Katherine “Katie” Trefon Hill Wilson was born at Tanalian Point in 1919. She was raised there until the late 1930s.
Growing up at Tanalian Point
As a child, Katie had no formal education except for occasional visits to Nondalton and lessons from neighbors, Doc Dutton and Joe Kackley. Doc and Joe, as they were known in the Lake Clark region, were friends of the Trefon family and taught the younger Trefon children, including Katie, to read and write. In a 1975 interview, Katie recalled:
“...these two white people, one was Doc Dutton and one was Joe Kackley. They had little correspondence books for us. They taught us five days a week for a couple of hours a day. Sometimes in the evenings just let us read and write and stuff like that. And once in a great while we went to Nondalton to visit the school kids…”
In the late 1930s, Katie married her first husband William “Billy” Hill in Iliamna. Hill was a Finnish-born boat builder, motor vessel captain, prospector, trapper and Bristol Bay fisherman. After their marriage they resided in Iliamna where Hill built a home. They had five children before Hill died in 1944. Several years later, Katie married Chester Wilson.
A Subsistence Way of Life
In a 1975 interview, Katie remembered her mother trapping lynx, wolverine, fox, beaver, otter and muskrats in the Chulitna area, remembering:
“My mom did...Sometimes we used to go across the lake ….that’s where the beaver and otters and muskrats and everything in that river [were] so we used to go and trap over there.”
Katie’s mother, Mary Ann Trefon, born between Tyonek and the Yukon area in 1878 and married to Trefon Balluta. As American traders and prospectors began to enter the Bristol Bay uplands and the Cook Inlet region, her mother was raised in an era of considerable change. When Mary Ann was young, there was little food to eat -- as a result she kept busy throughout the year obtaining various subsistence foods for her family. Katie stated:
“I don’t remember being without meat. Wintertime we fished through the ice-got some grayling and white fish and what we called candlefish and then we had set hooks for ling cod and lake trout so we had fresh fish all the time whenever we wanted and had salt fish in barrels.”
Learn more about the Dena’ina subsistence way of life and gain a deeper insight into a historic photo of Katie Trefon Wilson and her mother, Mary Ann Trefon, circa 1927.