Stories from Our Elders


Developed as a collaborative effort between the Pre-Elementary Grant, funded by the Alaska Dept. of Education - Office of Indian Education. Artwork, photographs, and interviews by Beth Hill.

Anesia Newyaka: Anesia Traveling

Anesia Newyaka of Kokhanok tells of traveling and living off of the land around the Lake Iliamna Region.

There was no Honda. No Honda. Only we walk up. Pack our stuff. But my daddy used to go up with the dog teams, with our stuff. And last one, dogs and us, he used to let me pack my own stuff. Everybody packed their own, even my dad. Then he packs... Let the dogs pack too, backbone, and their plates. They used to try to eat their food. When we stop, they stop.


Then we stay up there about a month, and we catch more fish. They split every day outside of our tent too... There was her grandma and Apa and her auntie. Her auntie used to [bebeshe] My cousin Finn Andrews used to land down there. We stay up there behind the big rocks, and there was, beach was way down there before that lake. It's wide.

 

We used to stay by the beach. When they see a brown bear, they hit a can, they took off. And after did that, her grandpa, and my dad, they used to go hunting somewhere. And her grandma and my stepmom they... She's old lady like my stepmom, like a man, she works like a man. And she goes across there and catch some fish. Then they come back. They split and they dry them, me and her, Auntie and I stay.

 

When she wanted juice she tells me, Anesia you want juice? I said, yeah. Just go picking berries. So, we pick behind the tent. And she goes like this. And she put sugar with it. She said, you like it. I said, yeah, I like it. Just like a juice that type with berries.

 

And they laugh. We could even hear her grandma and my stepmom laughing behind the fish. And my dad when he come home -- oh you guys split fish? Yeah, it's not hard. Only they tell him, the nighttime moonlight come. Oh, just like little kids, me and my cousin, we used to stay out. And my cousins, you heard them just like little kids laughing and talking. Next day they bring, put them in a container, the candle fish.

 

I don't know how she start, only my stepmom, and she make a [honey] barrel. Honey barrel? And she makes a [litar] too.

 

[interviewer] With grass?

 

Aha. And I told him how you make that? She said it's easy. And I tried but I didn't make it. And when it getting cold and snowy, you come back down, my dad used to bring our stuff down and we walk home, pack our own stuff. Just like that. Even Dennis creek. We stayed down there at Dennis creek, and we stay for two weeks.

 

Then when my dad is getting tired to stay there, then she moved up to [nepmuiaka] Creek, then we walk up there, and we stayed there for two weeks. After two weeks my daddy never stays out. I didn't know they bring stuff up there where you should get a mountain up there. There were other town down below a hill, larger trees, we stayed there. We used to, hard time climb up, and my stepmom used to make homemade snares. They call them [makikchuk]. They call them [makikchuk] And she put tree, birch, like a birch out there, she bent it, and then she put the snares right there. When she come out, that squirrel, and she hang up.

 

[interviewer] Like a ground squirrel? Oh, cool.

 

Mhm. And when there's no more snow, we walk up the side of the mountains. And me and my brother, we used to walk up way up. My dad and them look like they're small, just like a little [indistinct] We was way up there. They used pretty rocks. I mean me and Nika used to put larger rocks. I don't know, maybe we leave behind. We don't see it no more.

 

And my dad tells me -- Anesia, are you're going to go with me this time? I said, where are we going to go? Down Pike Lake. I told him, for what? You'll see. He'll never tell me that. See the canoe there, and net there, and we put the canoe down in the water. And he told me, hold the rope. Don't start crying. I always cry when I'm scared. And he set a net out and there were large of pikes, oh boy, them pikes are strong.

 

-- Hurry up. Don't cry. Hold on. I'm going to let some of them go.

 

I never help him. Scared. [indistinct]

 

[interviewer] They are scary looking.

 

They are. They got sharp teeth. Then when we come back again to [Nuiaka] Creek, from there, maybe two weeks. I don't know how he always know when Willie was going to come get us, then we bring our stuff down. Then we go down a hill, there's a creek down there. Then we walk across there. He told me, don't fall, you guys. We walk across there.

 

And he built a house, I mean tent, by the beach. But Willie, and Gesha, his name's Gesha, I don't know what his real name. He come get us. Every summer used to come and get us where we're camping.

 

[interviewer] So you went all over to camp, huh?

 

Mhmm. Then we go across there were eight [capever] We camped there, but then we moved to [dubeiacha] They call them [dubeiacha] --

 

[interviewer] You said, my gran used to go squirrel hunting too, kind of in the same place?

 

Yeah.

 

[interviewer] That's a mountain up there, huh?

 

Yeah. They used to hunt. Oh, when they catch lots. They walk little ways, they stop.

 

[interviewers] That much squirrels?

 

They catch lots. They go, stop, walk again, stop.

 

[interviewer] Boy, we don't even see anything anymore.

 

Yeah. My dad told me, if they stop hunting the squirrels, or any kind of little like a muskrat, any kind of animals, they going to disappear. They're not going to be around us anymore. Sometimes they do.

 

[interviewer] Once in great while they will come.

 

Then we start staying home after school. We start school in 1956. I used to scared what school is mean? When we get mischief, our teacher used to put us in the corner.

 

[interviewer] Your teacher was Miss Smit, right?

 

Yeah.

 

[interviewer] I remember her. That was here?

 

The old land building...

 

First one, teacher. And then her house was up there. And we come home. My dad told me in native -- [foreign] -- I said, nothing, I never learned. What I'm going to learn? [foreign] Little bit, I tell him. I talk a little bit English, I told him. When she tells us to talk in English, we talk. There was no school, nobody talks Native, I mean English. That's funny, after we talked Native, now we talk English.

 

[interviewer] Now, some of them are trying to go back to Native.

 

Yeah.

 

[interviewer] And you know what, we should, because if we don’t, we're going to forget about it, our kids will forget about it.

 

Yeah, got to talk to the kids too. That's why they want... Our people long time ago, they want their family, even their small talk to them. So, some of them don't remember. I mean some of them remember when they grow up. Elena her grandma, she used to, when she was that big, or two, three years old maybe. Her grandma used to talk to them about the war.

3 of 8 Stories

Listen to Anesia tell her story.

Pride of Bristol Bay: A Conversation with Jerry and Caleb Jacques about their grizzly family

When Jerry Jacques was 17, he ran away from California and hitchhiked to Alaska. He had heard stories of his great-grandfather and grandfather prospecting, trapping and living in the far north and intended to follow in their footsteps.

Read the entire story