Remembering Sidney Huntington
Doyon, Limited is deeply saddened by the loss of shareholder, Alaska Native leader and respected elder Sidney Huntington. Huntington left behind a 100-year legacy of survival, perseverance and courage. Doyon extends its condolences to the Huntington family and to many others that called him “Grandpa Sid.”
Sidney Huntington passed into eternal life on December 8, 2015, surrounded by his family at the Yukon Koyukuk Elders Living Facility in Galena. He was born May 10, 1915, in the village of Hughes along the Koyukuk River. His mother, Anna, was a Koyukon Athabascan of the caribou clan. His father was a gold miner, trapper and trader who came to the Koyukuk country in the early 1900s.
They lived at Hogatzakaket, where the Hog River meets the Koyukuk, about 90 miles downstream from Hughes. Following his mother’s sudden death when he was 5, Huntington, his brother and three sisters were sent to the Anvik Mission. Later, he and his brother, Jimmy, attended the Bureau of Indian Affairs school at Eklutna, where he completed the third grade.
When he was 12 years old, Huntington returned to help his father on the trapline at Hog River, where he learned many essential subsistence skills. At 16, Huntington was on his own, earning a living by trapping and fishing from their camp at Batza Slough. When World War II came along, Huntington took a job as a sheet metal worker at Fort Richardson and then at the new Galena Air Force Base.
After the war, he married Angela and moved back to the Hog River country and eventually to Huslia, where he lived mostly by subsistence in combination with cash jobs. In 1963, Huntington moved to Galena to take a steady job as a carpenter for the Air Force.
In the 1970s, Huntington got into the fish processing business, which remained his main livelihood for quite a few years. He served 17 years on the Alaska State Board of Game. In 1989, Sidney was conferred an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska. His life is immortalized in the book “Shadows on the Koyukuk,” which he co-authored with Jim Reardon. For one of his book signings, he wrote, “I lived a long life and seen many changes in Alaska. Education is the key to making a good life for yourself. Get involved in something to support the community. Don’t just sit around and expect something for nothing.”
Even though he only completed a small amount of formal education, Huntington learned a lot by reading books, magazines and anything he could get his hands on. He dedicated much of the latter half of his life to promoting education for rural Alaska students. He was part of a dedicated group that formed the Galena City School District in the early 1970s, and went on to serve on the school board for 21 years.
Huntington was a frequent presence in the school. He faithfully attended daily basketball practices almost to the end of his life and was an honorary assistant coach on Galena’s state champion basketball teams. He loved speaking to students and confronting administrators about why test scores were not as high as they could be. The K-12 school in Galena is now named after him.
Sidney is survived by his wife of 72 years, Angela Huntington, along with many children, numerous grandchildren, greats, and great-greats as well as many, many others who knew him as “Grampa Sid.”
Obituary from the Fairbanks Daily News Miner.