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Mary H. Demientieff, Part 2
Mary Demientieff

This is a continuation of the interview with Mary H. Demientieff 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 second part of a two part interview, Mary continues to talk about living at the Holy Cross Mission and important skill she learned there. She also talks about the subsistence lifestyle of going out to fall and spring camp, trapping, tanning hides, and selling the furs. At the end of the interview, Mary describes photographs from her collection that she felt represented her life.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2002-10-06_PT.2

Project: Holy Cross Community Project
Date of Interview: Apr 25, 2003
Narrator(s): Mary H. Demientieff
Interviewer(s): Carol Atkins, Debbie Turner, Karen Brewster
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) Life at the Holy Cross Mission during World War II.

2) Learning beading and painting from her friends at the Mission.

3) Memories of her mother visiting her at the Mission, and one time when she arrived with a man for Mary to marry.

4) Getting caught in snow at fall camp, and her step-sisters and brother from her mother's second marriage.

5) Working in the laundry at the Mission.

6) Changes in Holy Cross after the Mission closed down, and the construction of the new church.

7) Learning beading and sewing from her mother-in-law, ways of tanning moose and marten hides, sewing work during the Mission days, and her thankfulness for her time at the Mission and all that she learned there.

8) How she learned to play piano and harmonica, and her dreams about going to spring camp.

9) The story of the robin that she told to her grandchildren that teaches a moral about not lying.

10) Scariest moment in her life, and how it is taboo to be proud in Athabascan culture.

11) Memories of fall camp, and differences between traveling with a dog team and a snowmachine.

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: war -- WWII\ blackouts\ trenches -- digging\ trenches -- playing in\ Holy Cross\ Brother Hess\ Germany\ prayer\ novena|

Section 2: Holy Cross Mission\ children -- number of\ children -- numbered\ dormitory -- levels\ children -- initials\ education\ skills -- learning\ beading\ painting\ art work\ Anchorage\ art -- learning\ teacher\ artist\ memories\ Montreal, Canada\ artwork -- making\ benefactors\ faces -- making\ ?, Lily\ orphans\ parents -- never see again|

Section 3: mother -- seeing\ ?, Dominique\ river\ fall\ trade\ barge\ marriage\ Pitka, Edward\ Demientieff, Joe\ friends\ mother -- visit\ mother -- death\ mother -- funeral\ hardship|

Section 4: boat\ fall\ snow\ fish camp -- leaving\ Demientieff, Connie\ nail polish\ ?, Mary Rose\ step-sisters\ mother -- marriage\ ?, Albert\ ?, Edith\ language -- Native\ language -- teaching\ university\ wisdom\ inheritance\ compassion\ mother -- seeing|

Section 5: Holy Cross Mission\ laundry\ job\ St. Mary's High School\ equipment -- washer\ equipment -- extractor\ generator\ wood\ clothes -- drying\ clothes -- ironing\ iron -- Mangler\ laundry -- process\ handkerchiefs -- number on\ socks -- washing\ tub -- wooden\ napkins -- menstrual\ napkins -- number on\ job -- enjoyed\ work -- in charge\ night gown -- sleeping\ nightgown -- bathing\ bathing\ bathing -- basin|

Section 6: Holy Cross Mission\ Holy Cross\ Mission -- control\ changes\ village -- self-control\ village -- council\ education -- importance of\ speaking up -- importance of\ church -- new\ church -- building\ church -- date\ church -- location\ school -- location\ church -- landmark\ building -- hand\ craftsmanship\ sawmill\ carvings\ church -- loss of\ fish camp -- moved to\ leadership|

Section 7: mother-in-law\ beading -- learning\ dolls\ work\ teacher\ beading -- not for sale\ cross -- beaded\ Demientieff, Candy\ cape -- beaded\ beading -- fun\ beading -- materials\ moose -- skin\ moose skin -- price of\ moose skin -- tanning\ sister -- Solomon, Madelene\ Galena\ tanning -- traditional\ tanning -- beaver\ tanning -- marten\ tanning -- mink\ hats -- fur\ tanning -- contemporary\ tanning -- washing machine\ moose -- sinew\ Mission -- sewing\ skin -- toughness\ work -- in silence\ Mission -- knitting\ stockings\ work -- wages\ yarn\ Mission -- schedule\ Mission -- bells\ cross stitching\ darning\ sewing -- mukluk\ work -- amount of\ geese -- plucking\ Mission -- family\ fishing -- ling cod (lush)\ winter\ hunting -- rabbits\ work -- cooking\ work -- used to large amounts\ Mission -- good memories\ thankful\ family -- raising\ discipline -- strict\ holding -- lack of\ tears|

Section 8: music -- learning\ music -- practice\ musical instrument -- piano\ musical instrument -- harmonica\ song -- sad\ song -- plays song on harmonica\ Mission -- friends\ harmony\ Mission -- connections\ diversity\ Athabascan\ coastal people\ ?, Katherine\ ?, Florence\ ?, Minnie\ Mission -- life after\ marriage\ mother-in-law -- live with\ Father Macintyre\ house -- first\ house -- drift logs\ Demientieff, Connie\ house -- lean-to\ sewing\ spring camp -- never gone\ fall camp\ sister-in-law -- Johnson, Betty\ houses\ spring camp -- try\ work\ husband -- illness\ spring camp -- lifestyle\ muskrats -- lack of\ spring camp -- change in\ mink -- lack of\ fur -- price decline\ survival\ water\ ice -- melting\ spring camp -- dreams\ isolation -- lack of\ airplanes\ radio\ telephone|

Section 9: grandchildren\ story\ bird -- robin\ Bethel\ storytelling\ trade -- fur\ canoe\ bird -- song\ bird -- lesson\ lying\ canoe -- burn\ moral\ Yupik|

Section 10: scary\ people -- missing\ search and rescue\ pride\ education -- children\ taboo\ luck -- bad\ bragging -- forbidden\ thankful\ God\ children -- raising\ hardship\ trust|

Section 11: fall camp\ husband -- Demientieff, Joe\ baby -- first\ fear -- lack of\ travel -- dog team\ snowmachine -- first\ trapping\ fur -- sale of\ Turner, George\ Turner, Harry\ ?, Goldberg\ Seattle\ travel -- differences\ travel -- quiet\ dog team -- not break down\ tree -- run into\ dogs -- number of\ dogs -- care of\ learning|