15 February 2011
With: Mervin Joe and Natasha Lyons; Eileen Jacobson also contributed
Time and Place: Capitol Suites, Inuvik; 1 hour 15 minutes
Subject: Experiences living and trapping on the Anderson River, NWT
Key Words: Palaiyaq, Anderson River, Rendezvous Lake, Stanton, MacFarlane, McPauluk, Fort Anderson, Eskimo curlew, raptors, birders, trapping, dead fall, marten, wolverine.
Transcribed by: Letitia Pokiak
Edited by: Natasha Lyons
Billy’s Early Experiences on the Anderson River
Natasha: Billy, why don’t you start talking about Anderson River...You were going to tell us when you went up there the first time.
Billy: About 1951-52. Around there… I went up river with, Silas Palaiyaq and John Raddi. John was my age. We went to school together…Palaiyaq was his uncle. Raddi’s brother, Quiqtuk (?) Raddi… I guess he was the oldest, Palaiyaq. Oldest of six brothers. And they were staying at, just about two, one mile above the fort I think. Lucas Point.
Mervin: Oh yeah, yeah.
Billy: Cause that house is built by [the trapper] Earl Maranda, but he’s been pillaging from the fort. Or you know, the flooring and parts of his building… All came from the fort. You just had to go to Lucas Point…[He] built a nice house out of it, really, really good flooring. Like, the lumber I guess. And that’s where I met... Palaiyaq and John Raddi. That year, and I spent the winter with them, pretty much trapping out of there…When I first saw the fort, [there was still] quite a bit of stuff there, but I guess lots of it eroded into the river. I [later took] a metal detector and, all I found was square nails. A lot of square nails.
Billy: But, there was a nice ladder and handmade. And all put together… No nails, nothing. But I guess the thing is, it got moved to Colville Lake, [Bern Will] Brown’s museum there.
Mervin: Oh, Burn Will Brown.
Natasha: He, he was up there wasn’t he in the, what year was he up there? The 50’s, or?
Billy: He’s been there every year I been, I was up there. Yeah, he’s married...
Eileen: Yeah, he had his own plane.
Billy: He’s married to my 1st cousin…his wife, Margaret.
Mervin: How old you was, you said, when you first go around there?
Billy: I think about fifteen.
Natasha: Huh. What’s it like out there? We’ve never been out to the Anderson River. What’s the area like?
Billy: Ah it’s, really nice in the summertime anyway. Or in the spring…There’s a lot of, a lot of wildlife, wild birds, every sort.
Mervin: That’s a big river.
Billy: Yeah. A lot of white trappers use that river before my time…The last one that was there, when I was there, was Tom Lessard….He’s a French Canadian trapper. And he was there with Freddie Rivet. You know Freddie Rivet?
Billy: Yeah, that’s his younger brother. He’s my age too.
Billy: We went to Aklavik school together. And he went crazy there in that river. Art left him for one year to [go to] Edmonton to get his teeth worked on, he left him for a year and when he came back he was pretty well out of it.
Mervin: You’re above that fort, or below the fort, your place? You’re below it or what? Your camp.
Billy: I’m half way between the Anderson and, and the Horton [Rivers]...right in between. In line with Paulatuk. And the fort is what, ah, sixty miles west of me... A lot of people been looking for it, but they always look on the wrong side of the river…All the trees you see there now, they’re only about this [tall]. All the old trees are gone, since the [time of the] fort. The trees grew back. Some of the trees are so high.
Natasha: Cause they, they used them all for building. Is that why?
Billy: Yeah, yeah, a lot of the [trappers], it’s where they get their stuff [building materials]...[A lot of the trappers cabins are gone], but the Lessard house is still there. It’s all in one pile.
Natasha: How did you decide to build your camp out there?
Billy: Usually they have a trapline, years ago. In 1972…The end of my trapline was in Rendezvous [Lake], I used to have the end of my trapline there…But I like the area though. I decided to come back there. We moved there [to Rendezvous Lake] in 1982. Before that we were in Crossley Lakes...But, all along the river you , there’s been a lot of white trappers, and they all put cabins in right from near the mouth. All the way up the Anderson, and then, it started off with Jacobson’s cabin. The next one was Silaostiak, Donald Silaotsiak. Where they been, just above that is, [Finlay] McInnis… a white trapper. He was in 1970s that one. He’s got a cabin with two feet below the ground ah. Maybe it could [stay] warmer so… But it was in good shape. Father Ruyant used it last. As a base for, cutting, killing trees for, you know, firewood… Yeah, there’s pretty heavy trees around that area. The next one is called Big Cabin. I hear six white trappers entered there one time. Yeah. Earl Miranda was one of them… the last I heard was six white trappers went over there. You know Earl Miranda ah. You know Adolf Koziak. He’s around Aklavik now.
