|By Marie Andrews as told to Gladys Meacock
Editor's Note: Marie Osterhaus Andrews, a CIRI shareholder, was born in Kunulic, Alaska, in 1916 and raised in Bristol Bay. She married Bill Andrews in 1936 and raised five children in Dillingham: Gladys Meacock; Pat, William and Steve Andrews; and Avis Pomerleau. After their well-known restaurant, the Green Front Cafe in Dillingham, burned in 1964, Bill and Marie went on with their lives. They worked first in San Francisco and then returned to Alaska to be with family and friends. They worked at Alaska Psychiatric Institute until they both retired, and they now live in Mountain View enjoying the fruits of their labors and their 64+ years together. Meacock, the couple's eldest daughter, is currently collecting her mother's stories in the hopes of capturing as much history from her mother's era as possible. Meacock graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1959 and taught school in Anchorage from 1959 to 1982.
Just recently we have become Yup'iks. I am half Aleut and half German. I was born in Kanulic in 1916 and raised in Togiak, where Dad ran a trading store for Mrs. Lowe. When I was eight we moved to Snag Point, now known as Dillingham. Snag Point was a small town of about 300 people, the local Aleuts and mostly Scandinavians and Finns who had come to town as young men and married the Aleut women. As time went by, more and more white couples and their children came, and our little town grew.
There was one cannery in our town, so we fished in the summer and put up fish for the dogs and our own use in the fall. It was a happy town, no movies and no radios. Our pastime was playing ball in the schoolyard until 9. In the winter we went skating, skiing and driving dogs around the country. We would go into the woods in groups and roast hot dogs and marshmallows.
|As we grew up and more and more people moved in, we noticed that there was a distinction between "us" and the "white kids." When we got into a fight with them, they called us "half breeds." Also the word "siwash" was used. I thought siwash was a pretty word. I didn't know what a half breed was but it sounded like a nasty word to me. This made me mad, and I went at them with fists and kicks until my brother Adolf grabbed me and packed me home.
I asked my dad what half breed and siwash meant. He explained to me that when a white man married a Native girl and had children, the children were called half breeds. I hated the very words and vowed to myself that I would grow up and not be a half breed.
Today, my thoughts have changed but I still remember the words that I hated to hear.