Photographs related to Irene Aukongak's oral history interview where she talks about working as a health aide.
Irene Tagumaaq Aukongak was born on January 2, 1937 in the village of Upper Kalskag, Alaska. Her father was a fur trapper so the family moved around a lot, and the children missed a lot of school. Eventually, she and her younger sister spent three years at the Holy Cross Mission school in Holy Cross, Alaska. From 1954 to 1955, Irene attended licensed practical nurse training at Mt. Edgecumbe School in Sitka, Alaska. She got a job as a nurse at the Alaska Native hospital in Anchorage, where she met and married Siegfried Aukongak from Golovin. In 1956, they moved back Golovin, and because of her nursing background she was asked to help with visiting doctors and nurses. At the time, there was no official community health aide program, so Irene did the work without being paid until the late 1960s when the community health aide program was established by the US Public Health Service and later taken over by Norton Sound Health Corporation in Nome, Alaska. Irene retired from being a health aide in 2002. In recognition of her contributions to the village, the health clinic in Golovin is now named the "Irene L. Aukongak Dagumaaq Health Clinic." For more about Irene Aukongak, listen to an interview with her conducted in 2011 for KNOM radio station's Elder Voices series.
Willa Ashenfelter is Iñupiaq and was born on July 4, 1940 to Lucy and Abraham Lincoln in the village of White Mountain, Alaska. She grew up living a traditional subsistence lifestyle with summers at fish camp. Her father died in 1952 from tuberculosis, so her mother and the children did all the hard work of harvesting, cutting, and drying the fish. Willa got married in 1959 to George Ashenfelter and raised six children in White Mountain. In the early 1960s, the Ashenfelters spent five years in Chicago, Illinois while George received training as cook at a trade school. In 1967, Willa became the health aide in White Mountain when the Tribal Council had a job opening and she said she was willing to do it. She credits her interest in being a health aide to having grown up watching her mother be a medical aid to tuberculosis patients and help with doctor visits to the village. Willa worked with and was trained by long-time village health aide, Martha Agloinga. Willa retired in 2001. For more about Willa Ashenfelter, listen to an interview with her aired in 2017 as part of KNOM radio station's Elder Voices series.