Mervin: Oh yeah.
Billy: Yeah, I know, I was too young to even bother with much. But ah, Earl Miranda was, you know, full partners with Adolf. After that, I guess John Carmichael uses it, Adolf’s place way up the Anderson. Past the...Tom Lessard’s place, just above what you call, the falls. Anderson River Falls, that’s where John Carmichael been trapping for quite a bit. Yeah. He’s only sixty miles off me too. I used to run into him quite a bit.
Natasha: Hmmm. He’s not trapping out there anymore?
Billy: No…I don’t see him around anymore (laughs). I get along with him good.
Natasha: You still doing a lot of trapping out there?
Billy: Yeah, that’s what we do now. Yeah, we’re doing good.
Natasha: What are the main...things that you trap?
Billy: That’s what we’re, that’s where the money is really. That’s our bread and butter.
Natasha: Yeah. Are there foxes out there?
Billy: Oh yeah, foxes.
Billy: Wolves, wolverine.
Billy: Caribou, not so much caribou in the winter. Well, you got to go further, eh? For now you got to cross Anderson towards Colville Lake. That’s where they mostly are now, but...they migrate through our area. That’s what started us, around ’86 they started sports hunting, in ah, Rendezvous Lake. Because it’s, all the, the trails from centuries back, you know it’s all over. Caribou trails, migrating trails.
Natasha: How much do you make for marten these days?
Eileen: Just to ship them out, for one you get, for advance, it’s $65 dollars. Per pelt.
Billy: We get about hundred and thirty, or somewhere around there...the main sale is in March, coming. The good stuff we send it in. The Chinese are buying it all. They’re the number one buyers nowadays.
Families on the Anderson River
Natasha: When you were first out there, what Inuvialuit families used that area?
Billy: Yeah, there was Freeman Kimiksana, Edgar Kotokak. Kimiksana brothers anyway, they were all there when I first saw them. Who else?
Billy: Oh, Silautsiak, Donald Silautchiak. That was pretty well it, for Stanton people anyway, for up there. Edward Elias, but not, not so much.
Eileen: Paul Steen was up there.
Natasha: The Tardiffs, they were at Stanton?
Billy: The Tardiffs were there, yeah. Oh yeah. (laughs) They started, I know them good, yeah. I know them for quite a bit. Yeah, Gus and his wife Jeanie. George, he went to school with me, but he’s dead, long gone dead too.
Billy: But then they, I don’t know, I don’t remember the others. Florence [Tardiff], I don’t know where they are anymore.
Natasha: One of them is in Hay River, a couple in Hay River. A couple of the younger ones are in...Aklavik...How big is your camp at Rendezvous?
Eileen: At Rendezvous? The main house is about...Fifty by thirty maybe.
Billy: [We had] couple of more houses, yeah. We were into the sports hunting pretty big for a little while, yeah.
Eileen: That’s when they took the...
Billy: The caribou...disappeared.
Eileen: Away from there.
Natasha: When did that happen?
Billy: About 5 years ago.
Eileen: About 2005 I think.
Eileen: That’s the last time we...had a hunt for caribou, and then after that they were just over.
Natasha: Why do you think that happened?
Eileen: They said there was a decline of the caribou, decline of the herd. Bluenose Herd.
Eileen: And so now even us at our camp we have to have a tag to...kill a caribou.
Eileen: We can’t just go out there and shoot caribou like we used to.
Billy: But there’s still a lot, [they’re not] in any big danger yet, but...the past numbers are way down…I think, what causes it myself is, they just run through a big cycle ah. A huge cycle. It will take years to come back again…Nothing to blame any one thing anyway. It’s a number of things that [contribute]...I think the main one is the cycle. Now they’re all over the place, the muskox. They’re all over the place.
Natasha: You can shoot as many as those as you like, hey?
Billy: Not me, we don’t even, we don’t eat ‘em.
Natasha: I know lots of Inuvialuit don’t really like the taste of them.
Billy: I would eat ‘em but ah, she [Eileen] won’t. It’s grounds for divorce!
Natasha: You got to be careful. That’s your number one priority, so (laughs). What do you eat mostly when you’re out there?
Eileen: Caribou, fish...ptarmigan, rabbit.
Billy: But, a lot of good fish there. Good fishing.
Eileen: Trout, whitefish.
