I Was Born Between Two Cultures, Walter Meganack Sr.
As told by Walter Meganack Sr. to Darlene Malchoff
My father, Affanasia Meganack, was born in Yalik Bay. He was a young boy when the Russians moved his family to English bay. My motherís folks are from Tatitlik and her family was moved to English Bay too.
Before the Russians came, people used wood, stone, slate, and bone for making tools. They used wood for spear handles and axe handles. They used stone for axe heads and spear heads. They made their knife blades out of slate. Bone was used for arrowheads and sewing needles.
The people used to build fires different ways. They rubbed two sticks together really fast until they generated heat and started to spark. Then they would blow on the spark and it would burst into flame. Another way they would start a fire involved using sinew or animal tendons, a block of wood, and a wooden stick. You twirl the stick between your hands very quickly, using the sinew with the stick pressing into the block of wood. When the wood begins to spark, blow on it until a flame starts. They also used flint to start a fire, by striking it until it produced a spark.
For cooking pots, they used blocks of wood that they burned out slowly until they formed a hole inside. Then they would start a fire and heat rocks until they were red hot. The hot stones were carefully dropped into the wooden pot full of water. After the water heated up, meat would be laced in the water to cook. Thatís how meat was cooked long ago. The meat would be hard to chew, but it would have a good taste.
My family came from great hunters. They were great hunters. They always hunted and took care of feeding people. Seal hunters, bear hunters, sea otter hunters. My dad hunted sea otters from Russian schooner. He was just a young kid, just a sailor on the Russian schooner. They didnít pay them, they just fed them and took care of them. They took him to the hunting grounds. So they took his kayak and turned him loose. They hunted way up in the Bering Sea. They hunted in the Gulf of Alaska, and some of them even went to Sitka.
So great hunters in our traditional life were leaders because the people needed them to provide. Theyíre high respected because they bring game and food. The chief is always helping all natives and all people. My dad never was a chief. My uncle was a chief. One of my uncles was a chief in English Bay. He was Alexander Shaw. My dad was much too important to be a chief. He was always hunting, and providing.
The Aleuts hunted and fished and some worked for the Russians hunting sea otters and working in the coal mine.
Later on, the Russians built a church in Seldovia and Father Nick Mooninís father was chosen to head that church.
After the church was built in English Bay, Father John Moonin was impressed with the people in English Bay because they were aggressive and treated him well. So Father John Moonin moved down to English Bay.
I heard my father say that Paul Ofkew was the first one to settle in Port Graham. He had a barabara at the site of where the cannery is now.
During that time, when the Russians were trading with the natives, there was very little money exchanged. We used to trade for the things we wanted; guns for furs. There was a Russian who had a long muzzle loader. In order to trade for that gun, you had to pile up furs until they equaled the height of the gun.
Before American and Russian days, dry fish was our bread. You ate dry fish with every meal, with whatever you were eating. There were no stores, so we had to hunt and preserve all our food. We had berries, plants, and animals. There were no guns then, either. You had to spear the bear or use a bow and arrow.
In 1912, my dad, Affanasia, my older half-brother, Anton Meganack, and my father-in-law Nick Mumcheck moved here to Port Graham. They were the first people to move here to build cabins and settle.† Tim Ukatish, Dick Anahonak, Ephim Moonin, Demetri Moonin and Alex Anahonak moved across the bay where Willie Moonin lives to build cabins. Later on, between 1914 and 1920, they decided to join the rest of us on this side of the bay.
One reason people moved to Port Graham was because hunting was getting harder in English Bay. Animals were getting scarce because they were hunted so much.† Another reason was the cannery opened in Port Graham which opened up employment for people. Non-native way of life started with the cannery being established.
On January 13, 1915, I was born here in Port Graham. I was also raised here. Both of my parents were native. My mother died when I was three years old. My dad raised me. The way I was raised my dad took care of me.† My dad had to work or go hunting.† My aunts had to take care of me when I was a small boy. The ones who were alive took care of me. They would leave me here and there.
