My enaa is Eleanor Yatlin. Enaa means mother in Koyukon Athabascan. My mother was born in late Sammy and Sophie Sam’s winter camp near Huslia, Alaska. She is Koyukon Athabascan. Her parents were the late Edwin and Lydia Simon. Her paternal grandparents were Simon and Julia Simon. Her maternal grandparents were Francis and Christine Olin. She was raised in Huslia and married my father, Al Yatlin, Sr., and they raised six children. She stayed home to raise her children Sharon, Angela (me), Tanya, Al Jr., Solomon and Johnnie. She and my dad celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary this year.
My mother taught us many lessons growing up. One lesson I learned was to work hard at whatever you are doing. She taught us how to cook, do beadwork, cut fish, start a fire, keep a fire going, get prepared for a picnic, boat ride or camping. I remember how we had to wake up early to get ready to go on an outing. We had to rush around for at least a couple of hours. I remember being tired and annoyed, but was always grateful when we had a sandwich and snacks ready to eat. With so many of us, we had to work together.
Mom was like a drill sergeant and knew what needed to be done and prepared. If one of us forgot something, she knew who forgot it and reminded them again. We were always comfortable because she helped us to prepare. She made us dress up warm and fed us well. It feels so good to be comfortable out in the wild. Even though it was hard work to prepare for something, mom taught us the value of being prepared. If we got hungry or cold, it wasn’t because she didn’t warn us. It was because we didn’t listen to her. I’m probably the same way to my kids now and they probably get annoyed with me (smile). However, I don’t see them complaining when they are warm, dry and fed.
My mother taught the girls how to bead necklaces, earrings, barrettes and boots. She taught us how to repair torn moose/caribou boots. I don’t remember how to do everything and am not very good at them. My mom is also a great quilter and has an eye for patterns. She has sewed quilts for her each of her grandchildren. Mom and my sister, Tanya, have worked together to sew kids parkas over the years.
Mom taught us how to cut fish at camp during the summers. I consider her ability to fillet a salmon an art. She was always careful and reverent when working on fish. She and the rest of the family had to work hard for every pound of fish we caught. She would work hard all day and still have energy to cut fish. She loves cutting fish. We had to take good care of her fish by keeping the fire going in the smokehouse. We had to hang them up and we were not allowed to drop it or get it dirty. She makes really good eating fish, whether it is half-dried or dried completely or frozen.
She loves to pick berries in late summer. She saves them for dessert over the winter or to give away at community events. My sister, Sheri, loves to pick berries too. My mother taught us how to cook for the family. As teenagers, we took turns cooking dinner each night. My mom always had us baking something once a week. Baking isn’t my favorite activity, but the memories of learning how and spending time with my mom and sisters stays with me. I’m grateful my mom taught us how to cook moose meat soup and how to bake fish. I now cook soup and bake fish for my family.
As you can see, my mother taught us a lot. I admire her knowledge of the Koyukon Athabascan culture, beliefs and language and her ability to teach and share it. I probably get my love of photography from her. She recently had a minor stroke and my family was pretty scared. She is recovering and doing well in Huslia.
Ana basee’ Enaa! Thank you Mother!