Oscar Kawagley
1934 - 2011
Angayuqaq, better known as Oscar Kawagley, died in Fairbanks April 24, 2011. He had a long bout with renal cancer which finally caught up with him.
He was born in Mamterilleq (now Bethel) on Nov. 8, 1934, and raised on the Kuskokwim Delta by his grandmother, Matilda Oscar, following the death of his parents when he was
2 years old.
In addition to the loss of his parents, David Kawagley of Akiak and Amelia Oscar of Bethel; he was preceded in death by his sister, Florence Mildred Blatchford; his uncle, Jesse Oscar and wife Celia; his aunt Martha and husband Clement Sara; and Anthone Anvil, husband of cousin Carrie.
He is survived by his children, Sherry L. Colley, Sandra L. Haviland, Oscar K. Kawagley and Tamaree D. Kawagley, as well as his wife Anna Northway and his former wife, Dolores Kawagley, along with 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Other surviving family members include Marita Snodgrass, Martha "Tiny" Jack, Rose Mowery and Nils Sara.
Oscar's life was one of many firsts as a Yupiaq person. His grandmother encouraged him to obtain a western education, along with the education he received as a Yupiaq child in the camps along the rivers of Southwest. Although this created conflicting values and caused confusion for him for many years, he sought to find ways in which his Yupiaq peoples' language and culture could be used in the classroom to meld the contemporary ways to the Yupiaq thought world.
Along the way, he was the first Yupiaq to graduate from high school in Bethel, was commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Services Corps and completed four university degrees, including bachelor and master's degrees in education, an education specialist degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a doctorate from the University of British Columbia. His 1992 doctoral dissertation, which examined Yupiaq ways of knowing, was the first at UBC to use an indigenous methodology of traditional stories and indigenous ecological knowledge. His scholarly pursuits included the publication of the book, "A Yupiaq World View: A Pathway to Ecology and Spirit," as well as serving as co-editor of two recent books on Alaska Native education.
Oscar served for the past 25 years as a faculty member with the Cross-Cultural Studies and Education programs at UAF where he introduced the construct of "Native ways of knowing" and contributed greatly to the understanding of issues concerning indigenous peoples and worldviews that had been largely neglected in the past. He also served as co-director of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative and Alaska Native Knowledge Network.
While the public face of Oscar was as an educator and cultural advisor, he also took on roles as an actor in television and films. He played a lead role in a feature-length movie, "Salmonberries," as well as appearing in episodes of the TV series "Northern Exposure" and the Disney movie, "Brother Bear." Among Alaska Native people, he was seen as father, uncle, friend, leader, teacher, mentor, professor and most recently as "Elder" - the most honored recognition among Native communities. Oscar's leadership and vision helped his people to find balance in communities, peoples and relationships, engaging them in discussions that challenged them to believe in their abilities and traditions.
In each of these roles he left his mark and received numerous honors over the years, including the National Indian Education Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Educational Research Association Outstanding Scholarship Award, the Governor's Award for the Arts and Humanities, the Alaska Secondary School Principal's Association Distinguished Service Award, and the Association of Village Council Presidents Award for years of services to the people of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Oscar traveled a long journey, and his lifetime ends where it began as his ashes are spread on the tundra in Southwestern Alaska.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, or to an account in Oscar's name in support of an award that will be presented annually to recognize an indigenous scholar who has made a significant contribution to our understanding of Native ways of knowing. Contact information for submitting a donation for the AOK award is available at (907) 474-1902 or [email protected] or [email protected]. Donations to Oscar's family may be sent to Anna Northway at 1224 Denali Way, Fairbanks AK 99701.
Friends are invited to bring a covered dish and a story to a gathering in honor of Angayuqaq to be held at
5 p.m., Sunday, May 1, at the UAF Harper Building, 111 Geist Road.
Arrangements were entrusted to Chapel of Chimes Funeral Home.
Published by Daily News-Miner on Apr. 26, 2011.
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56 Entries
Still after over a decade, whenever something funny happens or when I see/hear something interesting, I still think "I´ve got to call Dad & tell him", and it still hurts when I remember that I can´t call him. I think of him everyday, and miss the hikes we used to go on every time he was in Anchorage. I miss and love you Dad.
Tsoonklah Adukuk Tamaree Kawagley
October 17, 2021
Now I live in Oregon I still treasure the books Oscar recommended in cross cultural studies classes at UAF, especially "The Earth is Faster Now". It showed the truth of climate change and I still recommend it to others.
Mary Kwart
May 3, 2021
I miss and love you very much grandpa, I can still hear your voice and see you when I close my eyes <3
Sarena Joseph
March 24, 2017
There have been so many times somebody tells me something or I see something and I say, "I gotta tell Oscar about this." then I pick up the phone and put it down because so many times, I keep thinking I can still call him and let him know, and I can't. That's when it hurts.
Linda Kawagley-DeWitt
April 12, 2013
I miss you Dad <3 I feel so honored and proud to have such an influential educator and leader I was lucky enough to call Dad ~ I love you <3
Sherry Colley
April 8, 2013
My condolences to Oscar's family and friends, I live in the isolated north of Australia and only heard of his passing. We have a saying tha "whenever and Elder passes away, a library disappears". When Oscar crossed over a hug library of knowledge and wisdom passed into legend. love to you all Bilawara Lee, Elder of the Larrakia Nation of Darwin NT Australia
September 4, 2011
Grief can be so hard, but our special memories help us cope. Remembering you and your loved one today and always.
Jacqueline Johnson
August 6, 2011
Oscar--what good person. I took several of his classes in the cross cultural studies program at UAF. He had a great sense of humor. I learned a lot from him.
Good luck on your journey, Oscar.
Mary Kwart
June 28, 2011
I knew Oscar personally for only 3 weeks when I took a post-graduate summer class from him in 2002. His teaching and his writings made great contributions to my doctoral thesis at the University of South Africa.
Dr. Jerome Hammersmith
May 29, 2011
I am honored to have met Angauqaq. I first met him while I was working on my undergraduate degree in rural development. His world views has been a part of my intellectual thoughts since than. I often think about him when I am thinking in a quiet place to reflect and distinguish the world in which we live. Thanks for your insights and may you have a peaceful journey to your resting place. Respectfully,
Annie Fritze
May 3, 2011
Dear Angayuqaq,

