Oscar’s life was one of many firsts as a Yupiaq person. His grandmother encouraged him to obtain a western education, along with the education he received as a Yupiaq child in the camps along the rivers of Southwest Alaska. Although this created conflicting values and caused confusion for him for many years, he sought to find ways in which his Yupiaq peoples’ language and culture could be used in the classroom to meld the contemporary ways to the Yupiaq thought world. 

Oscar served for the past 25 years as a faculty member with the Cross-Cultural Studies and Education programs at UAF where he introduced the construct of “Native ways of knowing” and contributed greatly to the understanding of issues concerning Indigenous peoples and worldviews that had been largely neglected in the past. He also served as co-director of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative and Alaska Native Knowledge Network.

While the ‘public’ face of Oscar was as an educator and cultural advisor, he also took on roles as an actor in television and films. He played a lead role in a feature-length movie, Salmonberries, as well as appearing in episodes of the TV series Northern Exposure and the Disney movie, Brother Bear. Amongst Alaskan Native people he was seen as father, uncle, friend, leader, teacher, mentor, professor and most recently as “Elder” - the most honored recognition among Native communities. Oscar’s leadership and vision helped his own people to find balance among communities, peoples and relationships, engaging them in open discussions that challenged them to believe in their abilities and traditions.

He is survived by his children Sherry L. Colley, Sandra L. Haviland, Oscar K. Kawagley and Tamaree D. Kawagley, as well as his wife Anna Northway and his former wife, Dolores Kawagley, along with ten grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Other surviving family members include Marita Snodgrass, Martha “Tiny” Jack, Rose Mowery, and Nils Sara.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Food Bank, or to an account in Oscar’s name in support of an award that will be presented annually to recognize an Indigenous scholar who has made a significant contribution to our understanding of Native ways of knowing. Contact information for submitting a donation for the AOK award is available at (907) 474-1902 or rjbarnhardt@alaska.edu. Donations to Oscar’s family may be sent to Anna Northway at 1224 Denali Way, Fairbanks AK 99701.  

Friends are invited to bring a cover dish and a story to a gathering in honor of Angayuqaq to be held at the UAF Harper Building, 111 Geist Road, on Sun., May 1st at 5:00 pm.