End of Trail - February 2012

Arnaucuaq Maryann Sundown

Native Dance Sensation

She was known as Arnaucuaq in Yupik, and Maryann Sundown in English, and she will be remembered for her comedic style of traditional Native dance. Sundown died on Oct. 26 at 93.

Sundown was born at Ing’erriak, a seasonal camp on Scammon Bay. She married Canaar Teddy Sundown, a noted tradition-bearer and dance composer in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. He died in 1996.

Sundown was coined the “Yup’ik Dance Diva of Scammon Bay,” and “probably the most popular dancer in Alaska in any genre,” according to the Anchorage Daily News. She used dance as a comedic medium in performances like the Bruce Lee Dance, the Cigarette Dance, or her own version of the Macarena.

In addition to popular culture she also poked fun at life in Alaska with the  Mosquito Dance, where she imitated being swarmed by mosquitoes while berry picking. She performed this dance with her cousin, Agnes Aguchak, who died  in 2009.

Last spring she performed at her last Cama’i Dance Festival in Bethel, where she received a standing ovation.

Sundown was very devoted to her family. She expressed her love of family in a dance she performed with the Bethel Upallret Dancers at Quyana Night during the 2006 Alaska Federation of Natives Convention.

“In private life, she was an industrious homemaker, adept at skinning seal, stitching a kuspuk or ceremonial dance headpiece from fur, or whipping up a bowl of akutaq—then relaxing in front of the television set,” said the Anchorage Daily News.

She will be remembered and revered for her love and her outlook on life, by her large family and fans of her dancing.

Alexander Akeya, 83, died Aug. 31. His grandfather built the first house in Savoonga, where he was a highly respected elder and boat owner. Akeya learned subsistence hunting strategies and techniques from an early age. He was a crewman aboard merchant ships and served in the Alaska National Guard for six years in Gambell, Nome and Anchorage. He also served on the city council and acting mayor of Savoonga and was a member of the volunteer fire department. He had six children.


August Anderson, 72, died June 2. He was born in Craig and graduated from  Mount Edgecumbe High School, where he was a cheerleader, student body president and class president. Later, he worked for Mount Edgecumbe, for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and for the Public Health Service in the finance department. In 1959, he went to work for the U.S. Customs Service in Sitka, and reired 40 years later as Port Director of Customs. In 1968, he married Shirley Irene Slater. He was a member of the Sitka School Board, the University of Alaska advisory board, the Sitka Lutheran Church, and a chairperson for the local Tlingit-Haida organization.

Shirley Evelyn Bartles, 92, died Sept. 1. She served in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps during World War II where she met her husband, Charles, who was in the U.S. Army. They were both phone operators and their relationship blossomed over the switchboard. They moved to Fairbanks in 1952 with their two daughters, Sandra and Joal. A few years later Rebecca was born. Bartles started the Fairbanks Figure Skating Club in the 1950s, and the Anchorage Figure Skating Club in 1964. She worked for Providence Hospital housekeeping for many years.

Alvin A. Benson, 81, died Aug. 7. In 1955, he moved to Fairbanks with his wife, Margaret, and his son, Brian. They settled in Anchorage in 1956 and lived there until 1991 when they purchased a farm in Palmer where he worked horses and gardened. He enjoyed hunting and fishing. After an initial job with M-K Construction Co., he worked as a foreman for many underground utility contractors, and built many of the water and sewer lines in Anchorage neighborhoods. He was a member of the Sons of Norway and the Laborers Union Local No. 341.

Neil Douglas Berry, 81, died Dec. 7. In his youth, he worked as a mechanic, milkman and tool representative, and made rustic Christmas baskets. In 1978, he moved to Anchorage and worked as a salesman for  Zep Manufacturing Co. He married Delores Varin two years later. Berry served on the council at the River of  Life Lutheran Church.

Dale Carlson, 91, died Aug. 7.  He moved to Alaska in 1950. Carlson worked for Ladd Air Force Base, the Alaska Railroad, Standard Oil and the Alaska Marine Highway System. He built several homes in Ketchikan and loved to hunt and fish. When Ketchikan got too crowded for him, he moved to Haines and built a cabin on Mosquito Lake, where he enjoyed gardening, smoking fish, hunting and visiting  with neighbors.