When I was at the age of five or six I was old enough and able enough to understand things, so I could take care of myself. Then he (dad) would take me along going hunting.
In those days things were different. We used Norwegian dories mostly. Codfish dories or we would make our own. We would use kayaks. The Aleut dories cure up. They are built different.† They are wider and flatter. They have a flat seat in the stern, to row. The captain rows sitting forward. You row sitting down.
In winter time I usually went down to English Bay. We had a cabin. My dad lived there in English Bay first, before he lived here. So being back and forth between English Bay and Port Graham, thatís where my childhood was spent.
Everything in bulk, like sugar, flour, tea, weíd pack into those large cowboy handkerchiefs, tie the four corners and carry it home that way. My dad told me that. Theyíd use rags. Flour came in 200 pound oak barrels. Gun powder was raw too.
In the early 1900ís, was the beginning of American money here. In 1912 when they opened up the cannery, the working wage began. We traded for things before that. We sold or furs to cash buyers.
Seal stomachs were very important. You clean it up and blow it up as big as you wanted it to be. Cut it a little so it will expand to one-eighth inch thick. Keep blowing up until it is big. Then stuff it with fish eggs, berries, seal oil, strips of seal blubber and close it with a wooden plug.† It would be air tight.† Nothing would spoil. You pack water in them too and use it for a water container on the kayak. Sea lion stomachs get to be about three feet long!
Lard came from black bear fat. In the fall, they are the best because they eat berries.† The steaks are good. The fat was an important part, like seal oil.† You used it for cooking and in lamps. They also use duck oil form boiling ducks for burning in lamps too.† They preserved berries with seal oil too.
My uncles used to teach me to shift positions fast. I would run and jump sideways and go around a tree. Then the bear couldnít catch me. We learned how to climb trees fast.† Also you spear the brown or black bear from the front.† You spear him and at the same time you jump over him.† By the time the spear gets to him, he knows which way it came from and he goes in that direction. By then youíre going the other way. We were in good shape!
My childhood was restricted to certain activities. I couldnít shout at night or at any time unnecessarily because I would interfere with emergencies if they happened. I had to be home at dark. I couldnít be like you kids running around. So I grew up here and later on I became a hunter and trapper. Thatís what I did. Hunting, trapping, fishing and growing up for subsistence. The trapping was very important because thatís where resources are and money came from.
When I was a kid I was brought up in a cabin and everybody used to use newspapers or magazines to paper the walls. After I went to school, every house I went to visit, I didnít have to be bored, because I could read articles all over the place. When you lie down, and you have a bright light, you lie in your bunk or you lie on the floor. You could see the pictures.
I used to wonder when I was a kid before I went to school. To begin with when I was younger, I didnít know how to say thank you or say hello or no or yes at the right time, because I didnít know that much English. I spoke Aleut most of the time. I learned to speak English. I could understand early, but broken English mostly. I learned the English alphabet and numbers early before I went to school. I was mixed up when to say yes and when to say no. Itís foreign t me. My language was foreign to white men also. When I spoke to him in Aleut, he looked at me like I was going to kill him or something. Everybody spoke Aleut. Nobody spoke English.† My dad didnít speak English because he didnít know when to say yes or no. Just like me too. But I learned a little bit of English just before I went to school. I picked it up here and there.
I watch things. I was taught to watch things, ever since I was a little boy.† My dad taught me to observe. Observation is a good word. You observe whatever; birds, people. Observation is a good teacher. You can figure the people out by watching, or the birds or the weather itself.† You can almost tell what kind of weather or summer we are going to have by watching these things.
