Name: Velma Dixie Alexander
Residence: North Pole, Alaska
Occupation: You name it. Cultural director at Morris Thompson Cultural Center. Tanana Chiefs Conference arts and buildings.
Years lived in Alaska: Lifetime
Current Location: Morris Thompson Cultural Center. Fairbanks, Alaska
Date of Photo: February 15, 2020
Temperature: – 27 F degrees outside / 68 F inside
Current Weather: Clear and Sunny
Image Description: At her work table inside the native arts store at the Morris Thompson Cultural and visitor Center, Dixie sews a fur collar on a set of gloves to be sold at the native gift shop at the center.
What first brought you to Alaska:
I first came to Alaska… I was conceived here and I was born here, and I was delivered by my grandma, Julia Peter, from Fort Yukon. She was born, and she had 15 kids. My mother had 13. And I’ve been living here. The only time I ever moved away was to go to college in Hawaii on the Big Island, in Hilo. And I still go back and take my kids there today.
How has Alaska captured your heart?
Alaska’s special to me because I was born and made here and my heart will always be here, and it’s always my home, and it always will be.
Describe just one of your favorite “Best Days” or “Most memorable experiences” in Alaska.
The most special memory in my whole life is my family on the Yukon River. Fort Yukon is eight miles above the Arctic Circle, 142 miles north of here, and it’s eight miles above the Arctic Circle. And my most special memory to me is being with my family at fish camp, 40 miles above the river of Fort Yukon, between Circle City and Fort Yukon, is being with my brothers and sisters at fish camp where we’re all working as a team. We teach each other. The older kids teach the young. And I’ve learned so much about being a part of such a big family.
And I remember every evening, after all the fish was cut and put in the smokehouse, my brothers and I would sharpen the knives for the fish for the next day, and they would haul the water for cleaning and … cleaning the blood off the fish and then salting. But my mom, every evening, she would say, “Dixie Doll, go make your daddy tea.” And I made tea for a whole week, and I asked her, “Mom, why do you always make me make him tea?” And she says, “Because he likes your tea, and he will drink it.” So, I said, “Okay.”
And then I asked my sister, “Why do they call me Dixie Doll? I don’t think I’m that cute.” And she said, “Because during the Depression, mom used to babysit for parents who worked at school or at the clinic or at the post office, and every time a parent would come get their kids, they would pick you up first, kiss you up, sometimes throw you in the air, and then they would put you down and take their kids home.” That’s how I got my name.
And after, I kept making tea for my daddy, Silas, I kept lookin’ at her and tryin’ to figure her out. She was a very wise woman. She still is today. I said, “Mom, why do you always make me make him tea at night, almost?” And she says, “Well, when a woman is sleepin’ nice in her tent and her babies are close by sleepin’ too, she, a woman still gets her own way.” And I looked at her and she said, “You’re not gonna stop askin’ me about this, are you?” And I says “No.” And she said, “Well, this is how it is. When you make your daddy tea, he drinks it, ’cause he, you make it perfect. And then he gotta get up and go pee in middle of the night and put wood in the smokehouse.”
What in Life do you know for sure?
What I know for sure in life is, if you’re born and you are lucky enough to finish your life when you’re old, and when you’re old and you’re happy and you’re ready to visit your family, wherever your family is, but I know my family. I know where they’re at, and sometimes, I’m sad about it, but most of the time, I’m laughing at them too.
Still today, with the stories I carry with me, and that, I think if you’re happy all the time, you could laugh at people, you could joke with people, you could tease people, you could play tricks on them, and you have to have a sense of humor to live here in Alaska, to deal with the environment, which is beautiful. My favorite time of year is fall time, because everybody is harvesting, picking berries, hunting, doin’ all that stuff, gettin’ ready for winter. And my other favorite time of the year is springtime, when the days get longer. You’ve got more energy. Everybody’s outside. It’s just a wonderful place to live, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else.