Anne and George Wilson, Sr. were interviewed on March 7, 1995 by Bill Schneider and Don Callaway at the Wilson's home in Igiugig, Alaska. In this first part of a three part interview, Anne and George share their personal backgrounds of growing up in the Levelock and Igiugig areas, moving around with the seasons as subsistence hunters and trappers. George talks about his trapping activities and how he first learned to hunt and trap. Anne talks about traveling around with her family, fishing, berry picking, and learning to sew skins.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Katmai National Park
Date of Interview: Mar 7, 1995
Narrator(s): Anne Wilson, George Wilson, Sr.
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Don Callaway
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Anne's family and where they lived when she was growing up
How Anne's family lived in camp and traveled a lot
How little Anne remembers family members being sick when she was young
How Anne's dad used to set up camp before the family traveled to a new location
Why Anne's family moved and where good trapping locations were
Where Anne's family lived when her dad was out fishing and where her parents lived before she was born
Trapping areas George knows of and a trading post that used to exist near Nonvianuk
How Anne's family traveled to the Kukaklek camp
George's family and where they moved because of good trapping.
When George was born and where he grew up.
Anne and George's families
How cabins out in the country have to be locked now because tourists take things without replacing them
How she learned to cut fish and how the lodges changed where they could pick berries
George's first kill and learning to hunt
Learning to trap and hunt
Schooling and neighbors
Packing and trapping with dogs, boats, or by oneself.
Mink behavior and freeze up
Trapping and seasonal timing
Learning to sew skins
First garment sewed
First garment sewed (continued)
How Anne learned to sew from Dallia Gust
George's first hunting, fishing, and trapping
Hunting, meat spoilage, and fresh meat
Differences through time in animals' availability
Amount of snow through time and space, and animal behavior
George's first marriage
George's subsistence during his first marriage
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Bill: Ok, today is March 7, 1995. Bill Schneider and Don Callaway here. We're at Igiugig and we're with Anne and George Wilson in their home here. And every once in a while we may hear in the background their dog, Tiffany. And also there's a CB radio going, for communication here in town. So those are things we may hear. But thank you both, for taking time to do this. We'll be making a record of your lives, living out here in the country, and some of the changes that you've seen over time. And also maybe projecting what you'd like to see for kids in the future in the way of living out on the land and some of the things that you value there. So thanks for making time.
Bill: Annie, why don't you start, by telling us about your parents, their names and where they lived when you were born. Anne: My folks are Evan and Stephanie Apakitak. They lived right around here, around the Illiamna Lake area. And my dad was a commercial fisherman 'til he got sick. And we lost him about a year ago, so there's just my mom and my brothers, sisters. But they lived right around here, that Igiugig area and up at Kukaklek and over the lagoon and down Kaskanak, Ole Creek, all the way down to the Bristol Bay, they've been just right around. Our main house was here in Igiugig 'til we moved to Levelock in 1956, and us kids had to go to school down there. And we stayed down there 'til all the kids were out of school and then we moved back up here. After I got married to Georgie, we moved back up here. Bill: Tell me your parents' names. Anne: Evan and Stephanie Apakitak. And my father was a commercial fisherman and a trapper. And my mother was a housewife, we just stayed right around Igiugig and Kaskanak and Levelock. In the summer, spring to fall, we just gather food from the ground and the river.
Bill: Were they living in villages, or in small camps at that time? Anne: They lived in small camps, and we'd go with the seasons. My Dad was up in Kukaklek and Nonvianuk, Kaskanak, over the Lagoon, up at Big Mountain, and all along the Kvichak and we all went with him, except for the two oldest boys, they went to school in Newhalen. But all the rest of us younger ones stayed with our folks and we just travelled. And we stayed in tents. With just a little wood stove and just a tent. Christmas tree boughs for the flooring. Like we stay in a camp like that for month at a time. And we, we come back here, to Igiugig, to have Russian Orthodox Christmas and Easter, and that was the only time we come back, other than during the summer. But we lived out in the sticks, you know, out where we were camps, my father had.