I didnít have a chance to go to school until I was at the age of fifteen. There was a school in Port Chatham open early. I have a distant aunt, particularly I wasnít too close to, related to my dad, Carloughís, wher I spent my time. I was raised with the Carloughs. I spent more time with them. I would play with them. Jimmy Carlough was older than all of us. We all would fish and cut wood together as a group. Well, they wanted to take me to Port Chatham to go to school there, when there was school I couldnít because my dad was at the age where he needed my help, but he wasnít too old. He didnít want me to leave him.† He didnít want me to move to port Chatham. So finally, sometime in 1932, Nils Swedlund married a school teacher in Seattle somewhere. They opened a school here. I was at the age of fifteen when they opened it.† It happened we used Jesse Carloughís log cabin. We had one big room. That was their home too. There was a small room too. It was a small room where the boys used to sleep. The cabin has been torn down now.
The desks were made out of shiplap. It was long benches. There were about three rows, six people sat in each row.
Well, anyhow, every time I wrote pretty hard I always put pressure on my pencil. After I got through I could see the imprint on the wood.
My first teacher was a skinny English girl. She was pretty strict. My second teacher was Elizabeth Smith. I think she is still living somewhere in Portland.† They had the fox farm then down on the island in the entrance to the bay. She was German. Germans are tough people. She pushed me really hard. I had to make two grades in one year. My schooling is two and a half years. I accomplished 4th and almost finished 5th.
After that, after I got out of school I couldnít get back in because I was too old and there were too many young people.† The school wasnít big enough. They tried to open a night school, but that was not successful. I only went one month there. Teachers were overloaded anyhow.† So thatís my education the hard way. I started at the age of fifteen and finished at the age of almost nineteen.
There used to be a lot of Filipinos here, who used to work in the cannery. I used to work with them when I worked in the cannery. Iíve been very much independent since I was 8 years old. I worked and helped support myself and my dad. Even before I went to school I taught myself. Somebody always taught me. A bunch of Filipinos used to when we used to play together. Sometimes we would sit there, we sat on the beach, they would teach me even in their language. I used to count in Spanish. One Filipino was part Spanish. He and I were buddies during the summer.
When you see different things, different groups of people, different things in life, you learn. That is, if youíre observant. A lot of kids donít care nowadays. Everything they do they donít care.† I wasnít raised like that. I was raised in an orderly manner. When we went to the party, dance or masquerading, if I didnít follow the elders commands, I didnít go again, because I was restricted. Everybody was serious, because you lived off the land. You know hunting isnít easy.
Sometimes we would go to Seldovia, mix with the Kenaitze Indians, my father always made me behave. I didnít run around inside a house, I had to sit like a nice little boy. But I hated it. I wanted to run around but I had to obey my father. Sometimes I hated him about certain things, but I liked him.
He was highly religious too. Thatís what I got tired of most about him. He was too religious. He was so religious, it came out of my ears, and at every meal he would talk about religion. He would talk to me about how Iím going to be when I grow up. He said thereís a man in heaven. Yu have to believe thereís a God. Even though I resented a lot of things, if I were smarter then, I would have listened to him and observed him more, and tried to understand him. But he didnít give up. He knew I resented a lot of it.† He never gave up. He was patient with me. He knew I resented him. I didnít like a lot of things. Still, the next day or morning or anytime he got a chance, he repeated the same things. He as a foxy old man. I used to out-fox him, though.
I used to like to play. He used to make me chop wood. I would chop one block. Then I would put a big limb on the pile. Then I would pile those up so that he would think that I chopped lots so I can make it look high. When he came out he said, ďThatís enough now for a while. If you chop anymore it is going to just dry up. The burn like paper.Ē O, I was happy! I would put the axe away and run and play. Then later on he came home and told me, ďWell you chopped that wood, now you have to bring it in.Ē ďGee,Ē I said. Then I would quickly chop another block while he was asleep and I tried to be quick. Then I would carry it in a big pile on wood. He looked at them and he was satisfied. But my cheating I had to make up later on.
I was well-fed as a child and we didnít have any money often times. My shoes would have no bottom. My toes were sticking out of my shoes. Sometimes I would cut burlap and wrap it around my feet. I had to work for everything I wanted. Growing up wasnít easy. I was between two different cultures. White manís way of life and native way of life.† I was born just between the changing of history.
