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Mary H. Demientieff, Part 1
Mary Demientieff

Mary H. Demientieff was interviewed on April 25, 2003 by her daughter, Carol Atkins, Debbie Turner from the Holy Cross Tribal Council, and Karen Brewster from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program at Mary's apartment in Bethel, Alaska. Mary had recently moved from Holy Cross to be near her family in Bethel and to be closer to better health care facilities. In this first part of a two part interview, Mary talks about about life at the Holy Cross Mission, the importance of religion in her life, and the other valuable lessons and life skills she learned there. She also talks about marrying her husband, Joe Demientieff and raising a large family together. She discusses subsistence hunting, trapping and fishing on the Yukon River, and shares her love of spending time at fish camp with her children and grandchildren. Mary also enjoys playing music, so during part of the interview she demonstrated her talents by singing and playing the guitar and keyboard. At the end of the interview, Mary describes photographs from her personal collection that she felt represented her life. She and Carol had selected some snapshots from her photo albums before the interview, and others were framed and hanging on the walls of her home. The photographs add another layer to understanding Mary's life and the history of Holy Cross.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2002-10-06_PT.1

Project: Holy Cross Community Project
Date of Interview: Apr 25, 2003
Narrator(s): Mary H. Demientieff
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster, Debbie Turner, Carol Atkins
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Holy Cross Tribal Council
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

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


1) Her personal and family background.

2) Fondest childhood memory.

3) Going to school at Holy Cross Mission in 1942.

4) Knowing the Athabascan language when she was small, and her life at the Holy Cross Mission.

5) Learning life skills at the Mission school, getting married, and her new life after finishing the Mission school.

6) Life at fall camp, and a fire that burned down their trapline tent.

7) The value of raising children.

8) Losing all their belongings in a fire on their boat.

9) Teamwork of raising children, and sending her children away to high school.

10) Life at fish camp as a family.

11) The joy of life at fish camp working hard together as a family.

12) Berry picking at Reindeer Lake and changes in raising children today.

13) Winter activities, and her job as cook for thirty years at Holy Cross School.

14) Moose hunting.

15) Having children as the greatest joy in her life.

16) Her favorite nuns at the Mission, and holiday celebrations at the Mission.

17) The most important things in her life, and the value of education.

18) Different types of work she has done, and reflecting on what she does in her life today.

19) Playing music at fish camp, and plays the guitar and sings a song.

20) Paying her children's school tuition with potatoes, and growing vegetables and flowers in the garden for her family.

21) Doing chores at the Mission, and taking care of the smaller children.

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\ Nulato\ parents\ father -- Dahlquist, Bill\ mother -- Dahlquist, Pauline\ father -- job\ jail\ Nulato\ mother -- compassion|

Section 2: Holy Cross Mission\ childhood\ memories\ mother\ dog sled\ Nulato\ spring camp\ hunting -- muskrat\ hunting -- duck\ Halfway, Mrs. George\ Mountain, Charlie and Mary\ Mountain, Margaret\ camp life\ food -- Eagle Brand Milk\ hunting -- canoe\ skinning -- muskrat\ food -- muskrat\ food -- taboo\ gathering -- duck eggs\ Yukon River -- break up|

Section 3: Nulato\ boat\ father -- death\ mother -- illness\ Father McElmeel\ Father Baud\ Holy Cross Mission\ Mission -- arrived at\ steamboat\ Nenana\ Mission -- first impression\ religion|

Section 4: language -- Athabascan\ mother -- Athabascan\ Mission -- loss of language\ identity -- Athabascan\ culture -- Athabascan\ stick dance\ Kaltag\ mother -- tough\ Mission -- life at\ Mission -- bells\ Mission -- schedule\ mother -- missed\ mother -- 3rd marriage\ Stickman, Fred\ parents\ marriage\ father -- Stockholm\ mother -- Wiseman\ sister -- Solomon, Madeline\ brother -- McCarty, Bill|

Section 5: Holy Cross Mission\ school -- grade level\ home economics\ work -- infirmary\ Edward, Sister Mary\ job -- kitchen\ skills -- learning\ cooking\ sewing\ childcare\ nurse\ education -- continuing\ Wasillie, Bertha\ Palmer\ marriage\ Demientieff , Joe\ courting\ wedding\ fall camp\ life -- change in\ loneliness\ Mission -- missed\ cabin -- construction\ praying\ cabin -- roof\ Shageluk\ Simon, John\ work -- hard\ work --value of|

Section 6: fall camp\ freeze-up\ dogs\ trapping -- mink\ trapping -- otter\ sled\ trap line\ fur -- price\ tent\ fire\ belongings -- saved\ Holy Cross|

Section 7: children -- number of\ son -- death\ grandchildren -- number of\ great-grandchildren -- number of\ family -- value of\ pride\ raising children -- proud of\ prayer\ discipline\ children -- boys\ children -- girls\ Edward, Sister Mary\ child -- sick\ blessing\ priest -- drowned\ Bethel\ Brother Fox\ child -- loss of\ Turner, Frank\ search\ lake\ Walker, Mary\ Demientieff, Corriene|

