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Elenore McMullen, Interview 1
Elenore McMullen

Elenore McMullen was interviewed on December 8, 19?? by Mike Galginaitis in Port Graham, Alaska. In this interview, Elenore talks about her personal and family background, traditional family life, traveling, celebrating holidays, traditional foods, and steambath practices. She discusses the power of traditional storytelling by sharing a story about the power of the female body, the role of women, and the importance of Elders instructing young people. Elenore also talks about being the first female chief of the village council, the effects of alcohol and substance abuse on the community, and the challenges faced by people going out for recovery and returning to the community. Finally, she shares her experience with her grandmother's death and the important cultural practices of respect during that time.

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1) Life and history of Port Graham

2) Employment issues

3) Family differences

4) Family life

5) Holidays and traveling

6) Food supplies

7) Steambath practices

8) Rebuilding tradition

9) Story power of female body

10) Story power of female body (continued)

11) Young women's traditions

12) Marriage

13) Pregnancy and child rearing

14) Elders instructing young people

15) Elders instructing young people (continued)

16) Importance of gender

17) Being council chief

18) Alcohol and sobriety

19) Providing for family and tradition

20) Traditional activities

21) Traditional activities and grandmother

22) Delivering babies

23) Delivering babies (continued)

24) Grandmother's death

25) Grandmother's death (continued)

26) Death preparations

27) Death preparations (continued)

28) Death preparations (continued)

29) Return to village

30) Return to village (continued)

31) Return to village (continued)

32) One girl's return

33) Community issues

34) Return to village

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MIKE GALGINAITIS: It's December 8th. I'm Mike Galginaitis. I'm talking with Elenore McMullen. Earlier when we were talking about your younger life in Port Graham you had all sorts of recollections and you also said there were some other stories you wanted to make sure were recorded so that people growing up in the village could have access to them. I think the one relating to the girl’s menses and something like that. And even though they are not directly related to the Park Service's interest in Kenai Fjords National Park lands and the relationship between that and the people in Nanwalek and Port Graham, I think it's important to document those other recollections and stories as well. And there is one other question I came up with since we talked last and that's because I recently read Harold Napoleon's little booklet, he has an article and some people responded to it on the great death and the way that shaped Native identity and how they're adapting or maladapting to various societal factors. I was wondering if you or anybody else in the village here has some recollection of how people reacted to being collected together in Port Graham or rather in Nanwalek, you know, from the outer coast and other areas. Was that a dislocating sort of move or was that a move people wanted to do. Was that something they looked forward to doing? ELENORE MCMULLEN: I'll answer -- respond to the last one there. It was -- I think the actual living together in the community -- historically they always lived just in little family units scattered throughout between here and Seward and Kachemak Bay. And they had several home sites, some of them had permanent structures and some didn't. And they would travel between those sites depending on the season and what was available for food, or furs, or whatever, or maybe both, and I think settling down in Nanwalek, English Bay, Alexandra, Port Graham out here at the coal mine, they were basically job related.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: ...If people wanted to be able to earn money they had to stay in an area. It was real difficult to keep employment for the people that provided employment because people were used to migrating and moving constantly. And it was quite an adjustment. For many, many people up until just recently, it still was that way. They didn't always just stay in one place. Not too many years ago my aunt and uncle were still rolling up their bedroll and moving here and moving there. They never ever settled down, even up until they died. They were always on the go constantly. That's the way life was for them and had been always. And as children growing up, and then as adults themselves rearing their families and children, they were anywhere they wanted to be regardless of whether the children needed to be in school or whether -- the people from the cannery tried to impress upon our people that it was important that they work, they be employed. They would try for a little while and it didn't work. And then there was the other opposite extreme where people -- that's all they wanted to do. They didn't want to be out there being real mobile and migrant and doing things. They liked the idea of staying in one place and having a home and living there and keeping their children in school, but those were a few, not very many people. MIKE GALGINAITIS: They were the exception? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Uh huh.

MIKE GALGINAITIS: Can you think of anybody specifically like that? ELENORE MCMULLEN: My parents, my family, my father was non-Native and I think that's why we stayed in one place. His parents -- my mother's parents were semi-located, but they also moved a great deal. They -- many times they didn't move long distances, across the bay, spend the whole summer over there, or a month over there. They had different places where they planted gardens and they would go stay there and work the ground and plant their gardens. Then they'd move on when the fish came in depending where that was throughout the bay. Before, they would move all the way to Nuka and back and then pretty soon as they got older and, I guess, felt limited, then it was just within the bay here itself. My grandparents had the most beautiful ornate bed I ever can remember and never once did I ever know them to sleep in it. The dad bedrolls always rolled up and grandpa had his own and grandma had her own and they went on the kitchen floor. Every night they spread their bedrolls out and went to bed. And grandma would have certain grandkids in bed there with her. I remember her habit of grooming them before bedtime. I think she was settling everybody down. They'd have their steam bath and then she'd be grooming them, their hair, preparing different things, doing different little things, sewing, bringing the kids down, settling and calming them down. My grandfather, he was a man that ruled the roost. Everything went according to his plan. Nothing went that he didn't -- and that's the way they had that home arranged. Their children and all lived within an arms’ reach almost, practically. Their homes were located all around him, the basic parent's home.