Species Change, Drift Fences
Natasha: Have you seen the species change? Do you see the, when they talk about climate change...
Billy: That bird we saw. We saw...
Eileen: Oh yeah, a magpie! That was a few years ago. Maybe ten years ago now. Cause we seen, we were in Alberta, went to a farm there, and we stayed in the farm, and that’s how we knew it was a magpie. It made a loud noise.
Billy: Yeah, eating...
Eileen: And the way it looked.
Billy: ...it was cleaning out caribou skins. You know, for maggots.
Natasha: Yeah. They’re noisy.
Eileen: Oh yeah! Really screech. (laughs)
Eileen: ...tree squirrels are coming around now.
Billy: We never had them before.
Natasha: So they actually live in the trees?
Eileen: Oh yeah! Even all winter.
Billy: Oh yeah. We’re right in the treeline. That’s really interesting because there’s mounds of fences there. That the Indians used for herding, whatever, musk ox, or something.
Natasha: Yeah! Yeah!
Billy: Yeah. Drift fences they call them? The biggest ones are ah, close to Jonas’ place now. Or even at Rendezvous. But they’re so old there, huh?
Eileen: You have a map in your papers there Mervin?
Mervin: Aah, not too good of a map.
Natasha: I We can look at one on my computer. I’ll look. So is the, the tree line is coming further north, is it?
Billy: That’s right in the tree line…if you go eight kilometres north of us...trees are, you notice starting to get shorter (laughs). Pretty soon you’re taller.
Natasha: Then you must get willow scrub out there?
Billy: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Billy: Lots of those.
Eileen: It used to be a meeting place for, what you call, Lac Rendezvous.
Natasha: Yeah, a meeting place for traders?
Billy: I don’t know.
Eileen: Somebody anyway. There’s a lot of...
Billy: A lot of Indians [remains] around there.
Eileen: ...tepees...A couple of birch bark canoes that are there. Graveyard across [from] our camp. We never did find it again. (laughs)
Billy: Boy it was a real neat graveyard. They don’t, it was a Christian graveyard, because it was a cross. A regular cross. A cross there, with diamond points they made with carved into it. But it was just so weather blown that it was, two square nails holding it together. Just laying on top. The grave was built above the ground. Like a little cabin. Like this high. And ah, with a long body ah. But it was filled with gravel ah. And there’s a huge shelf, wooden shelf that used to, cause they can’t bring that, it’s all gravel country ah.They couldn’t dig down, so they, that’s why it’s buried.
Mervin: They just made a mound.
Billy: A box. Made out of logs. And they put the body in there I guess, and they fill it up with that huge shelf.
Natasha: It’s not a super ah, close up map but you know, it’s the region. I could probably find a closer map.
Eileen: Where our camp is, Rendezvous. It’s like maybe four or five degrees from around this area here.
Natasha: Is this the name you use for this lake?
Eileen: Bennett Lake, yeah. That’s this lake here.
Eileen: That’s what it’s called.
Billy: Southeast of us.
Eileen: We’re just, we’re just over here.
Natasha: So the, all the fences that you see, are they...
Billy: It’s especially around Bakure (sp?) Lake and...
Eileen: Yeah. Between Bakure Lake and, um...
Eileen: ...Sitting Lake.
Billy: Klata Lake.
Billy: But it’s the, Sitting Lake that has the most there.
**Joachim Obst’s raptor studies & following MacFarlane’s expedition routes ** Natasha: So [Joachim’s] been marking those routes on 1 to 100,000 maps.
Billy: He used to walk all over the Anderson too.
Billy: And he found more falcon nests and then, but even with me and Tom Barry. But then us, we’re always, helicopter and stuff like that. We even did it on foot and all them nests, we didn’t know about, he found them on the west side of the Anderson. All the falcon, the gyrfalcon nests, the tree nesting gyrfalcons.
Natasha: Tree nesting gyrfalcons?
Billy: 40 nests I think he had. Before he stopped. From the mouth up, on the west side. Yeah.
Natasha: You get a lot of raptors out there then?
Billy: Yeah. Quite a bit. A lot of the rough legs…Peregrines are quite common. And at Rendezvous, got kestrels.
Natasha: Do people still know, or do they still talk about MacFarlane very much?
Billy: The [oldtimers talked about him]…Palaiyaq, he was always telling me you know…didn’t call him by MacFarlane. He can’t say the word [in Inuvialuktun]. But McPauluk, (laughs) McPauluk [or McFalaaluk]. They can’t say MacFarlane. But they, they really know of him. Especially Silas [Palaiyak]. He could look back 50 years ah.