I deeply regret not visiting you before your journey began elsewhere. I find comfort in knowing that a part of you is left behind for others like me, lost between two worlds. I pray you have a safe journey and that your family finds peace in knowing you are no longer suffering. My condolences to your family. Thank you for all that you have done and all of the barriers you have broken through.
Danny & Melanie Sauafea
May 2, 2011
May 2, 2011
I first met Oscar in Kotzebue a long time ago when I was working for Maniilaq in Kotzebue. He got my attention by telling traditional stories to the children in my care. Since then I have taken several classes he either taught or assisted with materials, and I've watched as my own children also completed those classes. He had a great sense of humor and a kind heart, besides all of his original insight. A lot of people will miss him.
Mary Moses Edwin
May 2, 2011
Oscar has left all people a way of knowing that is not traditional and for years we will be analyzing his written records. He was someone who I admired for his dignity and gracious way of presenting his knowledge.
Dorothy Jordan
April 30, 2011
I first met Oscar Kawagley when I did some telephone installation work for him at UAF. I used to live out in Bristol Bay and I loved hearing his Yupik even though I couldn't follow it any more. He asked me to trouble shoot his voice mail at one point and I just had to laugh. Everything was in Yupik. So here was a man who totally lived his belief in his culture. I have so many wonderful memories of being among Yupik people and when I met Oscar they just came flooding back. Everyone who ever met him will miss Angayukak.
Joyce Allen-Luopa
April 30, 2011
I am deeply saddened to hear of Angayukak's passing from this earth. He was admired by many. I first met him at a conference through the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative and appreciate his work on "Native Ways of Knowning", he will be missed greatly but never forgotten. His passion and teachings live on in the lives of those that were fortunate to have known him. Deepest condolences to his family and friends.
Viola Archuleta
April 28, 2011
Dr. Kawagaly (Oscar) shared so much with his students. He shared not only his special insights and the teaching of
Traditional Ecological Knowledge but his wonderful stories from his grandmother. He shared his personal life and the struggles he encountered as President of Calista. I was so impressed by his will to teach and help students even though he was in pain. He will be greatly missed by family and students. Susan Hansen, Fairbanks
Susan Hansen
April 28, 2011
Quyana, Angayuqaq. You generously shared your own ways of knowing with students and colleagues and, by putting those words together in such an influential way, you deepened everyone's awareness of indigenous - and especially Yupiaq - ways.
I hope that family and friends find comfort in sharing their memories. I'm sorry that I will not be here for the memorial.
Phyllis Morrow
April 28, 2011
My mother, Catherine, had the honor of sharing the Kawagley family name with Oscar and I was honored in knowing him as scholar and leader of distinction, more importantly as friend and human of a veru special sort.
-Andy Anderson, Dillingham/Bethel
April 28, 2011
Dr, Kawagley (affectionately known as Oscar to colleagues and students alike) helped me understand through his writings, through mentorship to me as a key member on my doctoral committee, and teaching of his Traditional Ecological Knowledge--that no matter who you are or what your background, we all have in common our reliance on Mother Earth and each other. I believe--as he spoke of how his grandmother continued to influence him with her teachings long after she left this Earth--that he will continue to be with all those he has touched in his life and work.