MIKE GALGINAITIS: And that was a typical pattern? ELENORE MCMULLEN: That was typical. Uh huh. They all shared their meals together. They just slept in their own little tiny homes, but the grandparent's home was bigger than the others and that was typical of the people here. MIKE GALGINAITIS: And are there still families that are like that in -- ELENORE MCMULLEN: Kind of, not exactly that way, you know. Even in my family, my home, mealtime, you know, I -- out of habit, I prepare large meals and I -- what's left over, you know, I just leave on the cupboard there. Eventually, somebody is coming with their kids or stragglers come in and they'll all sit down and eat or do something. And that's just the way it is. I think it's that way with a lot of the bigger families. It just happens that way. This is an accepted way. You don't necessarily have to be a family member. Some people, out of habit come and they just do that so. And one thing I've noticed, talking to many adults, is that they do have a pattern of moving different places at different times in their life. Not always seasonal, but, you know, with any- Simeon Kvasnikoff I guess, has moved different places at different times. Yeah, my aunt and my uncle -- during this period of the year, season, never were here in this village. They were in Dog Fish Bay and Port Lock and they didn't get there by boat. They walked. They carried everything they owned on their back, including their children and grandchildren.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: ...Come holidays, you know, Russian Christmas holidays, there would be this flurry of activity in my village, you know, lots of whispering and anticipation. And on certain times of the week, you know, here there would be people hiking over here from back from Dog Fish Bay over the mountain in the middle of winter. And groups of people going out to meet them to help lighten their load as they entered back into the village. And especially with the daylight hours being so short, and they would try to hurry them up before darkness set in. MIKE GALGINAITIS: And would they stay a long time? ELENORE MCMULLEN: They would stay probably a month. They would stock up and rebuild their supplies and then head back out again. It was just a brief period. It wasn't for long. In the summertimes then if they came here at all they didn't stay here in the village. They were out there at the fish camp, they were out across the bay fixing their garden. They were always some place and then when fall came they were up the head of the bay collecting fish to dry and get ready for winter again. They would carry all that on their backs with them when they left including their bedrolls. They were strong people and, you know, they were really quite old when they finally quit doing that, all that hiking and walking over the mountain, down the river drains. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Did they stay in the village all the time when they were older? ELENORE MCMULLEN: No, they were between here and English Bay and always going, always going, they didn't settle down. MIKE GALGINAITIS: What you said they just traveled shorter distances. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Uh huh. Shorter distances. Never settled down. And then when one of them -- his wife became so disabled due to health it was just the most devastating thing. Her husband still went and made sure somebody was home with his wife. He'd go and leave and hike, I mean, he never once even thought anything of it. The distance, the weather, anything he would just leave, he would just go. MIKE GALGINAITIS: He must have been a fascinating person to know but you say he was typical so -- ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah. And they didn't require lots of food and groceries. Their diet was real simple. They used a lot of dried bread, hard bread. It was -- I don't know how they made it, it was almost an unleavened bread that they made and stuck in the oven and it was kind of like a hard tack when they finished with it. They'd leave it in the oven and let it dry out and then they'd soak it in their hot tea as they traveled, just carried in their pockets. And then they had crystallized sugar. Later on when they were able to buy sugar, they'd carry that, they'd cook the sugar up to a-- and crystallized it. It was real difficult to -- they used it in their teas. Things that they can carry in their pocket that weren't heavy or be spoiled or ruined. MIKE GALGINAITIS: And crystallized sugar is easier to carry then? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah. And dried meats and fish and things that they could carry with them. The things that they heated their hot water in were real thin metal containers -- that's something that didn't require a lot of wood to fire, to bring it to a boil to heat up. Something that was light to carry. And, you know, I remember these elders also asked even here within the community when they went to visit somebody's home they took their own coffee cup with them. It wasn't coffee they drank, they drank tea and they carried with them their own spoon. If they were invited to somebody's house for a meal, they'd carry all their utensils with them and ate off those utensils. MIKE GALGINAITIS: And that was just a habit? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Just a habit they have. MIKE GALGINAITIS: That's not something that they taught other people to do? ELENORE MCMULLEN: No. It's not been carried on. Once in a while you find people that have passed on recently that still practice that 'specially their cup, they always bring their cup with them.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: The steam bath was really greatly used during the travels everywhere they had a temporary camp set up was a place for a steam bath that was used for medical reasons but also for relaxation and cleanliness. It was used for various reasons and the steam bath was always a part of it everywhere they went. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Did they locate their camps because of where it would be good to have a steam bath? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah. Where there would be water and there was always wood and everything available. A certain rock had to be used for the steam bath. They couldn't have rocks that would explode when they got hot. They had to have a certain kind of rock. Sometimes that was a difficult thing for them to carry and bring long distances for their steam baths. There was only certain areas that they collected the rocks from to put in the steam baths. They heated the rocks outside and brought them inside into the steam bath where people sat around in a circle around them and splashed water on the hot rocks and it was real hot. MIKE GALGINAITIS: And I assume here in the village you have a permanent steam bath. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah and we don't heat our rocks outdoors. Although when I was in Chenega, the very first time I went there and they tore the place down and I was really angry at them for doing that. They had one fixed like that where you build your fire outside, heat your rocks up, carry them inside. They said it was too much work, but it was a nicer steam bath. You'd throw the water on the rocks. Whenever we have sponsored spirit camps here in the village for the youth we build them temporary shelters for a steam bath where they can tear them down and they can build them back up. They like that. It's kind of nice. I don't know if you were involved in at all. MIKE GALGINAITIS: No. I wasn't there. I have a friend who was there.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: About three or four years in a row, on the long beach, across there, we sponsored spirit -- we called them spirit camps for the kids. And the people who volunteered from here to go over there and help provide their subsistence, build their steam bath for them, sharing and gathering of the plants and food. They used to fix it -- even had a wedding ceremony. MIKE GALGINAITIS: a traditional one or -- ELENORE MCMULLEN: No. A modern one, but it was a real simple basic one. One of the things I like to do with my -- the kids around here, you know, as time went on we had a big problem in my village with unplanned pregnancies amongst the teens and so I started asking the elders how can I teach and work with them on sexuality. And so a couple elders told me the story about the power of a female becoming reproductive and if she used it properly it was a benefit to her and the community. But -- so I still to this day use it in when I'm working with -- use the same little story that was told me and it was a story about a young girl starting her menstrual cycle and periods and how she was treated amongst her family and the whole village in a sense was involved in it. Although it was kept treated like it was a real private thing, but the elders of the community would come and inform the parent mother on how she should handle this daughter that's reached this level in her life and how they needed to educate her. Some of the woman would come over and do different -- teach her different tasks that she needed to know in preparing her for marriage, childbirth, and management of a home...