Section 8: boat\ fire\ fish camp\ river -- break up\ water -- high\ belongings -- loss of\ family -- raising\ food stamps\ prayer\ family -- value of|

Section 9: children -- raising\ family\ teamwork\ children -- help of\ chores\ children -- focus on\ job -- lack of\ babysitter -- lack of\ play\ prayer\ mother-in-law -- mentor\ beading -- learning\ sewing -- learning\ school -- children\ St. Mary's High School\ garden\ tuition -- potatoes\ tuition -- moose meat\ tuition -- dolls|

Section 10: fish camp\ family\ boat -- kicker boat\ mother-in-law\ skills -- learning\ fish -- putting away\ beading\ trapping -- fox\ trapping -- mink\ camp life\ memories\ marriage\ babies -- caring for\ diapers\ diapers -- Pampers\ Demientieff, Dean\ diapers -- cloth\ safety pin|

Section 11: fish camp -- travel to\ river -- break up\ joy\ children\ family\ work -- hard \fish -- wheel\ fishing -- nets\ education -- children\ chores\ fish camp -- leaving\ fish -- cutting\ mother-in-law\ discipline\ Mission\ spirituality|

Section 12: fall\ berry picking\ families\ Reindeer Lake\ camp\ Demientieff, Rudy\ fishing -- nets\ food -- fish\ food -- pancakes\ work -- hard\ life -- changes in\ children -- raising\ distraction -- lack of\ chores\ life -- simple\ stuff -- too much\ Christmas\ gifts -- doll\ money -- lack of\ Fernival, Ida\ clothing -- boxes of|

Section 13: winter\ children -- school\ sewing\ trapping\ job -- cook\ job -- length of\ retirement\ health|

Section 14: fall\ hunting -- moose\ moose -- number of\ meat -- jarring\ food preservation -- changes in\ meat -- hanging outside\ hunting -- beaver\ meat -- preservation\ food -- soup\ moose -- shooting\ ?, Jeanie\ Montana\ camp\ moose -- husband's last\ Modiak cabin\ husband -- sick\ husband -- relationship|

Section 15: joy\ babies\ memory\ baby -- delivery\ flood\ Fox, Father John\ birthday present -- baby\ Baptiste, Priest John\ Demientieff, John\ Mission -- house\ lights -- kept on\ Brother Fox\ Mrs. Anthony\ baby delivery -- locations\ Demientieff, Jareth\ baby delivery -- homebirth\ birth -- assistance\ mid-wife\ birthing -- position\ mother-in-law\ Demientieff, Corriene\ cry -- joy\ birth -- problems\ Mission -- volunteers\ Stieslenger, Sister Dorothy|

Section 16: Holy Cross Mission\ nuns\ Edward, Sister Mary\ infirmary\ Sedonia, Sister Mary\ garden\ work -- hard\ vegetables -- sale of\ kitchen\ Ida, Sister Mary\ Catherine, Sister\ Victoria\ Mission -- ran away from\ village\ Mrs. Sims\ Eskimo ice cream\ berries -- mouse berries\ Sims, John and Elsie\ punishment\ Sister Joanne\ hair -- cutting\ insult\ Golden Jubilee\ Anchorage\ Edmonds, Sister George\ Joanne, Sister Mary\ reunion\ discipline\ punishment -- writing lines\ Mission -- happiest time\ memory\ Lent -- day before\ money -- paper\ carnival\ gifts\ feast -- pancakes\ games\ Christmas -- sad\ holiday -- favorite\ Easter\ life -- quality of|

Section 17: children -- importance of\ family -- spending time with\ fish camp\ youth -- advice to\ education -- value of\ school\ life -- changes in\ technology\ prayer|

Section 18: retirement\ job -- cook\ volunteer -- church\ funerals\ church -- leader\ grandchild -- Robin\ grandchild -- raising\ GED -- value of\ beading\ walking\ Bethel\ health\ prayer\ decision\ advice\ fish camp\ Yukon River -- break up\ salmon -- king salmon\ fish camp -- emotional attachment|

Section 19: fish camp\ Demientieff, Mike and Daisy\ music -- playing\ fish camp -- visitor\ guitar\ Demientieff, Connie\ singing\ violin|

Section 20: garden -- potatoes\ tuition\ school -- St. Mary's High School\ fish camp\ garden -- cabbages\ soil\ family\ grandson -- Demientieff, Clinton\ garden -- flowers\ pride|

Section 21: Holy Cross Mission -- chores\ chores -- schedule\ chores -- sweeping stairs\ chores -- kitchen\ chores -- washing dishes\ chores -- emptying honey buckets\ work -- infirmary\ Edward, Sister Mary\ patients\ work -- church\ job -- favorite\ work -- childcare\ babies -- memories\ Anvik|