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Ezi Family from Matanuska Village Alaska


by Coleen Mielke 2023

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Niteh was the Dena'ina name for a village in the Matanuska Valley. I have found it spelled several different ways; everything from Niteh, to Nitakh, to Nitak, to Nikta, and if that isn't confusing enough, the Ahtna name for Niteh is
Nuu Tah.

By todays landmarks, Niteh was located on a delta between the Matanuska River and the Knik River and about a mile above the old railroad bridge over the Matanuska River. Even though Niteh changed locations over the years (due to the ever-changing shoreline) it was always called Niteh; the name was associated with the people and not necessarily an exact geographical location.

The original Niteh location (Old Niteh) had a Russian American trading post. During the Knik Glacier (Lake George) flood of 1898, the trading post was washed away, as well as many of the homes at Niteh and the surrounding area, drowning many villagers. After the flood, the Ezi's moved their home towards the Knik River. This new location is referred to, in some records, as New Niteh or Matanuska Village.

In the Shem Pete's Alaska book, he tells a story about Basdut and his wife Noatha. Pete says that Noatha (Nicholi) was the daughter of a powerful medicine man at Tyone Lake, and she walked from Tyone Lake all the way to Niteh, where she married Basdut and their first children were twins: Bill and Mary Ezi (I have not found record of twins yet).
Basdut and Noatha's granddaughter, Alberta Ezi Stephan (who spent considerable time with Noatha), gives a slightly different account of the story. Alberta said that Noatha's father and step-mother (from the Copper Center area) had a fish camp at
Nuch'ishtunt (Point Woronzof), where (in about 1896), 18 year old Noatha worked all summer, putting up dried fish. While there, she met Basdut who was operating a small steamboat that transferred freight from the large steamboats docked at Ship Creek, to the smaller settlements.

At the end of that summer, Noatha and her parents packed the fish back to Copper Center, and by winter, young Noatha decided she wanted to marry Basdut. After talking to her father about it, she packed some supplies on her back and walked (alone) down the Athabascan migration trail that went from the Copper Center area to Cook Inlet. She married Basdut and they built a home at Niteh.

The 1900 U.S. Census for Matanuska River listed the family like this:
BASHTOOT born 1870 (age 30) Knik Tribe
NOATHA   born 1878 wife (age 22) Knik Tribe
DELLIA   born 1898 daughter (age 2) Knik Tribe
ASKLIAH born 1879 brother (age 22) Knik Tribe

Several sources say Basdut and Noatha had a daughter Mary born about 1898. I'm wondering if Dellia's name (above) was changed to Mary when her parents names were changed to Simeon and Olga Esia. Later, Esia was changed to Ezi by the Eklutna Vocational School. Their other children were Bill, Pete, Jack and Annie. They also raised a number of orphaned children.

When Chief Ezi died in 1935, the Anchorage Times ran the following article:
Chief Ezi of the Once Powerful Eklutna's Is
Given Colorful Adieu Anchorage Times  2/24/1935

Covered in a beautiful fringed and highly colored blanket and with another warm blanket beside him, and wearing a strikingly designed, new, pair of mukluks, and attired in a new suit of clothes and other garnishments, Chief Ezi, for many years the respected idol of the once powerful tribe of Eklutna's, was laid to rest in the Anchorage Cemetery.  Mourned by scores of his people who were present and also honored by a number of white friends, the old  Chieftain was lowered into the grave as men, women and children of his tribe chanted in Russian and as the burial ritual was recited in Russian by Mrs. Billy Austin.  The old Chief rests beneath a “TOP” house, largest of the kind seen in this region, made by his own sons and placed above the grave yesterday immediately after the service and burial.  The house stands 5 feet above the grave, is 6½'long and 3½' wide.  Over the house rises a large wooden cross, cut out of a log in one solid piece.  The services continued for 2 hours and were characterized with numerous songs, chants and readings, all in Russian, according to the ritual of the Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in who’s faith they had been reared and trained from childhood.


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