Uncrowned Queens

HISTORY

The Esquimaux Village:
Sandy's Story

Unaquthlook on Ship to Pan Am

Unaquthlook (center) on the ship
headed to the Pan Am Exposition.

Unaquthlook boarded a ship in 1901, and traveled with a Norwegian sea captain to the Pan American Exposition in New York. In April, she arrived in Buffalo on the Steamer Leghorn with twenty-four Eskimos from her village, twenty-four Venetians, and 5 Arab Sheiks.1 She was a pretty young Inupiat girl, mother of Nanarook, and wife of Kayataluk, the chief of Nome, Alaska. She was known by the white population as Maryanne or Marion.2

To the left is the only known picture of Maryanne, dressed in her parka, as she sails on a ship with other white passengers.3 Family members spoke often of Maryanne’s trip to a World’s Fair. Of course, no one really knew a lot about where she went, except she went through San Francisco.

Maryanne was my great-grandmother, giving birth to my Grandmother Rosie on May 3, 1902, after she returned from New York. She became part of the Eskimaux Village, which was located on the Midway at the Pan American Exposition. The Eskimaux Village was the first exhibit a person would encounter after entering the Midway, and it was created out of plaster, skins, and paint, to portray the Alaskan Frozen Wilderness.

Maryanne was a daily participant in the Eskimo games and staged events displayed daily at the Pan Am, including dances and races with sled-dogs. Inventor Thomas Edison took motion pictures of many events at the Pan Am, including a series of films from the Eskimaux Village, which can viewed at the American Memory website, maintained by the Library of Congress (http://lcweb2.loc.gov).

May 25, 1901, was hurriedly declared Eskimo Day when an unexpected harsh north wind blew onto the grounds, so late in the season, it was considered a meteorological freak. The Eskimaux Village was asked to furnish a celebration, which included a sled race between two dog teams between the Midway and back again, for a prize of a gallon of whale oil. Other displays included a foot race to the top of the iceberg, a spear throwing contest, and a kayak race around the canals. Additional prizes of Vaseline butter and oleomargarine were awarded to the winners.4

Buffalo newspaper articles reveal soon after their arrival in Buffalo, eleven Eskimos contracted the measles and were quarantined in the village by a guard.5  Sebelia Nikolenik, a seven month old baby girl, died on May 11, 1901, in the General Hospital.6 The Church of England funeral service was held the next day, and the baby was buried in Forest Lawn cemetery.7 A name that began with Nik would indicate place or origin, and may not have been the given name.8

A New York climate was much too warm in the summer for Eskimo people accustomed to a cooler weather. They were often dressed in linen garments, but continually asked Concessionaire W.G. Taber to bring them ice. One reporter tells a story of Mr. Taber scolding the Eskimo Natives for removing their parkas, and swimming in the local pool.9 Later, toward the end of the Pan Am in October, they were becoming cold, and received no instruction to how to use the heaters provided.

Rosie Midway Spoon as a Young Girl

Rosie Midway Spoon
as a young girl.

No one knows the details of their journey both to and from the Pan Am except that Maryanne returned home to her husband and was expecting a child. She gave birth to my Grandmother, Rosie Midway Spoon, in May 1902. She returned to her husband, Kayataluk, whose name was translated to spoon or ladle, and was also known as John Spoon. John and Maryanne had two more children Frank and Annie.

The Spoon family continued to live in Nome until the United States Government launched an experiment prior to 1920, to retrain the Inupiat Eskimos of the region to become reindeer herders.10 The entire village was transported by US Revenue Cutter Ship, along with a herd of reindeer, to Bristol Bay Alaska. This was never a success by any measure, and the family remained fisherman, catching the Kings and Red Salmon of Bristol Bay. John and Maryanne’s children, Nanarook, Rosie, Frank and Annie, each married and raised families in the Pilot Point. Government sponsored teachers founded native schools, teaching native students reading and writing in English, health care, and religion. The Inupiat/Eskimo Language was lost about this time, and by the 1940's students were sent outside to boarding schools to continue their high school education.

Nanarook married Sam Supsook, raising 4 children. Sam was expected to become the next chief but he was not encouraged by Kayatuluk. Sam was a successful hunter, shooting a large bear on the first try with an arrow, while waiting in the grass.11 Nanarook’s son, Valentine died recently, and he was the last family member to remain in Pilot Point.

Frank Spoon married Effie Newport, a local village girl, and many of their descendants reside in southeast Alaska and the East Coast of the United States.

Annie Kayali Spoon married Nick Meticgoruk, who was the village photographer, barber, and dentist. They had 10 children, with only two surviving past infancy. Annie’s daughter, Mary Pearl Meticgoruk, has been my partner in preserving the family stories and writing the family tree. Much of the family history is preserved in the pictures taken by Nick Meticgoruk and which are now carefully scanned into computer images. Pearl’s children live primarily in Anchorage, Alaska. Annie was greatly loved by the family and died of cancer in 1942.

