Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Sarah and Samuel Kunaknana

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Sarah Kunaknana


"When I started to remember things I was at Prudhoe Bay. I didn’t know to this day that the white people were going to use the land to get rich. Also, at Napaqsralik, my father hunted in that area. He hunted polar bears, seals, and trapped foxes and also did some whaling at Napaqsralik. We have a sod house near the east dock at Prudhoe Bay and I saw it this winter we were invited by British Petroleum to have a meeting. I grew up around that area till I was 14 or 15 years old. All my brothers and I grew up over there, Mark Pausanna, David, Joseph and Percy. Two of my brothers are buried at Beechey Point. The reason why they are buried at Beechey Point is because they wanted to keep all the people who died in one place around that area. They both died at Prudhoe Bay. Percy had heart trouble. Joseph died of exposure near Napaqsralik out on the ice while hunting, having been taken out by the moving ice with some other men. I was about 13 years old when Joe died. When I was about that age Taaqpak’s crew got a whale. My father helped get a whale and also Quġannaaluk, Clay Kaigelak’s father. They brought in two boats bringing all the meat and maktak. At that time it was my first time eating maktak. From then on I’ve always like to eat maktak. Taaqpak had a big boat and my father and Quġannaaluk had a boat with an outboard motor... We had a cellar at Prudhoe Bay. But they have torn down the sod house. Probably the archeologists who dig for artifacts. I got some of them back but not all of them. After living there for some time after one of my brothers died, Joe, my parents left because there was no one living around that area. They left for Kuukpik where there were quite a few people living around 1934. That was when we started living around Kuukpik. We went there by boat through the rivers. We stayed at Tirraġruat for awhile and we left to go near Umiat around Anaktuvuk River and we spent a winter there with Masuleak’s family, and also with Paneak’s and Kakinya’s family who came in from the west. We all stayed there with those people for one winter. After staying there for one years we came back to Kuukpik because there was not caribou or fish that we could hunt for. During that time there was hardly any white man’s food. When we came back we stayed with Tegoseak’s family which is not too far from where we live right now." (pg.161)

Samuel Kunaknana


"I was born March 4, 1913. I was born in Utqiaġvik (Barrow). I had always traveled with my parents since I can remember. I can remember when we started to leave for Kuukpik and my parents had left for Sunnurak to go toward Kuukpik inland. That was the time that they had made up their minds to move around this area. During springtime another family traveled with us, Akuvlaak’s family. I guess it must have been around 1920, when we left Utqiaġvik. We spent all summer traveling towards Kuukpik and w were not in a hurry to travel. We spent several days at a time when we stopped to rest. We had a lot of food; fish, geese and ducks. Sometimes we got caribou. About August we reached Niġliq going towards Kuukpik. Our last stop was Putu and we had a visit with the people there. Akuvlaak’s family went towards the coast and my family went inland. When we split we went towards Itqiḷiqpaat River and spent a night there with my family. There were not too many in my family at that time. After we had slept in the morning, the parents saw some tents not too far from out tent. That was the first time we had seen people since we left Utqiaġvik." (pg. 153)

"The place they were at was Tirraġruat. After we stayed there with the people for a while we moved to Itqiḷiqpaat to spend a winter there with our parents. There were three white men and two Eskimo who were using a dog team at that time. During those times I used to be scared of white people. I was a really small boy then. Those three white men  were looking for oil at that time. They wanted my father to go with them to look for oil, but my father did not want to leave his family, telling them that he would not be able to find any oil while there was still some snow on the ground. It was one of those times while his father Iñuałuuraq and Ericklook were traveling up near the Qakutunik they smelled some weird smell while walking and they did not like the smell at all. It looked like a small pond that they saw and it smelled. They took a stick and put it in that pond and lit it with fire to see if it would burn. And it did burn. In those days the people did not know much about oil and did not know what it was for and they did know it could burn. Those white men wanted to know where my father had seen that kind of oil or where that pond was that they had seen. But my father wanted to go during the springtime." (pg. 153)