Natasha: What kind of stories did he tell about, MacFarlane?
Billy: Yeah, I don’t remember the stories.
Eileen: Palaiyaq [remembered them all].
Billy: But, he’s mentioned quite a bit by that guy. McPauluk [McFalaaluk].
Natasha: Hmmm. Interesting. Are there very many Inuvialuit out there [on the Anderson River] today?
Eileen: Well, in Anderson. No. Only... Jorgan Elias.
Billy: And his family, yeah. Pretty much.
Billy: And your brother used to, he’s got a cabin up there, but he don’t go back anymore. James [Pokiak].
Eileen: James. James Pokiak...has a cabin at...the Forks. But he never, he doesn’t go back anymore. Jimboy travels to Anderson to go trapping. Jimboy Elias. Jorgan Elias’ son. That’s the only two that we know of, who’s goes up the river.
Billy: Cause I could, I [tell you] where every cabin is in that river.
Natasha: Wow. We should do that sometime with a map.
Eileen: Like a real [paper] map.
Natasha: Yeah. That would be a really great idea. When we find one, maybe we could bring one back.
The MacFarlane Collection and Billy’s visits to Fort Anderson
Natasha: Billy, have you seen the collection at all? The MacFarlane collection? Have you seen pictures of it?
Billy: No. Not me. No.
Natasha: Are you interested?
Billy: Oh yeah. I would be.
Discussion about our visit to the Smithsonian in November 2009
Billy: That’s where the Eskimo Curlews are. The only [specimens there are]...
Natasha: That’s right. Yeah. Because MacFarlane, as you know...was really, really interested in all the birds in the area. So he was...on expeditions all the time. Now, so you’ve walked some of those, some of his routes, haven’t you? Mervin: [Shows Eileen and Billy the book about MacFarlane and the Collection]. That’s a picture of the old fort, right here.
Billy: I seen it. Yeah, that’s, that’s on the west, east side where it’s supposed to be. That’s not, there’s nothing on the west side. Yeah. But I would show you [on]...a better map. It’s between a lake and a river. ..eroded in the river
Natasha: So here it is. I’ll show you a bigger [digital] version.
Billy: Oh, you mean that’s...
Eileen: Yeah, the Forks.
Billy: So right, right behind it is a lake. You could land there, lake. I landed there, with Gary Fournier/Cournoyea (?) one time. It was small. He had a little float plane. And, but it was so buggy, you couldn’t stay long….Yeah. But there’s two big mounds. They’re just about, a place where they bury their, bury the Indians into a pit there I guess. Two big pits and, and a big mound, about so high off the ground. And, Gary told me to stay away because we might activate that scarlet fever bug. (laughs) Or whatever it is. [Didn’t want to] activate the bugs, so I didn’t hang around there!
Natasha: So when was that graveyard from? Was it earlier?
Billy: I think that’s, that’s from MacFarlane’s time. When they, that’s...had a big epidemic hit that place there. They burned the fort down at least. But ah, a lot of square nails there. We just, we have a metal detector. I couldn’t stay too long. The bugs were so bad.
Billy: See that cutbank there….A lot of these people eroding half of that, what there was before goes into the river. But then further back is a guard tower. Like a tower there. All in one pile there yet.
Natasha: Still standing.
Billy: ...all bleached white.
Natasha: So did it have a palisade around it?
Billy: Yeah. A regular fort, you know the... maybe...But then they, I don’t know when those guys did, that. But the next place is over here. That’s where lots of [the timber from] that fort went to, just a mile or so [away].
Natasha: [Showing photos] there’s James. (laughs) He was with us...In Washington. There’s some of the objects. Like, the parkies.
Eileen: So that’s from MacFarlane’s, ah.
Natasha: That one, yeah. And then just ah, you know, pictures of people wearing those kind of parkies. There’s the men’s one. And then, the mitts and gloves as well. There’s a lot of gloves in this collection. Which people have found really interesting, cause ah, you know more recently, seamstresses have been making gloves.
Billy: Yeah, yeah.
Natasha: There’s more mitts. There’s kind of a fancy women’s parkies. So we’ve had a lot of interest from am, seamstresses wanting the pattern. (30:30)
Eileen: Oh yeah. I heard about them.
Natasha: We’re starting to scan the patterns. And then we’ll put them on the website when the website is ready as well. Or if people ask for them, we can, we can distribute them.
Billy: Yeah, in Rendezvous there’s one, pretty big building. Mainly under the moss now, Eileen, ah.
Eileen: Yeah. Under the moss.
