Lorraine Titus was interviewed on August 5, 2014 by Leslie McCartney and Barbara Cellarius at the Northway Corporation office in Northway, Alaska. In this interview, Lorraine talks about growing up in Northway, her grandparents, and living a subsistence lifestyle. She also talks about the school in Northway, cultural and language revitalization, local government and business, and changes in the community and the environment.
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Going to school and advocating for education
Getting involved with the tribal council
Speaking the language
Changes in the community
Schools in Northway
Changes in the river
Additional discussion of the schools in Northway
Other changes in the village
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LESLIE McCARTNEY: So, today’s August 5, 2014. We’re in the Northway tribal offices or --?
LORRAINE TITUS: Northway Corporation. LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- Northway Corporation offices. I’m Leslie McCartney. We’re with Lorraine Titus, and we’re with Barbara Cellarius. So thank you very much, Lorraine -- LORRAINE TITUS: Okay.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- for agreeing for this today. And you were -- let’s just start with a little bit about your grandparents, because they used to travel a lot on the land, you were telling us the other day.
LORRAINE TITUS: My grandpa’s Chief Walter Northway and my grandma was Lilly Northway. And my -- on my dad’s side, my grandparents were Peter Albert and Elsie Northway. And I was -- my dad isn’t -- my dad’s dad, Peter Albert, was from down the Copper area. So, that’s kinda how, you know, I was pretty familiar with the region down there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And so all of his ancestors, too, from before came from down from that area that, too?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yep, they were all from down there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And on the grandmother’s side? Where were they from?
LORRAINE TITUS: From here. LESLIE McCARTNEY: From here. LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. Uh-huh.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: From the Northway area. And that’s on both sides of your parents, they were from here? Or was it just --
LORRAINE TITUS: Both of them except for, you know, Peter Albert.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And so they lived traditional lifestyle -- hunting and trapping in those areas?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yep, and my grandpa traveled, you know, quite a bit. My grandpa Walter. And -- so that’s their life was the subsistence lifestyle and so they knew, you know, a lot of people from the Ahtna area, plus, you know, the upper Tanana. So they traveled quite a bit, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And so your dad grew up traveling a lot of the land. You with him or --?
LORRAINE TITUS: Not so much my dad. No. But my, you know, grandparents and other, you know, family members, you know, from his side of the family, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Mm-hm. And so where were you born, and when were you born then, Lorraine?
LORRAINE TITUS: I was born here in Northway some sixty years ago. So, and -- yeah, just born and raised here.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And so did you want more family history, Barbara, about brothers and sisters of parents at all, or -- ? Do you know all the connections?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Well the -- the question that I was actually -- the question that immediately I was thinking about was were you -- were you born at home? Or -- I know that, like, in the Copper Basin sometimes people ended up going someplace with a hospital.
LORRAINE TITUS: No, I was born at home. Yeah. Pretty much all of us -- all of our siblings were born at home except for the last two.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So what type of lifestyle did you live as a child then, Lorraine?
LORRAINE TITUS: A pretty tough lifestyle. My mom and dad, you know, traveled quite -- quite a bit, and they would travel around and, you know, like, go caribou hunting up the Taylor. And Dad was, you know -- trapped up in the Black Hills and, you know, all those places, and they pretty much didn’t know -- even know what welfare was, you know, and so they had to make a living doing all those kind of things and --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And how many children with you and your siblings?
LORRAINE TITUS: There was three, fi -- four -- seven of us, yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And so then you just traveled from place to place?
LORRAINE TITUS: We didn’t so much travel. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
LORRAINE TITUS: We were pretty much, like, maybe left with babysitters or Mom would stay home. But then when, like, they went out caribou hunting, they’d be gone for, like, week up the Taylor and we were with babysitters or somebody would stay home and watch us and, you know, when they were out moose hunting, they pretty much, you know, kept us home.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And so when they came back with moose and caribou, was it shared with everyone or was it just simply for the family?
LORRAINE TITUS: Just depends on all who went out. You know, they might split all of that, you know, amongst them. But I remember him getting moose and stuff and he would split it among, you know, grandparents and other -- you know, maybe somebody that doesn’t have a husband -- is a widow -- he would, you know, share meat with them and stuff, so --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Did you spend much time with your grandparents when you were young, or --?
LORRAINE TITUS: I was pretty much raised by my grandparents. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Oh. LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Because I just think that often happens. So when you say you -- they would leave you with a babysitter, was it a babysitter or did you get left with your grandparents?
