ALASKA GENWEB PROJECT
KODIAK ISLAND BOROUGH , ALASKA
THE EMERALD ISLAND
Grienoff Elxnit, died May 26. He was born Nov. 3, 1903. He was of Aleut,
Russian and Finnish descent, and he lived in Seldovia for most of his life.
was one of 23 Alaska Native elders featured in the book "Our Stories,
Our Lives," published in 1986 by The CIRI Foundation. Following are
excerpts of Mr. Elxnit's comments in the book. The full text of Mr. Elxnit's
interview is available on the CIRI website. Copies of "Our Stories,
Our Lives" are available from The CIRI Foundation for $15.95 by calling
(263-5582) or (800) 764-3382.
My father was Harry Grienoff. He was a Finlander. My mother's dad was Russian. She was Alaskan. Her mother was Native-born, Native background. I still have pictures of my grandmother and my mother.
My mother was born in Kodiak. She used to tell us, she remembers when Russians sold Alaska to United States. She was around Kodiak when they hoisted the flag on the pole. She was there at the time.
My sister, she was born on the boat, they call Steamer Dora, used to carry mail and passengers to Unalaska along the Aleutian Chain. So the crew, the skipper named my sister. They acted as the nurse. They named her Dora after the boat. She goes by that name yet.
used to speak Russian. Course we did. Pretty much at home used to speak
Russian all the time.
Lot of church
bells - Russian church bells would ring. A lot of people went to church.
They thought the world was coming to an end. Course nobody know. The only
thing Army had was this wireless. That was on Woody Island, on that island
where the Army had that communication. And nobody know till next day what
happened, what caused it. And then the ash start to fall. Ash was coming
down like snow. And that was coming down for two, three days. And darkness.
And then that ash that fell in the ocean. You could see, look down as far as tide went down, it was just flat white laid on the bottom of the ground in the water on the beach. You could look down I guess ash went in the ground and things got normal again.
in Kodiak permanently until 1912. And then we come to Seldovia in 1913
because my mother's folks lived in Seldovia. And then Ma remarried. We
adopted the stepfather. Of course he went by Elxnit. That's why our names
changed. All my records went by Elxnit.
I didn't go very far. I didn't go to high school - about eighth grade is as far as I got. It wasn't too important, anyhow. There wasn't no such a thing as high school in those days. Course we come out of poor family. Family couldn't afford to send kids out to school for good education.
And then we used to make our own skis out of barrel staves. You know, like herring barrels used to have - they're kind of rounded a little bit. And then we'd put rubber straps over them and use them just for sliding. The road would get kind of smooth on the ridge.
Those days there is no such a thing as - nobody dreamt of chain saws. We had to saw them by hand - six-foot saw. Oh, work! But it was healthy job. Out in the fresh air, good stream of water. I never forgot, way up at the head there we had a cabin we stayed there when we was logging. There was a little short grass grows on the flat. I counted 40 porkies (porcupines) all in one bunch - young ones and old ones feeding on that little grass. There was a lot of game those days. You very seldom see one nowadays.
I still think the old lifestyle was better than what it is today for people. We went a little too far with everything. Lot of guys I meet, like some politicians, they say "progress." But progress went a little too far for good things in my opinion.
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