Billy: It’s pretty huge. And then ah, just a little ways away there’s a piece that’s still standing [after?] the fire).
Natasha: So was that an area that was always Inuvialuit plus Hare Indian? Is that who was in that area?
Billy: Ah, the Hare Indians is [who were there earlier]...
Natasha: But not today.
Billy: Oh no. No.
Eileen: Nobody’s around there today but us.
Billy: The only tracks I see is in the Lake, huh? When I’m trapping that side.
Natasha: There’s tons of skin clothing in the collection. And ah, a lot of these moccasins that kind of have this crimp pattern.. From the women doing it with their teeth.
Billy: I would like, I would like to spend some time in the fort. And just, look around.
Natasha: Yeah! Well we’ve been talking about taking some people like yourself and record elders knowledge out there.
Billy: Mmm hmmm.
Billy: Too bad that ah, [Bern Will] Brown took most of all that good stuff out of there.
Eileen: It’s all in his museum.
Mervin: He’s got it in Colville.
Eileen: He’s got a museum in Colville.
Billy: I been there a couple of times....he pillaged all these little places. He always come to me, and ask for any old, old stuff. The only old stuff is me, that’s there now is me. (laughs)
Eileen: Yeah, when Peter Clarkson was working there, they found the am, caribou antlers that were locked together. Two big bull caribou died like that. And so the antlers are locked. Billy gave it to [him]. It was in Colville Lake.
Billy: Was it like that when I got it?
Eileen: Yeah. He, when I wasn’t around, you gave it to him.
Natasha: So when you see Bern will Brown, like when he asks people for stuff, does he pay for it?
Eileen: Oh no.
Eileen: I think my dad’s, well my dad’s basket sled is in the, in the ah, across the hospital [In Inuvik].
Mervin: Oh yeah. The visitor’s...
Eileen: Visitor’s centre. The basket sled in there. And I think he’s got a, he might have a kayak in there too. I think he made one for my brother
Charles. And they took it. Put it in that place there.
Natasha: Hmmm. Sleds.
Billy: That’s typical of Anderson River. You see a lot of them around there.
Natasha: Oh yeah. The shape?
Billy: The whole, yeah. I seen that grave there too, yeah. The graves ah.
Eileen: They bury it alongside the person.
Natasha: Yeah. Yeah. So, this one is more common than this one?
Billy: Yeah. This, this is the most common kind.
Natasha: Snowshoes. Do people talk very much about Emille Petitot?
Billy: No. I don’t, I saw some of his stuff. But it’s all French...But I know of him.
Natasha: Mmm hmmm. Well he was a, apparently he was a friend of MacFarlane’s. (36:00)
Billy: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Natasha: He did some of the collecting...
Billy: Mmm hmm.
Natasha: ...in this collection. It sounds like. Are these tools ah, tools that you know? Like that you recognize?
Billy: No. That’s where you find some stuff there, where the fort is.
Natasha: Although probably everybody that goes by there takes whatever they find.
Eileen: Only canoes go around there. In the south end. Some of them start from Colville Lake and go all the way down.
Natasha: You go out to the coast much?
Eileen: Only in summertime. I mean, no. We stay in Tuk. Just in Tuk. We don’t fool around in the ocean. There’s no trees there. (laughs) We got used to the, living around the trees!
Palaiyaq, the move from Stanton to Tuk, 1955, and living on the land
Billy: Palaiyaq died of cancer at Stanton…I guess he had it in Edmonton for a while, cancer, for cancer and then they couldn’t do nothing. So they sent him back.
Natasha: When was that? What year was that?
Billy: 19, boy, before 19, 1954 I guess. It would be around there, because everybody left Stanton in ’55. Yeah, it was about a year before that.
Natasha: Mmm hmmm. Why did they leave Stanton?
Billy: The Dewlines came, I guess. Besides, Father LeMeur couldn’t stay there anymore. He couldn’t, he wasn’t, that’s not, wasn’t his style. So he shut the store down and that, everybody left.
Eileen: They would’ve moved to Tuk.
Natasha: Did any of those families move to Paulatuk? The ones from Stanton? Did any of them go to Paulatuk?
Billy: No. I don’t think so.
Mervin: What would be a good year, or time of the season to go to look for that fort? What’s that Eileen?
Eileen: What time would be a good time to go check the fort out? Probably in the fall time maybe ah.
Billy: Fall would be good yeah.
Eileen: No bugs. It’s starting to get really cool and...
Billy: Yeah, it’s not far. Just about 50, 60 miles northwest (?) of us. Just, I don’t know how far up from Jorgan’s.
