Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Roxy Ekowana

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Roxy Ekowana


"I was born at Shooting Station (Piġniq) at Point Barrow on August 20th, 1907. I first traveled into the area around Prudhoe in the summer of 1923. Taaqpak and my older brother (Otis Ahkivgak) took me by boat, a wooden sailboat, to the east. That summer there were very strong east winds which made us stop and camp frequently along the way. We finally became icebound at Eskimo Island but then as soon as the ice movements allowed us to cross safely to Atiġruk (Atigaru Point) we settled and spent the winter there." (pg.113)

"After we wintered at Atiġruk, after trapping, after he had us trapping foxes that winter, and summer finally came… we had two boats without engines - sailboats - the third was a skin boat and we also had a fourth boat, a small canoe. These are what we used that summer. With us were two families, Taaqpak and his wife, Ahkivgak’s and their children, and I, a young man, (travelled with the two families). As we travelled east along the coast toward the Colville River and Niġliq we would set up camp when the weather got too bad to travel." (pg.113)

"In 1924, while we were traveling from Beechey Point, just when we were trying to find a place in which to spend the night, we spotted a light down there. These people we found out, were the Pausanna’s. Their house was located right at the head of the bay where the oil company’s equipment is not located at Prudhoe Bay. The Pausanna’s settled there first in 1924. I was later to find out that they had wintered at Napaqsralik (Cross Island) for some years but had decided not to winter there any more and had moved to Prudhoe Bay in the fall, there at the head of the bay. As we all know they stayed there for a long time until they finally headed toward Utqiaġvik some time later. How many years they spent at Prudhoe Bay, I don’t know." (pg.114)

"We started wintering there in the Qalġusiḷik delta because the lichen was plentiful there. The first few days we spent there the reindeer would not stray from the area during the night. We wintered there. The wood was also plentiful… we were using Sikiaġruk and Siḷamiutchiaq’s cabins there. When the trapping season was over and the fawning about to begin we left this area which is so plentiful in lichen and took the reindeer up inland a ways, just following them… sometimes nudging them a little to push them along. We traveled along the east side of the Qalġusiḷik River. We headed inland, sometimes going for wood from the shore of the Qalġusiḷik River, until we finally reached the west fork of the (Savviuġvik) river, just a little ways inland of the fork. The two rivers run alongside the other… the two rivers of the Savviuġvik. One we called the East Fork and the other was the West Fork. We reached the West Fork just a little ways inland of the fork when the reindeer were fawning that spring… we ate only ptarmigan, that was all we had to eat. Because the supply boat had been wrecked that year we did not have any white man’s food and Pederson’s store was too far away. The people had a lot of fox skins but no place to trade them in, so everyone was short on supplies that year. We stayed a little ahead of the melting snow so our travel would not become bogged down, and we reached the ocean just west of the mouth of the Savviuġvik River. From there we went over to Kaŋiġruaq to get Utuayuk’s skin boat (frame) and took it back to where we were. We fitted its skins on and lashed them in. it was there at Tigvaġiaq Island that Kakianaaq and his family were camping for the summer. They had been at Kaŋiġruaq earlier on but now were at Tigvaġiaq. Taaqpak and his family were at Pole Island where they were going to spend the summer. We followed the melting of the shore ice and moved along the seacoast, spending the nights along the way, and eventually ended up west of Qalġusiḷik, a little east of Foggy Island, somewhere there… where Quġannaaluk and his family have their settlement, somewhere there. We spent some time there, then as the time approached for butchering the reindeer for their fur sometime in the summer… we tried to take the reindeer to Foggy Island… we tried to cross over to the island with them but they would not stay there because it did not have much for them to eat… it was a small island and all it had was some tall grass on that island, no lichen, so the reindeer would just take off back across. We stayed there for a short while… Suvałiq and I were the only ones left. Oenga had quit herding to go and take care of his parents about the time that everyone on Foggy Island was planning to go upriver, right after the supply boats had come. We settled there where Quġannaaluk and his family have their house now, before they had built it. We settled in to winter there taking care of the reindeer by ourselves." (pg.115-116)

