogteam\ Flat -- travel to\ spruce chickens -- sell\ mother -- Grace\ children -- raised alone\ Holy Cross Mission\ jobs\ wood -- cutting\ sternwheeler\ barge -- longshoreman\ wages\ work -- hard\ trip -- 48 hours without sleep\ oil barrels -- rolling|

Section 2: Luke's siblings -- number of\ Holy Cross Mission -- year round\ school\ gardening\ wood -- cutting\ Holy Cross Mission -- life at\ knitting\ sewing\ socks -- knitting\ clothes -- making\ knitting -- good pastime\ clean\ wash clothes\ fish -- cutting\ garden -- weeding \ bug spray -- lack of\ way of life\ work -- hard\ church -- daily attendance\ respect -- learned|

Section 3: elders -- learning from\ survival skills -- importance of\ woods\ Holy Cross Mission -- garden\ harvest -- fall\ vegetables -- storage of\ cellar\ bins\ cabbage\ turnips\ carrots\ potatoes\ winter -- fresh vegetables\ berry picking\ Albert Mountain\ Sharp Mountain\ Berry Mountain\ blueberries\ red berries\ blackberries\ boat -- travel by\ berry picker -- champion\ skills -- learned\ trapping\ carpentry\ boat building\ Bethel -- government buildings\ finish carpenter\ contracting\ construction -- knowledge of\ Holy Cross Mission -- manual training\ woodworking\ beds -- built\ tools -- learned to use\ square\ hand saw\ cutting -- straight line\ hand drill|

Section 4: elders\ trapping -- learning\ lifestyle\ deadfall trap -- bear\ hunting\ snowshoe\ travel -- long distance\ Holy Cross Mission -- nuns\ French\ German\ sewing -- learning\ Bethel\ business -- sewing\ cooking -- learning\ cooking -- large quantities\ skills -- learned|

Section 5: schooling -- winter\ September, May\ 8th grade\ no high school\ too young to leave\ no family\ orphans\ book work\ donations\ clothes\ quilts\ blankets\ girl blouse\ short sleeves\ red dress -- blue sleeves\ experience from others\ building boat -- ask elders\ travel\ everybody worked together|

Section 6: trapping -- learning\ brother -- older\ Edwards, Evan\ survival -- on trail\ dog team\ trapping -- beaver\ beaver -- season\ living off the land|

Section 7: education -- changes\ education -- importance of\ education -- necessity of\ elder\ teaching -- experiences|

Section 8: skating rink\ Holy Cross Mission\ Mission rules\ Sunday afternoons\ visiting -- permission\ visiting -- chaparoned\ Sisters\ Mission way\ wedding\ wedding -- Alice's 18th birthday\ Holy Cross\ wedding -- Saturday\ dance -- postponed\ church\ Saturday night -- no events\ wedding -- ceremony\ Father McIntyre\ rain\ wedding -- attendance\ Mission girls\ wedding cake\ wedding dinner\ mother -- Luke's\ children -- number of\ Demientieff, Dean\ Demientieff, Leonard\ Demientieff, Joyce\ Demientieff, Ronnie\ Demientieff, Wanda\ Demientieff, Pearl\ Demientieff, Luke Jr. (Munsee)\ Demientieff, Dwayne|

Section 9: work\ family\ survival\ income -- bringing in\ Bethel\ construction\ food stamps\ aid\ family -- supporting\ marriage -- early years\ trapping\ working\ Takotna Mountain\ Headoff Engineers\ Alaska Airlines\ McGrath\ Holy Cross|

Section 10: values -- subsistence\ skills -- teaching\ hunting\ fishing\ carpentry\ education\ cooking\ Holy Cross Mission\ cooking -- family size\ clothes -- wash\ clean\ sew\ boys -- learn to cook and clean\ knowledge|

Section 11: subsistence\ hunting -- muskrat\ hunting -- spring\ lifestyle\ family -- stay in village\ hunting -- fall\ hunting -- moose\ store -- lack of supplies\ lard\ hunting -- bear\ fat -- rendering\ hunting -- experiences\ trapping\ refrigerator\ freezer\ meat -- storage\ bottle -- meat\ berries -- storage\ moose -- fat\ fat -- cooking\ food preservation -- canning\ mason jar\ spruce chickens\ rabbits\ cache\ food -- variety|

Section 12: 14 years old\ trapping -- beaver\ trapping -- spring\ dogteam\ Demientieff, Joe\ Edwards, Evan\ snow -- lots of\ Dikeman\ travel -- difficulties\ weather -- warm \ Iditarod River\ water -- excess\ river -- crossing\ swim\ river -- height of water\ river -- swimming\ brother\ fire -- lack of\ creek -- crossing\ wet -- all day\ river -- unable to cross\ travel -- detour\ hills\ rivers\ Shageluk\ Little Yetna\ Big Yetna\ travel -- time\ food -- lack of\ dogs\ food -- saved\ salmon -- skin\ fishskin -- boiled\ broth\ strength to continue\ sleep -- under trees\ people -- fed us\ fish -- dried\ crackers\ bread -- dried\ eating -- falling asleep\ dogteam\ travel -- middle of river\ ice\ lakes -- edges unfrozen\ lakes -- swim to ice|

