Lifetime Honorary YKHC Board Member Dr. Paul "Kangrilnguq" John
Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation will always remember Paul John for the legacy in helping name YKHC’s strategic plan as Napartet. Napartet is a Yup’ik word that can mean a post or pillar; a trail marker; or even a mast on a boat. As many within the YKHC already know, Paul John helped name YKHC’s strategic plan after telling a story about how he and his father used Napartet to safely sail their commercial fishing boat in Bristol Bay in Alaska’s territorial days. Napartet continues to serve as YKHC’s strategic plan and YKHC is grateful for Paul John’s visionary leadership in helping this organization and improving the health of the region’s people as a result.
Paul John was born on October 24, 1928, in Cevvarneq, the original name for the current village of Chefornak. His Yup’ik name is Kangrilnguq. He is one of the original board of directors since YKHC’s incorporation in 1969 and has held this position as an honorary lifetime board member up until his illness through 2014. Paul John’s board service includes representation on numerous boards, including the Calista Elder’s Council, Nunakauyak Traditional Council, Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Association of Village Council Presidents and many more.
He graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with an honorary doctorate alongside his daughter, Theresa John in 2009, for his tireless advocacy and work in Yup’ik language preservation and the sharing and teaching of many stories and traditions of his coastal people. Many of them are published in partnership with other advocates of Yup’ik ethnography and anthropology by long-time friend and scholar Ann Fienup-Riordan.
Paul John encountered health troubles in 2014 and was surrounded by his family, never tiring in his mind and spirit, passing away on March 5, 2015 in Anchorage. A memorial service was held in Anchorage, and his final resting place will be in Toksook Bay. A service was held March 14, 2015.
“Paul had too many accomplishments to list. Instead, I will always remember Paul as one of our greatest educators. He often taught fellow directors on the board, me and others, through storytelling. Paul frequently reminded us to stay true to our traditional values and was always optimistic for YKHC’s future and for the people of the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. He will be deeply missed and we are all strengthened for having known him and for the wisdom he shared with us. Quyana to the Paul John family.” – Dan Winkelman, YKHC President/CEO
On behalf of the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation family and board of directors, Chairman Esai Twitchell said, “we send our deepest sympathy and condolences to Martina John and the extensive family members of Chief Paul John in hearing of his passing. YKHC Board members and senior administration plan to attend Paul John’s funeral service in Toksook Bay, on Saturday, March 14 to pay our respects to a remarkable individual we honor as a visionary, and a person we are all so grateful to have come to know and learn from.”
The following quote is an excerpt from Paul John’s book Qulirat Qanemcit-llu Kinguvarcimalriit – Stories for Future Generations, the oratory of Yup’ik elder Paul John, published in 2003:
“This book? I was just thinking about how these papers, and it seems that I am passing them on to all of my children’s children, and I am also thinking about my great grandchildren. It seems that when I die, I will pass this onto them. It is like I am keeping them in mind.
It seems as though God wanted these papers to be passed onto His people, to all of the world’s inhabitants. . . I am not educated, smart, or wise. When I am expected to speak, no matter where I am, I always pray to Him to speak using my voice and my tongue. Do you understand Anna?” – Paul John, October 2000