"They decided to have Utana help me with the heard fawning time, taking the herd to somewhere near Sikłaqtitaq to have them fawn there. When we took off from our wintering place there near the East fork of the Sagvaġniqtuuq, the area we had to traverse between the two forks is long, we tried to stop for the night, but the reindeer would not stay there because there was nothing for them to eat. Because there was no lichen for them to eat they would try to disperse whenever we tried to set up camp for the night and I would leave my partner and try to round them up. I tried as much as I cold to let him get some sleep. When I realized that we could not keep this up, we could not keep them in a place without any food, I left with him in the middle of the night. Then about dawn after we crossed the West fork of the Sagvaġniqtuuq, as soon as we climbed up the bank our reindeer planted their snouts to the ground and wouldn’t budge. They finally found some lichen. Thinking to spend the night a little farther down I tried to move them on, even using the dogs to help me, but there was no way those reindeer were about to move now that they were finally eating. Well, we eventually ended up spending the night right where we were. You couldn’t blame them. They were hungry because they had not eaten since the night before. That area between the two forks of the Sagvaġniqtuuq is no place to spend the night when you are with the reindeer. We settled somewhere southwest of Pausanna’s place, Kaniqłuq, up inland a ways. We settled and started to help with the fawning. We’d put up our tent… we did not make any snow/tent shelters since the weather was not cold. This was sometime after the middle of April. We stayed there and helped with the fawning, sometimes camping out, sometimes almost moving on." (pg.117)

"At Christmas time, Foster Panigeo and his wife and I went down to spend Christmas at Taaqpak’s place. Going through there on to Beechey Point where a lot of people were gathering together… from Piŋu, Uuliktuq, Kuukpik, Uyuġuaq’s family, all the people from along the coast near that area, everyone was getting together there… Kataktuġvik and his family who were settled there at Beechey Point and Etuk and his wife and their children, Charlie and his brother. Also Aġniŋa was there along with his children, with them was Avik. Quġannaaluk was also there with his family. From further east, from around Sikł̣aqtitaq came Ullaaq and his family, the Qiñŋusaaq’s, Samarualuk’s… all these people from close around the Sikł̣aqtitaq area came here." (pg.120)

"From the east also came Pausanna and the other families from that area, Kaniqłuq. That’s the same area where they now have all those drilling rigs, the head of the bay. After spending Christmas there I started to talk to my older brother, Otis Ahkivgak, telling him that the reindeer did not need as much tending in the winter, that is was not very hard and the, Foster Panigeo could watch them, and that I wanted to go to the Sagvaġniqtuuq area to go trapping… in that area which I had known before I settled there. I kept asking and asking him until I finally had him agree to take me there. After Christmas I traveled with Foster Panigeo and his family on our way back carrying a load for them using Aqivgaq’s dogs… I traveled with them over to Qulvi. Then we went trapping. I showed him where all my traps were and he told me not to remove them so that he can used them himself, although I did keep the ones that were already in the traps at the time. We decided that the traps would be just like his own after I leave and he started to tend them, because we were working toward the same thing anyway (working for some place anyway?). After doing that I left them to go to a place that I had become familiar with before, a place where I wanted to go trapping. When I returned to our place where Aqivgaq and his wife were we spent a few days there and after that Aqivgaq started to take me east a little ways inland of Beechey Point by land, traveling inland. I don’t know how many days we camped overnight while traveling inland. But we did go and spend the night with Pausanna’s at Kaniqłuq when we were going by their place so that we could dry out some things. From there we went on to Sagvaġniqtuuq, the east fork, somewhere near the fork where we had first settled when we were there before. Our first little house… was still standing and I used it to stay in. it was a little cold though because it was too big so I pitched a little tent inside it to stay in while I was trapping. Here Aqivgaq helped me set up some traps for a little while and then left me. We did not see each other again until after the time for removing traps. He came by once, but missed me because I had gone up to spend the night to tend my traps up there toward Savviuġvik, up east of the foothills. While I was there I had a visitor, Siḷamiutchiaq, who, when he found out that I was in the area wanted to see me and came. I had him as a guest. We spent a few days just enjoying each other’s company and then started off to go get some supplies for him and his family. We put all our dogs together and used one sled and headed for Tigvaġiaq where he said that he had a tent supply shed. He wanted to go there to rummage for some supplies for himself. He also wanted to take me to his family to have them see me. It was there in one of the areas that we first settled, a little ways inland of Foggy Island, that Masuliaq’s, Pausanna’s children, Aanataq and the rest of the siblings were trapping using Quġannaaluk’s cabin. We went by their place but we went on directly over to Tigvaġiaq. There at Tigvaġiaq were the Qisiiḷaaq’s, likuluk’s and Kisik’s families." (pg.120-121)