Section 13: trapping\ travel -- snowmachine\ December\ marten\ breaking trail\ sled\ supplies\ tobaggon\ food\ temperature\ travel -- hard\ snow -- lot of\ hills\ snowing\ fog\ visibility -- poor\ darkness\ fire\ hatchet\ trees -- Jackpine\ snowmachine -- stuck\ getting tired\ cabin -- looking for\ camp\ sleeping bag -- lack of\ fire\ temperature -- cold\ coffee can\ chai can\ hot water\ meal\ staying warm\ Tang\ walking around\ daylight\ frost\ sitting -- spruce boughs\ boots -- bear skin\ boots -- sat on\ feet -- sweating\ socks -- dried\ cabin -- location\ temperature -- 64 degrees below zero\ young days|

Section 14: survival\ knowing what to do\ having what you need\ chai can\ snow -- melting\ food\ cold\ shivering\ walking\ hypothermia\ snow -- lots of\ travel -- difficulties\ cabin\ Big Creek\ tent\ camp overnight\ snow -- removed\ tent -- frozen\ stove\ snow -- changes in quantity\ breaking trail\ snowmachine\ snow -- not packed|

Section 15: survival\ travel -- alone\ VHF radios -- lack of\ living off the land -- methods of\ VHF radios -- use of\ Search and Rescue\ knowing what to do\ helping yourself\ problem solving\ knowing what to bring\ being prepared\ drinking water\ snow -- melt|

Section 16: survival\ food\ fish -- dried\ crackers\ food -- eat frozen\ food -- traveling\ eating -- importance of\ Thermos\ fire|

Section 17: clothing -- warm\ clothing -- layers\ tee-shirt\ sweatshirt\ jacket\ parkie\ movement -- able to\ mittens\ socks\ clothes -- breathe\ sweat -- prevent\ boots -- Sorels\ mukluks -- calfskin\ mukluks -- wolfskin\ socks -- home-knitted\ parkie -- down\ down -- goose\ ruff -- wolf\ raw materials -- use of animals\ leggings -- bear\ trapping -- beaver\ hands -- keeping warm\ bear fur -- warm|

Section 18: dogteam\ snowshoes\ snowshoes -- importance of\ snowmachine\ supplies\ equipment\ food\ extra parts\ knowing your machine\ knowing what to bring|

Section 19: days\ storm\ trips -- week-long\ snow -- lots of\ hills\ snow drifts\ visibility -- white-out\ snowmachine\ getting stuck\ travel -- time\ cabin\ Holy Cross\ trip -- most challenging\ getting tired\ snowshoes\ walking|

Section 20: telephones -- lack of\ television -- lack of\ Reindeer Lake\ berrypicking\ hunting -- bear\ hunting -- moose\ fish -- pike\ Indian ice cream\ way of life\ camping\ Bethel\ cabin\ berries -- different\ game -- availability\ traffic -- increase\ bear -- lack of\ moose -- changes in\ fish -- low numbers\ land claims\ cabin -- built\ birds -- spring\ swans\ geese\ ducks\ birds -- changes in\ boat\ birds -- change flight pattern\ hunting spots -- ruined\ changes\ fall\ snowmachine\ Railroad City\ Innoko Slough\ river -- crossing\ Holy Cross\ snowmachine -- not start\ walk\ Reindeer Lake\ son -- Chum\ Qutchak?\ getting help\ trail -- distance\ rescued\ freeze-up\ spring camping -- preparation\ transportation\ canoe\ boat\ food\ hunting -- game\ duck -- golden eye\ nest in trees\ bird houses\ eggs -- using\ egg yoke\ chicken eggs\ fishing -- seining\ fishing -- net\ fish -- whitefish\ Innoko River\ salmon -- dried\ fun\ beach -- slanted\ fish -- taking out of net|

Section 21: canoe -- building\ store\ canvas\ nails -- shingle\ paint\ spring camp\ canoe frame -- making\ tree -- spruce\ tree -- straight-grained\ tree -- no knots\ wood -- split\ outside -- use for ribs\ wood pieces -- preservation\ water\ length -- rest of tree\ trapping -- muskrats\ brother|

Section 22: lake -- good times\ enjoyable\ quiet\ peaceful\ bear\ deck\ porcupine\ bear -- steamhouse\ bear -- scared\ bear -- don't shoot\ moose\ ducks\ bird houses\ nests\ eggs -- hatching\ young -- learning to fly\ ducks -- friendly\ nest -- hollow tree\ wood duck\ duck -- golden eye\ birds\ chickadees\ junko\ birds -- tundra\ hawks\ eagles\ fight in air\ hawk\ marten\ hawk -- feathers\ bears -- fighting off\ spring\ Innoko River\ bear -- cubs\ travel -- boat\ tree -- climbing\ bear -- mother \ bear -- shooting\ cub -- catching\ cub -- fighting with\ burlap sack\ cub -- strength of\ lesson learned\ young days\ youth -- strength\ moving oil barrels|