"The family that we had parted with when we left Utqiaġvik, Akuvlaak’s family, had spent a winter at that mouth of Kukparuk River. They had bought some things from Pederson and they left their things at the mouth of Kukparuk River. They had trapped foxes. We stayed all summer at Uuliktuq after we came from the islands. It was at that time I got to know the people who were living around that area. It was the first time I had got to meet these people. During the summer my parents and us left for Kukparuk by boat. After we had reached Kukparuk we saw those three men. They had been looking for us in a boat. They had left their boat at a mouth of Kukparuk River. Then some of the men had hiked inland. They Eskimos who were with them were Saqik and Piḷak. They met us here while we were camping one day. Then they left with my father Iñuałuuraq. Those white men at that time were looking for oil. I don’t remember the names of those white men. One of the guys who was left behind to say with us was Qaviat so he can (hunt or) support us while our father was gone. The guys who came to look for oil hiked up inland and they were gone all summer and Qaviat was living with us. My mother and the kids were home alone with Qaviat. It was until September that my father came back. When he came back we left by boat through the river and we met again with Saqik and Piḷak and they said they would head back where they had come from, to Itqiḷiq. Piḷak was left behind with our family and Saqik left alone." (pg. 154)

"The people during the springtime would get together at Uuliktuq. There would be quite a few people who would show up. That is what I can remember in those days that we traveled. We traveled all over with my parents in those days and in those days foxes were expensive. We just did not did not stay in one place all the time. We would move from time to time, trapping, and hunting. While I was still a small boy we were with Siakuk’s family and Aqsiataaq’s family. I don’t remember what year we left to go spend a winter up in the mountains with my parents. Siakuk and Aqsiataaq’s family went with us, and the other family, Tulukgak’s and also Nalikak with his aunt. We left by boat during the summer and we reached Anaktuuk River and spent a winter up there. After we stayed a year together with the other families, we split up towards the river with Katairuak and his aunt and my parents. When we reached the mountains with Nalikak and Katairuak we made a sod house out of willow trees. We hunted sheep and caribou and fished for iqaluaqpik. We also trapped wolves. Both of my parents were trapping. Then my parents decided to travel again, to go to Wiseman. It was during the springtime, probably March, we started traveling towards Wiseman." (pg. 155)

"We climbed all day into the mountains and we stayed overnight after not even reaching the top. It was early in the morning that we started climbing. When we woke up the next morning we slid down a little bit and reached the trees. Then when we reached the river toward the South we saw and met a white man, who had a sled and things with him. He had started going north but when he met us he started going back with us. Then the white man showed us how far we had to go yet. When we reached his camp he gave us some food. There was camp of people who were looking for gold in those days. We had lunch with those people at their camp. When we left for Wiseman that other man went the other direction. We hit the road that the people who were looking for gold used. We also hit a wire and we did not know what it was for but later found out they used that wire for communications between camps of those who were looking for gold. When we got close to Wiseman we also saw two other white men and they had two dos with them. Then those two white men told us we were getting close to Wiseman. We followed the roads to Wiseman and we reached Wiseman by the roads. There we met our relatives to mention their names, Tulugak’s, Siakuk’s, and Aqsiataaq’s. We were invited to the people’s homes when we got there to eat. While we were there some white men gave us some food. We did not stay very long. We saw some horses at Wiseman. There were some whites and some black. I saw some men getting some wood with horses. Also there were some people from Kovamiut living at Wiseman. They were also Eskimos. There was a school, a store and a place where people could stay while they are there. There was also electricity there." (pg. 155)

"Then during springtime we headed for the coast again. We had stayed a winter at Natvavak before we headed for the coast. We went back to the mouth of the Anaktuvuk River to go to our boat. Then during the summer we went by boat to Kuukpik. That was how we had lived in those days around 1920’s when we had left Utqiaġvik. It was around 1925 that we had left for Wiseman with my parents and I was still a small boy then." (pg. 155)

"We the Eskimos have hunted for these animals for survival. We cannot live without the animals. Even if we can get some money to get food with, we the Eskimos cannot live without the animals we hunt. Right now we are fighting for the survival of these animals from the oil companies who are looking for oil. We do not wish to see our animals disappear from the land for we use them to survive. We do not wish to see the danger to these animals. And we have been talking to let the oil company people know that we do not wish to see the danger to these animals we use for survival. We the Iñupiaq have worked hard to survive in the Arctic. I don’t want to see any changes made in the Iñupiaq way of living." (pg. 158)