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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
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I˝upiaq RavenIñupiat Ioitqusiat

A Special Publication of Alaska Newspapers Inc.

"Those things that make us who we are"

Portrait of a People - By the People
Originally a supplement to The Arctic Sounder


Piññafnialgujiq
Hunter Success

Tuttu
Photo courtesy of Christine Ahlalook

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Art Barr Cleveland
Ambler

Hunter Success is providing meat for the family.
Ambler was established for its hunting grounds around 1957.
I’ve hunted for caribou a few times during the fall.
It’s a way for me to help out my family.

At Onion Portage we made coffee, sat around the fire and enjoyed the view. Sometime later we watched a herd of caribou moving into the deep parts of the river. Wilbur, Herman and I got into the boat. Wilbur handed me the rifle. I looked through the scope and found a bull in the crosshairs. I shot it by the ear. Then we got on land to butcher the bull.

After awhile we had coffee and some fried meat. Luckily, after we ate, another herd came crossing the river. We jumped into the boat and again were successful and thankful for our meat.

To be a successful hunter is to achieve your goal and when you’re successful, you feel good about yourself. You have meat for your family.

Hunting for meat is fun. You not only hunt but you admire the country. The bright colors of fall time can be an awesome sight. If you have not been out in the country, you’re missing a whole lot of what we have.

Hunter Success is important to me because our forefathers were taught by their parents and they passed it down to us. I think my peers and I don’t use all the values of our culture. Our culture is dying. To prevent that from happening, the Elders have an Inupiaq Day every semester. The Elders come to the high school and teach us the way they trapped and other activities.

To be a successful hunter is a great feeling. The Elders know that feeling because they have provided food for their families. They are independent; they are free men against nature.

I need their knowledge of hunting before they pass on; not just to hunt but to carry on our forefather’s traditions.

I would like to give special thanks to my sources in Ambler.End Article

Hunter Success is one of our important Inupiaq values. It is an important value to non-Natives and Natives throughout the NANA region. This value came from our forefathers that lived off the rich land long ago before our parents were born.

From interviewing Elders and young men, I learned more about hunter success. They all say, when you’re out hunting and come home with fresh meat, you should always give meat to your Elders or to the people that don’t hunt.

Miles Cleveland Jr.
Ambler

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Somebody have to teach you
Photo courtesy of Christine Ahlalook

“ Somebody have to teach you”
Crystal Tickett
Ambler

Tommy Douglas is an Elder who has been a resident of Ambler since it originated in 1959. He was one of the seven families that formed this, now westernized, village. His wife died as a result of heart failure in the late ‘80s.

“ I think hunter success means providing food far the family. The fur can be used for money or trade. I traded my fur for shells with Larry Brown.

Hunting also means a way of living. Most of my life I worked hard; hunting, trapping and fishing. In those days we didn’t need money. We lived off the land.

My dad taught me the ways of hunting, just like the way other families do, dads teaching sons. I taught my two sons, James and Peter, to hunt also. Somebody have to teach you.”

Rodney Tickett Sr. Is an Inupiat Eskimo man who was born in a campsite, Qala, in the mid 1950’s. He is the son of Sarah Tickett and the late Harry Tickett. His family is one of the those that moved to Ambler when it first originated in 1959. He was three years old at the time.

Would you rather live like the old days, or where we are today?

“ Old ways, because in those days we lived mainly on subsistence and didn’t have to worry too much about money, just supplying food for our dogs. Today we have to worry about gas, fuel and store-bought food.”

How do you feel about us rarely having Inupiat Days?

“ I feel that our Inupiaq Values are being lost due to lack of obtaining information from our Elders. They’re dropping off one by one. I feel that Inupiat Days should be more available to our younger generation, to be more exposed to our Elders while they’re living.”

In what ways were your childhood and teen years different from that of today’s boys?

“ Today too much drugs and alcohol are available. In our days, we were exposed to our parents; gathering food, wood for fuel, and we were told to have respect for our Elders and also try and understand Inupiaq as much as we could.

I feel that today kids want to be ‘homeboys’ because from day one to 12th grade, they stay home and never get exposed to the outer world. They just get used to being home. In our days, we had to travel from our families and home for nine months to attend high school. They just want to be home and take drugs and alcohol. Also, some don’t have respect for others.”End Article

Spear of the Past
Gary Baldwin
10th grade
Kiana

A hunter’s spear was made with great skill.

Out in the country the hunter had fun.

He waited patiently for an animal to Kill.

As time passed quickly he was introduced to the gun.

It brought bloodshed...

and every animal in sight ended up dead.

The spear was set aside...

as our Inupiat way of hunting quickly died.

Tale of the Mudshark
Photo courtesy of Hannah Loon/NANA

Tale of the Mudshark

Before the mudshark got ready to go, he gathered most of his body parts from other places.

He got beluga’s backbones, woodchips for meat, ribs from belugas. Fins were made from an old lady’s sinew. By the lip, the mudhsark put a bucket handle. Inside his brain he put two flints for starting fires. For his tail, he put a young lady’s hair.