My half-brother went to school at the Russian school in English bay when Father Nick Moonin was teaching. It used to be Russian in the morning and English in the afternoon, or English in the morning and Russian in the afternoon. He went to school and learned enough Russian to become a reader of the church. He was a lot older than me. He was the first son.
From there, ever since I was nineteen, Iíve been involved in politicking.† Also I was involved in a union, even before I joined the union. I was eighteen years old in 1933, the first time I was involved in the union in Seldovia. It was the local Seldovia union, put together, fishermen protecting fishermen, and cannery workers. My wages started out at ten cents an hour, ten hours a day. No good working conditions, and if you dropped dead, they didnít even know you. Then later on I got raised to 25 cents, then 35 cents, then I quit.† In 1933 Fildago Island packing Company, which we used to work for, didnít operate during the depression.† The depression started in the early 30ís. When I got a chance to join the union in Seldovia, I was working there at the time. It was 1933. I got 50 cents an hour, $1.00 for unloading fish off the boat. That was good wages. So I like the union. We had also good working conditions. Iíve been involved in the union ever since then. Today you people enjoy good working conditions which I am involved in through unions, which I negotiated.
Thereís a story for everything. Thereís a reason to tell a story. When a child was mischievous, the elders didnít want to embarrass you. So the child would be sent to the elders, who before hand would be informed of what you did. Then the old man would tell the child a story which used an animal, bird or whatever that would fit what you did. Then at the end, the old man would come back to whatever you did. Heíd say, ďYou donít want to be like that wolf or whateverĒ. It would be used to wise you up. If you continue what youíre doing you would be like that. Itís up to you to figure it out. If youíre lazy, bad, mean, reckless, wasteful, have no self-confidence, unproductive, things like that.
An example is the wolf story. Wolves are vicious animals. They have no home, they are unsettled, moving all the time. Some people are that way. They never settle down. When you do that, you leave little pieces of yourself behind. Pretty soon your strength will all be gone and youíll die like the wolf.
After people moved here from Port Chatham, there were still a lot of people left there, and me and Alfred used to get up in the morning and say, ďLetís go down to Port Chatham on Saturday night and go dancing.Ē So weíd hike during the day and get there by 3:00 p. m.† Then at 7:00 weíd start dancing. I wasnít that good of a dancer. I could do the fox trot and waltz, but not the two step too well. It depended on who played the accordion. Iím better dancing to fast music than slow music.
My biggest dream is to build a big house. A big big house. So I built a big big house. I helped build this house. I built that big garage. I day dream on big big houses. Maybe it is because I grew up in a small cabin. It was crowded. I day dream a lot of things. My day dreams are Iím going to build a big house, going to live better, eat better and Iím going to get the things I wanted. I wanted a different life for myself than my dad provided me and my aunt provided me.
Me and Larry used to hunt together. My half-brother Anton had a nice cabin below Willieís. We used to hunt porcupines and rabbits. When we had a lot weíd sell them; 25 cents for a rabbit or 50 cents for a porcupine. Good money in those days. Sometimes weíd get 10 rabbits and 20 porcupines, and sell them to the fox farm.
My dad died in 1934, when I was nineteen years old. But thatís it. I have been independent ever since the age of nineteen. We didnít have a big family. My oldest brother, Anton, died in 1955 I think, of the measles. We had the measles here early and he died. I didnít have much family. The only brother I had was Anton. He was my half-brother too. We had the same father, but different mothers.
I worked until 1936 in Seldovia, then in 1937 I worked at logging in Port Chatham. There were four of us. There was Gorman Agiena, Derenty Mumchuck, Nick Anahonak Sr., and me. Four of us logged, we would cut logs.
After we got through cutting logs then we moved to Dogfish Bay and cut pilings for the Fidalgo Island Packing Company. So when we finished we came in. I went to work with the Fidalgo Island Packing Company.