Bill: How do you remember that when you were a little girl? Anne: When I was a little girl, it, it was good, we, seemed like we never got sick, you know. People never come down with head colds or ear aches or strep throat or whatever is going on now. Even though it was just us, and we used to have lots of snow then and we travelled by dog teams in those years, when I was growing up. And with a 9 horse motor in the summer time, between here and Kaskanak. And none of us, I remember never none of us ever got really, really sick. You know, we might get a head cold every now and then, 050 but no, nothing major. I think it's because we lived off the stuff that's not have all kinds of, like potato chips and this here stuff that we eat nowadays. We just lived off the land, fish and berries and meat. Bill: Did you have a particular job as a little girl? Anne: Yes. I had to help my mother watch over the younger ones while she's down on beach taking care of her fish. Or she went across the river to pick the net. Then I'd have to stay and watch the, my younger sisters and brothers and do house work. That was the only thing that I had to do. Bill: And how big was the family? Anne: There's nine of us, like five would stay home at the time. But the two older ones went to school and then they got married and lived in their own homes. And then the younger ones went to school in Mount Edgecombe in Oregon. And except for the two youngest ones graduated from, my youngest brother graduated from here in Igiugig, and my youngest sister graduated from Mount Edgecombe.
Bill: And what year were you born? Anne: I was born in 1946. In those years when we were around here, I think the first time I ever seen Fish and Game, oh, must have been the late '50's, I guess. 'Cause we used to see them down here on the island. Used to have a tent. And all the other ones that we seen was just a storekeeper across the river and one down the river. And those were the only caucasians that I seen in all these years that I was growing up, before all these lodges came, came into being. Bill: Can you tell us what it was like to travel from camp to camp? How you packed up the sled? Anne: Oh yeah, we just packed up our sled in those old time crates, like 5-gallon crates, and stack up everything. And Bill: Are those gas boxes? Anne: Yeah, those gas, old-time gas boxes. And put 'em in the sled and Dad would take 'em there before we all moved. He set up camp and then he'll come back and get my mother and the rest of us kids. And we travelled by dog team. And he used to have a really long sled. Must be over 10' long, or 8' long or something. And our dogs weren't really fast, you know they just trot as they go along. They're not sprint dogs. There were used to hauling everything that we had to go. In the early fall, that, if we gonna be going from Kaskanak to across the river, he'd go over there with a skiff and the dogs and the sled, then he'll come back and pick up rest of us and our food and then take us over where we're gonna be camping for another month. He'll set up camp and everything and then he'll come back and pick us up. But that's how we travelled, and that's how we lived.
Bill: Just one other question on that. Why did he move? What, what was he, what resources was he looking for when he moved the camp? Anne: Well he, it was, sometime it was to hunt, trap mink and otter. And he go to like if there's creeks there. And he did most of his beaver trapping over there in Kaskanak because there's more beaver in that creek than the other places that we been to. We lived in quite a few different areas to look for different animals for him to hunt, trap. And that's how he made his extra money, other than commercial fishing in them years. Bill: So Kaskanak was a good place for beaver. Anne: Yes. And that's where we had our summer camp, in Kaskanak.
Bill: And when your dad was down on the bay commercial fishing, you and your mom and the other kids would be here? Anne: We'd be down at Kaskanak, yes, and we'll come up here maybe like once a, one time during the summer before my dad come up with, we come up with our skiff, and then we'll go back down to Kaskanak and we just stay there. And we pick berries right around when the berries are in season. We'll pick berries right around Kaskanak there or a little bit up above or a little bit below. And we picked our berries right around Kaskanak. Bill: And you had mentioned the Big Mountain Area. Anne: Yes, my folks used to live up there. I don't know how many years they lived there, but they, they had lived at Big Mountain. Bill: And before your parents, before you were born, your parents had done a lot of travelling, too. Anne: Yeah, they travelled up by Kukaklek and Nonvianuk and all those other places that, you know, I, I was just up there just a few times ever since I can remember. My husband George knows more about that than I do.
