Alaska Native/Indigenous People

Stories by Rhoda Stertzer

Angeline Derendoff by Brenda Ernst

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.

When our mom, Angeline Derendoff, was a young, her mom was checking fishnet. Mom was running on the beach and she came upon some driftwood. As she was running over the driftwood, her leg got stuck. She was stuck, so she called out or was crying, a young man came over to help her and pulled her out. At this time was when her leg disjointed. She was bedridden for a while.

They didn’t have crutches back then. So, a man built her one. It was a stick with a piece crossing on the top and another where she gripped with her hands. She was forever grateful. Every time she’d tell this story you can hear it in her voice as she interrupted the story to say how thankful she was for the man. She learned to walk with crutches. She had to work hard despite her handicap.

Grandma adopted lots of children, as she couldn’t have any. Our Mom was her only child. Mom had a Sister, but she died when she was five years old. So, our Mom had to care for the children, because Grandma was an outdoor woman. She did the trapping and catching food for the family. Grandma was widowed by the time Mom was a teenager (maybe, not exactly sure).

Anyway, Mom was in charge of keeping the house warm, so she’d ironically go to the driftwood and saw the trees with a two-man saw. She said she’d sit out there sawing for weeks-on-end. She would put up her arms and describe how big around the trees were. They were not small.

I imagine when she would get a pile her younger siblings would bring to the house with a team of dogs pulling on a sled. She was in her 30’s when she was stricken with TB and was sent to Mt. Edgecumbe hospital, where they straightened out her leg. It was a couple inches short than the other, so she had to use a shoe with a two-inch rubber sole. It was heavy, too. Basee’ for this opportunity to share our Mom’s story.


Project Jukebox, a Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program, has some photos and stories from Late Angeline Derendoff. It is awesome to hear her stories directly from her. You can even hear the story, Rhoda, told above. I appreciate these precious archives from our Elders!

Enaa baasee’, Rhoda, for sharing stories about her late mom, Angeline Derendoff! I always love hearing stories from our Elders. Late Angeline was our neighbor in Huslia. My siblings and I remember doing chores for her as a part of a youth program with the Huslia Village. She would tell stories when we did chores.

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