Rosie Spoon married Henry Orock and they had 10 children, including my father, Billy Gilbert Orock. He was the second child with this name as an older child who died in infancy also was called Billy. Henry Orock traveled in a kayak as a young man to join the rest of the village in Bristol Bay.12 It was on this trip Henry lost his hearing and never learned to speak English because of the hearing loss. Rosie was divorced from Henry, remarried a Romeo Nanooruk, had one more son. Rosie died in August 25, 1965, in Anchorage, Alaska.

My father, Billy, is the oldest surviving respected Elder, and has been the source of Eskimo names and documentation. It was a project for both of us to research this story, as the memories of names and places long forgotten surfaced. It is Unaquthook’s story to tell, but it was Billy’s memories that held the facts. Billy moved into the modern world serving in World War II, and learning electronics, radio and television repair, and ham radio. At the same time, he continued to fish every year in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and still regards it as his birthright. Two of Rosie’s daughters, Martha Orock Lonsdale and Meribeth Orock Hasty, have continued as artisans, using skills taught by Rosie to create beautiful pictures made of fur and skin.

Annie Clara and Rosie

Annie Spoon Meticgoruk,
Clara Orock Nieuwendorp,
and Rosie Spoon Orock,
taken in approximately 1934.

The July 1901Courier wrote an article about the Dying Eskimaux, citing examples of the dwindling population based on hieroglyphic character writing.13 Concessionaire Taber offered his own interpretations of the population decline including disease and ineffective missionary influence. He believed in 1901, that no more than 1500 Eskimo people existed in Far North Alaska. We surely are not a dying people, but we have moved forward into the 21st century. The Alaska Native peoples settled their land claim with the United States government and formed 12 regional corporations for the purpose of protecting the settlement monies, land, and minerals. My 4th generation of Maryann’s descendants include people of all professions now raising their families. The 5th generation of new babies have been born this year. John and Maryann have 140 direct descendants.14

It was not until I started to research the Pan Am, and the family history, that I tied together the significance of Rosie’s Middle name, Midway. I thought it was an odd name. Now I believe that it’s significance is tied into Maryanne’s great adventure. She went to the World’s Fair. Maybe she heard President McKinley or Vice President Roosevelt speak or pass by, and she surely saw electricity for the first time. She saw elegant people wearing beautiful clothes, and tasted new foods. Rosie and Annie’s picture (to left) was taken wearing pretty dresses.15 Maryanne named her daughter after the Pan American Exposition, calling her Midway. What an amazing life Unaquthlook must have lived, an Inupiat girl from Nome, Alaska.

RETURN TO THE INTRODUCTION PAGE

FORWARD TO THE MIDWAY

Acknowledgments

Pearl Meticgoruk Reamer, Billy G. Orock, Sr., Clara Orock Nieuwendorp, David Lonsdale, Valentine Supsook, Barbara Seals Nevergold. 

Contact Information

References

1 Doing the Pan Web site, This Day in 1901.  http://panam1901.bfn.org/.

2 Conversation with Mary Pearl Reamer, who was told by her mother that she was named after her Grandmother, Maryanne.

3 Picture from the archives of Nick Meticgoruk.

4 Buffalo Evening News, May 25, 1901.  Doing the Pan Web site, This Day in 1901.  http://panam1901.bfn.org/.

5 Report of the Medical Department of the Pan American Expostion, Buffalo, 1901. http://panam1901.bfn.org/medical/parkreport.html.

6 The Times, May 12, 1901.

7 Doing the Pan Web site, This Day in 1901.  http://panam1901.bfn.org/.

8 Billy G. Orock, Sr.

9 Buffalo Courier, June 27, 1901. Esquimos rebel under the hot weather, decide they will go swimming in the lake, and court the spray of the hose.

10 Alaska Reindeer Herdsmen: A Study of Native Management in Transition, by Dean F. Olson. 1969, Alaska Native Curriculum and Teacher Development, http://www.alaskool.org/frmsetsitemap.htm

11 Billy G. Orock, Sr.

12 Ibid. Henry Orock thought he lost his hearing when he fell into contaminated water on his journey by Kayak from Nome to Port Heiden, Alaska.

13 Buffalo Courier, July 20, 1901.  Strange writing used by Esquimaux.  Hieroglyphic characters indicate the history of events-peculiar beliefs and customs of a dying people.

14 Family Tree compiled by Mary Pearl Meticgoruk Reamer, and Sandra Orock Hall.

15 Picture of sisters Annie Spoon Meticgoruk and Rosie Spoon Orock, taken by Nick Meticgoruk.


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