Eileen: Jorgan’s camp is with Gus.
Billy: Yeah, Gus Tardiff. At that...Too bad Gus [is gone], ‘cause he had a lot of stories. He had a lot of stories. Well, he knew a lot of stuff…Dennis wanted to do a thing, on with us I guess. I was trying to reach him.
Eileen: Dennis Allen[Inuvialuit filmmaker].
Eileen: Oh ah, when, people live, spend most of their time out on the land. Trap, about trapping I guess, and how to make a deadfall. Whatever.
Billy: Palaiyaq. That’s who told, showed me how to make a deadfall. I knew of those traps before, not, not the way his style was I guess. But that’s good. [Now],I make them better… because I got chainsaws. (laughs)
Eileen: Even faster.Even with a chainsaw it takes him about maybe, 4 hours to make one. Find a good spot.
Billy: You just get to a spot, you look at everything, then you can...If everything is there, you go real quick. You can catch them by, you got to catch them across the belly. You gotto get them across the neck, you could….Yeah. But that was the days we use…a one tonne jack. (laughs)
Natasha: So Billy, I just wanted to ask you for a minute about Palaiyaq.
Billy: Oh. Yeah, he, he must’ve been, I only knew him when he was sickly ah. When that cancer bothering him all the time. Yeah. That was the only time I spent the winter with him, was before he died. I spent that winter with him, and then the following spring he died…We used to, for pass [time], we play poker and, just, mostly for a friendly game, yeah.
Natasha: Did he live his whole life out, or trap all the time in the Anderson River area?
Billy: Yeah. He’s, I mean, that’s, that’s where I learned how to make a deadfall, on the property. I seen other deadfalls, but not, not his style. I only knew how to make them or seen them from uh, Woodross (?). The Indians, how the Indians make them. [Palaiyaq’s] style was hundred percent better, yeah.
Natasha: mmmm hmm. What kind of other knowledge did he have of the land?
Billy: Up to that time I was pretty young, too young to know anything. What I learned, I kept my eyes out, when I was, yeah, I seen him catching them you know, from the fall. Just, I knew, I knew he was good.
Billy: And after that, I’ve never seen anybody make them like that. Except I guess, all the Freeman, Kimiksana brothers. ..Yeah. Edgar Kotokak was doing good too. He make pretty much the same, as Palaiyaq.
Natasha: Are those mostly for catching caribou?
Eileen: No, no. That was for wolverine. Wolf.
Natasha: ...for trapping.
Eileen: For trapping, yeah.
Billy: And me and John, we’d trap out. Him, he was too sick to go out anywhere, so he stayed. He had a couple of deadfalls. He’d go on foot, go check them. Finally he got too sick, so he told John to go and get his wolverine. And I helped him get down the river, cause he was in pretty bad, he was in pretty bad shape.
Mervin: Who’s that? John who?
Billy: John Raddi, his nephew. John was Jim Raddi’s brother, or the the Raddi’s brother.
Eileen: The oldest of Gary Raddi’s...dad.
Natasha: A relation of Sam Raddi as well.
Eileen: His brother.
Billy: They all have seem to have heart trouble those boys.
Billy: Or those guys. Yeah. But them days there was no caribou too ah. There was a lot of moose though. In the Anderson especially each family would get about ten a year... And there’s so many dogs feeding themselves anyway. But…no caribou. Not even one. Caribou just started in the early 60s I think. Before I was trapping there…They were first coming from small numbers, then bigger numbers after that, the caribou went up after that. Then the moose disappeared ah. Yeah. Now they’re coming back again.
Natasha: The moose are coming back and the caribou are gone?
Billy: It seems to be, yeah. Especially...
Mervin: And what about the reindeer? What time reindeer come around there?
Billy: Boy, I wonder.
Eileen: Well they brought them over from...
Billy: I don’t know. Before our time anyway.
Mervin: Alaska ah.
Eileen: ...brought them over from, Alaska side, or?
Billy: Before my time anyway. Yeah, I remember, cause they used to be around reindeer station when I was in school, ah? In the 40s. They’d bring a bargeload of meat to ah, school I was in.
Natasha: How old were you again when you were out in the Anderson area the first time?
Billy: About fifteen. Fourteen, fifteen.
Natasha: That was in the fifties?
Billy: I was fourteen because, yeah. Yeah, and, I was fourteen when I first went to Anderson. I was there, I went there with ‘The Fox (Angus Elias’s schooner), Angus. See, my stepfather was Angus’ younger brother.
Eileen: Angus Elias.