I remembered in the fall of 1934, the first time I visited Port Chatham, after my dad died, we were cutting pilings in Dogfish Bay with Mike Moonin. We walked down one Friday just before Lent started. We danced that night and Saturdaay night. Then the next day we attended services and walked back to Dogfish Bay to cut more pilings.
During territory time, before I was 21 I voted. I was just a big kid and a pretty able person, so they thought I was older. Nobody asked me my age. In the early days, during territory time, Anthony Dimond was a very popular person. You can read back in history on him. Seldovia was the election district. We didnít have an election district here in Port Graham. They used to pick us up for here, pick up all the voters from here and English Bay. They took us to Seldovia to vote, then they would bring us back. In the morning they would pick us up to vote, then after we voted they would give us a chance to go shopping. We would get what we needed and go to all the stores which we havenít got here. About three oíclock in the afternoon they would put us back in the boat, our freight and whatever, and bring us back here. Thatís how elections used to run.
Early in 1934 somewhere along, BIA took over the school education and they had meetings to organize the village council. The BIA had meetings. Everybody went to the meetings. BIA was going to do this. BIA was going to do that. You all are going to organize this, or you are going to organize that and have a chief or a mayor. Nothing happened. After all those meetings.
The second time there was a meting I was sick, I had the flu. I wrote a letter to the school teacher. I said that I hope you are successful because thereís a lot of meetings being held and there is no result. The school teacher didnít take my not too seriously. But a year later she came to me. She said, ďYou were right, Walter. Nothing happens. What shall we do?Ē I didnít know.
Then the third time they had a meeting when they wanted to, we kicked the BIA people out. I kicked them out. Iím one of the people. The reason why I kicked them out was because we werenít satisfied with their system.
One teacher made an open remark that he was here just to build his retirement. He said he didnít care if he taught or not as long as the kids came over here and attended school. Every time we asked the kids after they came from school, what did you do? They would just laugh. Then we would ask them what their grade was? They would say that they didnít know. The we would ask them what did you people do? They would say the teacher took us down to the beach to pack rocks. Clam shells and beautify the school.
Then we would ask them what the teacher did. They said he would fall asleep on his desk. What grade are you? You are not learning anything! All the students were being punished, particularly mine. My boys didnít speak much English and I would always speak Aleut to Riley and Ben. They were very good in Aleut. When we sent them to the BIA School, every time they talked in Aleut they would let them stand up in a corner. Not only that, they werenít teaching them anything. I think that was in 1947, during territory time.
We didnít want that teacher. After that, then, territorial schools took over. Thatís when some of the kids started to graduate. When statehood came, there was nothing but good teachers.
Some kids were sent to mount Edgecumbe and the Chemawa School and Kansas City. Then Kenai Borough took over. Then I got involved in the foster home program. Seraphim was the first one to be sent to Kenai Borough to try out in a public high school. Before we had sent them to the segregation schools.
If you didnít learn to follow the elders you got into complications. In your life everything is in order. If Iím a boss you work for me, take the orders from me and if you didnít, I would fire you. They still have to learn, like in school. You have to be strict. When I went to school everything was strict. I couldnít sit like this. I had to sit a certain way. So that my work isnít that way either. It had to be clean and neat and orderly. Everything I did, my hair had to be combed, my face had to be clean, my hands washed. I had to have decent clothing. If Iím not decently dressed, they would send me home to change my clothes or wash my face or comb my hair. I wasnít the one who was sent home! Lots of students were. I was a perfect student and a smart one, too.
I didnít like the Chinese system, so, when unions came I stepped in because I didnít like what I say. I wanted things much better. Also I didnít like the way I grew up. I wanted a better life then what my native style offered me. I wanted much better. So I used to wonder while hunting and trapping and walking, same time thinking of how I can better myself. I wasnít satisfied. I had high goals for myself.