I hope his friends and family find comfort in that thought at their time of loss. I will personally miss his readily available wisdom, good humor and pleasant laugh.

There are loons, which he had described as his spirit animal, on a lake nearby my house. I always thought of him whenever I saw or heard them. Since I can't make it to Fairbanks for the gathering in his honor, I will visit the loons for him instead. I think he will understand. Thanks for everything, Oscar...

With heartfelt sympathy, Lisa Schwarzburg, UAF Interdisciplinary PhD Candidate
April 27, 2011
Little did I know when Oscar came to Tok to teach my 8th grade class in 1958 that he would go on to be such a renowned scholar, educator, native leader and revered elder. But I did know even back then that he was a very special man. He touched my life in a very important way, teaching by example respect for others. His sense of humor and distinctive laugh alone would have made him memorable, but he was also a very natural and earnest teacher who made genuine connections with his students.

I was so fortunate that our paths continued to cross over the next 50 years, and I grew to admire him even more over time. We're all poorer because he's gone, but he left a lasting legacy and we're richer for having known him. Sincere condolences to his family.
Sharon Young
April 27, 2011
On behalf of the UAF Oral History Program, I would like to extend our condolences to Oscar's friends and family. His passing is a loss to all of us.
Robyn Russell
April 27, 2011
Angayukak was my professor in Native Ways of Knowing and instantly I felt a strong connection to him. He had so much wisdom and kindness. . .and despite having challenging health problems, he always maintained a great sense of humor. I am grateful for the opportunity to know him more oustide the classroom - and to listen to his stories in the few times I had visited him. I will miss him dearly. .. Quyana Oscar!
Dinghy Sharma
April 27, 2011
Oscar will be deeply missed here in southwest Alaska. Debi McLean and the Bristol Bay Campus
Deborah McLean
April 27, 2011
I offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley. Oscar was an inspiration to me in pursuing a Ph.D. He was ahead of me in his process to earn his doctorate and he was the one I looked to as the example of what was possible. He was always open and generous in sharing information with me and when he received his Ph.D. I then truly believed that I would receive mine as well. Quyanaasinaq Angayuqaq! Camiku Tang’rciqamken (I’ll see you sometime).
Gordon Pullar (Tan'icak)
April 27, 2011
Mr Kawagley came to Tok in 1958 to teach our 8th grade class of seven. We were his first class. He was newly graduated and he had to report to active duty before the school year was done. I still remember his humor, his love of teaching and how he loved to dance. I never saw him again, but have kept track of him. What a tremendous contribution he has made over the years. I feel blessed to have had his influence in my life.
Glenna Hansen DuFresne
April 27, 2011
As a Wanka/Quechua educator and researcher, I am so very grateful to my friend and mentor, Angayuqaq. Because of his ideas and his way of expressing them with humor, conviction and sincerity, I have taken his concepts and applied them to my work with my own communities in Peru. I am thankful not only for his shared philosophies, but for his personal encouragement of me as a young Indigenous scholar. He wrote my graduate school recommendation, collaborated with me on an article about Quechua and Yupiaq philosophies on war and peace, and wrote to me an email that I printed out and kept close to me in order to carry his kindness, generosity and faith in me and other young Indigenous scholars, especially during difficult times when I wasn't sure my work mattered. I wish him well on his journey now, and am thankful to have known him here on this earth. Sumaqlla.
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman
April 27, 2011
Oscar's words of wisdom, joy for life, and beautiful Yupiaq smile were just some of the gifts he gave to me. He will always be remembered, cherished, and honored as a great teacher with a brilliant mind. I am happy to know his feet are finally free to dance again. Sending my love, thoughts, and prayers for his family through this time of sorrow and loss. Leta Young
April 27, 2011
A story gathering is a perfect way to honor Angayuqaq. He was a great mentor to me through my Masters and PhD. He believed in me as a writer and scholar. He even encouraged me to incorporate my poetry and storytelling into my academic papers. In many indigenous cultures there is no word for goodbye. So, Angayuqaq, I will see you again.
Vivian Faith Prescott
April 27, 2011
God Bless Oscar. Very nice person with so much to share~ Prayers to the family for strength, love and guidance.
Cesa Sam
April 26, 2011
Dear Ray and Friends. I'm sure Oscar is working on a yupiaq worldview in heaven and loving it. We'll all reconnect with him there. Love Bernice
Bernice Tetpon
April 26, 2011
I first met my second cousin when he was a teacher in Glennallen. It turns out that he was a teacher for many throughout the world - most he never met. The thing that stands out to me is his laugh - it resonated a knowing of life and maybe even what was beyond. In response to Cangacit?, I think he would now say Assirtua.
Harold Anderson
April 26, 2011
Dear Oscar: I know you are in heaven. If anyone should be there it is you. You were my first Native teacher in the area of schooling. Please keep me on tract. You friend. Bernice
April 26, 2011
To the family and friends of Dr. Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley: It was a privilege for me to be both a student and colleague of Angayuqaq. His quest for knowledge and wisdom in a rapidly changing world was an inspiration that transcended cultural boundaries. I thank him for sharing that knowledge and wisdom.
Rick Caulfield
April 26, 2011
I so enjoyed Dr. Kawagley's class on "Native Ways of Knowing." His perspective and the class had a profound effect on me. My condolences to his family. His legacy will live on1
Teresa Sammis
April 26, 2011
Sending condolences and peace for the family and relations of Angayuqaq.

