John Active's Friends And Colleagues Tell Stories And Reflect On His Legacy One Year After His Death

Jun 7, 2019

A vital voice of KYUK's programming, John Active died on June 4, 2018.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

John Active died one year ago, on June 4, 2018. KYUK misses him and works to continue his legacy of "Yup'ifying" the world. John was a translator, culture bearer, journalist, comedian, Elder, and National Public Radio's only Indigenous commentator. John identified as a storyteller, and made a career out of teaching people about the Yup'ik language and culture. KYUK reflects on John's legacy with his friends and colleagues.

Susan Charles

Susan Charles grew up with John Active across the slough in Bethel, and the two remained lifelong friends, sharing holidays and decades of life together. In this interview with KYUK, Charles remembers her old friend, from a young child re-enacting Biblical stories, to a young adult hosting elaborate dinner parties, to an Elder sharing food and stories with his community.

Art Silverman and Geoff Kennedy

John Active introduced Yup’ik language and culture to the nation through his writing and storytelling. To this day, he remains the only Indigenous commentator to air on National Public Radio. In this interview, we hear how John’s work first broadcast on National Public Radio from Art Silverman, a senior producer at NPR, and from Geoff Kennedy, a long-time friend and colleague of John’s who worked with him at KYUK in the 1990s.

Chris Ho

Chris Ho was a close friend of John Active during the final decade of John’s life. The two worked together at KYUK and remained friends after Chris moved to Anchorage. Chris is an Emmy-winning videographer and is working on a documentary about John. Chris served a special role in John’s life. During John’s final weeks in the hospital in Anchorage and then in Bethel, Chris was John’s caretaker, remaining by John’s side until the end. At John’s funeral, Chris Ho delivered the eulogy. 

Marie Arnaq Meade

Marie Arnaq Meade was John Active's relative, high school friend, and KYUK coworker. She teaches Alaska Native Studies at the University of Alaska and helped create a written language for Yup'ik.

Peter Twitchell

Peter Twitchell was on the air at KYUK from its earliest days with John Active. Twitchell talked with KYUK’s Johanna Eurich about their mutual friend John Active, a person who had influenced them both professionally and personally.

Rhonda McBride

John Active left behind a unique legacy of storytelling in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. A group of his friends who watched as he married his traditional training to modern technology to tell stories on the radio and TV got together to talk about their old friend. Rhonda McBride, former KYUK News Director, talked with two of John’s colleagues, Geoff Kennedy and Johanna Eurich, about her perspective on John Active the storyteller.

Lillian Michael

John Active loved being Yup’ik. He loved teaching people his language and culture. One of his many roles at KYUK and in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta was as a translator. In this position, John used his creativity and deep understanding of the Yup’ik language to explain changes happening in the region to his fellow Yupiit. As an example, he translated “riding a bike” as “running while sitting.” Lillian Michael is also a Yup'ik translator and worked with John for 40 years. 

Julia Jimmie

John Active’s grandmother, Maggie Lind, wanted to adopt Julia Jimmie. Julia remembers Maggie picking berries with her as a child in Tuntutuliak and telling her traditional stories. Julia grew up listening to Maggie and John on the radio and watching them on television. Then in 2006, Julia began working with John at KYUK as a Yup’ik translator. As John’s health deteriorated in his final years, Julia took on more of John’s KYUK translating duties. Julia works as the KYUK Radio Director.

Jim and Robin Barker

Jim and Robin Barker both moved to Bethel in the early 1970s. You might know Jim from his black-and-white photographs depicting life in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta during the radical changes of that time. Both Jim and Robin became close friends with John Active. Robin’s son was born soon after John’s grandfather, Adolf Lind, died. John’s family named the baby “Adolf,” and John called the little boy “grandpa.” Jim and Robin eventually moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, and the couple maintained a lifelong correspondence with him.

Beverly Hoffman and John McDonald

The role of John Active in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is deeply intertwined in the development and role of KYUK. John was there at the beginning of KYUK and stayed through four decades until his passing. He did something very important with the station; he made sure the Yup’ik language was on the radio from the very early years. KYUK looks to two of his colleagues, John McDonald, former KYUK general manager, and Beverly Hoffman, former KYUK news reporter, to understand John legacy. Beverly also grew up with John in Bethel.

Johanna Eurich and Steve Heimel

John Active became a national public broadcasting commentator in the 1990s through the Alaska Public Radio Network where both Johanna Eurich and Steve Heimel worked. In this conversation, they share their memories of how John’s radio pieces were received when the stories first went on the air.

Shane Iverson

KYUK General Manager Shane Iverson describes John Active’s influential role in creating and defining KYUK, and how the station is continuing John's legacy.