LORRAINE TITUS: Well, sometimes there was, you know, maybe another -- another younger aunt, you know, would stay with us and -- but pretty much as I was growing up until I maybe started school when I was, you know, nine -- ten -- ten years old or some -- right around that age.
But in between that, from when I was a little girl up to about that age, I stayed mostly with my grandma and grandpa, so. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay.
LORRAINE TITUS: And then after I got older, I kinda spent a lot of time with them.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And so was it your grandmother then who taught you a lot of the traditional skills that you -- LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- are teaching on today? LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So, the sewing and beading -- LORRAINE TITUS: Both my mom and my grandparents, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. So where -- I know you’re a big proponent -- LORRAINE TITUS: -- and my aunts, some of my aunts.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: You’re a big proponent of education, Lorraine, you were saying the other day, so where did you go to school then?
LORRAINE TITUS: I went here to Northway, and a lot of the kids up to my age all went to boarding school -- the older ones, you know, my -- like, my older brother and sister all went to boarding schools, you know, but -- but when I hit the age of high school, I -- there was no way I was going to leave my brothers behind, my younger siblings, and so I just went to Tok and went and graduated from Tok School, so -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
LORRAINE TITUS: -- just stayed with family or, you know, into a boarding program in Tok, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. It’s not too far from home.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. Couldn’t leave my little brothers behind.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So was -- did the school at that point only go --
LORRAINE TITUS: To eighth grade.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay. So the school didn’t go all the way to high school at the time. So that was -- you had to leave -- you had to go someplace else to continue. LORRAINE TITUS: Yep.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And when did they get a high school here in Northway?
LORRAINE TITUS: Back in -- I think in ‘77, I believe, right -- right around there -- ‘70, in the late ‘70s they started the high school. They built the new school and started the high school.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Uh-huh. So that before there wasn’t-- LORRAINE TITUS: It might be before that, you know --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: But right around there? LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah, right around there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: You were telling us actually you worked for the school for thirty-five --
LORRAINE TITUS: Thirty five years. LESLIE McCARTNEY: So was that one of your first jobs then?
LORRAINE TITUS: No I worked at -- right after I got out of school I worked as -- started as a teacher’s aide then I got into the health aid field. And then from there I became the alcohol counselor for a couple years and then went into the school and I just stayed there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. How did you enjoy being the health aide?
LORRAINE TITUS: Challenging. Yeah, very challenging, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Did you have to go to school for courses for that? Or was it just --
LORRAINE TITUS: Training. Yeah, we went to training.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. So, thirty-five years at the school. LORRAINE TITUS: Yep.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And then you were also involved with tribal council.
LORRAINE TITUS: For years.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So did you start that when you were in your -- LORRAINE TITUS: Eighteen. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Eighteen?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah, I was eighteen years old when I -- and then I was president the majority of the time, and then I kinda, you know, stepped down and, you know, a few years here and there, and -- but I kept -- I stayed on and kept getting back into the -- so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: What were some of the early issues then? Or -- or did the issues change over the years?
LORRAINE TITUS: Changed quite a bit. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Huh! Tell us a little bit.
LORRAINE TITUS: Changed -- I -- I don’t know. I -- it was challenging at the beginning because I was always taught, you know, by my dad that -- you know -- keep your mouth shut. You take, you know, and don’t try to tell an older person anything. You wait for advice, you know. And then I got on the council and here’s all these older people on there, and it was hard to keep quiet, and I didn’t know what to do, and it was pretty challenging.
And I had to go back to him and say, you know, “What do I do?” you know, because -- And then he said, “Well, you were elected to do your job, so you’re gonna have to do your job” so --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: It changes your status.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. But it was pretty hard to, you know, keep your mouth shut and wait for the advice. Don’t try to overstep people, you know, and so it was kinda hard.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And did the elders respect that you were trying to ask questions to learn or --?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah, they were pretty good. Actually I think most of them stood right by me and tried to help and they encouraged me, you know. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Well, one of the issues that you were on the tribal council for is one of the reasons we’re here today -- was for the inclusion of the community --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: For adding -- adding and recognizing Northway as the residents of a community from Wrangell–St. Elias.
LORRAINE TITUS: Okay, I sat on the Wrangell St Elias’s -- BARBARA CELLARIUS: -- the subsistence resource commission. LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah.
