My relative, Rhoda Stertzer (Koyukon Athabascan), shared a story about her late mom, Angeline Derendoff of Huslia. Rhoda graciously agreed to share it with Athabascan Woman blog readers. She started with story right before Christmas time, then she followed up with information about her mom’s early life.
A story to chew part off the winter…When our Momma was a child, they would go to winter camp to stay until spring. They were just to bring necessities. Nothing extra, well, she had a doll made of wooden thread spools. Grandma found out and told her she had to leave it. So it was on the way when she had to leave it behind, so she hid in a safe place. On the way back, she picked it up.
When she told the story, I can hear the hurt in her voice she felt at the time. She said “It was just a little doll!” They were traveling with dog team, with Grandpa walking in front sometimes when the traveling got tough. Sometimes they had an extra sled load with a pole sticking forward and they had to hang on to, also. They called that a “G” pole. Tough times they had back then. Merry Christmas. <3 I love you. Continue reading “Stories by Rhoda Stertzer”→
My relative, Amber Hopkins, is from upriver from where I grew up in Huslia. I love highlighting Athabascan people doing great things.
Amber Hopkins grew up in Hughes, Alaska, a small Koyukon Athabascan village on the Koyukuk river. Her parents are Wilmer Beetus and Margaret Williams. Her grandparents are the late Joe and Celia Beetus and late Lavine and Susie Williams. After graduating from Lathrop High School, she went to the University of Alaska Fairbanks for a year. Then, she joined the U.S. Navy and was able to travel to parts of the world. She was honorably discharged at the end of her five-year contract and started school to become a nurse. She used her Montgomery GI Bill and earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Amber is now a pediatric/pediatric ICU nurse at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.
My cousin, Starr Zottola (Koyukon Athabascan), is a medical laboratory scientist who analyzes blood and other bodily fluids to aid in the diagnosis of medical conditions. I asked her to share about her profession and what it took to get there. Starr’s parents are Gary Attla and Maureen Mayo. Enaa baasee’, Starr, for sharing on the Athabascan Woman Blog! Continue reading “Athabascan Medical Laboratory Scientist”→
I got a chance to tag along with Pat Frank (Deg Hit’an Athabascan) from Holy Cross and Anchorage as he harvested Old Man’s Beard for the first time. People in Alaska have harvested from the lands and waters for thousands of years. More and more people are relearning harvesting plants for medicinal purposes.
Pat has been learning about traditional plants medicines and healing for quite a few years. I was fortunate to spend an afternoon with him, his wife, Linda, and a couple family friends north of Anchorage on the Park’s Highway. He was harvesting usnea, also known as Old Man’s Beard. It’s a lichen that grows on trees and shrubs. We saw them growing on spruce trees and some other trees. It really looks like an old man’s beard. Continue reading “Harvesting Old Man’s Beard with Pat Frank”→
My friends, cousins and other relatives often share awesome stories on social media. Here’s a story from my cousin, Sterling DeWilde (Koyukon Athabascan) of Huslia and Fairbanks. He grew up mostly in camp outside of Huslia with his late parents, Lloyd and Amelia DeWilde. I always loved listening to my late Aunt Amelia’s stories, and I’m glad Sterling is continuing the tradition. He agreed to share his story below.
“I got my 70 hp Yamaha running and mounted on my 24’ flat-bottom Rhyancraft. It’s fully equipped with hydraulic trim and power lift. Thank you Norvin DeWilde for the lift and Ricko DeWilde for the boat 😁. This was my first motor I ever owned back when I was at home on the North Fork. It has a 60 hp cowling. It hasn’t been run in over ten years. It sat in Huslia a while then I shipped it up here and haven’t looked it over since.
It needed some serious work on several electrical systems and the carburetors/linkages needed tuning. It fired up in just a few cranks and runs smooth now. I put it on my dad’s 24’ allweld after his Honda 30 hp broke down, during some of our last years on the homestead. His boat was rated for a 45 hp but handled the 70 like it was meant for it. I used to rip the 120 miles of the Huslia and North for rivers, between our camp and Huslia, in about three hours.
That narrow boat would handle the sharp turns of the skinny North Fork at full speed. Once, I drove from our camp to Huslia and back, then back to Huslia, all in the same day. Then I drove back to camp in the morning. Mom, Amelia, seemed to be pleased with me making the frequent trips. She actually helped me make excuses on a few occasion.
Even though mom wasn’t going along most of the time, I always brought mail, food stuffs, movies, and local news with me. She was real social and I think it made her feel that much more connected. I’d go on the journey for just about any ol’ reason at all. Pops was always like, ‘What, another trip? You just got here.’ But he knew mom was all for it, so he didn’t argue, so long as I covered gas and he didn’t have to fix anything.
The best trip I ever had on that river, I drove down from camp and ran some errands then loaded up the boat for the return that same day. I knew there was a full moon and a clear night coming, so I left Huslia late. About 2/3 the way up it was too dark to see, so I stopped at a well-used camp spot called Birch Hill and had a fire and made tea and chilled.
A couple hours later, the moon came out, then I took off again. The moon lit the water up like bright silver and I could read everything on the surface like I had magic goggles on. The channel stood out like a monochrome sonogram. The dark surroundings made it seem like I was racing through a galactic speedway; it was truly magnificent and utterly exhilarating.
I think that may have contributed to my love for boat racing; the very first time I hopped in “Jen Jen” with Bill Page, to be his bow-man, I was hooked. I will forever be grateful for the experiences he has showed me and the support he’s given. After dog racing, I think I would have been pretty glum, had I not had a fast summer sport to fill the void.”
Enaa baasee’ to my cousin, Sterling DeWilde, for sharing this story on the Athabascan Woman Blog!
P.S. If you would like to share a short story like this, go to the Contact page to reach me or message me on Facebook.