JANUARY 25, 2020

INUPIAQ LEADER UGIAQTAQ (WESLEY AIKEN) DIED

Born in January 25, 1926, in the small Arctic village of Isuk, he migrated with his family until age 12.  At 14, Aiken became a reindeer header and later a mechanic, laborer, member of Alaska Territorial and National Guards, and a whaling captain.  He participated in the 1961 Barrow Duck Sit-in, protesting Federal regulation of Native hunting rights.  In the 1970s, Wesley helped form the Alaska Federal of Natives and worked to pass the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA).  Later, he helped establish the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and was Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp. land chief.  Aiken was also a community spiritual leader and taught whaling to the generations that had been sent off to boarding schools.  Dedicated to keeping traditions and language alive, in 2018, he was the keynote speaker at the Elders and Youth Conference in Anchorage.  His message: respect.  Aiken’s passing was noted in Washington DC by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Congressional Record of February 13, 2020.

Sources:  Wesley Early, WOTK, “North Slope elder Ugiaqtaq Wesley Aiken remembered for ‘life of hard work,’” Alaska Public Media,  1/15/2020. Retrieved 6/28/2020, https://www.alaskapublic.org/2020/01/15/north-slope-elder-ugiaqtaq-wesley-aiken-remembered-for-life-of-hard-work/ Sandy Grove Oliver, “Ugiaqtaq Wesley Aiken remembered for kindness, leadership,” The Arctic Sounder, 1/14/2020.  Retrieved 6/28/2020. http://www.thearcticsounder.com/article/2003ugiaqtaq_wesley_aiken_remembered_for_kindness Congressional Record, V. 166, Issue 3, 2/13,2020, pp S1072-3.  Retrieved 6/28/2020, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CREC-2020-02-13/pdf/CREC-2020-02-13-senate.pdf
Photo:  Karen Brewster.  Courtesy of Project Jukebox, University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Source: https://jukebox.uaf.edu/site7/p/2990

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