I was a cannery worker to begin with. Later I joined the union to be a fish trap watchman. They gave a commission of $600-$1100 from the season plus the monthly wage of $500-$600.
Somewhere in the early 50ís, there was a movement that wanted to get rid of the fish traps. I was already a commercial fisherman then. I voted in statehood for one reason to get rid of the fish traps.
I 1947 I quit all my jobs and went commercial fishing. Everybody criticized me, even my superintendent. He told me, ďHey Walter, I would consider you a good man. Youíre handy, youíre next in line for taking over as net boss. You know more about the nets. You better think it over.Ē He told me salmon prices are high enough. Maybe in the next few years those prices will drop 2 cents down to nothing.† Well then I felt sorry for the poor guy because I didnít agree with him. Unions are pretty strong and fishermen were starting to move. The fishermen were strong. Individual fishermen were getting their boats and getting their gear and fishing and selling to the cannery. We now got the traps out and those companies wouldnít get their fish for nothing. Thatís why we wanted to get the fish traps out. So we could sell those fish with good prices. The fish traps would get every fish that goes by. They got a lot of waste, halibut, codfish and herring. We wanted to take control over the fishing. So the only way we could take control of the fishing was to knock the fish traps out. The only way we could do it was to become a state. We voted before statehood to knock them out, but that didnít work. Finally the statehood movement included outlawing all fish traps. I feel that at that time, when statehood first started we couldnít quite assume statehood responsibilities because we didnít have much, only fishing industries. It turned out to be one of the best states, the state of Alaska. People worked, everybody helps work.
I have been involved in politics since 1933. That continued until Congress passed the law that knocked the unions down. Unions got too powerful so they knocked the Alaska Fishermenís Union down. Because early in the 50ís, individuals couldnít negotiate with the companies. They could only negotiate individually. The company operated boats could only negotiate because youíre working for the company.
But that didnít end us because before 1950 I helped a bunch of us fishermen from Seldovia. Johnny Crawfordís father was one. We formed the North Pacific Marketing Association. I was the board member of the North Pacific Marketing Association. I was the negotiator. We had a hard time being recognized. It was somewhere around early 1955. I guess it was in 1959 when we really had a showdown. We lost the season. I only made $1400 in that season. After that the canneries began to raise fish prices. So the law Congress passed didnít disable us, because we found a way. All laws have loopholes. We found a way out.
I was a union delegate until I stopped working for them. We organized that North Pacific Market Association in Seldovia. Itís over in Homer now. After that I wasnít involved in any more unions. But I did always put my 25 cents in whatever I see! I was always involved in education and policy matters.
I worked at anything just to make an honest dollar. It was in the early thirties, thirty-five or thirty six that I went into logging. I used to get ten dollars per thousand millboard feet.
I was used to that price when I negotiated with Japanese after we took over the state timber sale. When they said they would raise it to seven dollars per stump. I laughed at him. He looked at me and said, ďHow come you laugh at $7.00?Ē I though to myself, look what heís trying to take me for. I said, ďI used to log during the territorial time with the private sawmill for $10.00 per stump. Here itís 1975 time of inflation and you offer me $7.00? What do you think I am?Ē I think timber is worth somewhere between $50.00 today.
How did I meet Luba? Well, I was raised with Lubaís brothers. I think it just happened. Thatís all I can say. I got married in 1937 in the Russian Church of Seldovia. There was a lot of people over there. I had a lot of friends there because I was working there from 1933-1936. Well I used to live in a small cabin that my dad left me after he died. I added a kitchen to it and improved it. I got married, we lived in that cabin one year. Finally in 1938 I built that house that is in front of the new house. My first son was born in that house in 1938.
I also built a powerboat at the same tine. A big skiff with a motor in it. I built two things, a house and a powerboat.† My son was born in the new home. Out of all eleven of my kids, only two were born in a hospital. They were all born right here in that big house we got there. Harvey and Cheryl were born in Anchorage Hospital.