Bill: George, do you want to add something to that? George: Yeah. Back in the, I think it was late twenties, or middle twenties, Old Man Apakitak, he used to trap up in Nonvianuk at that time of the year because it was really good trapping for fox and lynx and wolverine, earlier in the fall. They'd go up in, before freezeup, stay in there 'til, I don't know, around Christmas time, then come out. And up in upper end of Kukaklek Lake, too, seemed they had a camp up in there, used to have a fish camp up in there a long time ago when he was young. That's where he spent quite a bit of his time, too, in both, both lakes. Nonvianuk and Kukaklek. And Murphy Nicolai used to travel with him, he said, Murphy told me, when he was young, when he was a teenager. Yeah must be, he's about 73 now, I think. He used to tell me about when he used to trap up there at Nonvianuk. There used to be a trading post up there. Bill Hammersly, and they used to sell fur to him, get grub. There was one here across the river, there, Jack Mackey owned. Bill Hammersly started that, too, I guess, in early twenties. And then Jack Mack bought it from him. And then Bill Hammersly moved to Nonvianuk and he start buying furs up there and selling groceries to the Native trappers. break
Bill: Let me ask both of you on that, when they would go into that Kukaklek camp, how would they get there? How would they be travelling? Anne: They walk in and then they'll walk back out. When, that was before they had any of us kids. They walk in from here to Kukaklek and spend their winter or, cause they had dogs up there, and then they'll walk back out here to the village, cause, so my dad could go down the bay to go fishing in the summer time. And they pack with pack sacks with whatever food that they're taking from here to there. Bill: That's a pretty good walk, huh? Anne: Yes, uh huh. George: Yeah. That's how they used to travel all the time. When I first start out when I was young I used to walk all the trapline. Walk from just about 10 miles north of Sugarloaf to Levelock every fall after mink trapping. Two days of walking.
Bill: George, tell us about your parents. George: My dad was Clarence Wilson. He come from Nebraska, came up here in 1919. He married Ann first. He had five Charlie, Chester, Agnes, Floyd and another George from his first wife. And they were from, he was from Nushagak area someplace. I don't know where my dad's first wife was from over there on that side. But she was an Aleut from on the Nushagak side. And then when she died, oh I don't know, it was '29 or '30. Around '29, I guess. In early 30's, '30, '31, I guess, '33 he got married again, to Sassa Clark. She's from over on the Igushik, right below Dillingham there. And they moved over here, I don't know, '32 or '33, somewhere around there, '34. '34 I think my oldest brother, Willie, was born. Then Ray, then me, then Rose, the youngest one. We grew up in Levelock. We were born and raised there in Levelock, me and Ray and William, Rose. And we spent our lifetime there at Levelock. Dad built a house there and we went to school.
George: And then my first marriage I had four daughters and I put them through school there, started. Then we separated, then I married Anne. And I had three more children with Anne, a girl, and then a son, and another girl, daughter. We raised them there at Levelock, Anne and I. Anne: And up here. George: We moved up here in '76. That's when I started trapping up in this area. Back in the same area that her dad used to trap in. There's good lynx up in the hills back there towards Kukaklek and Nonvianuk. That's where the lynx come from, from inside the park. And they come out and then I guess when it gets too many lynk up in an area they start moving and looking for different places to get food, like rabbit and ptarmigan there where they feed on it. They start travelling and that's how I catch the lynx. Way back in towards Kukaklek, Nonvianuk country and they come through. And I been trapping up there since I moved up here in '76. The only means I get to travel is either walk or after the lakes freeze then I used a Honda, travel with the Honda. I bought the first Honda in, I think '77. And I been running Hondas and snowmachines ever since then.
Bill: When were you born, George? George: I was born February 14, 1937, in Levelock. My dad used to stay at Nushagak and we used to had trading post and started over there, and he decided to come back. I mean he fished in Nakeen all the time in his younger days, and he wanted to be closer to the cannery where he fished so he could work, he was working in Nakeen, there. And when he was younger, he used to walk from Portage Creek over to Nakeen and go to work in the springtime. And that's why he started on this other side here. He lived up on a lake up in Copper River. He raised his first family there when they were young, Charlie and Chester and Buddy and Sissie, they were raised there in Copper River there. And where he, him and first family started trapping, when they were in, then they moved to Levelock I guess, oh, in '30, I think, 1930. To Levelock. He started the other family.