ELENORE MCMULLEN: ...but the biggest message I got out of it was when these two men shared -- it was two older men that shared the story with me -- was that the human body of the female was very powerful, it carried lots of power. It brought life into this world, but it also was used to -- it was so powerful it could impact how successful or unsuccessful a hunter was in his daily hunting trips, but also how it saved a community of people, a family of people. When a young lady became of age and started having her periods the mother immediately built within the home whether it was in the barabra or whether it was in the home permanent home that they lived in a shelter for her. The young lady was instructed that she couldn't leave this shelter for 40 days. There was no light in there. It was just a place for her to lay down and sleep. Her body wastes were handled and cared for by either the mom, grandma or an aunt in a container and they just didn't pour or dump it on the ground anywhere, there was special areas that they place it in where no one else would be walking or animals would be disturbing. And she was instructed during that time on -- and preparing her for her role as a woman. She was instructed that she couldn't go out on the beach when she was released from there, after the 40 days, that she would disturb how the earth's provided from the waters. The food, the groceries, the supplies people collected off the shore. She couldn't holler, make lots of noises. She would disturb the wildlife around. Hunters wouldn't be able to go out and get the bear, the birds and the animals. She wasn't able to spit on the ground because her -- the waste from her mouth would disturb the land and disgrace -- the hunter would be disgraced if there was a hunter in the family.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: There was this one story I was told of this family that lived down around Nuka Island someplace and -- it wasn't directly on Nuka Island but someplace around there -- and he said that the ocean was really -- it was a small family, a group of people. And this young lady became of age and started her periods and there were about four hunters from that family out at sea hunting and became entangled in a large animal from the ocean and that animal was threatening their community -- their living, the area where they lived. They didn't call it an octopus but when they described it that was my vision of it. And so the leader, the grandfather of the group there came to the village and asked the mother to collect the body secretions of this young girl, of her menstrual period, place it on this piece of animal hide so he can place it on a spear, rub it on the end of the spear and they went out and killed the large animal that had caused a lot of death and destruction to other hunters within that group. And it freed the village then to be able to continue living there and it's living lifestyle that they had done the hunting all the time. Otherwise they thought like if they hadn't done that this creature wouldn't allow them to even living during that time and they felt like the power of the young lady and her body fluids was so strong it warded it off and saved this whole family, he called it, referred to it was a community, but from my gathering of it was just a family, a large family -- grandparents and aunts and uncles. MIKE GALGINAITIS: I guess some of my work on the North Slope -- in Point Lay they have an expression, ""we are family."" And in one sense, family and community to them did mean the same thing. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, the same thing, basically. That was my understanding of it.

MIKE GALGINAITIS: When you said that after the young girl came out of her seclusion and couldn't go out on the beach and couldn't be out or couldn't spit, was that forever after that or just -- ELENORE MCMULLEN: No, up until the time her marriage was arranged. Shortly after that time then a marriage was arranged for her and she became a part of the community. She usually had children, but during the times of her period, from then on she was restricted on what she can eat of the wildlife -- what she can do. She could prepare it, she can cook it, but she couldn't ingest it, swallow it. Usually it was with the blessing of the elder of the family, it was usually grandfather. MIKE GALGINAITIS: And when she was isolated could she only eat certain things? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, there was very little that she could eat. She didn't eat any game at all. She could eat some birds, very few. And they were usually just the small birds. She couldn't eat any seal, any bear or any -- and she could eat fish. She could eat fish, but she couldn't collect it. Until after she became a woman, she became married, but as soon as they started periods and I never did really get a feel of the age, it seemed like from 11 on and it was okay to get married. Marriages were always prearranged. Not necessarily did the young married woman move in with her husband immediately. Sometimes she lived at home and she was instructed at home with a parent on how to prepare for the providing for her husband. And I got the feeling that not all those marriages were really beautiful. There was a lot of feelings of dislike and the longer the young lady lived at home with the parents the worse that got. And then they would be forced to go live with their husband...

ELENORE MCMULLEN: ...and the message that I was hearing from a lot of the women that had gone through that was that it was terrible and their husbands were chosen by who was the best hunter, who could produce the best -- carry on the reproduction, who would be the strongest. And, but they said they would eventually grow to like them, like their spouses and their husbands, but in the beginning parts of it, it wasn't always pleasant or very nice. MIKE GALGINAITIS: But they did stay together? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, they stayed together because that was required of them. MIKE GALGINAITIS: And that's quite different from today then, too? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, very different, but, you know, when I was a young girl a few years back, you know, about 40 years ago there was -- 50 years ago, there was -- marriages were still being arranged. Those marriages are still together. MIKE GALGINAITIS: But you would say that they aren't arranged anymore? ELENORE MCMULLEN: They're not anymore, no.