After we got married we had some tough times. We didnít have running water. We had to pack water. We didnít have a washing machine, we just had a tub and a scrub board. We didnít have an oil stove. We had to cut wood and burn wood. Thatís a lot of work. We didnít have chain saws in those days. We had to use hand saws, called crosscut saws to cut wood.
Then later on after I was successful on my commercial fishing I bought a light plant. I invested about four thousand dollars, and we had our own electricity. I had to learn about electricity and study electricity before I could do that.
Also along the line during my improvements I dug a well next to my house. Put my hand pump inside my house too. Thatís a good improvement. Because I was tired of packing water all the time. I dug the well with a pick and shovel. You can tell where water is. It is because the grass stays green all year round where water is. It doesnít completely die. Also, tree branches are heavy on the water side. It wasnít easy, you had to pump it, but it was a luxury. Then I changed to oil stove.
Then I took over the theater. They used to show movies at the school. The couple of teachers didnít want to monkey with the movies. They told me to see what I can do about it. So I had to build a building quickly. Thatís the beginning of my business. Also, everybody used the building for a dance hall. Thatís where the dancing and all the activities were and a meeting place for the community. Thatís about the time when I became chief. I think it was 1960. I got the movies from Pictures Incorporated. I rented the projector from them too. I ended up buying a projector and we still have that projector. You can rent projectors for so much a month.
During statehood, before I became chief, I was responsible for the airport, too. See, I requested the airport. It was in 1958. That was the easiest thing I ever did. Ken Johnsonís firm represented our area from Anchorage. He had insurance. The Egan became governor. I requested two things. I didnít have the authority, I just took it upon myself. We had the Johnson OíMalley old school here. One time Mrs. Howard called me on evening and said, ĎWalter, weíve got to do something about this school.Ē On the statehood, thereís an education policy that says enrollment of 17 on up, we should have two teachers. So the school was over crowed and she said she couldnít handle all that alone. To begin with she wasnít going to teach again anyhow. So she asked me to write a letter to my representative.
So I wrote a letter and asked them. Bureau of Indian Affairs owned it at that time. So we wrote a letter and we went up against Johnson OíMalley and the BIA. The state was mainly running the school. So we had a little problem there, but the crazy policies donít bother me, because I break them all the time. It was very simple. We got the upper grade part built.
Then later in 1959 I think, I opened up a small grocery store against the one hundred thousand dollar stocked F.I.P. store. When I started my store it was small, just in a little lean-to there in the front of the old house. It was 4 x 8 foot wide. I ordered $450 or $500 worth of wholesale stuff from Seattle. In those days, Alaska steamship used to come in monthly. The landed in Seldovia. Soon as I got a boat I could run to Seldovia. I opened my store in December, somewhere just before Christmas. At the same time I opened my store, I had a long building and I showed movies there. Then thatís where the activities used to be at the beginning also. By the first of May I multiplied that to $7000 worth of groceries. So it was successful.
So then I became chief after that. Somewhere in 1959 or 1960. So I got busy trying to improve our community. Later on I got so much involved, I had to close down my store because I didnít want the state or Federal agencies to accuse me of trying to promote something of my own. So I closed down.
It was successful. It would have been a big store not if I didnít close it down. I didnít have to borrow money from anywhere. I had enough to stock it.† It is right in my front porch off that old house. The knocked down part is the theater and dance hall. In the next part where all those shelves are is the store part. It is a big house with a roof and a lean-to. Also I used my living room for my office the first time I took over as chief.
In all my life, 66 hyears, I never borrowed a cent from my fellowman. In my commercial fishing, once I bought a boat, the Christine, from Pete Elvsaas. I borrowed $2500 from the company. I paid it back the next season.
Iíve used credit, my name is good anywhere. Iíve given out money, fed a lot of people, helped a lot of people. No one ever leaves my home hungry.
Later on, after the school got built a couple of years later, I was elected chairman of the school board.