Bill: And Annie, you said that your father was a fisherman, commercial fisherman? Anne: Yes. Yeah, he fished, in his younger days, in sailboat days, and then they got into engines and last year I think he fished was '72, I think, when he quit fishing. I think it was in '72. Bill: And George, when your dad was fishing, your mom was, did she have to take care of all the kids? George: Yeah. Bill: In Levelock? George: Uh huh. She had two families to take care of. And then the older boys, like Charlie and Chester, they used to go down with Dad and fish with Dad, help make the winter supply of money for the groceries and for trapping supplies. Yeah, Dad came up in 1919 to Nushagak, when he was 19 years old, from Nebraska. And he left Nebraska when he was 12, I think; 12 or 13, went to Colorado, Wyoming, then to Oregon, then to Seattle. And he got on the sailing ship and came up, came to Nushagak, there. And that's where he stayed. Never did go back to the lower 48. He liked it up here, enjoyed the people, the Natives, and the way of living, trapping. He built cabins all over these rivers here. He had cabin up in Nonvianuk Lake, too. And on the Branch. And then Yellow Creek. An over in Nushagak River, he built cabin. That's how he trapped you know, go in and find a place he liked, built a cabin and trapped there for quite a few years. Even up in Copper River there he built a cabin up in there. Everywhere he went he built a cabin.
Bill: I guess in the old days, people had lots of cabins out in the country. George: Yeah, there's still a lot of them. Still standing, quite a few cabins up in there my dad built, my older brothers helped build. Beautiful cabins still standing yet, on the Branch River. Anne: It seemed like in the old, olden days, too, people shared their cabins. They never locked them up like they do nowadays, you know. Whoever happens to be coming through, they have a place, a shelter for them to stay in. That's why all these cabins are still in good shape. People take care of 'em. George: Yeah, all the cabins up there were always open, and there used to be a you know, supplies or cooking stuff and everything was there. And ever since they start these lodges and people coming in, you know, tourists. Just like all these stuff is antique stuff that's in the cabin, and now they're starting to disappear. Nothing is hardly left in the cabin. The only way you keep it now is to lock it up. All these tourists that come in through here, they see something, they think it's an antique, well, it is an antique. But some of that stuff we still use, yet, and that's how we survive. And they're ruining the lot of these trapping cabins that we use every year. We have to lock 'em up and sometimes bring new stuff up every so many years becauses there's nothing left in the cabin.
Bill: Do you remember, Annie, when you cut your first fish or smoked your first fish? Anne: Yeah. We, right down here, about mile downriver, we have these little ulus, and that's how we split our fish, instead of using a regular knife. We use these ulus and that's how, even up to this day, that's what I use to split my fish. And when you first start off, you know, your fish are sort of thick. But as you get more and more practice, you know, they get thinner, like everything else. And that's the way, even now we still use the ulus to take care of our fish. Now I go to Levelock in the summer time to help my mother put up her smoked fish down there. Bill: And who taught you how to cut fish and smoke it? Anne: My mother and my aunt and we had a blind grandmother. She started going blind in 1956. Before that, before she went blind, we used to pick berries across the river where these lodges are, now. We picked cranberries and appleberries and blueberries and blackberries. Now you can't even go across the river to pick berries. You have to go up around the lake shore to find berries. If you want to go pick berries across the river, you have to go past these lodges, upriver, up on the lakeshore to get berries. It's not like we used to do it long time ago, just row across the river and pick berries over there. You know, like those little quart, little buckets we used to have, and then bring them back home. And we can't do that anymore over there.
