Radio Fills With Love For Elder And Storyteller John Active

May 25, 2018

KYUK hosted a special call-in show on May 24, 2018 for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to say quyana and celebrate the contributions of Yup'ik storyteller and former KYUK staff member John Active.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

John Active, Yup’ik story-teller and long-time KYUK personality, is in the hospital. For decades, John connected KYUK to the Delta community. This week, KYUK used the airwaves to connect this huge community to John’s hospital bed in Anchorage. The result was radio filled with love and prayers for his health. Some were old co-workers, like Peter Twitchell and Peter Atchak. Twitchell reminded John of the old days when they produced a play on KYUK called “Old Man, Young Man.” John played the old man and Peter the young man.

“Around 1973, news reporters came to KYUK,” Twitchell says. “John was leading them, starting in 1973. He had fun. He was a comedian. We would do plays, one was 'Old Man, Young Man.' He would be the old man and I would be the young man. He was fun to work with. “

“Yeah. I used to hear that,” recalls Peter Atchak. “Whenever I heard you two, my day would seem to go better."

"I know all these problems arise when we become elders,” Twitchell said. “I visited John some time ago, and since he was alone I prayed the Lord's Prayer with him in Yugtun. Since he can't talk, he would nod. I am thanking God that he is holding us. Quyana for talking about John, Aqumgaciq.” 

Bev Hoffman shared stories of growing up with John Active, and the days many years ago when she and John were in school together campaigning against each other.

“You (John) and I were running for student council president in eighth grade. And there was John. He showed up looking just smashing in a Chinese Pea Jacket. And talk about a storyteller, and he just totally took over the speech competition and made people laugh, and it was so fun. Although it wasn’t too much fun because I was running against John and, needless to say, he won handily against me.”

John came to radio through his grandmother, Maggie Lind, who used to perform and tell stories on the air. He carried on the family tradition and took it to new heights, telling stories, creating video jokes, covering news, and hosting call-in shows. He did it all, and even cooked for the staff so they never lacked for good local food. This week, his sister Natalia Berlin called the radio station. She said that John is part of an older generation that has seen lots of changes in the Delta. She made it clear that John Active is very precious to both the region and his family. Peter Atchak was on the radio and welcomed her on the air.

"Let's put this next caller on, her name is Natalia Berlin," said Atchak.

"Yes. I am from Nunapitchuk,” Natali explained. “I am hearing that Aqum John is doing better. He is my younger brother. He is my baby; we have the same mother. Aqum is my baby. Aqum, this is Yuuk. I say hi. You will get better. Expect to get better. We pray for you. Kitakwa tua-i. Ok."

“Hey, are there any other siblings?” Peter asked.

“No, it's just us who are alive,” Natali said. “The Chrises are our brothers, including Esther Green and Jacob. Aqum, you will get better. 

Berlin says that she and John are the only siblings left. 

The Calista Regional Native Corporation recognized John Active’s importance when it named him Shareholder of the Year. Susan Charles, from the corporation, called and made the news official on KYUK so that John and his family of listeners could celebrate together.

“And as a Calista Shareholder Award recipient he will receive a plaque and a check for $1,500. On behalf of the Calista Corporation, the staff, and the board we congratulate John and wish him a speedy and safe recovery. And on a personal note, I want to say that I did visit John last week. I was so happy to see him and he is recovering and I know he’s listening right now, and we send lots of our wishes for health and recovery, and we send John all our love.”

The staff at KYUK join all of John Active’s friends to say quyana and get well.