By the bucket handle he put a raven’s beak. On the top of the head by its nose is an old lady’s cloak. He put socks by his jaw. Under his head is a kingfisher. On the side of his head, under his eye, is a porcupine. A swallow sits on top of the cloak.

These parts can be identified around the head area when the mudshark is baked. It is said by Elders around the region that this is how the mudhsark came to be. After he gathered all his parts into his body, he swam away.End Article

By Minnie Gray and Clara Lee of Ambler
as told to Crystal Tickett

The value of hunting and hunters
Photo courtesy of Noatak High School

The value of hunting and hunters
Kemberly Henry
Ambler

Alex Sheldon, Sr. started hunting when he was old enough to hold up a gun.

He was taught to hunt by his dad and to put snares out by his Aana, Mary Sheldon. His first catch was a ptarmigan and a rabbit using snares. Alex said it was easier in the old days, when there was no electricity or sno-gos, fewer white men and less worrying.

Nelson Greist, Sr. started trapping when he was eight years old and he started hunting at age twelve. When he went out there were no wood stoves; only Coleman stoves. Nelson hunted where there were no willows or timber on the Colville River. He didn’t go to school.

There were only three white men and a store manager. Nelson moved to this area on January 19, 1934. He said long ago they used to use arrows and twenty-twos. Nelson caught an ahaalik (salt water duck.) He was taught by his dad and his older brother Howarth.

Nelson goes to Kotzebue every spring to hunt oogruks but nowadays the ocean is getting dangerous. He went out twice to go whaling. Nelson taught his boys, Nelson Jr. and William, how to go out hunting and trapping.

Nelson went to the Elder’s meeting and tried to get funding to take boys out of school to go camping and to teach them how to hunt. Long ago, people always live off the land.

Hunting is very important to us. The Elders grew up with these Inupiaq values. The people in our village are not learning how to hunt and set traps. This village was a small fishing area long ago. Seven families from Shungnak came here to make a village. There were no stores. They used to go to Shungnak to buy food. Some people just eat off the land.

Tommy Douglas was born in a tent just below Pah river in the wintertime, so he said he never gets cold. Tommy taught his sons Peter and James how to hunt. Back in the old days, there was no booze or dope. Tommy said they used to trade furs for shells with Larry Brown. There were no outboard motors or sno-gos. They used paddles to go fishing and snow shoes to go through deep snow.

Hunter Success is the most important value in this village because without hunting this village probably wouldn’t be here. The reason the seven families moved here was because the caribou migrate through here and the fishing area is good.

During Inupiat Day, the Elders came to the gym to teach the school kids about stuff you could make and what you could do with it. Alex Sheldon made some key chains of caribou horns and bear skin. Minnie Gray showed how to make fancy ukluks for meetings and stuff like that. Cora Cleveland showed us caribou hide (red and white.) Arlene Greist made picture frames with pictures of Elders in the village.

Almost every year moose come passing by the village. Long ago, men went over to the north through Natmaktugiaq River (Ambler River) to hunt caribou for clothing and also for food. They went when the animals were prime. At home women continued netting for the small white fish, broadnose whitefish and other fish. When they thought they had enough for the winter, they went downstream to pick bear berries and after they had enough, they went home to unpack. There they repacked and went upstream to pick blackberries and blueberries. The next day they went to Ambler to unpack. They picked up more blueberries from this area. A short way from here there was a big cranberry patch, right where the village is now. This is how the early Inupiat Eskimos lived.End Article

 

The beginnings of a village
Hunting lures family from Shungnak

Chris Tickett
Ambler

Long ago, the first thing the Inupiat built around here was the church, even before they build the school. It was the Friends Church. The Jade Mountain, which is well known throughout this part of the country, is located approximately six miles from our village. The early Inupiat used jade stones for their tools because of its hardness and durability.

Ambler is rich in native craftwork. Women make baskets of all sizes and shapes. The material for birch baskets is available in the nearby surrounding areas. Today Ambler is modern with a school, airstrip, a fuel project run by the corporation, a clinic and three stores. We even have a telephone system.

People from Shungnak used to come downriver to fish and hunt here in the fall and they spent part of the winter here. The majority of the people now living here are originally from Shungnak, which is about 40 river miles from here.

In about 1957, two people started talking about moving to Ambler. Arthur Douglas was one of them. Tommy Douglas was the other. He talked to his brothers and friends and invited them to follow if they wanted to. A few families did. Arthur was the first one to move here in 1958. One of the most important reasons that we moved here is that the caribou migrate close to the village. There are also lots of fish. Ambler is known for the variety of its food resources: berries of all kinds, wild rhubarb, wild potatoes and bear berries.
The first people to move here were the following men and their families: Tommy Douglas, Harry Tickett, Mark Cleveland, Tommy Lee, Truman Cleveland, Charlie Douglas, Nelson Greist. There was aso Isaac Douglas, his mother and Arthur Douglas. Most of these families are large, resulting in a sizeable population. A year or two later some other families moved here, too.

Some white people also came and settled here close to our village. Some of them married local girls and started raising families. One of the white settlers even provides local air taxi service now. End Article

 

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Last modified October 19, 2006