Bill: And George, do you remember the first game you got? George: Well, I used to hunt ptarmigan at first, when I was about 10 years old. Used to use my mom's single-shot .22. And started trapping mink and then beaver. And just fur along my traplines started to get a little longer. And I really enjoyed trapping, and I still trap, yet. I enjoy it, being out there. Catching the animal and bring it home, skin it. Anne does a lot of the sewing, now. She likes to make stuff for the children. Someday she's gonna have grandchildren and she's gonna make stuff for them. And that's why I like the going out and doing stuff in outdoor trapping. Bill: Who taught you how to trap and hunt? George: Well, my mom, at home there. My dad used to go out and take the older brothers out. And I just had a little trapline right, not far from school. And my mom used to show me how to trap, that's how I started. Back in oh, about '46, I guess, somewhere around there I started trapping. Been trapping ever since. Bill: Hmm mmm. End of Side A
Side B Bill:So we're talking about the people that maybe influenced you and taught you how to trap and hunt as you were growing up a little bit. George: Well when I moved further out on the trapline, I went to the Branch, too and start trapping on the Branch there. And there was an old Native over there that was not far from my trapline, and his name was Neil Andrew, and that's how I learned to trap and hunt. Out hiking with him. And he taught me a lot. And Pete Chakwak was always, when I went travelling over that way, I just stay with them in camps when I go through. I learned a lot from them. That's how I learned how to trap and take care of animals. Bill: Tell us about him, some. George: Neil Andrew, he's the, I guess he's from the Branch River there, he's an old chief that's been there for years and I think he died in the fall time, hauling oil from Naknek, there. It was cold and the boat sunk and he just drownded down there, Naknek there. And Pete Chakwak he's really from the other river, Nushagak River, and he came across, I guess, with his boys. And that's how I learned to trap, from watching them and asking them questions. Bill: How old were you, that time? George: Oh, I was probably in sixteen, seventeen years old when I started trapping further away from Levelock, after I finished school.
Bill: What grade did you go up to? George: Eight, eighth grade. Well I started in high school, then I quit. And I been trapping ever since. A fisherman in the summer time and then trap in the winter. Bill: That must have been quite a decision, though, to head out to the Branch River. George: Yeah, it was. But it's really nice out there and I enjoy walking and cutting wood. And I did it all by, you know, packing, and I never, my dad and all my brothers had dogs. But I never did. I used to help take care of the dogs and I used to just hike, carry everything. I'd go in with a skiff in the fall, early, before freeze up, haul all the stuff in, groceries and whatever I need for a couple of months in there. And then when I get through trapping in there, freeze up, I walk back to Levelock again. Two days walking, sometime. I just enjoy it out in the hills. Always did. I liked it. Bill: Well did you have any neighbors that time, out on the river? George: No. Only ones was Neil Andrew and Pete Chakwak, and Wassillie Andrew, he used to be down there with them, trapping. And there was a village down below where I trapped, maybe about 40 miles down from where I trapped. It's up on the Branch.
Bill: So you were walking, not using dogs or boats to get up to those cabins? George: Yeah, well we'd go in with the boat in the fall before it gets too cold to haul all our supplies in. And then we'd stay in there 'til after freeze up, 'til, oh, close to Christmas. Mink trapping. Fox and mink and otter. And then when the river freezes over, like, oh, first part of December, sometime, and then we'd trap 'til the animals start leaving the river, going back inland in the creeks, and then we move, move out, and start using dog teams. And trap by dog, inland. And when the beaver season opened up we start in trapping beaver. And we'd use dogs for trapping beaver. You can cover a lot more ground by dog team than you could by walking. And you could carry everything home and skin at home. That's how we used to travel up in there.
Bill: Would you explain what you just said before about the mink leaving? George: Ah, like in, oh, soon as the river start to freeze up, like Alagnak River, it'll, once the river gets full of ice and freeze up, the mink will leave the river, most of them, and go inland in the smaller creeks and then you have to go inland after the animals then. Because the river freezes over, full of ice, and it's hard trapping on the river after it freezes. Only some places you could get some traps out, where the banks still stick out. Cause the Branch River when it freezes over, it raises about 8, 8 feet or more of solid ice, slush. And then the water drains out from underneath and it leaves a lot of places really dangerous, walking on the river. And so we go inland. Bill: Dangerous because? George: It's hollow some place, you know. The ice will fall out. It freezes over, then the water drains out from underneath there. About eight feet of slush and stuff underneath, you know, its just ice and slushy snow. And then it just freeze over really thin with ice and then the water start draining out from underneath. In a lot of places it's just thin ice with nothing underneath but dried up snow. And it'll fall, sometime 8, 10 feet down. It's hard to get out. If you don't watch yourself.