MIKE GALGINAITIS: Well, you said that you used these stories to talk to teens about unwanted pregnancies, does it seem to have an effect on them? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Very effective. We haven't had an unplanned pregnancy in this village since, I don't think. We also did a lot of education on -- that it was better not to be sexually involved and if there was, the precautions, but basically I think, every once in a while they'll reinvite me back. They want to hear the same thing over again. There is -- it was a partnership when a young lady had a, you know, finally became pregnant and gave birth, there was partnership between she and her husband, and that he was responsible and to care for her and her child and children, and she would in turn be responsible for certain duties herself. Where if a young lady was to give birth and didn't have a partner with her to share the work and the workload and the responsibilities -- I always remind them that you know you have this partnership with this baby that you've brought into this world for the next 18 years and that's just really frightening and shocking. Where before when a young lady with her power of giving birth and bringing out to this world a child, had a prearranged husband and a partner that would be working together almost, wasn't just one side of them, but grandparents, everybody else was there to help do their rearing, which is -- still I think still happens here, to some extent. In some families, it's stronger than others and it's real visible on the families that have the extended family helping in the rearing of the children. It shows where there is a lot more stability and lots of education passed on, the verbal stuff, the verbal educational stuff like stories and values and --passed onto their youth and kids.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: I think that was one of the biggest times, me as a child, when my grandmother, sauna, steam bath time was the time when I think they had us by the noose, you know, we were naked as jaybirds in the steam bath and had no place to go, and usually my grandmother and them. I had an uncle, this uncle that liked to trek all over, walk all over, when he was in town, he was right there and he would just lecture us, not in a nice gentle tone of voice, but talking real loud and telling us about the facts of life and how we needed to be ready to -- as young girls, to become responsible and caring for our families and rearing of children and stuff. He would scare us half to death. I don't think his intention was to frighten us, but he let us know that was something that was preset for us as young girls that we needed to do and as young men. And he would do the same thing for the young men. And in my lessons for the kids, I was trying to impress upon them that this was a dual relationship thing it wasn't just a single parent out there giving birth and rearing children, it was mom and dad. MIKE GALGINAITIS: It's impressive to me if -- since you haven't had any unwanted pregnancies in Port Graham, because there are so many other places where it is a real problem. ELENORE MCMULLEN: We had six one year, six unplanned pregnancies amongst our teenagers and we decided we better be doing something. So, nobody was really willing to look into it and then I started asking the elders how they would plan that and, of course, they, you know, young ladies weren't allowed to be -- in those days, didn't go to school. They taught them what they thought they should learn at home and then they were married off. Somebody that would be real responsible and care for them and then placed in the roles that they needed to be placed in -- families and rearing.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: One of the things too I pass on to the young men that was told me was the fact that if in the event like my husband passed away then his brother would assume the role of caring for myself and my children. We weren't just abandoned or left to struggle on our own. There was always another man. And it wasn't real clear to me on whether it was a prearranged marriage again. I always got the feeling it was, but nobody ever called it that, but he took the role of managing that household. But I think he also played the role of husband in this family. Even if he had another family of his own. But his own immediate family took first in his life, but this was assumed. And not always worked out because the woman were kind of competitive thing. The first wife would belittle the new member in the family. Sometimes they all lived together in the same place or else had homes nearby, close by, where they could live together and it was kind of -- anyway it was -- that hasn't been too long ago where they changed that too. And out of it I think came children the new wife even would bear children of the brother that was caring for her. It became complicated. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Well, I guess though, you have to come up with sort of social security system. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Wherever you are. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah. MIKE GALGINAITIS: That's one way to do it. ELENORE MCMULLEN: I tell my sons, if your brother dies you are responsible going down the line you know taking care of his family. MIKE GALGINAITIS: It'd make sure that -- for me, for instance, I would take much more interest in who my brothers married.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, because I remember hearing my uncles talk about their sisters-in-laws, you know, teasingly telling them, ""Well, I guess I wouldn't mind taking care of you and living with you."" They were okay. I never understood what it meant until the stories were told to me about the older brother or someone else caring for that family. MIKE GALGINAITIS: I guess actually I've heard of that pattern in other places though, too. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Females weren't regarded very highly. If a woman gave birth to a female child usually they were pretty disappointed. If it was a male child, even to this day that has carried on, if a male child is brought into this world what excitement it creates in the entire community. That child is regarded highly, even now, even after all these years, that young man would have been an addition to the taking care of the family, the hunter, the collector of wood, the person that did a lot of heavy work and provided for the community. They don't, a lot of them don't play that role to this day, but still the male child is highly regarded. MIKE GALGINAITIS: And not only in Port Graham, but other places. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah. I have a friend that has three little girls and when the last baby was born and I called some of the grandparents and great grandparents and announced to them that they had a baby girl, the disappointment, and identified it and how upset they were. I said, ""You are not happy with this are you?"" I call them my three little Indian girls and people wanted -- the elders there wanted them to have a boy. I remember how my mother would make a big whoop-de-do if there was a male child born into the family. It was extra-ordinary. They were treated very, very differently all throughout their life -- childhood than a female was. MIKE GALGINAITIS: That's something that the larger culture does, too. I assume that pattern still pervades? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Pretty much. Uh huh. MIKE GALGINAITIS: It would be hard to see how that would ever change it seems like there's all sorts of biases --

ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah. Being a female child myself, I was bound and determined there wasn't anything that I couldn't do that a guy could do. I was very competitive. I had to prove myself. And I don't know whether that's why I sit as a council chief. I'm the first female they've ever had and whether that had anything to do with that I kind of think way deep down inside it did, but all my life growing up, there wasn't - I didn't do many things that way. I do a lot you know, things that females do, but I'd rather -- I much rather chose to compete against the male population because I felt like I had to show and prove my way through that females were just as strong and as important as those guys out there. MIKE GALGINAITIS: But in the corporation there are female officers and board members? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, but on the council level there never was. When I ran for council office -- I'll never forget how many times the elders came and told me that was a no-no. That the woman's place was at home caring for the family, rearing the children, not doing that. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Since then, now? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Now it's acceptable. Every once in a while you here a little -- an elder that disagrees with something and just really smacks your fingers verbally, but it's pretty well accepted. The last village chief, Walter, prepared me for this position that I serve on the counsel because he felt I -- he tried -- he wanted to groom somebody that had the same style of thinking that he did of protecting the land and keeping it for our Native people, to always have and maintain as long as we can, a Native village for the people, some land always be available for our people that they can always call home. It's kind of going to be a struggle I think, I see down the road. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Well, it's always a struggle if you want to stay small and maintain your identity, it's a real problem. And I saw the corporation has -- one of the goals I saw was a road to Windy Bay and to Nanwalek and I guess one other Bay, it would seem to me that Port Graham and Nanwalek do have their separate identities now, but if you have a road between them, it's going to be harder to maintain, that they'll sort of melt into each other even more than you are now.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: One of the things I like about -- I won't talk about that. One of the things I have had to try to find and help our people now to do -- deal with here locally, we have a lot of young men now that are sober, chosen to become sober. When I returned in 1972, my people were drunk here. It was just the most saddest place you ever wanted to be. Children were drunk, elders were drunk, everybody was drunk. Families -- there was a lot of family disputes and dysfunction and one of the things I found our people struggling for was the male population was looking for some kind of identity, but couldn't find it because their involvement with alcohol. They no longer were the hunters. They no longer were the providers. They no longer kept their families together. Families were falling apart and I think now we're going back to some of those little old basic things that -- the glues that kept families together and one of them was sobering up and then becoming providers again. Even if it's in the smallest, smallest way. Providers of food. We don't have to go out and provide clothing no more, furs for clothing, but the men are into sewing clothing from the furs that they tan and hide or the hides that they tan and have taken care of working . MIKE GALGINAITIS: So a lot of people are wearing fur now? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Fur hats, fur gloves, making fur vests.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: -- teaching other people. It's men folk that teaching their wives how to do it. MIKE GALGINAITIS: The women are doing it too, I guess? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Well, men had to find some way of contributing, I guess, to their families. Where before, you know, they had to go out and find the furs to wear, to clothe their children. Now, they just go to the store and buy clothing or order clothing, but now they provide the fur to make these extra special things and generally some money too. MIKE GALGINAITIS: And do people put a special emphasis on gloves and hats? ELENORE MCMULLEN: There seems to be within this certain age group and this group of people. When they have them on, there's this great big -- lots of praise and recognition given to these people -- wow, you're able to go out and get this wonderful fur and produce this wonderful piece of fur. MIKE GALGINAITIS: I wonder if that's sort of like a marker. On the North Slope they -- I wouldn't know if you'd say revived Native dancing but certainly it's more important than it was before. And one important part of that is when you dance you have gloves or fancy mittens, or something. You don't always wear them. Sometimes you hold them, but you have them. ELENORE MCMULLEN: In the sense, I think when a person comes out and you meet them along the road and they are wearing this beautiful hat, or these beautiful gloves, or this beautiful vest, a lot of fuss is made, you know, in admiring that and placing a lot of recognition onto the person that made that and, you know, shot the animal to start with. Sometimes they tan their own hides here and sometimes they sent them out to be tanned, but lots of good stuff comes out of it. And a lot of -- I think, self-pride, self-worth placed back onto the hunter -- the person that went out and did this. Some that had been lost.

