Alaska life

Big Families – Those Were the Days

Yatlin Family in 2007. Back row (left-right): Al Jr., Solomon, Janessa, Al Sr., Eleanor, Ermelina, Johnnie and Dolly. Front row (left-right): Sheri, Tanya, Lydia and Angela. Photo taken by Farmer Vent
Yatlin Family in 2007. Back row (left-right): Al Jr., Solomon, Janessa, Al Sr., Eleanor, Ermelina, Johnnie and Dolly. Front row (left-right): Sheri, Tanya, Lydia and Angela. Photo taken by Farmer Vent
Tanya, Angela and Al Jr. were all one year apart. Photo by taken in Huslia by Eleanor Yatlin
Tanya, Angela and Al Jr. were all one year apart. Photo by taken in Huslia by Eleanor Yatlin

My parents had six kids, five together and one adopted. Al Jr., Tanya and I were all one year apart. Tanya was adopted a year before Al came along. We were the middle kids with an older sister, Sheri, and younger brothers, Solomon and Johnnie. We moved a lot due to my dad’s work, like Huslia, Hughes, Bettles/Evansville, Nome, Fort Yukon, Galena and Nenana. We might have lived in a lot of different places, but my siblings were a constant presence in my life.

My parents had their hands (and house) full during those years. Most people didn’t have running water in Huslia in my early years. We had those galvanized steel tubs. My parents had an oblong shaped tub, and Al, Tonz and I took a bath at the same time. We were pretty nuisance. One day while mom was out, I decided to cut my bangs. Oh, but I didn’t stop there. I had to cut Al and Tonz’ bangs too! I’m not sure if my mom has a picture of us during that time. I think I have a few with my really short bangs though. We were 4-5-6 years old at the time. Ha ha! Our nicknames were, Little Al, Tonz and Angie.

We probably drove my mom a little crazy. She was a stay-at-home mom. As teenagers we stayed up late, and she would tell us in a stern voice, “Go to bed and go to sleep.” We even recorded it one time. We still giggled for about half an hour after she would tell us.

"Yatlin Family Circus" is what I put on the back of this photo when I took it as a teenager in the 1990s. Photo taken in Bettles/Evansville, Alaska
“Yatlin Family Circus” is what I put on the back of this photo when I took it as a teenager in the 1990s. Photo taken in Bettles/Evansville, Alaska

My dad was a dog musher, so in addition to six kids, we also had to take care of 10-30 dogs over the years. Nowadays, my parents are retired and living a more quite life. They only have a couple dogs at a time. My sister and her daughter live in Huslia too. The rest of us are spread out around Alaska.

Angie (7), Al Jr. (5) and Tanya (6) in Huslia in the early 80s. Photo taken in Huslia by Eleanor Yatlin
Angie (7), Al Jr. (5) and Tanya (6) in Huslia in the early 80s. Photo taken in Huslia by Eleanor Yatlin

It wasn’t an easy life growing up with such a big family, but it was a blessing. I’m thankful for all of my siblings and for my extended family. One of my aunts had 14 children. I always thought I would have a big family of my own, but my husband and I are content with two. I cherish the memories of my childhood growing up in a large family.

Denaakk’e (Koyukon Athabascan) Lesson:

  • Sodaa – older sister
  • Sidaadza – younger sister
  • Sooghaa – older brother
  • Kitłaa – younger brother

0 thoughts on “Big Families – Those Were the Days”

      1. Oh Angela, How I remember those tubs ~ with the water heated on the wood cook stove and Dad carrying the dirty water outside to dump. Thanks for reviving memories.

        I was the eldest of four ~ in fact the eldest grandchild on both sides. Now I’m the eldest of the “elder generation” in my family ~ which often feels unreal.

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