Bill: And so the ... George: the mink Bill: the mink George: and otter and stuff, they look for different areas to, like the little creeks where black fish and pike and grayling and stuff holed up in the winter time. Then they move inland. So we start trapping inland and off the winter. Bill: Did you have cabins inland? George: Yeah. Most of the time it was just running a trapline in and coming back to the cabin on the river. Bill: And when did you start beaver trapping? George: Oh, ususally in the first of February it was open, and it's been like that for years. Long time ago it was in the spring. You could hunt beaver, you know. When it was open water. In the forties, I guess, early forties, long before that, even. I don 't know when they changed the season. So it must've been late forties when they quit hunting beaver, shooting. And then they start to change the season to be in February, I guess, and trap them through the ice. I remember when I was just a young boy, Dad take us out in the camp, too. And tent, and they'd be hunting beaver, walking and taking the little canoe with them and pack it up the, like up a creek, way up, and then float down in the evening and get beaver. Hunt them. That's how I see the changes of life. Bill: Yeah.
Bill: And Annie, how did you learn how to sew skins? Anne: I learned from my aunt, Mrs. Gust. She wasn't scared to cut up material for me like my mom was. And so I got into skin sewing. I learned from my aunt. She never was scared, I'd tell her, "Oh, Georgie will get another skin maybe next year," if we make a mistake in cutting whatever we are cutting. But that's how I got into making my own patterns now. I learned from my aunt. My mom would show me how but she wouldn't cut my material. Cause she said, "If you make a mistake, you know, there's no way you could patch that thing back together." I said, "So? I'll still learn." So I been doing lot of my own, cutting out my own patterns now that I learned. And we use a little ulu. I got one right over there, to cut my furs with.
Bill: And what was the first thing, garment, you made. Anne: First thing I made long time ago was just a little pair of like little homemade mukluks. They weren't made out of calf skin or anything. They were just made out of all muskrat. And the skin was turned inside out where the fur is on the inside and the skin on the outside. And I'm sure my stitches weren't very good in them years. But now I make slippers like this. And hats and mittens. I made a fur coat for our son this past Christmas. So I been doing a lot of sewing. I do a little bit of sewing then I do a little bit of knitting and a little bit of crocheting, you know, what ever, I happen to get tired of doing, I just put it aside and start of something else. And then when I get em all done, I have all these here little things done so we could have Christmas, cause I come from a big family. And I give them all for Christmas. Bill: Hmm mmm, homemade. Anne: Yeah, all homemade things.
George: Well the first coat her auntie and her made was a wolverine coat. The wolverines I caught in the winter. And she and her auntie made a wolverine coat for herself. Then an otter coat for my oldest daughter. And a mink coat for the next to oldest and a seal for the third. And we're supposed to make a beaver coat, but that didn't turn out then. And she made a fox coat for Annette, and then a wolf coat for George, junior. And a muskrat coat for our youngest daughter. Now she wants a lynx coat. So she's just going to have to make a lynx coat for her, our youngest daughter. Anne: But that will take awhile, cause she's George: She's in service now, and will be two years in the army. And when she gets back you can start on that. I've got the lynx already, getting them tanned and planning it out for another fur coat for one of our children. Bill: That's quite a record. Anne: Uh huh. It is. Bill: And your aunt taught you how to do that, huh? Anne: Yeah, my aunt. break
Bill: Tell us about your aunt. Anne: My aunt lives in Levelock her name is Mrs. Dallia Gust, and she's been living in Levelock ever since my folks moved down. And she comes up every once in a while. But when she's up here, she'll help me cut out a new pattern, any kind of fur or whatever I happen to have. And she speaks Yupik but she can understand some English. And have hard time to communicate, so she like to have an interpreter when she's speaking. But she's, she's got a lot of knowledge. And her husband, our uncle, he knows all kinds of old, olden ways of making toys. It's like you see what we've got hanging up right there. And Georgie made them when, these little wooden things, they know all those kinds of games and stuff. They are really knowledgeable. That's the kind of games we used to play when I was growing up. We don't used to have TVs or radio. Bill: Yeah, I guess at night you'd have, play games and listen to stories. Anne: Yes, and then we'd go to bed when it gets dark and wake up when it gets daylight.
