During the holiday season, KHNS is airing StoryCorps segments recorded by the Juneau Public Libraries with Haines and Klukwan residents. This interview features Albert Morgan, talking with his daughter, Haines Library Education Coordinator Jessie Morgan.
Albert Morgan’s mother was from Haines, and his father was from Tenakee. Albert was born in Tatilik, in Prince William Sound, where his father was a school teacher. His parents lost their first child, a boy named Junior.
“Due to a simple childhood ailment, they couldn’t medevac him, so he died there.”
Then his family moved to Kasaan, where they were faced with another tragedy. When Albert was four years old, his father died.
“He essentially drank himself to death. My mom was in denial most of her life and she told me my family had heart trouble, but his father and his grandfather lived into their 100s.”
After his father died, Albert was sent to his first boarding school, in Eklutna, for a year or two. After that, he went to Mount Edgecumbe in Sitka. Then, he and his sister went to Wrangell Institute for eight or nine years. Albert has fond memories of that school.
“When I first got there we had the run of the place. Normally, Indian Boarding Schools are control freaks, but they weren’t. We could run all over the woods, there were no boundaries, you know.”
He remembers hiking up a steep hill to a waterfall and running down as fast as he could, “it’s a wonder we didn’t hurt ourselves.”
Albert and his friends also had their run of the beaches, scavenging for food.
“We’d go down to the beach, dig clams, eat ’em raw. Then we’d eat all the berries we could around the school. So it was a good training in survival, all the stuff we learned how to eat.”
They would fish trout from the surrounding creeks using homemade fishing poles.
“The dormitory matrons would bend common pins for us to make hooks, and then we’d use huckleberries for bait because they look like salmon eggs. They’d give us thread…make fishing line, and attach it to a stick, and fish for trout. So it was a good life.”
Albert says he enjoyed growing up in boarding schools. He has friends around the state from his boarding school days, who he considers more like family.
“A lot of people bad-mouth boarding school, and they’re usually ones who don’t know anything about it.”
He says the reason he and his siblings went to the schools, because of the death of their father, was similar to other children’s stories — many of his classmates were orphans. Others were from villages where there were no other kids of similar ages.
Overall, Albert says “I wouldn’t trade [my boarding school experience] for the world.”