LORRAINE TITUS: And at that time, you know, we were lookin’ at the zone, and I couldn’t figure out why Northway, I think, and Tanacross were excluded. They kinda went -- went around our community. They picked up Tok and then they went around Tanacross and picked up Dot Lake and -- so started asking questions and then I said,
“You know, I think we should be included because we have people that’s from the Banzaneta (local pronunciation of Batzulnetas) area from the, you know, from that area and that have come down and migrated from Chisana and are now living in Northway and -- So they had hearings here in Northway, and they got testimonies from a lot of the people here.
And they ended up changing. And I think Walter Charlie -- or Walter Charles -- whatever his name -- I can’t remember his last name. It was Charles or Charlie. BARBARA CELLARIUS: There was a Walter Charlie in -- in Chistochina.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. Yeah. One of ‘em came in and really spoke, you know, and was supporting what I was trying to do and -- and that -- I think that had a really big, you know, impact on them changing the zone. So.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So prior to that then nobody just really understood that your family ties and other family ties from Northway had actually used those areas? Is that --?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah, it just seems like they thought nobody from Northway was, you know, from that area or even used that area, and when they got -- they were kinda surprised, I think, when they came down and got the testimonies and stuff of all the people that used or else were from that area, or their grandparents of them and their parents were from there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. LORRAINE TITUS: So.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So most of the people that testified to that are no longer with us? A lot of the elders?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. Well, we have some, but they’re elders that probably just don’t want to talk, like, you have Louie Frank and, you know, they -- they moved from there, you know, with their families, so -- their parents, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah, yeah. And so that must have been really satisfying for you and the community to get that included.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah, we were pretty happy once that was done, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. So do you still go down that way then? On the land?
LORRAINE TITUS: We use, you know, lot of the fishing, and then sometimes they’ll go down, you know, the Nabes-- BARBARA CELLARIUS: -- the Nabesna Road.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. And hunt, you know, moose and stuff, but most -- most of the time it’s just fishing and going down that way with, you know --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So do you use a Copper River fishwheel?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah, they let us use wheel or, you know, something down there. Their -- or else they’ll call us and say, you know, we’re overloaded with fish, you know, come down and get it. So we’ll go down and get it.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: I’m interested to maybe talk about culture camp. Is that possible? Your culture camp that you run. So when did that sorta start, Lorraine? It just -- when?
LORRAINE TITUS: Gosh, I’m not really sure when it started. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Did you start it or did --
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah, I help to, you know, start get it going and -- but we decided we just wanted to do something, so we got out there and we did it. And we just continue to do it. And in the past, you know, we paid, you know, maybe or somebody run it and it get it set up.
And then we pay maintenance, we pay boat drivers and rent boats and do all this, you know -- lot of it was -- and then we hired a cook and -- . But anymore in the last few years we said if it’s a culture camp, why are we payin’ people, you know?
And so we started doin’ it voluntarily. The only thing we do is we supply the gas. We supply majority of the food. Especially the everyday thing, like water and, you know. And some of us will save, like, salmon or moose meat and we’ll use that.
We’ll donate that to the culture camp. And actually nobody gets paid for doing anything now. They know everybody helps cook and, you know, it seems like it runs way better that way. Nobody’s pointing fingers at nobody or, you know -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
LORRAINE TITUS: -- sittin’ back. It’s just a -- you know. A lot of them know it’s volunteer, so they try to help. So it’s been really good.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So whose camp is it at or --?
LORRAINE TITUS: It’s at my grandpa’s Native allotment, my grandpa Walter’s Native allotment. And it was nice that the family let us use that, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And so during culture camp what kind of activities are you -- you’re tryin’ to teach mostly the young people? Or is it just --?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah, and, you know, lot of it is -- we try to get parents to get out and do things with their kids and, you know, the kids come up. Sometimes we’ll take kids and, you know, work with them. But we try to make the parents take these kids out. They camp with them and then we try to teach them. We do a little bit of language.
They do Indian dancing and singing. They cut fish. If there -- if they do get a moose -- we usually put in for a moose permit. And if they get a moose, the guys go out there and they teach them how to skin and do all that. They get that done.