Bill: Tell me a little more about this aunt and how she taught you how to work with skins. Anne: She ah ... Bill: Did she do that with everybody or just you? Anne: I think she just does it more with me, since I supply her with furs. And she doesn't have a pattern. It's like when people make a sweater or something, you know, they have to follow a graph. She just lays out, she'll do it right here on the floor, lay out the skin and she'll just tell me, "This is how far we're gonna make it." And she doesn't take measurements like, "It'll be 12 inches this way and 14 inches up that way." She'll just lay it down, like a seal, she'll just lay it down and, "This is how far we're gonna make it." She'll just measure with just her hands. Bill: Spreading her hand out? Anne: Spreading her hand out as, instead of us, you know, like the rest of us and have a ruler, see how long you're gonna have it and how wide. She'll just use her hand and, "This is how big we gonna make it." And that's what she use for measurements. I know all the older Natives do that, instead of using any kind of measuring tape. They'll use their hands and just how my dad used to measure out his fur, see how big they're gonna be. And she, people that are older like that, they have so much knowledge in them, you have to sit with them for quite a while 'til you get them to talking. But she's really knowledgeable of anything.
Anne: She used to make dresses out of cloth, you know, like this. Make a dress instead of using, cutting out a pattern. She'll just hand sew everything, and makes it. Which makes it real good, instead of going out and buy forty dollar dress or, just buy the material and then she'll just cut it out. Now she has a sewing machine. It's one of those kind you crank. It's not the electric. She'd rather have the kind you crank along as you go, as. And that's the only kind of sewing machine that she'd rather use. She doesn't care to use the electric, where you step on the foot, you know. So that's how she's been showing me how to make all these kusbuks, you know, these. And she showed me how to make those. Just, she just used her hand as a measurement. But when I do it, when I cut out material myself, I have to have a tape so I just make it just right, instead of just taking I guess like she does, and her stuff comes out perfect.
Bill: When you worked with her and you were sewing, were you sewing these skin clothing and dresses and stuff for special occasions, for gifts for special occasions, or just for every day use or both, or? Anne: We were doing it mostly for every day use. Just to keep the kids warm, and they, like my kids grew up with all mukluks and our oldest one had long mukluks. But the younger ones had the shorter mukluks. And they use them every day, before it gets warm like this, before they start wearing knee boots. That's what they use when we go travelling between here and Levelock, they use their mukluks. And play outside in their mukluks. Then they, when it gets warm, then they put on their shoe pacs or knee boots.
Bill: George, when did you, when did you feel that you could take care of yourself and support yourself, hunting, fishing and trapping. George: Oh, when I was about 16 years old, I started going out and start trapping and staying by myself for a month at a time. Not come home. About 16 years old when I started out on my own. And I felt confident in what I was doing. And I used to ask my friends how to take care of things. That's how I learned on that Branch, at Neil and Pete Chakwak and watching the older people, how they took care of stuff. And we only hunted what we needed, or fished what we needed, you know. If we wanted something to eat or needed fish, we'd go, cut a hole in the ice and start fishing and get our food that way. Fish or go hunt ptarmigan, or...
Bill: When you think about animals and fish today, what were some of the differences back then? George: Back then, we used to, you know, when we didn't have no freezer, so pretty near every day we had, if we want a different type of food, we'd have to go out and get it. You know, meat would only last so long for the table. Then when it went kind of low, we'd go out and do hunting again. Or fishing or whatever type of food we wanted to have. If we wanted to have fish for supper, we had to go out and fish, get fresh fish. And if we wanted ptarmigan, we'd go hunt ptarmigan that next day. And moose, when the moose suppply ran down, we'd go out and get some more moose meat or caribou meat.
