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Lillian Walker, Part 1
Lillian Walker

Lillian Walker was interviewed on on September 2, 2003 by Debbie Turner from the Holy Cross Tribal Council and Karen Brewster from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program at Lillian's apartment in Anchorage, Alaska. Lillian was in the process of moving to another apartment, so the living room was empty except for a small table covered with beading projects, two chairs, and some boxes. Lillian took time out from her busy day of packing to do this interview. She moved to Anchorage from Holy Cross in order to be closer to medical facilities. In this first part of a two part interview, Lillian talks about growing up on a mink farm near Kaltag and going to school and living at the Holy Cross Mission, holiday celebrations, and the important skills she learned there, including beading, gardening, and cooking. She discusses living and raising a family at Ghost Creek, away from the main village of Holy Cross, when they did not have running water, or electricity, berry picking, potlatches, and how the community has changed. She also talks about her experiences as a mid-wife and community health aide, alchohol and substance abuse in the village, and her continued involvement with local and regional health boards.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) Her personal background.

2) Her early life on the mink farm owned by her step father, and going to school at Holy Cross when she was thirteen years old.

3) Her opposition to the priests and sisters at the Mission trying to arrange her sister's marriage.

4) Life at the Holy Cross Mission when she was a child.

5) The quality of education at the Mission, raising her children with discipline, and how life used to be before modern conveniences.

6) Her marriage, names of her children, and her husband's job as a river boat captain.

7) The joy of joining on her husband's barge trips, the barge route, and stopping in villages and seeing her old friends from the Mission.

8) How she learned to do bead work at the Mission, helping with the Mission's garden, and what Holy Cross used to look like.

9) Raising vegetables and flowers in her own family garden.

10) Raising her family at the Ghost Creek, bringing children to school, and going to church in Holy Cross in different seasons.

11) What it was like living at Ghost Creek, and why she and her family moved into Holy Cross.

12) Her work as a health aide and mid-wife in Holy Cross.

13) Why she resigned from health aide work.

14) Comparison of health aide and medical care with other regions in Alaska, and her work as a social service board member.

15) More of her work as a social services board member, and not knowing how to speak the Athabascan language.

16) When drugs first came to Holy Cross.

17) Health services that were established for substance abuse problems.

18) How life changed in Holy Cross after alcohol and drugs came in.

19) Potlatches and Native dances that were held when she was young, and how cultures mixed in Holy Cross.

20) Berry picking in the summer.

21) What she is most proud of in her life, and how she learned to sing and play musical instruments.

22) Holidays celebrated at the Holy Cross Mission.

23) Celebrating Christmas at the Mission.

24) How children with measles and tuberculosis (TB) were treated at the Mission.

25) Special foods she learned how to make at the Mission, especially treats made during holiday celebrations.

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: Unalakleet\ birth date\ mother -- Bradley, Katherine\ father -- Kootok, Gabriel\ sister -- Irene\ brother -- Rudolph\ death\ sister -- Esther\ father -- death\ mother -- remarried\ Kaltag -- moved to\ mink farm\ Whaleback\ Old Woman\ 22 Mile|

Section 2: mink farm -- work\ step father -- LaBelle, Fred\ chores -- watering and feeding the mink\ mink -- number of\ mink -- management of\ mink -- pelting\ fall\ mink -- breeding\ spring\ mink -- life trapping\ mink -- favorite\ permit -- Department of Fish and Game\ permit -- life trapping\ marten\ fox\ saw mill\ logs -- use of\ building\ work -- hard\ work -- schedule\ Christmas\ mother -- death\ cancer\ mink farm -- love of\ education\ mink farm -- move from\ father -- illness\ Tacoma\ Holy Cross -- school\ siblings -- to relatives\ marriage|

Section 3: sister -- Irene\ marriage\ marriage -- opposition to\ Holy Cross Mission\ permission -- lack of\ sister -- separation from\ job\ Fairbanks\ St. Joseph Hospital\ Seward\ husband -- Irene\ Holy Cross -- return to|

Section 4: Holy Cross Mission -- life at\ discipline\ education\ skills -- learning\ chores\ children -- number of\ children -- types of\ children -- working together\ Mission -- schedule\ stove -- starting\ church\ babysitting\ fire -- dormitory\ taking care of each other\ chores -- assigned monthly\ Mission -- operation of\ feast\ days off\ education -- quality of\ teachers\ Mission -- graduation\ children -- further education\ children -- work|