And then, like, this summer -- last -- the last camp we had in 2013, we had a la -- one of our local peop -- girls go out there and she taught how to make canvas boots and gun case out of canvas, and I taught how to make slippers from cutting it out to putting it totally together, and we had some young, really young kids doin’ it so -- we did -- and then we just supply all our own material and -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
LORRAINE TITUS: -- you know, donate it. So it was -- this year we didn’t do as much as we did the year before, because we were gonna cancel it and then but we ended up doin it, so a last minute thing, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: The weather’s been so bad this summer.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. And -- but they did some beading. We had, like, three girls that were in their twenties that never beaded before -- then beaded. So they really got into it. So. And just, you know, they made keychains and we take those keychains and we save it and at Christmas we give it to the elders, you know, and it’s been pretty nice, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: You were telling us about the dance group that you’ve got together and how they’ve been learning their language, and you went to the Yukon and they were actually speaking their language.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yep. They went -- we went to Whitehorse last month in July -- first part of -- was it -- yeah, first part of July, and they performed at the Adakä cultural something -- and they were able to get up, introduce themself in their language, and introduce the song and, you know.
And then they performed for them there and -- Actually a guy came up to us after the dancing and got some -- my phone number and --‘cause he’s from New York and they have something going on in New York, and he said that he may contact me if he can get approval to have us go to New York, so.
Because he thought our kids were really unique and he said he’s seen lots of performance but these kids were dancing at their own. They weren’t trained to dance. They were just dancing. So he was pretty impressed with a six-year-old getting up and speaking the language.
And so then we just -- couple week -- week ago went to Dawson and then we went to Moosehide and performed there for them too, and those kids were able to get up and speak too, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And what’s the age group of the kids in the dance troupe?
LORRAINE TITUS: I think our youngest one is, like, three, and they range all the way up to, I don’t know, in the late twenties?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And how many are there?
LORRAINE TITUS: Well, we took thirty-five to Whitehorse, and to Dawson we took thirty.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: That must be every child in Northway.
LORRAINE TITUS: Well, it, you know, ranges some of them were parents too, but they’d never done this before so, you know. And they got involved with their kids and then they ended up learning to dance and speak too, so it’s been --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And you speak a lot of the language then, Lorraine?
LORRAINE TITUS: I’m not fluent but I can understand all of it, and then I can speak most of it. It’s just, you know, it’s hard for me to carry on a conversation and, you know. If I think about it I can do it, but it’s --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So at home what was the language predominantly spoken then?
LORRAINE TITUS: English. Because I was probably one of the last ones that started school that we were punished if we spoke our language, so. And we were probably right around my age that we weren’t able to go to the school at the airport.
My older brother and sister had to go to the BIA school even though we didn’t live in the village. We lived along the road. We weren’t able to go the school at the airport. We had -- Dad had to get them over to the village to go to school at the BIA school.
And finally some of the people would put their kids in with non-natives. So that they could go to school. And somehow, I don’t know what happened , but they opened the doors so that they could -- we could all go to school instead of going four miles to get to school, so.
And then when we got there, Dad was pretty much told that we couldn’t speak our language. So -- and Dad was person that education was pretty important, you know, and so if we got punished at school for even saying “Ouch” in our language out on the playground and we were caught, we were not only punished at school, we were punished severely at home because, you know, so.
But I guess just hearing it, you know, from my grandma and them and being able to communicate with my grandma and them it was, you know, kinda -- but my older brother and sister can understand it. But to this day they’re too ashamed to speak it, and my younger siblings do not speak it at all.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So it’s still carrying through -- the fact that they’d be punished for it. And yet the younger generation is actually wanting to relearn the language now. Some of them --
LORRAINE TITUS: They’re not wanting to. They’re still kind of, you know, hesitant in doin’ it. And -- especially my grandkids. I mean, the ones that live in town are really interested. The one -- the two that lives here -- you know, they’re kinda trying but they’re really hesitant, you know, about doin’ it. So.
And then I explain to these kids when we’re at culture night that this is your language. It was taken away from us. Now we need to learn it again. And so with me -- keep telling them that, it seems like they’re getting more interested in learning it. So.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. But you were saying unfortunately the school right now, they don’t have a curriculum program in --
LORRAINE TITUS: They don’t have anything. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. So, hopefully I can get it put into the schools once I figure out what I -- what we want.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. Yeah. Certainly a lot of models to follow, so.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And when you spent time with your grandparents, did they primarily speak --
LORRAINE TITUS: They -- both. Yeah. And I think I was fortunate having them, because if I made a mistake with pronouncing, you know, the native word or something, my grandmother won’t say, “Not that way,” you know. She’ll just say it the correct way and then go on from there.