MIKE GALGINAITIS: Is there more hunting and trapping of those animals than before? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Much more. And the young men are teaching other young men how to do that. Which is, I think, is the most fantastic thing that I've seen happen. MIKE GALGINAITIS: One of the things that Simeon told me about before was that for a long time no one had hunted bears in dens and that, I guess, he and some other elders took some young men out and showed them how it was done -- ELENORE MCMULLEN: It was beautiful. MIKE GALGINAITIS: -- in '91 or something. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah. Just great. Just fantastic. And then one of them did a video of it as they progressed and getting ready to leave here, leaving the beach, going across the bay, getting up, and then after the actual kill, and the dressing out of the fur, and what was said in between, and the teachings he had did before each step was taken, the instruction that he gave them and the excitement. You can hear it even in their breathing -- the video was so sensitive you can actually hear the different breaths that were taken by different people that -- the expectations they had and it's just -- it really moves you, touches you, to watch it. MIKE GALGINAITIS: So that is one that people have saved? ELENORE MCMULLEN: And then they started the little kayaking and carving -- wood carving, since people have sobered up. Men that never had ever done that in their lives and never even thought they could do it, were able to carve and or participate in the kayak building and the lessons that were -- we brought a man in from -- Larry Macavay from Kodiak to do the instruction and it was just the most -- I'd go every morning just to listen to him. I was a woman and I couldn't participate. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Oh, that's a rule they made? ELENORE MCMULLEN: That was a rule I was told right away. I couldn't ask too many questions and interrupt, so I would sit there and just listen because he had a story behind everything that he did during the kayak building. So I'd have to ask for permission to be there. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Did they video that as well? ELENORE MCMULLEN: No. I wish they had. MIKE GALGINAITIS: That's a shame. ELENORE MCMULLEN: It was just gorgeous, it was just wonderful, the seriousness of the whole thing.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: It was just gorgeous, it was just wonderful, the seriousness of the whole thing. And you know Larry Makavay is pretty old. He is pretty fragile now. I saw him not too long ago. It will be lost when he is gone. MIKE GALGINAITIS: But people are now building kayaks in his way? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah. They planned on doing some hunts and I don't know whether they've done it because of the decreased numbers of the sea lions. They use the sea lion hide to cover the -- I don't think the men are willing to go out there to do that yet. They are waiting for the numbers to increase before they can go out and shoot them for the hides. They never waste any of it, even if they just use the hide. They always -- every bit of that meat is used. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Those are big animals -- ELENORE MCMULLEN: They are big animals. MIKE GALGINAITIS: -- with lots of meat on them. ELENORE MCMULLEN: They don't get many seals here but we do sea lions. As a child my grandmother had a ciqluq, you know, a barabra, they said they used for living. They used it to store their food -- to prepare the food for the winter, a place where a lot of instruction and everything happened. Anyway, I spent a lot of time in my grandmother's and I used to think maybe I even smelled like it. The smells of it were really mixed. There was a lot of seal oil. There was a lot of fish -- dried fish and all those smells of fire and smoke and just mingled. And sometimes now I get whiffs of it and it just brings immediately a flashback of that --and it brings me back to the times I spent with her. She was a healer. She was -- she did a lot of her healing in the steam baths. She used heat in her hands and she used the medicines that grew up wild on the ground. And so I learned a lot from her.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: And when she went out to do her midwifery when I was the one that went with her and helped her. Up until just before she died, she still did deliveries. I guess you call it prenatal care now, but she did that before the woman delivered. She followed the woman's pregnancy up until she delivered. She made sure the baby was positioned properly, that the baby was growing properly, that the mother was doing all the proper things and eating the proper foods so she could have a successful delivery. Whenever I accompanied her on the delivery, I was always impressed. Even as a child, I was 11 and 12 years old, it always impressed me how in control she was of the whole situation. Deliveries weren't real -- I worked professionally myself in a hospital in the maternity wards and how sometimes it can be just the most unpleasant thing and in the home delivery when grandma was involved, it was the most sedated, quiet, soothing place that I could ever remember. It was the way she handled the whole situation, her preparation when she was doing her prenatal checks, preparing the mother. I was with her when a mother was having her child for the very first time and lots of times those are long hard labors but this was the most quiet. She would, "usuk" we call it -- grandmother would sit by the head of the lady there talking to her and making sure that she was hearing and listening to every instruction that she needed to hear of her. It would almost lull me to sleep. And then as the pregnancy progressed and she would have to give instructions for the mother or the labor progressed and she would have different instructions for the mother. And I use those techniques myself now to this day. I use them in the hospital setting, but I also use them when I have a delivery here in the village. They always work. I've even taught.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: I went in from here to Homer and did a couple of deliveries that were pretty late coming along and I had concerns for them when they delivered in the hospital there and I asked the doctor if I could use some of -- if the baby didn't come if I could try something that my grandmother had taught me to bring it along and the baby would come right away. It was always kind of nice. Even he tells me to this day that he uses -- all you do is use your hand, your fist, and if the baby is taking longer to come and the labor is real hard and has been long you just take your fist, your hand, slide it under the mother's small of her back, roll your fist into a ball and turn it up and here comes baby, pops out just right now. And I've never seen it fail. And Doctor? always says, ""I still use it."" I taught him that and my grandmother used to use it. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Was your mother a healer too? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, but she wasn't as active and involved as my grandmother was. Yeah, she was. She was a healer and she did lots of deliveries too. If there was a difficult delivery in this the village, it was Mom they went to get. She always had some way, a certain technique of talk with the mom to help her delivery progress. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Was your mom's house -- was it different from your grandmother's? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah. MIKE GALGINAITIS: You said that these smells bring back your grandma's house. ELENORE MCMULLEN: It was different. My mother's house was a real western house. But my grandmother's house was real different and I spent lots of time with my grandmother. I was with her when she died. I was 11 -- I was 12 years old, 12- and-a-half years old. My first experience with death. I was told -- I awakened one morning, my mom told me I needed to go down and stay with grandma and take care of her. Nobody told me she was real sick. There was an epidemic in the village, a measle epidemic, so everybody was sick that should have been there taking care of her. I wasn't sick so I was asked to go take care of her. My grandmother was very, very sick herself and my first experience with death.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: It was quite the experience. I stayed with her a couple of days and then this one morning she told me I needed to prepare the house and clean it up and give her a bath and get her all cleaned up and ready because she was going to be going on her journey and I didn't know her journey meant that she was going to be dying and she said her family was coming after her. And I thought Mom and my family, you know, her daughters were coming after her. And I thought, "Oh, good. They are going to relieve me of this duty of taking care of grandma." And it was her death that she was preparing for. She had me get her clothing out that she wanted to have put on and she had me -- somebody had brought some rolls. She had a wood stove in her kitchen and she had me fire that up and heat some water and put the best tablecloth and the best china cups she had on the table and put those hot rolls on the table and 4 cups. Four of her family members were coming and she had me get her up and she looked out the window and she said, "They're coming." So she gets up and has her clothing on that she wanted. She had her shawl over her head waiting and she says each time, "Now you can go open up the door, they'll be coming in." So I do all these things she is telling me to do, but nobody comes in and then I get spooked. There was space off the wall and the wood stove there so I sit behind the stove and I tell her, "Grandmother, nobody is coming. She said, "They're here." I asked her who was here and it was my grandfather and her sons that had died before her. And they were all there. She was having tea with them. They were having biscuits with their tea. I kept checking the cups to see if the level was changing and they didn't change. Her's changed, but not their's. And then when it was done, when they were done, she told them that they needed to leave and she would soon join them. She told me to go ahead and open up the door so they can go. So I did. I'm glad they were leaving. And she had me put her to bed and she died. I didn't know what death was, but deep down inside I knew she was dead.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: I had never experienced and seen death. She had me put certain blankets around her, a certain pillow on her that she said she had to take and have with her. She had the shawl that she wanted with her and on her like she had me arrange it on her head, an old Russian shawl, and she died. I held holding her 'cause I knew she was having respiratory problems, and I was holding her up and she says, "Let me lay down." So I laid her down and she died. Before she died though, she said there were two people in the village that she needed to ask for forgiveness from. She had offended them by saying something harsh to them. And I needed to get those people before she joined Grandma and Grandpa and them. And she told me who they were and I went after them. She told me I had to go quickly and come right back quickly. She was all by herself and I went and got those people. I told them grandmother wants you right now. She wants -- forgive you and they didn't question, they didn't ask. They came. And they did those things that they needed to do and then they left. I don't think they realized grandmother was going to die, but deep inside I was just screaming, "No way, don't leave me," but I didn't say it out loud. They left and there I was with grandma again. I told grandma I wanted to go get my uncle the one that always walked between the two villages because I knew he was a healer, too. I wanted to go get him and she told me I couldn't, but I did anyway when she took her last breath. I laid her down. I ??? put the shawl around her and I ran out that door and I thought, "He'll revive her. He'll know how to do." And I ran and got him and he came and he didn't, he just said I did the right thing. And I was just -- I don't know how I knew she was dead, but she did. She was no longer breathing.

