Danny Karmun, Sr.
Early days in the northwest arctic
Okay, let me start. I was born in Deering, December 15th, 1927. I lived in Deering, got married in Deering, a little village north of here. And the company I was working with up there was mining gold. So I moved the family here to Nome back in the 50s, 1950s, and got work with the airlines for eighteen years. And I enjoyed it. We served the entire Seward Peninsula. And some of the airlines are no longer in existence-- they just had too many services here in Alaska, so they knocked down two regular airlines. And I traveled quite a few places, and the work I was doing was with Wien Alaska Airlines. I was a steward. We travelled extensively here in the area; done some mail services.
reindeer herding comes to alaska
There was about one hundred people [in Deering], and their main livelihood was reindeer herding. And my Papa-to-be also taught us. He and his mother ran away from Siberia, in the summer or spring time, when you can boat around. And they did. The people at [the village of] Wales, which was across the way, [they] knew the ships that came up from the United States to hunt marine mammals back there in the early days. They saw them walking the beach, so they sent one of the dories on the beach line to check out what they were doing. They said they are going to run away to Alaska, from Siberia. And I just took it that my father-to-be was a reindeer herder, he knew how to do it! And that is what the Russians are good for, and Alaskans are on the other side of the Russian ocean. And my father at Wales, caught on-- he said, "I want to get a load of reindeer," so he did. And, got a load of reindeers and they were gonna move up north-- Wales and Port Clarence. Port Clarence was the place where the Alaskans got a big land for the reindeer herding,. So they did that. My father got some reindeer. And that was when the United States was working on a program to give reindeers to Eskimos. Which they did, from Siberia, work with Siberia and the US government, using Port Clarence as a landing place for reindeer. One bunch of reindeers ran into a storm near Port Clarence, and they drifted down the Aleutian Chain. They are still there!
"One thing that I learned, and we carry it in our Eskimo culture, is to respect one another. Don't fight with each other! It won't get you anywhere. That's what our people were taught, and we try to do that."
the first non-native person
The first non-Native person [I met] was gold mining—trying to goldmine—in Deering. He was an Italian. And he knew how to goldmine, how to look for gold. He had two white men with him, to find more gold. But let me tell you. I know our elders always cared for their young people, when they began to start using alcohol. It's unbearable. We are so used to listening to mom and dad or our elders: “Be careful; don't try to overdo it, just because you have the money now and [can] use it to drink.” That's not the scheme of earning money. Save it. Give it to mom and dad. Maybe you'll buy hardwood, or lumber for a boat. It's hard to get kids to listen. And I'm glad we do have churches-- that is one thing that kept us going. A church that teaches its young people how to sing. It’s so beautiful. Come Thanksgiving, Christmas, [our churches] always make room for our singing, so they don't go out and drink.