You know, and I knew what she was doin’ so -- but I, you know, so I could hear it, but she didn’t laugh or, you know, say, you know, “That’s not the right way,” you know, and stuff. And you hear that a lot from other people, you know, when you’re tryin’ to speak.
You make mistake -- they laugh and say -- or else they’ll say “That’s not the way you say it” -- you know, really mean. And at our culture night the kids do pronounce ‘em wrong. And I have couple people try make the correction and I said “Don’t you dare. Don’t you even go there.”
I said then, you know, we say it over and over again until they get it. But I said nobody’s gonna make any corrections here. If they say it wrong, we’ll go back and we’ll work on it. But -- and it’s been -- it’s been really good.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Did either of your parents then go to -- go to school then, Lorraine? Both your mom or your dad?
LORRAINE TITUS: My mom went for a while. My dad was, you know, my dad’s parents died when he was real small, so he ended up going to Mt. Edgecumbe at a very young age. And he was away from home for years. And then he came back.
I think he was in his eleventh grade year when his brother died and left his two kids. And he asked Dad to -- and he was in Mt Edgecumbe in Sitka hospital -- so Dad came back to take care of his two kids. And that’s how he ended up with Mom. He was gonna just take care of the two kids and then he ended up with Mom, so. But he came back to --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: The reason I asked is I was just wondering if they had been forced to leave their language, too, and learn English. That was --
LORRAINE TITUS: My dad remembered it.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: He did? LORRAINE TITUS: Mm-hm.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So it’s not like he had to come back and relearn it?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. He wasn’t -- he didn’t speak it, you know, but he understood all of it and, you know. But he -- he remembered most of it, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So over the years being on all of the councils, what big things have come up or changes that you -- other than the, you know, inclusion to the park -- what are some of the other issues that your community’s had to deal with?
LORRAINE TITUS: I’m not sure. I'd have to think about it. I mean, when you live it, you just don’t realize the changes, you know, until, you know, something comes up. Then you think, jeez, you know -- we didnt' do that a long time ago, you know.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: We were talking to Tom earlier and he was saying that -- (inaudible interruption)
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Tom was just saying that there used to be so many businesses along the highway. LORRAINE TITUS: Uh-huh.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: They used to employ so many people.
LORRAINE TITUS: There used to been like -- the big change I seen and I don’t know how that happened was, you know, we used to have so many people here in the community: four hundred fifty, almost five hundred people. And we had at one time, like, hundred and one kids in the school.
You know, and then the --down -- now we’re down to, like, you know, barely hangin’ on to fifty, you know, and probably less now, so. And seems like we had more houses, too. I don’t know why, right now it don’t seem like we can, you know --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah. LORRAINE TITUS: And I know a lot of families want to come home, but there’s no place to live.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. LORRAINE TITUS: So.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And -- but a lot of people go out for jobs and other --
LORRAINE TITUS: Pretty much. Yeah. Mm-hm. And then what -- the big difference I think I’ve seen is the community used to be a really close community? Like during holidays. You know, everybody came for Christmas. Everybody came for New Years. You know, they just got together for holidays.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So more community gatherings.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. I mean really close, you know. And even the elders, you know, they all came up and you’d hear laughing and everything. But it seems like after we got all our new houses built and TVs came in and -- now when you come up for Christmas and stuff, you see just a handful of people.
It‘s not everybody that comes up anymore. It’s -- and it’s really sad, so I’ve been doin’ a lot of promotion. We’ll raise money and we’ll buy new sweatshirts, backpacks for the elders and toys for the kids, you know, and we would try to do a community-type thing to try to bring the gathering back.
And I always blame the new house and TV and -- now nobody wants to get out of their house, you know, because -- I mean, before you want to get out because you’re in a one -- you know --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LORRAINE TITUS: -- log cabin with, you know, ten kids, so you want to get out. So, it’s just like, you know, it’s -- it’s sad because, you know, those kids are gonna remember, you know those kind of things when they get older, you know ‘cause those are my precious moments that I remember, and my kids are the same way.
It’s -- they said it’s not Christmas unless you come to the village, you know, for Christmas. That -- that’s their Christmas. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah. LORRAINE TITUS: So.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So when did the new houses get built?