Section 5: discipline, and how life used to be before modern conveniences. Holy Cross Mission\ school -- subjects\ catechism\ education -- quality of \ education -- value of\ Walker, Rudy\ education -- Holy Cross\ education -- children\ Walker, Darryl \ St. Marys\ homework\ discipline -- rules\ children -- raising\ chores\ lifestyle -- change\ children -- complain\ old days -- hardship\ lamps\ water -- packing\ wood -- burning\ Ghost Creek -- spring water\ water -- well|

Section 6: marriage\ husband -- Walker, David\ children -- number of\ children -- names of\ husband -- death\ job -- river boat captain\ captain -- certification\ Yukon River\ Yutana Barge Line\ job -- deckhand\ Day Navigation\ boat -- fire\ boat -- loss of\ belongings -- loss of\ boat crew -- women\ boat -- dining room|

Section 7: barge -- trips\ Yukon River\ barge -- route\ Nenana\ St. Michaels\ Bering Sea\ Fort Yukon\ boat --"Tanana"\ boat -- "Yukon"\ Dietrich, Ted\ Peterson, Arthur\ knitting\ villages -- visiting\ Kaltag\ friends\ Holy Cross Mission\ education -- boarding schools\ Eklutna School\ Sheldon Jackson School|

Section 8: Holy Cross Mission\ beading -- learning\ girls\ Jacobson, Mildred\ teacher\ beading -- designs\ slippers -- first pair\ leather\ moose skin\ bead work -- sale of\ school -- money\ fishing\ moose -- harvest\ berry -- picking\ gardening -- vegetables\ vegetable -- storage\ cellar\ sauerkraut\ food\ chores -- green house\ chores -- gardening\ mosquitoes -- change in\ gnats\ Mission -- livestock\ horses --- use of\ tractor -- Farmall\ Holy Cross -- size of\ Holy Cross -- garden\ Holy Cross -- village\ Holy Cross -- change in\ saw mill\ Johnson Store\ Holy Cross -- beauty of\ Holy Cross -- aerial photo\ Ivanoff, Fred\ Unalakleet|

Section 9: family -- raising\ garden\ Walker, Darryl\ vegetables\ garden -- growth of\ soil -- topsoil\ flowers\ top soil -- hauling\ Newman, Willie -- death|

Section 10: Ghost Creek\ family\ school\ Walker, David\ children -- hauling\ snowmachine -- first\ Army jeep\ Ghost Creek -- children\ Ghost Creek -- families\ Walker, Jimmy\ Shageluk\ Ghost Creek -- access\ Fall -- beach\ Spring -- hill\ snow -- depth\ Walker, Mary\ Holy Cross -- walked to\ hip boots\ Holy Cross -- church\ children -- carried\ river -- high water\ bluff|

Section 11: Ghost Creek -- life at\ Walker, Mary \ teacher\ Ghost Creek -- moved from\ childcare\ Walker, Darryl\ Walker, Rudy\ Walker, David -- illness\ help -- getting|

Section 12: job -- health aide\ job -- mid-wife\ Holy Cross\ babies -- delivered\ babies -- names of\ Ghost Creek\ Edwards, Mary\ Edwards, Annie\ Gregory, Herbert\ delivering babies -- learning\ mother in law -- teacher\ Walker, Irene\ Walker, Jimmy\ Shageluk\ Walker, Peter\ Demientieff, Theresa\ Edwards, Alec\ Newman, Genevieve -- assistant\ delivering babies -- method\ delivering babies -- dangers\ hemorrhage\ delivering babies -- studied \ ?, Alfred\ delivering babies -- scary\ Bethel\ pregnant women -- hospital\ payment -- lack of\ Walker, Mary -- mother in law\ ?, Sophie\ health aide -- training\ health aide -- first trained|

Section 13: health aide -- resignation\ delivering babies -- stopped\ delivering babies -- hospital\ Bethel\ health aide -- number of years\ job\ retirement\ Walker, David\ health aide -- 1970s to '80s\ job -- not want\ Ghost Creek\ Holy Cross -- stayed in\ Walker, Marie\ night calls -- too far away\ health aide -- changes\ changes -- medications\ medications -- read about\ Reader's Digest|

Section 14: health aide\ Tanana Chiefs Conference\ health aide -- training\ healthcare -- videoconference\ medical procedures\ Yukon-Kuskokwim area\ blood draw\ shots\ Aniak\ job\ board member -- alcohol, mental health, children services\ social services -- referrals\ alcohol -- counselor\ Grayling\ Anvik\ Holy Cross\ Walker, David\ confidence -- lack of\ counselors -- personal experience\ Mallel, Tommy\ Deacon, Marvin\ counselors -- encouragement\ Grayling -- talking circles\ honesty\ support\ McGrath\ health aide -- positive about\ advice|