MIKE GALGINAITIS: Sounds like she really knew about death though, too. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, kind of preparing me a little bit for it, shared little things with me. Oh, yeah. She was always with people when they died. Even to this day, since then, when somebody passes away, they come and get me before they pass away to be with them and I prepare the body for burial. I give them their baths and I cloth them and dress them and I'm the one that closes the casket, to this day. I don't know who assumed I needed to fill that. And I never question it, I just do it. And it's just that way. I always thought it should be one of the family members that did it. Roles that are passed on and assumed, I guess, and we don't question them. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Or maybe you just adjusted better to one of those mysteries than anyone else? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Could be. MIKE GALGINAITIS: There are other elders in the village? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, but they don't do that. My uncle that I talk about throughout this, did that, but he only did it with male patients. And we don't, and I keep telling the elders here now, they need to be training and educating some male man, a male role, to fill that male role in the village. They said, ""No, we don't have to. It's not necessary."" I think it is, to pass it on. MIKE GALGINAITIS: So you think that was something that was a sexually defined task in the past? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah. Because the one -- we had a young man die this past summer and, in the village here, and he had the real difficult death. When he passed away and I announced on the CB there that this young man had passed away that I needed four of his family members to help prepare his body -- help me, I would help them. They came and I instructed them on how to bath his body, how to handle it and how to care for it.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: I did it the way my grandmother taught me. You had to be quiet and you had to handle gently in preparing the body. And how stressing it was for them. It was something new they had never done before. And they did it -- I was gone when another man passed away -- an elder passed away, but they helped with that one, too, these same men. MIKE GALGINAITIS: And they were all men? ELENORE MCMULLEN: It was better and easier. Uh huh. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Well, it can't be an easy thing. I never helped with preparation after death, I guess. I was there when my Dad did pass away, but I don't think it can compare with any of those experiences. ELENORE MCMULLEN: It was, I think -- those young, same young, men, when I came back came, came to me immediately and said we were there preparing this body, we took care of it. We remembered all of the things you told me. And the basic things my grandmother taught me was to treat them with respect and honor the family because if you treat the body with respect and honor the wishes of the family then everything will unfold and be okay and go the way it should be. Then there is traditional ways of handling it, looking at it, and doing it, and dressing. I instructed the young men on that, that they needed to connect with the family and what they wanted, but also to carry out the traditional ways of doing it. That was kind of nice. Maybe I don't have to find a group of people. It's already been found, I guess. I didn't realize it until I started talking about it. I did it even with my own parents, took care of them, prepared their bodies. And my sister, when she passed away the same thing I did. I've done that with almost all the elders and all the people that have chosen to die here in the village, taken care of them. Just a role that I've assumed somewhere along the line. I often wonder, ""How did it end up with me?""

MIKE GALGINAITIS: I guess if you're a healer you have to deal with death as well. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, and it's comfortable. I'm okay with it. It's okay with me. And I had, we have two other health aides here. With this one young man, when he was dying, I asked them to be with me during the last hour or two because I wanted them to experience death. I felt like it was a real important part of their role in healing to understand what the process of death was. They weren't there. They chose not to. They left because it was too frightening, too scary for them. But I thought part of living and being alive and caring for the living you have to experience the look and feel and smell death. And they chose not to. I felt like saying -- I don't know somehow it gives us a better handle and better understanding of life itself. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Maybe that time they chose not to. Maybe next time. Do many people choose to die in the village? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, most of them do. If they know they have a terminal illness or -- yeah, they will. And they're allowed to do that. MIKE GALGINAITIS: I don't know, I guess, that may be sort of akin to outside where the hospice movement is gaining ground where a lot of people stay at home or in other situations. Village is home to a lot of people? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, some people that have lived away from the village when they know they have a terminal illness will call and say is there someplace I can stay so I can live out the last of my days? And somebody will make room in their home and allow them to come back and experience that here. MIKE GALGINAITIS: That's a big thing to do on somebody's part, though. That says as much about what the community is about if anything. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah, I never thought of it that way. I guess so, yeah. Uh huh. To allow them that privilege and that time to reconnect.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: So many of our people that have -- years ago when people's parents died, childrens' parents died, children were taken from the village and moved out and those are the people that we've allowed to come back home. They were taken from this village. They were moved away and they lived in Seattle, they lived in California, they lived in Valdez, they lived elsewhere, never really connected with home again after they moved away. And some of them that came back to the village shared about how difficult and how painful it was to try to feel like they were a part of again. Unless it was somebody that was experiencing death or a terminal illness, they seemed to fit in and adjust rather quickly and maybe because they knew there was this time limit than those that were well and came back to the village. We plan to have sometime, this winter, some kind of a ceremony here for those people that have chosen to come back to live here. We don't exactly know what kind of ceremony it's going to be. We're still working on that. Identifying them and welcoming them back to the home, even if they've lived here the last ten years. But just going through the ceremony, you are back home, you are part of this village, you are connected to us. I don't know how we are going to do it. We haven't worked that out yet. MIKE GALGINAITIS: That's something about ceremonies, they sort of evolve. You can't pick one out of a box. ELENORE MCMULLEN: No, and we don't know of one that we could, so we've been brain storming. Another lady and I and a man to try to come up with something that we think is very appropriate -- re-admitting our people back. They sort of feel like this is their home, this is again their people, their community, and being a part of. Some of those people are older than I am that we are going to do that with. I think it's going to be really great.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: The other thing I want to see -- I never shut up -- I want to see happen is our children -- we're discovering through the ??? program that somehow we will be able to reconnect them to this village again and have whole homes and a place available for them so they'll know that there's this base for them, that there's these people that are family no matter how extended it is that they're here. We brought one young man back from Mississippi and he was really extremely damaged fetal alcohol syndrome, but I'll never forget the day he was crying about something and I ran into him and he lives in Anchorage, he needs lots of special care, education and working with him, so he is living in Anchorage now. We had to take him up there to place him so he can get that training and education. And he was crying because he thought this was a permanent thing, that he wouldn't be allowed to come back here. And he didn't realize it was just a temporary thing because he said first time in his life that he had family, that he had a home, and that he had people that loved him and cared for him, that didn't hurt him. He was a victim of every abuse there is possible. It was the first time in his life he was safe. What a tremendous emotional thing that was for me to hear him say that. And here all we were doing was providing a place for him. I never really gave it that much thought. I just said this kid needs to come back here and he needs a place to stay. We need to find a place for him. And he wasn't an easy child to take care of and look after. It took lots of work from everybody in the village and they did it. They provided that. And I never realized how much they provided for him until he said those things to me. All his security was here. He is coming home for Christmas, so we are all anxious to see him again. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Does he have to stay in Anchorage a long time yet? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Throughout his school year, years, I think.