You have been a powerful inspiration to me since I first learned about your methods and work toward the integration of cross-cultural perceptions and understanding. Walk on, knowing that you have given all the People a tool in which to enhance their survival.
Shi-Kitt (Keres)
April 26, 2011
To the family of Dr. Kawagley. I will remember him as I last saw him - at this past AFN Convention in Fairbanks with a smile on his face. He gave us so much and emphasized the strength of knowing your language, who you are. He was a man among men and will always be remembered. May the incredible memories many of us carry with us bring you comfort in the times ahead.
Janie Leask
April 26, 2011
To all of Angyuqaq's family, friends and students, We were blessed to have known him and will remember his legacy. I for one, want to get my PhD to learn and share Native knowledge as he taught us by example. Heartfelt sympathy to all, especially to his wife Anna, his family, to one of his dearest friends Ray, all of Oscars friends and students. Memory Eternal as we say in the Orthodox Church. Love to all in our time of sorrow.
Mary Jane & Donald Nielsen
April 26, 2011
Dr. Kawagley was an example to all, and his legacy will live on to inspire many, many people. His intellect, his understanding, his kind heart, all will be remembered by so many who admired him. Here in Lingit Aani, we say that someone has walked into the forest when they have left us. For Dr. Kawagley, I think it may be correct to say that he is walking on the tundra.
Ernestine Hayes
April 26, 2011
I was married to Oscar when he was the President of Calista. He was able to save so much for his people after securing funds for the completion of the Sheraton Hotel. We have a beautiful daughter, Tamaree Kawagley, in her early 30's and fantastic grandson, Derrik Speaks, age 12. I was also with him when his dissertation was in its infancy. I absolutely loved it and when it was published, wow, what a genius! My heart goes out to you Anna. Thank you so much for the wonderful love, care, respect you have given him for the past years. It was always so good to see you both when you came to Anchorage; both of you made us very happy. Oscar is in a place of no pain, no suffering; a place with his beloved grandmother, his parents and sister. There are so many people he influenced through his teaching, his writings and I'm sure you will be remembered by many of us through prayer. God bless you Anna.
Linda Kawagley-DeWitt
April 26, 2011
My condolences to the Kawagley family. Oscar Kawagley was a generation's hero, teacher, and role model. What a powerful legacy he has left for us to learn from. Sincerely, Tara Jollie, Anchorage.
Tara Jollie
April 26, 2011
I have many fond memories of learning from Oscar in his 'Native Ways of Knowing' class. His sense of humor was contagious. I am so glad I had the chance to meet him.
Berill Blair
April 26, 2011
My deepest condolences to the Kawagley families, God Bless you.
Byrd Norton
April 26, 2011
To the family of Oscar Kawagley: I am grateful to have known Oscar as a colleague for so many years. My students have read and relied on his words to support and inform them about Yupiaq knowledge, wisdom and culture. More than any of that, Dr. Oscar Kawagley has been a powerful role model to me and other indigenous scholars. I listened along with a class full of students when word came out via the audioconferencing system in 1993 that he had just received his PhD. I held his success before me to keep up my courage and strength as I struggled to finish my own degree.
Phyllis Fast
April 26, 2011
I worked with him at the Alaska Native Knowledge Network from 1998 - 1999. Whenever I saw him over the years, he was always cheerful, positive and encouraging, always telling jokes and laughing. What a wonderful person. This world is less without him, but he leaves a great and lasting legacy. Thanks to his family for sharing him with us. Rest in peace, Oscar.
Jennifer McCarty
April 26, 2011
April 26, 2011
Anna and Family of Oscar Kawagley
THank you for letting me spend sometime with you and your girls last night, its been a long time and I have fond memories of us growing up at your house. I met Oscar a long time ago and my first impression was he had tons of knowledge and was a very intelligent man; just by the way he talked, presented himself and his first impression. As for you Anna I hope the Lord Blesses you on your Journey to Healing and remember "We all Love you".