LORRAINE TITUS: Well, back in, I think ‘84 was when they first built the log houses. And I think in ’90 -- early ‘90s they built the --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: The grey ones? LORRAINE TITUS: The grey ones, and then they just built some more recently. So.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So is that like the housing authority?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. Uh-huh. Through the housing authority.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: But with the loss of businesses along the highway and the airport too, Lorraine a lot of unem-- like, a lot of people became unemployed or had to go look for work.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah. A lot of them had to go to school, you know, which is great, you know. And there just a lot of them had to further their education and once they got it, you know, there’s no job for their career here. So.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Well you were even saying about your own children. You’ve got one daughter who’s a nurse? LORRAINE TITUS: Uh-huh.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And what were the other professions?
LORRAINE TITUS: The other -- one son is working for TCC as a housing director. And then my youngest son is up north working on the --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. LORRAINE TITUS: You know, he’s working as a roustabout on drill rigs. So. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LORRAINE TITUS: And my oldest daughter works for Alyeska and -- and she moved for education of her girls too, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And then what about the tribal businesses here. Because you kinda have your hand on that too, don’t you? Has that changed over the years?
LORRAINE TITUS: Well, there’s a difference between the tribal council and the corporation.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh, is there? LORRAINE TITUS: You know, the corporation is, you know, through ANCSA that were profit --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: It's a for profit business.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. Right. And then the -- down there is, you know, tribal council is governing, you know, through grants and so. And then I kinda pulled outa that one and been on this board since it first incorporated.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And when was that?
LORRAINE TITUS: In ’71. And then worked, you know, through -- I just stayed on the board and then finally I came in to start working. So.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Getting back down to the -- the Wrangell area, since your grandparents had ties down there, do you still -- do your family still go down there at all or --?
LORRAINE TITUS: Not so much. I think my brothers hunt the Nabesna Road but, you know, that’s -- that’s about it. We haven’t, you know, been down there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. LORRAINE TITUS: So.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And you said that Peter Frank came from -- LORRAINE TITUS: Peter Albert.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Pete -- Peter Albert. I’ve got people confused. Peter Albert came from Copper River?
LORRAINE TITUS: From the -- yeah. He’s family to like, Louie Frank and, you know, he’s an uncle to Louie Frank and them. Steve. They were related to my dad.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Banzaneta (local pronunciation of Batzulnetas) area? LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. Mm-hm. So.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: I wanted to ask a little bit about the schools. You talked about how there used to be -- were there two schools in Northway when you were little?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yep. Actually I think I -- kindergarten -- first grade. They had two different schools and then they allowed us to go to school that lived along the highway.
And if you were non-Native, you could go to school there, you know, get dropped off. And then some of them would move their kids in with non-natives so they could go to school. And then somehow they started, not a bus service, but I think a station wagon like --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Like a shuttle service.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah, they let us go to school there finally and, they still had two different schools for a long time. And then back -- I think I graduated and then I left home and my dad was the president of the village council. He became the president of the village council, and he went over to the village and kinda was spending time in the BIA school.
He would come sneakin’ in the back and he would listen to see what was goin’ on. And then one day that year, that following year, he was working with the state to try to get them to open the state schools for all kids in the community instead of having two schools. He wasn’t happy with the way they were teaching over at the, you know, BIA school, and he was really frustrated.
He was really unhappy. And he tried to talk with the teachers and then he finally -- actually you can find it in the Tundra Times. He made the headline in Tundra Times, but he said, “If you don’t open the doors, the kids will be sittin’ out on the sidewalk. All of ‘em.” They are -- that they are not going to the BIA school.
They are comin’ up to the airport to go to the state school. And if you don’t open the doors they’re gonna sit out there. And he actually closed that BIA school. And then he -- we’re gonna take the kids up, and they tell him no, you know, and stuff. They brought in modulars and they -- like, four modulars and a lot of those kids quit school because they were in eighth grade.
They were put back into like fourth, fifth grade, so they all quit school and, you know, they had a heck of a time, you know. And wasn’t the kids’s fault, because they weren’t bein’ taught. So, and there were kids, you know, pretty much my age and maybe younger that dropped out of school. So.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Did you have any teachers that were really inspirational to you?
LORRAINE TITUS: I guess a lot of them. Lot of ‘em. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LORRAINE TITUS: So. Because I did grow up in a pretty -- in, you know, you can just -- in between the years, I think, with my grandma -- between my parents and stuff. My parents were -- you know, when they drank they were chronic alcoholics. And so I, you know, went through a lot through the years.
But when Dad was sober, you know, he talked to us a lot and -- and same with Mom, you know, we -- but we grew up pretty rough, and I think that’s why I didn’t wanna leave home was because I didn’t want to leave my younger --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Your younger siblings.