MIKE GALGINAITIS: Do you find a lot of children leaving the village? ELENORE MCMULLEN: No, we don't anymore. We have a lot of children that were involved with people that had left the village. Children we never knew existed from the East Coast, from Maine to Europe, we have children all over that we have discovered and connected to us. And some of them we have brought to the state of Alaska so they'll be closer to family. Lots of emotional problems, lots of -- I mean it's a cruel world out there, I tell you that. MIKE GALGINAITIS: I think I know that. ELENORE MCMULLEN: But we've had lots of good successes with those kids. I think some of those kids will be giving back all the years that they have had to be cared for and taken care of. They are going to be successful themselves. Bringing back some good things, some positive things to the community and to their people. We've had some really nice things happen with some of these kids we've been involved with. Outweigh all the negative things. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Nanwalek then -- do they have the same problem with lots of kids? ELENORE MCMULLEN: I don't know. I think there is some kids out there. I don't think they've had -- I can't really say. I haven't heard of any successes that they've had and I think it's because they didn't have that network in place. We've developed a pretty good network. We pre-planned some of it, but a lot of it just evolved. It was a small network that we pre-planned and then all of a sudden, we had this huge network that just kind of evolved. That's just really nice. So I'm looking forward to doing those things that someday that we want to do -- be able to have a place for the kids here. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Well, it sounds like you have a very good start on that now and it's something that's never completed. It's always a process. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Always evolving, always growing, uh huh. MIKE GALGINAITIS: I think you are right. I mean, it is a cruel world. I think if places Outside could do it, as well, it wouldn't be such a bad world.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: I had one young lady that I discovered was connected to this village, brought to my village. She was 12 years old when we discovered her and so we had her brought into the village three years ago. This girl – 12-year old -- usually they are fairly independent, looking fairly -- not real mature, but getting there, you know, and this little girl -- when I went to meet her at the airport and picked her up and it reminded me of somebody at the age of four years of age, her behavior. Her stature was real small and when I took her to some extended family to introduce her, she hid under the table or sat there and cowered, just frightened, fearful. If somebody raised their voice in the least way, just in the ordinary talk, she would just start shivering and shaking. We've had her back to the village, I have her back every year, come back and each time spend a little bit more time. She connected with me immediately. I think it was because I was up at the plane to pick her up and meet her and then I kept her at my house and I share a lot of history with her so she can feel like she is part of the community. It isn't just on the surface, it goes real deep, and now she is just young -- the last summer when she came there was this beautiful young lady that knew who her family was, hoped someday that she can come back here to live and looking forward to those days when she can do that. She's been adopted out, so she lives away. But we discovered her, connected her with people here. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Her adoptive parents are supportive of that -- that's important. ELENORE MCMULLEN: It's really important and I don't think this would be successful if that hadn't happened. We've had some really nice things happen with kids that I thought were traumatized something terrible, but because of the support systems we've established -- even if they were long distance we demanded that these services be provided for these kids and got them and talk about turn around -- just the biggest turn arounds you ever saw. I remember one little girl, she was prostituting. Now she is going to school, living with -- we located her father and the father had re-married and she is living with him and they're just as happy as could be. I think the past is behind her now. She is a young girl again.

MIKE GALGINAITIS: It sounds like the services you provide -- the help you provide is a lot more effective than social programs. ELENORE MCMULLEN: I think so too and I think because there are people with the same style of thinking in the village here has made the difference. They've made the difference in providing those support systems and making them successful with the kids. Really good kids. I feel like they're my personal grandkids. I get real attached to them. MIKE GALGINAITIS: It sounds to me, if you are not tooting your own horn to the State agencies, maybe somebody else should. ELENORE MCMULLEN: Yeah. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Point out that here is something that works and maybe you should give it more support so that other places could do it, too. ELENORE MCMULLEN: We do, to some degree. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Unless you think that it has to be a homegrown effort. ELENORE MCMULLEN: I think it has to be a homegrown effort, but it also can be used elsewhere. I think one of the other things in the educating our people, we have several single parents, male, men, has been to -- the biggest thing was to educate them in their -- what do I call it, their rights as parents. MIKE GALGINAITIS: In their rights or their responsibilities? ELENORE MCMULLEN: No, their rights, because they felt like the State could come -- lots of times they had these fears that the State can come in here and take my child away from me or my children away from me. Or if the ex-wife was threatening -- you were abandoned and things. Their rights -- and I think a lot of times maybe people were made, left to feel that they didn't have any, that this big man called the government can come in here and do that and take them away and leave them and abandon them as parents and making them -- especially the older men, we've had to do lots of educating and always reminding them and supporting that they have these certain things that they should expect from the government to help them become stronger, better parents instead of taking away from them. MIKE GALGINAITIS: After all, if it's a dual -- a partnership -- even after part of that partnership is dissolved, it doesn't dissolve the whole thing.

ELENORE MCMULLEN: And I don't know where that style of thinking came in that that can happen. And I think it had to do with when parents were deceased and broken or families were hospitalized. During the time when there was a lot of tuberculosis, families were removed from the villages and children were automatically taken and placed in homes. And I think that style of thinking happened then because some of those parents had tuberculosis so bad they just died and were buried out there. Children never saw their parents again. Some of them were kept -- left here or brought back to the village again and some of them never came back, and some of them still live away, some of them have come back, have children, to make their home again. Those are the ones I want to bring back into the fold and somehow have a ceremony to welcome them back. MIKE GALGINAITIS: When was the time of the tuberculosis? ELENORE MCMULLEN: Oh, I don't remember, in the early '50s late '40s. Lots of deaths and stuff happened during that time. MIKE GALGINAITIS: Well, it sounds like those two things are real closely related and should work with each other real well. ELENORE MCMULLEN: I hate to cut this off, but I got to go. I got a council meeting to get ready for pretty soon. MIKE GALGINAITIS: I didn't know there was a council meeting. I was going to ask if there were any council meetings. ELENORE MCMULLEN: There will be one at 7:00. I got to go.