Bill: Were there certain animals that were more available then or less available then? George: It was a little harder to go find moose thirty years ago. You'd have to go hunt for a week sometime before you'd find anything. Now you got snowmachines and three-wheelers and four-wheelers we're using. And you could go out and pick a camp where you find where there's moose been hanging around, and then you hunt it that way now. It's a lot easier. And you could carry pretty near the whole moose back on the four-wheeler. Makes it a lot easier. Before we used to pack it, you know. And it takes a while, packing moose, when you have to walk out and pack a leg at a time. Made quite a few trips. Usually before the snow was hard, but when you had dog team, you use your dogs after a snow. Then it was a lot easier. Haul everything in with the dogs and a sleigh. Bill: So the transportation today makes it easier to go farther. George: Yeah, further out in Bill: But did you have to go further, then? George: Yeah, long time ago, you, take you sometimes a week out to find anything, you know. You had to go a long ways to find a moose or caribou. It's still the same distance today, but we have four-wheelers and three-wheelers to use, and snowmachine. It won't take you as long to get out there. Fifteen miles with a snowgo, in just a couple of hours you're out there.
Bill: And then you mentioned earlier that there was more snow in the old days. George: Yeah, a lot more snow. When I was young, snow used to be maybe three, three and four feet at the average. And when it snowed sometime it'd snow for four, five days or a week without stopping. Now it snows for a few hours or a day, and then it quits. It's a lot, there's some changes have been. Bill: How does that affect the animals? George: Well, in the past few years here they been having quite a bit of snow on the Nushagak side and most of the animals been coming across to the Kvichak side. I seen a lot more moose now, and caribou. Well the herd, I guess, is really healthy. It's the highest they've ever been on caribou and pretty soon it's gonna probably go on a downhill grade here because it's getting too many. Well, they're scattering out more and further and further from these places where they're eating. Bill: But what I heard you say was that they're moving over here because George: No snow up on this side on the Kvichak, not like over on the Nushagak side, over Mulchatna and up in that area there. It snows a lot over there yet, but on this side here, toward on the Kvichak, it's, we'll get three feet of snow and about a couple of weeks later it'll turn mild and there's hardly anything left in there. Pretty near bare ground again. That's been like that for, oh, ten years now I seen it. Hardly any snow. Last winter was the first time I seen snow like that in years. And this year it only snowed once really heavy and about three feet of snow. And about three weeks later it was, you could see the tundra again. Lot different this year. The past few years here, at Igiugig that is, on this here side.
Bill: Well let's see. You were married once before you married Annie? George: Yeah. I was married to Judy Fisher, and she's from Levelock there. I had four daughters with her. They're all in Naknek. Bill: And who were those girls? What were their names? George: Oldest is Nola. And the next is Pammy, and the third one is Julie, and the youngest is Carla. And I think Nola was born in, oh, '57. Pammy's born in '59. Julie '61, Carla in '63, I think. Bill: So you were in your twenties when you got married, first time? George: Yeah, I was twenty years old when I got married the first time.
Bill: And if you would, run us through what your year was like then, in terms of where you were hunting, fishing, trapping when you first got married. George: Yeah, it was a lot harder to get stuff, you know, and I only, just starting in to get a light plant and freezer and stuff like that, you know. And had to go out and hunt. Usually had, get the moose in the fall with the boat while it was easier to get and then in the winter time I'd use dogs. And later on in the year, in '66, started to use snowmachines and three-wheeler, four-wheeler. Bill: So '66 was when you first ... George: Uh huh. Started to use a snowmachine and then three-wheeler. After we moved up here, I start using a three-wheeler, in '76. And I been using the three-wheeler and four-wheelers ever since then, or snowmachine, by travel, trapping. Bill: So fall time, you'd get your moose. George: Yeah, with a boat. Go out camping. And that way I could haul it all in at one time, on the boat. And it was easy. Just go pick a spot in one of the creeks or the river and camp. And when we find a lot of moose sign, then you pick out your moose and you'd get it and clean it and take care of it out there, and then bring it home and put it in the freezer. Bill: So you had refrigeration by then. George: Yeah, it was back in, oh '60, '60 or '61, bought the first freezer and the light plant. Before, there was gas lamp, and this... End of Side B