Terri, Charles, Caleb and Jesse Smoke
Terri Smoke
April 26, 2011
Angayuqaq, there are no words in any language that can express my gratitude to you for the leaps of faith you took envisioning via the 'world view' you were born of and investing and sharing it towards the advancement the human race. I am grateful.
Aquilina Lestenkof
April 26, 2011
My sympathies to Oscar's family. Goodbye old friend.
Allison Fields
April 26, 2011
I was fortunate to have two classes with Oscar in the early 2000's. I have use his book as a reference many times over the years. As with many landmark works, it is not wholly appreciated the first time it is read. Only after seeing how others have built on his work did I realize what a privilege it was to be exposed to his teaching and research. One exercise he had us do, which was so much like Oscar's life outlook, was to go to a quiet place and just observe nature. It was amazing how the sounds, trees and landscape changed over the course of time. There is so much we do not take the time to notice. I believe Oscar took the time to appreciate what we all have.
Cheryl Jerabek
April 26, 2011
Oscar has touched many hearts and minds over the years. I for one am a better person for having known him.

I first met Angayuqaq in 1993. Over the years he has been a teacher, a colleague, a mentor, and a good friend. Angayuqaq was never one to hide or gloss over his own stumbles and falls over the years, but he also talked about how with the help of others he was able to pick himself up and eventually to find strength in himself. He was always an example for me when I stumbled or was not sure I could make it through this thing called life. His strength of will and depth of character during his battles with cancer can be an inspiration to us all.

I owe much of who I am today to Oscar's willingness to share his experiences and insights, to discuss ideas, and most of all to his willingness to listen to a young man trying to find his own Path.

Quyana, Angayuqaq!
Steve Becker
April 26, 2011
Angayuqaq was a great friend and mentor. Words cannot express what I am feeling right now. I am sad that the world has lost a wonderful man. I am happy that he is no longer in pain. I am angry for all the pain he went through. But I look at Angayuqaq's legacy and try to emulate him. To me, he expressed contentment in his work and with others. He was a Yupiaq and he knew who he was. We will miss him.
Asiqluq Sean Topkok
April 26, 2011
David Sam
April 26, 2011
Angayuqaq was a great friend and mentor. Words cannot express what I am feeling right now. I am sad that the world has lost a wonderful man. I am happy that he is no longer in pain. I am angry for all the pain he went through. But I look at Angayuqaq's legacy and try to emulate him. To me, he expressed contentment in his work and with others. He was a Yupiaq and he knew who he was. We will miss him.
Asiqluq Sean Topkok
April 26, 2011

All though I did not have the opportunity to meet your husband and know him, his accomplishments are a legacy to the Native people. My sincere condolences to you during this time and may you find comfort in your memories and the Lord.
Darlene Charles
April 26, 2011
Angayuqaq was accompanied on his last journey by a vocal Raven sitting in a spruce tree outside his home. While he has gone on to be with his grandmother, his legacy will remain in the students he inspired and the writings he left behind. A CD collection of his essays is available from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network at UAF. Our heart is with you Angayuqaq.
Ray Barnhardt
April 26, 2011
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