Section 15: Denakkanaaga -- formation\ elders -- support for\ Denakkanaaga -- changes\ politics\ Fairbanks\ Athabascan\ Deghitan\ Gwitchin\ language -- not learned\ English\ Holy Cross Mission\ step father -- French Canadian\ language -- learned\ job -- board member\ Holy Cross\ Kaltag\ villages -- like family\ language -- Deghitan\ meetings -- Native language\ job -- health aide\ Bethel\ language -- Yupik\ language -- understanding\ Venetie\ Allakaket\ translator\ Holy Cross -- tribal council\ job -- DFYS\ job -- hard\ support\ tribal court|

Section 16: Holy Cross\ Browns -- teachers\ drugs -- arrival of\ marijuana\ drugs -- knowledge of\ drug -- education\ school board -- lack of action|

Section 17: work -- school board\ Aniak School District\ Holy Cross\ Iditarod School District\ Mcgrath\ tribal council\ Demientieff, Luke\ Bethel\ Drew, Wilson\ Savage, Pious\ superintendent\ drugs -- use of\ mental health board\ name -- change\ Anvik and McGrath Area Children Services\ alcohol -- effects of\ Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)\ alcohol -- pregnancy\ principal -- school\ alcohol -- boot legging\ drug -- dealing\ state trooper\ funding -- lack of|

Section 18: village life -- changes in\ alcohol -- introduction of\ drugs -- problems with\ suicide\ Kaltag\ Nulato\ Holy Cross\ problems|

Section 19: potlatch\ community hall\ village -- The Point\ Holy Cross Mission\ potlatches -- elimination of\ school\ education -- English\ language -- Native\ punishment\ dances -- Native\ Frank, Joe\ feast -- child\ practices -- traditional\ food\ dance -- men\ dance -- women\ dance -- partner\ gift exchange\ dance -- learned\ dance -- up the river dance\ dance -- ice cream dance\ dance -- crane dance\ Turner, Lucy\ Savage, Miska\ bird call -- crane\ bird call -- crow\ dance -- teacher\ Demientieff, Margaret Alexie\ Edwards, Phillip -- mother\ Anthony, John\ Edwards, Barbara -- mother\ Savage, Pious\ dances -- end of\ dance partner -- Newman, Willie\ Paul, Johnny\ Edwards, Alec\ Mrs. Anthony\ Scammon Bay\ Peters, George\ Kuskokwim River\ Mission -- came to\ names -- loss of\ heritage -- loss of\ Kushunak, Patty\ Kushunak\ Tununa, Billy, Teresa, and Alice\ Tununak\ cultures -- mixture\ Nulato\ Kaltag\ Walker, Mary\ dance -- airplane dance\ Demientieff, Frances\ Savage, Ellen\ Peters, Axina|

Section 20: berry picking\ berries -- blueberry\ berries -- raspberry\ berries -- season\ berries -- change in\ weather -- effect of\ rain -- lack of\ Blueberry Hill\ St. Joseph's Mountain\ berries -- amount picked\ sister|

Section 21: pride\ Holy Cross Mission\ education -- quality of\ education -- strict\ singing -- learning\ Christmas\ Easter\ musical instruments -- playing\ holiday celebration\ musical instruments -- organ\ musical instruments -- piano\ musical instruments -- guitar\ guitar -- learning\ learning -- determination\ music -- knowledge of\ musical instruments -- violin\ Robertson, Minnie Monroe|

Section 22: holidays\ celebration\ Christmas\ Easter\ Immaculate Conception\ St. Joseph's Day\ Holy Eucharist\ Thanksgiving\ Columbus Day\ Independence Day|

Section 23: Christmas\ gifts\ Santa Claus -- notes to\ Christmas -- decorations\ gifts -- dolls\ gifts -- coloring books\ Christmas -- favorite activity\ Midnight Mass\ boys -- singing\ Christmas -- morning|

Section 24: Holy Cross \ illness -- measles\ berry picking\ medicine\ children -- sickness\ treatment -- aspirin\ food -- soup\ medicine -- homemade\ medicine -- sulfur\ medicine -- castor oil\ illness -- TB\ Mission -- infirmary\ children -- death\ TB -- lack of knowledge\ TB -- airborne\ medicine -- changes in|

Section 25: food -- relish\ relish -- making\ cucumbers\ recipe\ food -- jam\ food -- taffy\ Christmas\ Brother Hess\ food -- candy\ holidays -- treats\ candy -- getting|