Marion Ferrier, 89, died June 20. She was a longtime commercial fisherman with her husband, Red. She helped start the first library in Valdez and, after the 1964 earthquake, helped start the Valdez Museum. Ferrier served on the school board in the 1950s and 1960s, was the president of the Valdez PTA, and worked for the Valdez library where she retired in 1988. She raised four children, and was an avid hockey fan, gardener and historian.

Vivian Kane, 95, died Oct. 11.  She left school after ninth grade and worked in housekeeping and retail, before joining the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps during World War II. She served as a mail clerk in New Guinea and the Philippines. In 1946, she moved to Anchorage. She met and married her husband, Joseph Michael, five years later and the couple had three children. A few years after her son, Patrick, died of cystic fibrosis, Kane and Michael divorced. Her son, Michael, died of leukemia in 1970. Kane worked in the flight kitchens for Pacific Northern Airlines and later Western Airlines.  She retired in 1988. Kane spent the following years caring for her sister  and granddaughter.

Earl C. Mossburg, 76, died May 20. He was born in Ketchikan, served in the U.S. Army, and had many occupations. He worked for the Ketchikan Police Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was a tugboat captain, a supervisor at the Ketchikan Spruce Mill, and owner/operator of Mossburg Enterprises and Pioneer Gun Shop. He was a member of the Moose Lodge and the National Rifle Association.

Neal Osgood, 85, died Oct. 5. In 1947, he moved to Anchorage and worked as a machinist for the railroad and the U.S. Army. Later, he worked as a mechanic at Prudhoe Bay. Osgood enjoyed downhill skiing, partying with the Anchorage Ski Club, and instructing skiing at Romig Hill. He and his wife, Carol, had two children, and raised them skiing, hunting, fishing, water skiing, and generally enjoying the outdoors. Osgood also enjoyed  dancing with his wife, and was an  active member of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church.

Kenneth P. Quade, 85, died Oct. 22. He first came to Alaska in the 1950s and he worked as a labor-union member building bridges and other infrastructure in the Aleutians, the Copper River Basin, Southcentral and Interior Alaska. He loved hiking, boating and backcountry travel. He took more than 50 wilderness trips into remote regions of the Brooks Range and chronicled his adventures in the book You Won’t Understand If You Have To  Ask Why.

Donald Schmidt, 82, died July 29. He was born in Nome, and his family moved to Bethel in 1932. He  met and married Lillie, his wife of 55 years, in Anchorage. Schmidt worked  as a Moravian missionary before becoming chief of police in Bethel.  He had three children.

Hannah Solomon, 102, died Sept. 16. She was born in Old Rampart, a remote community on the Porcupine River, and raised in Fort Yukon. Solomon had a traditional subsistence upbringing, moving seasonally to trapping and fishing camps. She and her husband, Paul, raised 14 children in Fort Yukon without running water or electricity for many years. Solomon is well known for her beadwork that is on display in museums around the world. She was the first female mayor of Fork Yukon, advocating for children and education. In Fairbanks, she was involved in the formation of the Fairbanks Native Association, Denekkanaaga, and participated in Doyon Limited, Tanana Chiefs Conference and the Alaska Federation of Natives.

Jeanette Twist, 80, died Oct. 15. In 1970, she moved to Anchorage with her husband, Richard, and two daughters. Twist enjoyed entertaining dinners with her family, and planting flowers—especially pansies. In 1997 she retired from the U.S. Postal Service.

Ed Walker, 94, died Oct. 28. He joined the U.S. Army in 1937 and served in Hawaii for three years before reenlisting as a way to get to Alaska. He was assigned to the infantry at Chilkoot Barracks in Haines — the only established military base in Alaska at the time. Later, he was transferred from Haines to Fort Richardson to be a part of the Alaska Scouts, where he was assigned to the Castner’s Cutthroats—an elite group of 65 warriors hand-picked for their toughness to form a military regiment for reconnaissance in the Aleutian Islands during World War II. They carried their own provisions and supplies, and caught fish and crab for food. He wrote several books about his life. Walker also co-founded Arctic Block Construction Co. in 1947, and worked at a mining operation in Goodnews Bay.

Notices are limited, because of space, to names of those who have achieved pioneer status through many years in the North, or who have made significant contributions to the state. Submissions for End of the Trail may be sent to eot@alaskamagazine.com.

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