Billy: Angus Elias. Yeah. So in 1950 I think we went to, ah, Wood Bay and Anderson River. Yeah. Stanton. I don’t know how long Angus did. Maybe 3, 4 years I guess. I didn’t, they all moved away before ah 1950s, them.
Natasha: So you lived with a number of families that lived in the area, like the Kimiksana’s... And, which families lived in the area when you were younger?
Billy: I was with my parents, they were at Stanton for a while and, started going up the Anderson River by, by myself. Yeah.
Billy: I had 3 dogs.
Natasha: How did you guys decide to keep living kind of a land based lifestyle for all these years?
Eileen: We just like to, we just like to live out on the land. Cause there’s nobody to, you get up at your, at your own time.
Eileen: No, we picked Rendezvous too, because am we moved there in 1982. Before that we, we lived in am, Crossley Lakes and Wolverine Lake.
Billy: I, I’ve always been alone my whole life. That’s why, I, I, I like to be alone. When I’m trapping especially. I would go 3 months without seeing anybody. Just me and my dogs.
Natasha: You’re still making a good living.
Billy: Hmmm. Still alive anyway. (laughs) Yeah. Not too bad. Rendezvous is good place to live. Everything there right in that one spot. You got all the fish, good fish too. It’s not, it’s hard to get a lake with good lake fish. Always too much parasites in some lakes ah. There is good. Real healthy fish there.
Natasha: You said a, a lot of birds.
Billy: A lot of birds, yeah. Geese go through there. I saw all that, I spent about 30 years on the birds with Tom Barry, a ways back. 29 years with him, around birds. And I met a lot of interesting people. You know, what do you call this guy, Eileen? The king of all the bird people. I guided him, Peterson.
Natasha: He wrote all the guides.
Billy: Yeah. I guided him. They were doing, Nature of Things was doing the profile of a birdwatcher. Yeah. That period. That time. I spent two weeks with him there. And Bill Gun. Bill Gun is one of the top bird people too, that guy. He tapes bird songs. He tapes birds songs. He knows the bird songs. He records them.
Climate Change in the Region
Natasha: Do you guys see changes in the land? Like, in the freezing and the permafrost out Anderson River area?
Eileen: Well, yeah in our area, when we used to trap. The place we always trap, these past maybe, three years ah. Like we’d am go out our trapline, make the first trail. And then next trip, maybe 3 or 4 days later we go on the same trail, next thing you’d see the water hole. And am, I mean some of them are really big…Cause, and you have to stay on the trail, cause if you don’t, you could am, fall into one of those ah, water holes. Even at our lake. It used to never be like that. And now these, three years that we been trapping, we notice that. But ah, and any kind of lake. It doesn’t have to be like...a creek. It’s just at the side of, could be in the middle of the lake, or am, along the shores of am, these...
Billy: Well permafrost probably.
Eileen: ...water holes are, water holes are...And some of them are huge. You could see the snow caving in. Like they make, like little branches caving into the...
Natasha: Huh. What time of year is that?
Eileen: That’s in between, when it first freeze up, ‘til about, maybe Christmas…Maybe just after Christmas. But that, that’s, that’s one change that ah, we notice, when we start travelling around again. Like going trapping.
Natasha: And at that time of year are you on ski-doo?
Eileen: Oh yeah. Travel by ski-doo, yeah.
Natasha: Is there a difference in the martens and the wolverines from before? Or are they the same?
Eileen: Well, I think it’s like everything else, you trap [in an area] too much. Maybe...kinda trap it out. So you just quickly let it build up again in a few years. And this year we never, we only seen one wolverine trapped.
Billy: Maybe it was they knew we coming. Cause we’re not really into them right now. Before it was because the fur was poor.You wanna get them like now. About this time of year [February].
Natasha: Yeah. Nice and thick.
Billy: Mmm hmm. Then you, then you have something you could sell or whatever.
Natasha: Yeah. Is the temperature different?
Billy: Boy it used to be cold ah? 52 below when Eddy was with us one time. It was so cold that, you know, I was shooting at a wolverine one time. When I shoot a wolverine, when I shot, so much steam from your gun, you gotto make, you gotto walk two steps that way to shoot again. (laughs)
Billy: You just see the fog in front of you. You got to walk two steps that way to shoot again ah. Yeah, it was cold. But the best, the best thing happened to me...(tells a story about a wolverine in the attic at Stanton, where he was camping for a night).
Natasha: That was in 1950?
Billy: ‘56 I guess. ‘57. Around there.Cause everybody left [Stanton] in ‘55 ah.
Mervin: Much of those old building are still standing, or?
