Oral History Interview:

Susie Charlie

Susie Charlie was raised in the Tanana River village of Old Minto. She was orphaned as a young girl, and raised by her "Auntie." The small family lived a meager existence. They hunted and fished for food. They trapped and cut firewood for cash income.

Charlie married in her late teens. She admits that she and her new husband knew little about living off the land. However, they worked hard and accumulated the knowledge necessary to survive. Susie credits her brother and father-in-law for sharing much of that critical know-how.

Susie grew up without the amenities that most people consider essential to a modern way of life. Although it was a hard life, she remembers it fondly. Susie and her husband bought the first television in Minto. Susie now bemoans the fact that many residents are addicted to the tube. She regrets that original purchase and yearns for the return to a more active lifestyle tied to the land.

Susie and her husband were strongly committed to raising a tightly-knit family. They took their children along on all activities. At one point, the family needed a new boat and motor. The parents led an effort to raise the money through trapping. They succeeded and took great pride in the effort. Even facing the challenges of advancing age, Susie continues to be actively involved in the lives of her children.

A few comments which might help some listeners:

Athabaskan Indians were taught to avoid saying the word "bear." Susie no longer adheres to that prohibition. However, she often goes back to the old way of referring to a bear as a "big animal."

Charlie refers to her late husband as "old man." In the Native culture, this is not a sign of disrespect.

This interview was recorded in Susie's home. Several friends and relatives stopped by for lunch. Their conversation and food preparation can be heard in the background during portions of this recording.

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