Maurice Newman was interviewed on April 18, 2002 by Eugene Paul, village chief, and Karen Brewster from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program at Maurice's home in Holy Cross, Alaska. Maurice's sons, Evan and William were also present during the interview. At the end of the interview, Maurice looks through photographs from his personal collection. The photographs add another layer to understanding his life and the history of Holy Cross. View a short segment of film from the 1950s or '60s showing Maurice traveling by dog team and checking his fish trap (from AAF-384, Hot Spot Team, 1955-1965, Doore Collection, Alaska Film Archives, University of Alaska Fairbanks).
Digital Asset Information
Project: Holy Cross Community Project
Date of Interview: Apr 18, 2002
Narrator(s): Maurice Newman
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster, Eugene Paul
People Present: Evan Newman, William Newman
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The audio of Maurice Newman's interview is indiscernible, so it has not been included. Instead, we have provided a detailed summary of the interview below:
Maurice Newman was born in Holy Cross on July 14, 1917. His father, William Newman, was half German and half Eskimo and was from St. Michaels. His mother was Pauline Andrews, the sister of John Andrew's Sr. Maurice attended the Holy Cross Mission school briefly, but soon went to work with his father on a boat owned by George Turner that delivered supplies between Holy Cross, Shageluk, Holikachuk and Anvik. Maurice's father was also a dog driver who delivered mail between Holy Cross and Marshall. Maurice married Irene Anthony in the 1940s. Irene's father was John Anthony who was Yup'ik originally from Scammon Bay. Irene's mother, Mary Anthony, was from the Kuskokwim area. Maurice and Irene had six children: Clara, Johnny, Freda, William, Rudy, and Evan. Irene passed away in December 1998.
When Maurice was a young man, there were few jobs in Holy Cross so he worked away from the village. He worked on commercial fishing boats out of South Naknek and on barges hauling freight on the Yukon and Innoko rivers, and he helped build the Alaska and Richardson Highways and airports around the State. Maurice became the Power Plant operator in Holy Cross in the 1960s, a job that he held for many years. First, Harry Turner had a generator, then AVEC (Alaska Village Electric Cooperative) came and took over power service. Maurice worked for AVEC and earned $200 per month in the early days. Now, his son Evan helps run the village's power plant.
Maurice trapped in the countryside around Holy Cross to help support his family. Mostly, he caught mink, but also beaver. He could earn $50 for one mink. He used his dog team to get to his trapping cabin and then walked to check the trap line. Maurice said that living out on the land and trapping was very hard. He'd be gone for long periods and missed seeing his children. He would trap from October until April. He'd come back with his six dogs carrying a big load. He remembers one time being out when it was sixty degrees below zero. Maurice stopped trapping about ten or twenty years ago, but his son, William, still traps and uses the cabin. Maurice says that in the early days there was hardly any beaver, but lots of mink. Now, everywhere you go there is beaver and there is no more mink. (William adds that he remembers there were lots of mink when he was a boy and now he hardly sees any, not even tracks.)
Maurice also hunted and fished to help feed his family. Every summer, he would go to fish camp. He also sold fish to Harry Clark to make some money. Harry would come by in his Super Cub airplane or with his high boat. Even though he is in his eighties, Maurice still goes to fish camp every summer. He said that he and William fished a lot last year, but hardly got much. He remembers there being lots of king salmon in earlier times.
Maurice's youngest son, Evan, added during the interview his own memories of growing up. He remembers taking the dog team to get logs for building a house. He was a kid in school and remembers going out just on the weekends. Maurice and Irene would go out for longer and the kids would stay in town with their grandparents (the Anthony's, Irene's mother and father). They'd make a raft of the logs and tow it into town. Evan remembers one time when it was snowing and his dad told him it was the last day to get logs. It kept snowing and the river was getting close to freezing up. Once ice grows, you can't go out in the boat. Evan remembers that everyone in the family helped. Maurice's brother, Joe, was a good cabin builder and helped build the cabin.
Maurice also taught his sons how hunt, trap, fish, and to navigate and read the river. Channels and sandbars change all the time, so it is important to know things like little ripples mean there is shallow water. When Maurice was growing up in Holy Cross, the sandbar that is now in front of town was not there; town used to be right along the riverbank.