Riba May Dewilde, daughter of the departed Lloyd and Amelia Dewilde, sadly left us unexpectedly Nov. 26, 2016. She had 13 brothers and sisters, and she was the mother of six children: Levi Dewilde, Elliot Cruikshank, Wesley "Scotty" Cruikshank, Lana Simpson, Brian Simpson and Eli Simpson. She was born Dec. 2, 1964, on her mother's rabbit snare line between Ruby and Galena. She was raised on the north fork of the Koyukon River above Huslia, where she lived a subsistence lifestyle.
She raised her children in Eagle in a two-story cabin she had built with help from her kids. She was blessed with five beautiful grandchildren who filled her life with purpose and joy. Seven years ago, she moved to Tok, where she spent the remainder of her life. She enjoyed hunting, fishing and sewing with her grandchildren. She was a well-known artist who would create one-of-a-kind art pieces from animal bones, skins, hooves and other parts.
Mom was a kind women who encouraged and inspired people to make what they could with what they had. Her views on life shocked and influenced people to speak up for themselves. Anyone who was blessed with her presence was attracted to her way of life. Mom never wasted anything, from the soup pot she fed everyone with, to the art she spread all over the world; the bones of every animal she hunted was used. Mom lived her life free of any earthly bounds; with her children, she lived life on her terms and would not allow anyone to change that. Raising her six children the same way she was raised while preparing us for the modern world was our mother's dream. She could create gorgeous pieces of jewelry out of piles of carcasses and bones. She was beautiful, tough, creative; she was this amazing woman who worked hard for everything she owned. Everyone who knew her was blown away by her. She was a great person to talk to.
She will be dearly missed by many. We have lost a truly amazing woman. She knew so many people through her art and through her bright personality.
There will be a fundraiser today, Nov. 30, followed by a celebration of life Dec. 2, at the David Salmon Tribal Hall. Riba's family doesn't plan to sell any of her remaining artwork but will be auctioning one final piece at today's fundraiser. There will be a funeral and burial in Huslia, but the dates and arrangements are undecided at the moment. The family is accepting donations at this time for funeral costs, travel, et cetera. Visit her GoFundMe page at bit.ly/2fJ8kjK. There is also an Alaska USA account under the name Lana Simpson.
Riba Dewilde will be remembered always in our hearts, her artwork, and her skills that she has passed on to those who have been lucky enough to be a part of her life.
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Published by Daily News-Miner on Nov. 30, 2016.