Joshua Acurunaq was interviewed on July 1, 1988 by Robert Drozda and Vernon Chimegalrea in Tuluksuk, Alaska. Vernon was the Yup'ik language interpreter during the interview. It is unknown whether Vernon provided the written English transcript of the interview or if someone else did it. In this excerpt of the interview, Joshua speaks in Yup'ik about the historical site of Pugcenar, the meaning of the place name, the history of uses of the site, spring and fall hunting and fishing in the area, and leadership at seasonal camps.
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Pugcenar, old village site from time immemorial and later rehabitation.
Historical use of Pugcenar and people from Nunapiarmiut to Akiacuaq.
Site and meaning of Pugcenar, fat fish oil rising to the surface.
Spring/fall hunting around Pugcenar up Elaayiq River to Qakeglualek.
Fathers and elders as seasonal camp leaders.
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Joshua: Pugcenar is an old village site from time immemorial. Our ancestors probably didn't even know when it became inhabited. But I know that it is one of the original sites. As far as I can remember it was a site. Also a fall...the houses were no longer standing even before I was aware of my surroundings, but there are a lot of house pits. That was how that place was. But then as life continued, houses were once again built. Then after the residents all died off, another person reinhabited it, his name was Mike Cyril, that was the name of the person who reinhabited the site of Pugcenar...
It is John Wassillie's son who uses the land at Pugcenar as his hunting area. Beginning from time immemorial, whenever a site was deserted, another person would come in and reinhabit it, that's how it was since the past. They never settled just anywhere; they'd set up sites where fish were bountiful. That is how Pugcenar is, it was first a settlement from time immemorial. Those people...the residents of Akiacuaq, at first there was no such place as Akiacuaq but upriverwards from their village, was a village, an old village which was referred to as Nunapiarmiullret. It was from there that they moved a little ways downriver, about one or two miles, forming the present site of Akiacuaq... Pugcenar is what some of those residents formed...and from then on it was passed on down. It is the descendants that make them as their village sites. That village of Pugcenar; it was from way back then, and there is no known beginning date, but it was an original site from way back then. It was a site which was occupied by the residents of Nunapiaq, who are now the Akiacuaq peoples today. If they had not moved they would have been the people of Nunapiaq, those residents of Akiacuaq. It is right above their village, close by.
Vernon: Well how did Pugcenar's name come to be and what does its name mean? Joshua: The meaning they say...there is a lot of fish there, those ones, whitefish, and they are usually fat. When they cook those, they would skim the fat with a wooden spoon, skimming them. That is what is referred to as skimming (pugciluteng) the oil, doing like so (motioning with hands), that is why it is referred to as Pugcenar. They would cook the stomachs of the fish and when the oil rendered, then they would skim them with a wooden spoon, dipping out the fat and storing them carefully. That is why it is called Pugcenar. That is the meaning Pugcenar; it was because of the fat fish. It is located right behind the Akiacuaq village site; it is the old village site of the residents of the Akiacuaq people, their ancestors. Well, the former residents of Nunapiaq to be exact.
Vernon: What about when the time came for the residents of Pugcenar to go out to hunt or gather greens, where did they go? Joshua: This is what the people that go hunting do: They would go up the river to Elaayiq and then there's another river over that way, Qakeglualek, and then they would also go to the lakes which are located behind them, and then also to the areas below them. They would hunt in the area all around them. And during the fall and in the spring they would hunt for muskrat, in the whole area around them. And not just them, they would encounter others; the hunters. And they would accompany each other all day and evening and then when the sun set, when it was time, when it was time to hunt at night, they would separate and go in different directions. They would claim it as their own hunting area, this group that was there would encounter others...everyone would use the whole area as their hunting area, the whole area around them. They did not have any boundaries, but they would use the areas within Alaska that they knew; it was theirs, it was their hunting area, and they did not say this certain area belonged to so and so. You never heard anyone say such things. That was how those ancestors of ours were, they cooperated.
Vernon: ...At the settlement of Pugcenar did they have a leader, and if they had a leader did you know his name? Joshua: The people who reside there, I don't know who used to be their leader, but here is how it is. One family resides in those spring and fall camps, and so their fathers used to be their leader and then if they were two families staying at a fall camp, the one who is the eldest of the two will be their leader, or sometimes although one is not an elder, the one who is good at giving speeches will be the leader of them, even the elders. That is how they functioned in those settlements, the fathers were the leaders.