Photographs from William and Effie Williams' personal collection
Effie Williams was a Koyukon Athabascan from Allakaket, Alaska. She was born in June 1919 to Lilly and Ned Ned. They had a house at Old Bergman, but visited Allakaket for church. Among her uncles were Leon and Billy Bergman. When Effie was very young, she was adopted by Grandma Tilly and she lived with Tilly and Big Susie until Tilly died when Effie was six or seven years old. Effie spent a year living at the St. John's-in-the-Wilderness Mission at Allakaket, then went back to her birth parents. In 1935, when she was sixteen, Effie married William Williams. The marriage was arranged by older members of their families. Effie and William continued to live a traditional subsistence lifestyle in seasonal camps on the Sourth Fork of the Koyukuk River, but moved into Allakaket in 1950 when it became mandatory for their children to attend school. Effie became active in the local Episcopal church, raced sled dogs, and was an expert skin sewer and beader. At the time of her 1992 interview, Effie was working part time for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game tagging skins that trappers brought in so they would be recorded as legally harvested. Through the years, she also worked as a firefighter, and teacher of Athabascan language and culture in the school. For more about Effie Williams, see her obituary in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper.
William Williams was a Koyukon Athabascan from Allakaket, Alaska. He was born in 1916 at Rock Island Point, eight miles below Hughes, to Alfred and Julia Isaac. He was adopted by Big William and his wife Abbey and moved to Bettles, a community that he remembers at that time as being mostly miners, with almost no Indian people and few children. His adoptive family was associated with South Fork, so he had ties to that community as well. His adoptive mother died when he was eight or nine. William only attended school for one month in 1927, and as a young teenager began hauling freight to Bettles and Wiseman. Freight for these communities would be brought as far as Allakaket by boat, and then hauled the rest of the way by dog team. In 1935, William married Effie Ned. The marriage was arranged by older members of their families. Effie and William continued to live a traditional subsistence lifestyle in seasonal camps on the Sourth Fork of the Koyukuk River, but moved into Allakaket in 1950 when it became mandatory for their children to attend school. As an adult, William worked a variety of jobs, including working for Sam White, the pioneer game warden in interior Alaska, where he would haul gas and supplies out to the plane, tag pelts, and on at least one occasion hauled freight up to Wild Lake. He also worked on construction jobs away from home, for the Civil Aviation Administration in Bettles, and operated heavy equipment. William was known for his skill as a dog musher, musician, storyteller, and for being an expert in traditional knowledge and placenames. For more about William Williams, see his obituary in the Fairbanks Daily New Miner newspaper.