Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Auntie Margaret

Auntie Margaret passed away last Thursday in Fairbanks. Her memorial service will be today at 2:00pm in Fairbanks and her body will be flown to Nome for the funeral at some later date. My mom was able to go up to be with Margaret's family.

I was fortunate to get to know Auntie Margaret while I was working on my Ph.D. at UAF. I'd go over and visit her every so often and many times, I was able to talk to her about King Island. I know that she worked with Larry Kaplan (now the Director of the Alaska Native Language Center) to document the King Island dialect of Inupiaq. She and her husband, Edward (who my son is named after as well as an uncle on his dad's side), were Elders in Residence one year at UAF.

There are two stories, if you will, that stand out for me about her. The first one is a story told by one of her daughters, Grace. Apparently, Senator Teddy Kennedy visited Nome in the 1960's. A lot of King Islanders went into Nome (they lived about a mile east of Nome, at East End aka King Island Village) to try to see him. But, he ended up going to East End. Aunt Margaret was one of the few who stayed home because she was baking her daily 8 loafs of bread for the family. As one of the few people left at East End, Teddy Kennedy visited Aunt Margaret, who served him fresh baked bread (which mom says was really good) and probably some tea.

Another thing I wanted to share (which really isn't a story) is that Aunt Margaret always said in her interviews that the "best" salmonberries, greens, ducks, or king crab came from King Island. It seemed like that whenever I did talk to her about King Island, she always talked about the food. One story she told me is that one of her daughter's friends gave her some ducks that he'd shot around Fairbanks. She cooked them and then tasted the meat. She then said to me, "I told her [her daughter], "Those ducks aren't from King Island!!" Her implication was that the ducks didn't taste as good as they did at the island, which is probably true. Fairbanks is more inland, so the ducks that were harvested there probably ate more land-based foods, while the ducks at King Island ate foods from the sea, so odds were that they did taste very different.

Her obituary can be found at:


She died of lung cancer. Damn cancer anyway. Rest in peace, Auntie.


Carver said...

Your Aunt sounds like she was an interesting woman and I love the memories of food. For my grandmother's 96th birthday her children got together all of our memories surrounding food at Memi's and also recipes. There is something so nourishing about food that goes beyond nutrition and to the heart. That heart comes through in your story about your aunt and also in her obituary. I am sorry for your and your family's loss.

Dee said...

Hi Carver,
You're absolutely right that food goes beyond nutrition and to the heart. Aunt Margaret always seemed pretty happy even though she had a pretty hard life and worked hard for a long time. She had 14 children!! And, she also took care of others, too.

Carver said...

Wow, 14 children in amazing. She must have been a strong woman.

Dee said...

Yeah, I can't even imagine having 14 kids myself. For one, I didn't start soon enough! Actually, and this is something I forgot to mention. Auntie Margaret had breast cancer, too. She had a mastectomy in the 1970s. A good thing to remember that she survived 30+ years afterwards!