LILLIAN TITUS: Yeah, siblings to be by themselves and have to take care of themselves, so. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. Right.
LORRAINE TITUS: And my older brother and sister didn’t really know, because they were in boarding schools, you know, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So in summer time did you go to fish camp at all with your grandparents?
LORRAINE TITUS: Well, well it was just right here. Yeah, but now it’s all -- all underwater and they’re small, you know. But we spent almost every summer over there at fish camp. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LORRAINE TITUS: And, you know, helped Mom cut, you know, bring up fish and cut it and so they would be over there doin’ it, and --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So would you move there for the summer?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. For the -- pretty much for the summer. They just move us, you know. We just moved over there.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And did you use boats to get there?
LORRAINE TITUS: No, we walked. BARBARA CELLARIUS: You walked.
LORRAINE TITUS: It was just a little walking distance. And they had built fishtraps and we just dipnet ‘em out. The whitefish and the -- that’s all we had, was whitefish. So.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And then you would -- What -- what did you do with the fish once you had them harvested?
LORRAINE TITUS: We’d cut ‘em and hang ‘em to dry. Yeah. We pretty much lived on whitefish. We always laughed when we went -- first went to the state school. You know, the kids from the FAA would bring nice white sandwiches, you know, and with peanut butter and jelly.
And we would come and hide our lunch in bag, because Mom would fry some biscuits and she would make us peanut butter and jelly, you know, we were hidin -- Those kids would trade us all the time. I mean, they would want our sandwich, and here we were -- didn’t want the -- them to see it. BARBARA CELLARIUS: You were embarrassed.
LORRAINE TITUS: And then we thought, man, how stupid could we have been, trading our good food for just this, because we wanted white bread that was bad for us in the first place. We always sittin’ around and laugh about that, we tell the kids.
Or Mom would roast, you know, moose meat and then she’d slice it and make us, you know, sandwich and take it up there. And we would hide and -- they -- they’d even pay us to give them lunch.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: You said the fish camp’s underwater now. Why -- why is that? Just the changes in the climate? To the road? LORRAINE TITUS: Up the river -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yes.
LORRAINE TITUS: Up the Chisana they’re -- the state for some odd reason, there’s some people that work for DOT back -- I don’t even know what year it was. They have documentations on it. But they dynamite that one little creek there. And so it became a river and it came into all the fishing area, all these lakes.
That’s why when you go towards down there, you get to that little one bridge? You see all that water and -- even before that. That is all river now. I mean, river water coming in there because they broke that, you know, place and it became --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Oh, it like, broke -- broke through?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. They dynamite -- use dynamites, and they, you know, opened up a spot, and then it just slowly -- and then pretty soon it’s just flowing now, and so there’s constantly water down in the lower part, and it’s all from the river. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Wow.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So then do you have to go someplace else to fish now?
LORRAINE TITUS: It’s pretty hard, yeah. Now we have to go way out and we can fish the river, you know, once it starts running. But other than that, we’re -- we have to go for the summer -- just drive way up the river, and not many people here have boats and stuff to do that. Before, they used to just go down there and --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: It was easy. LORRAINE TITUS: -- down at fish camp. Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And that’s why it's called fish camp? LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. Uh-huh. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
LORRAINE TITUS: Because they used to go back behind that place and walk back there. And there was a little creek there.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: A good place for putting in the traps?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. And kids would just sit there all night and, you know, wait for the fish to come in, and they’d dip ‘em out, you know, because they had a trap. And then they had the net in there.
And they used to string ‘em up in willows and take em to, you know, the elders’ smokehouses, and we used to do that when we were small. Just fill their smokehouses up and we’ll go to sleep, and they’d get up and cut fish, you know, so.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And is fishing good out at culture camp at all? Do you do much fishing there?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah, we have to go out to the lake, and this year it’s the same thing. It’s hard to get in to the lake ‘cause that creek flows in, and then it gets --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Sediment?
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. And it’s hard to get through there, you know. The water’s really shallow, so we usually wait till the water’s a little bit high and -- to get in there, and that’s why we sometimes debate on when we’re goin’ up --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: When to have the camp? LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Even with all the rain this year? LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Wow. Still kinda shallow. LORRAINE McCARTNEY: Yeah. It’s still shallow. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Wow.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And how many -- how many folks usually come to your culture camp?
LORRAINE TITUS: Last year we had, like, hundred and sixty-one, I think, and then this year I’m not sure, but I think we had over hundred people.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Uh-huh. And did some of the families who’ve moved away come back?