Billy: I don’t think so. Just the church. Maybe Kimiksana’s one, inside the creek there. Might still be up.
Eileen: Jacobson’s cabin, just...
Billy: Oh, up the river.
Eileen: We seen Jacobson’s cabin.
Billy: ...its still got a wall, yeah.
Billy: Paul Steen’s too ah. Little bit of it.
Eileen: Yeah. Paul, his boat is up there.
Billy: Paul built his cabin on stilts I guess. He was high water always. He was at high water.
Natasha: Where did Jacobson come from?
Billy: Mmm, he tells me, he said he was born on the Baltic side of Russia.His dad is Swedish. His mother Russian. And he married a woman called Vera. Paul Steen, I don’t know where that guy come from. Of course always hear he came from Texas. And he married my Aunt Bessie. I think he’s next to, my mother’s the 3rd oldest I think. There was, no there was Teddy and Bessie. Then my mother. Then Louie I guess.
Billy: I was born in Pierce Point.
Natasha: You were born? What year was that?
Natasha: What year was Palaiyaq born, do you think?
Billy: I don’t know. He was old when I saw him. When I was fifteen then.
Natasha: ...maybe 1870, or something? 1860?
Billy: But he was probably his late 60s I guess.
Natasha: Okay. So he probably didn’t know MacFarlane, but his parents would have.
Billy: Yeah. I would say that, yeah…Raddi, then Palaiyaq was the oldest of 6 brothers ah. I only knew Raddi, Levi and Palaiyaq. The only three. I guess the others were long dead…When I saw him, year before he died, he was with Freeman. Freeman Kimiksana, cause Freeman was married to his niece I think. Silas(?), Cora. And Gus, Gus Tardiff’s cabin, that’s where Freeman was staying that winter...And ah, when I saw them they were making moonshine. (chuckles) That’s where I saw him dance. Really good dancer, that Palaiyaq.
Billy: Yeah. He was a good, good dancer.
Natasha: Maybe at some point we could sit down with a map, with you guys, of the area. Like a good map.
Billy: We could do that. We could put stuff on it for you. My son [Barry Jacobson] makes a lot of maps. He’s with ILA. He’s a map maker there.
Billy’s Eskimo Curlew Siting
Eileen: (laughs) Billy did too, he did see a Eskimo Curlew at Rendezvous. In our first years there.
Billy: I think it was ‘90. I was gonna, I was gonna leave that point, try not disturb it cause he was in sight, in the snow. In the sandy point. And I knew I had something right away as soon as I saw it. The size right away, hits you right from the whimbrel(?). You know whimbrel, what is the size. And you know the beak? You cannot make a mistake.
Natasha: Mmm hmmm.
Billy: You know about birds. The first thing that hits you, you know you have it. And it, I was gonna try to get back to get my camera. I couldn’t push that ski-doo down. Finally as soon as I started it, it just looked up, and his partner took off. That one must have been at least fifty yards away. It took off north. Never did see it again. Yeah. They both went north. That was in 1990.
Billy: Yeah. I think it was on the 10th of May. It was already melting ah, the sandy points. It went (made a bird sound). That one that, the far one. It was, they were both gone.
Natasha: How big was it?
Billy: I just saw it was half buried in the, in the snow. It was in the snow, just for warmth. It was early. The sun was just getting warm.
Mervin: Once we get those maps, Inuvialuktun names too.
Mervin: Of places.
Billy: Okay. I’ll do that for you. Yeah. I don’t think I’ll be back ‘til June though…But I got maps, all kind of maps at Rendezvous. Mervin: How long it would take us to go, if we wanted to go back to Anderson River. Leave from here, or leaver from Tuk? Where would you take off from?
Billy: Tuk is closer. It’s 150 miles ah. Here’s it’s 172 miles (talks about logistics of travelling to Rendezvous) That guy there, I worked with him and, Rob Bromley, one year. In Anderson there. Not very long ago. Maybe 5 years ago.
Natasha: What were you doing?
Billy: Working on...On the islands.We were looking at the nests, why they were disappearing, washing away. I knew the answer to that long ago. You see, Nicholson use to be just, and it’s so...
Eileen: Used to be part of the mainland.
Billy: ...now it’s Nicholson Island. So the tide comes in two ways. Floods, in a big storm, it will flood all the nesting grounds. All the silts that left, it’s white, and all the nests that were there for a hundred years are all washed. So therefore the geese don’t nest. A lot of geese are not nesting there anymore. (Billy continues talking about other researchers, finishing the interview with a story about grizzly bears eating 10,000 geese eggs one spring)