I have been involved in Native affairs and in politics for a long time. Also, I think Iím the only one of the Native people to sit on the Democratic Convention Committee. I was the chairman at that committee serving Kenai. We held lots of meetings. Last meeting we held was at Wasilla. Thatís before registration began. When our registration began, I registered nonpartisan. They kicked me out of it hen, because thatís when you had to register as a republican or democrat. I am nonpartisan.
I got involved in Native Land Claims in 1966. There was a statewide Native Conference I attended. Udall was Secretary of Interior then. I didnít testify, but I submitted my written testimony. I was too busy learning. Thatís the beginning of Alaska Federation of Natives, too. I filed the land protest on October 26, 1966. A land protest for Native Land Claims. Also thatís when I filed Restricted Native Townsite. Mickey Moonin was my secretary and Tim Malchoff was one of the council members. Philip Anahonak and Peter Anahonak were council members at that time, too.
I accomplished things before I became chief. I initiated the airport and decision for teaching the upper grades in school, and also improved all these roads by getting grants. Also I pushed for a sewer and water system in 1970. It took me 8 years to get that finally. Also I have BIA housing on my list of accomplishments. I even helped build the BIA houses. I supervised them and also accomplished the first Community hall. I didnít build it, but I got the Alcoholic Abuse money for it, $8000, before I got out of the council.
First thing after I was re-elected back again in 1976 I pushed for this community building. Also the fire department, BIA roads, and PHS water and sewer.
The reason why I ran for village chief was because in the surrounding villages, they were getting well organized during that time. They had things going for them. So we had a very late start. We were on of the last ones to get organized. But our village is right now recognized as one of the highest in the state as an outstanding community.
You know Luba never tried to stop me from being village chief. She really supported me! Everything I did, she made me successful because I donít have problems at home. When you have home problems you canít do two things at once. They are part of your success.
I do everything as village chief. Chief is the head of the village. Nothing, no doings without the village chief okay. Same way as a mayor in a city. The mayor has the power to veto. Chief has power to veto, even if it is the councilís decision.
If I attended all the meetings I am required to attend, I would never be home. I only attend very important ones. Thereís no end to being mayor or chief, because thereís so much you can do.† Look at all the papers I have to make decisions on. If I read them all Iíd be blind. Itís really a fulltime job. Iím only supposed to be here two hours a day. Thatís what I get paid for.
Iím just doing it for fun. My reward is accomplishing whatever I can. It makes me feel at least, when I leave I leave happy because I did something. At least I didnít waste my time.
Sometimes I cry here on my desk because Iím disappointed. Itís not an easy job. It sometimes is very good to you. Thereís no satisfaction, though. You canít ever satisfy everyone. Everybody gripes and the more they gripe. The people have to do their part as a citizen. Their responsibility as a citizen of this community would help. You are responsible if any harm comes to the community, you have to pitch in.
Some people do things for the sake of the glory. Thatís bad. Just for the glory, to be rewarded. I do it because I want to do it. I donít want the glory.
Determination is one reason I am successful.† Day dreaming things and making them happen. Realizing your dreams. Not getting discouraged. You have to have self-confidence.† The impossible is a challenge to me. I feel thereís nothing impossible to me if you have a will. Thereís no such thing as impossible.
In the Bible, you would go to the missionaries and they say what is the first thing God said? He said everything is possible through him. He would leave impossible out. You donít go to church or go to Sunday School and services just for fun. You go to learn something. To learn about the Bible, what God expected you to do. You have to have faith and believe youíre a strong person. You have to have principles, if you donít have principles, there would be no self respect. What you preach you have to live.
Chief-hood isnít easy, because it is a strict way of life. You have to watch everything you do. You have to set an example to your people. You have to have qualifications for leadership. You have to have self-respect and others respect. If you donít have it, you arenít successful.
The most Wonderful feeling and satisfaction is being a village man doing things for my community, accomplishing some things for the people and the community. Such as whatever the needs of the community or the people are. Helping the people.
Copyright 1981,† Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.† All rights reserved