Open Letter to Young Women:
I am 52 years old, I was born and raised in Alatna across the river from Allakaket. I went to school, the missionary school at Allakaket, until I was 14. I didn't even pass the 5th grade because everyone stayed out at the camps. Only way to make a living was to subsist in camps; children didn't go to school.
We spoke three languages: Eskimo, Athabascan and English. Most of the time you stay in camp, all year long. So a lot of people in their 30s and 40s didn't learn to read and write. Most people these ages, who know how to read and write, are self-taught. We didn't have many magazines or books; those that we did, we read over and over. My father had Collier's, a weekly magazine. I used to read that all the time.
I think it was in 1941; a guy was skiing from Fairbanks to Barrow, he stopped here and advertised books for sale. My mother and father decided to get a Bible and medical book. They paid $16 and it took over one year to arrive; back then that was a lot of money. When we got the books they didn't want girls to read the medical books because they saw pictures of bodies, but we could read the Bible.
I started reading the medical books more and more, read a lot. First thing I read about was how a girl get pregnant. I guess that was the start of me being health provider. I was 13 or 14. I read the book a lot and didn't understand most of it. Nowadays, children have lots of books, lots of opportunity to get an education. One of my biggest wishes is for our people to become doctors, nurses, health providers for our people.
I like being health provider. I first took a course in 1954, I learned first aid, vital signs, how to bandage people, things like that. In 1958, a public health nurse came here on a field visit. She asked women at mission school if they knew anyone who would want to be a health aide. The school nurse suggested me so the public health nurse trained us for 3 hours a night for a week. I think they picked me because I sutured a wound and delivered a baby before.
I had 11 children of my own, lost one, have 10 now. Husband walked the floor with the kids because I was out with work a lot. I was voluntary health provider for 11 years. We didn't have a clinic so I worked right in my home. My children were around and watched; I thought they may learn something. We didn't know we would get money, it was to help our people, that's all.
The early days, the first time I start working, I give shots. We had a radio to talk with, when radio do not work and we had emergencies, it was hard on me, I didn't want to see hurt people. But I wanted to help.
After 1958, more training, a little here and there at clinics and hospitals in Fairbanks and Anchorage, a little when public nurse come to village. I went to night school and finished 8th grade in 1968. I got high school through GED (General Education Diploma) in 1980. I took accounting and some college credits with health aide training. I am now a certified community health practitioner. We now have a clinic. We were taught how to help each other; that is why I am health aide; that is why I did it; we all did it voluntary for so long. I hope our young people will want to help, too.