LORRAINE TITUS: Some of them, yeah. They’ll come just for it. And then, I mean, we even have babies. They take little babies. And it’s just -- ever -- you know, just a tent city -- just becomes a tent city there.
Everybody just enjoys it, so. And, you know, the -- it’s not that all hundred and something stay, you know.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: They come and go? LORRAINE TITUS: Come and go, but for the last few years a lot of them have stayed. They just stayed. You know, stayed out there. So, it’s been pretty good.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Can you think of anything else?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: You mentioned the FAA kids, goin’ to school with the FAA kids. Were there other non-native families --?
LORRAINE TITUS: That lived along the road. Yeah. They might live along the road and, you know.
BARBARA McCARTNEY: So along -- when you say “live along the road”?
LORRAINE TTUS: Well, along the highway. Yeah, they might have a homestead and, you know.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So there was homesteading along this stretch of road, too? LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Like the trade and manufacturing sites or --?
LORRAINE TITUS: No, you got some families that moved in. Maybe they ran a business -- BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay.
LORRAINE TITUS: -- or, you know. Maybe, you know, just -- I can’t remember why, you know. But mostly FAA kids and we might have couple families that lived along the road.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And then were most of the teachers non-Native?
LORRAINE TITUS: They were all non-Native, yeah. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Even the BIA school? LORRAINE TITUS: Yep. Uh-huh.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And do you remember which year the -- the schools merged?
LORRAINE TITUS: Back in the late ‘60s. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay. LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And then the current school was built when?
LORRAINE TITUS: They moved into that school in ’76–‘77. Right around there, yeah. ‘Cause I start workin’ there in ‘78.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And have you had many Native or local teachers who’ve been local people teach in the school?
LORRAINE TITUS: We had one -- one Native teacher here, and actually she’s ready to retire, and that’s all we had. No, actually we had another one. Yeah. We’ve had couple maybe.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Most of the teachers stay for a long time or is there --?
LORRAINE TITUS: In the past, not anymore. And we’ve been fortunate this last few years that we had, you know, a couple that stayed little longer, but most of ‘em will come and go. But we had some that really stayed a while and then just kinda made Northway their home. So.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: What other changes for the village then? Since you -- I mean, other than it going from quite large to quite small and the social relationships changing. You said -- talked about the housing changing and the TVs.
LORRAINE TITUS: Uh-huh.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Still not good internet there in the village?
LORRAINE TITUS: It’s -- ever since we last few years started promote, you know, things it’s -- it’s getting better and I hope it gets better, you know, just for the kids’s sake, not -- you know, so the community can be together. So.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And as we know, there’s no cell phone coverage.
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah, thank God, hear that phone.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: One phone is enough.
LORRAINE TITUS: Even when I go to town with my cell phone, I shut it off. Only when I need to call somebody I turn it on, or else it don’t quit.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So you have the cell phone for when you go --
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. BARBARA CELLARIUS: -- other places.
LORRAINE TITUS: A prepaid cell phone so -- ‘cause I ain’t paying no thirty dollars a month for goin’ to town once every three months or something.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah. Well, I thank you, Lorraine. Is there anything else you wanted to tell us about? Northway’s affiliation with the park at all or -- ?
LORRAINE TITUS: No. I’m kinda glad they made that decision to, you know, include us in the zone. So --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: It’s been -- it’s been really interesting for me talking -- talking to people here and hearing about the connections with Chisana and the connections with Banzaneta (local pronunciation of Batzulnetas), ‘cause I’ve kind of heard bits and pieces from some folks, but it’s good to get it sort of more formally documented.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Not just, sort of, people who are going hunting, but the fact that --
LORRAINE TITUS: And I’ve been just rattling my brain trying to remember the -- when we had the hearing, you know, when they all came down and different people were comin’ up and --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And then I may well have stuff --
LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah. And I just kinda sit here and I’m tryin’ to think, I know there was quite a few, but I just -- I can’t, you know, remember.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Well, and I’m sure that we -- we have some files from --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Well, a report came out about it, so -- LORRAINE TITUS: Yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Yeah. Well, there was an environmental -- there was various environmental documents associated with making the decision. Because we have to -- to document them. But for this project we also wanted just to hear people’s stories and be able to -- to share them. So thank you very much.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Thank you. LORRAINE TITUS: Okay!
LESLIE McCARTNEY: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day. LORRAINE TITUS: Alright.