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The Holy Cross Community Project Jukebox provides a snapshot of the lives of some of the elders from the village of Holy Cross, Alaska, which is located among small rolling hills, adjacent to the Yukon River, in Western Alaska. Holy Cross is home to approximately 200 people (2000 U.S. Census), predominantly Athabascan Indians and Yupik Eskimos. Once established as a Catholic mission in the 1880's, children from across Alaska were educated in the Catholic religion, math, reading, and writing, and were taught the value of hard work through daily chores, wood working, sewing, beading, cooking, and gardening. Village residents also worked hard to provide for their families, with men spending winters on traplines to exchange furs for groceries or by selling cords of wood to the mission or river steamboats, and families fishing together all summer to harvest and store salmon for later use. Although people must now rely on the monetary system in order to provide for their basic needs, they still live close to the land.
In 2001, Debbie Turner originated the idea for this project as a practicum for her Human Services Degree at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Debbie was born and raised in Holy Cross and, at the time, was the Tribal Family and Youth Specialist for the Holy Cross Tribal Council. With the village losing more and more of its treasured elders, the Holy Cross Tribal Council agreed that it was important to preserve the knowledge and stories of their last remaining elders and funded the project. Debbie worked in coordination with a committee to come up with a list of people to be interviewed. Family members helped plan and conduct the interviews, and the elders selected photographs from their own collections to demonstrate particular aspects of their lives. The historic film clip included in the Jukebox is from the Alaska Film Archives, Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks. The footage of Maurice Newman running his dogteam and checking his fish trap was taken in the late 1950s by the Alaska Department of Health and Welfare, Alaska Sanitation Aides, Hotspot Team (Film# AAF384).
Debbie also worked with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program to plan and design this Jukebox, to arrange and conduct interviews, and to make the program available in Holy Cross. Other interviewers from Holy Cross included Eugene Paul, Tessie Paul, Carol Atkins, and Rita Paul. Karen Brewster, Research Associate with the Oral History Program collaborated on the planning, design and interviewing. Bill Burke and Cal White, Research Technicians with the Oral History Program, worked in 2002 on putting together the pieces to create the Jukebox. The final Holy Cross Community Project Jukebox was completed in 2004, and in 2021 it was upgraded from its original HTML format to Drupal. The information in this project reflects the context of the original creation date. Some information may now be out of date.
Alice Withrow Demientieff is an elder who was born in 1932 on the Nushagak River near Dillingham, Alaska. She grew up living a subsistence lifestyle with her Native mother and non-Native father. Her mother passed away from tuberculosis and her father got a job as a radio operator in the Aleutian Islands during World War II and couldn't take care of his... Read More
Luke Demientieff is an Athabascan elder who was born in 1926 to Frances and Eluska Demientieff in Holy Cross, Alaska. He was raised in Holy Cross and attended school at the Holy Cross Mission, where he learned to read, write, garden, cut wood, and build things. Luke had a long career both in Holy Cross and in Bethel in construction and as a skilled... Read More
|Mary H. Demientieff
Mary H. Demientieff is an Athabascan elder who was born in 1932 to Pauline and Bill Dahlquist in Nulato, Alaska. In 1942, she was sent to the Holy Cross Mission because her father died and her mother was not able to care for her. Mary learned to read and write at the Mission, as well as other valuable lessons and life skills. Since those early days,... Read More
Elizabeth "Betty" Johnson was an Athabascan elder who was born in 1919 in Holy Cross, Alaska to Frances and Eluska Demientieff. Frances was a well-known Native sewer and artist. Betty was their oldest daughter and sister of Luke Demientieff, whose interview appears elsewhere in this Jukebox. Betty attended school at the Holy Cross Mission where she learned to... Read More
Maurice Newman was born in 1917 in Holy Cross, Alaska, and briefly attended school at the Holy Cross Mission. Maurice did a lot of hunting, fishing and trapping in the countryside around Holy Cross. He used a dog team to get to his trapping cabin, walked to check the trap line, and went to fish camp every year. In the 1940s, Maurice married Irene Anthony, and to... Read More
|Frank H. Turner
Frank H. Turner was born in 1929 in Holy Cross, Alaska to George Turner, who was a trader, and Elia Dutchman, who was from Shageluk, Alaska. He spent his childhood in Shageluk and in the mining camps at Flat and Iditarod, attended school, learned to hunt and trap, and traveled the rivers by barge. He served in the military, received electrician training, and... Read More
Harry Turner was born in 1921 to Elia Dutchman from Shageluk, Alaska and George Turner, who was a trader. Harry grew up in Shageluk and Flat where his father ran trading posts. Harry moved into Holy Cross when his father and a partner set up a store there. Harry served in Army Corps of Engineers on the Aleutian Islands during World War II, was a successful... Read More
|Gerald "Jerry" Walker
Gerald "Jerry" Walker was born in 1924 to James A. and Mary Walker in Ghost Creek, near Holy Cross, Alaska. He grew up living a traditional subsistence lifestyle traveling the area for hunting, trapping, and fishing. He served in the military and was stationed at Galena, Alaska, was a successful hunter and trapper, and worked as a riverboat captain barging... Read More
Lillian Walker was Yup'ik and born in 1924 to Katherine Bradley and Gabriel Kootok in Unalakleet, Alaska. She lived in Kaltag from age four to seven, then her stepfather, Fred LaBelle, moved the family to a mink farm located between Unalakleet and Kaltag. When she was thirteen years old she was sent to the Holy Cross Mission for school in Holy Cross, Alaska. She... Read More