Birch bark texture.

Ahtna Kanas Spring 2020

Stories from Our Elders: Growing up, It Was Not Boring

Story by Fred John Jr.

Fred John Jr. is Ałts’e’tnaey (One Way People) from the village of Mentasta. He is the son of late Fred John Sr. and late Katie John. Photo by Rachel Hannah John (Daughter-in-law)

Our springtime started out with muskrat camp. In early April, we would set up tents at our muskrat camp and start trapping until the lakes and creeks opened up. Then we would use our .22 guns and trap along the creek. In the spring, we would also fish with dipnets and fish traps and go duck hunting. During this time, the young men and women would go back to the village and start spring cleaning, building new fish racks and fish wheels, and doing repairs on our outhouses, etc. They would burn the grass and clean the dog yard and put away winter equipment. When we would move back to the village from muskrat camp, everything was so clean.

We would move back and forth between our village and our fish camp to smoke salmon and other fish. This would go on all summer, filling up all the caches and underground food pits. During this time, we would go berry picking, trap mountain squirrels and go after sheep in the mountains.

Then in the fall we would go moose and caribou hunting, and dry and smoke the meat for the winter. During fall time, we would also work on the sleds, snowshoes, and winter clothes at the main village to prepare us for winter trapping, ice fishing and traveling by dog sled. During the winter months, we cut wood daily and hauled it in by dog sled. We never heard the words, “I’m bored.”

Then came springtime and we would start all over again. That was our world during my early years. I remember this time as a happy time and always looked forward to the next season of adventure.