Sherry Carrie (Demit) Barnes, age 87, passed away from cancer on June 14, 2022. She always said her true birthday was January 8, 1935 (a birthday she was proud to share with Elvis Presley). Her official birth certificate states her birthday as January 18, so we always celebrated two birthdays with her in January.
She was born in Naabia Niign, the old village across the Nabesna River. Her parents are Laura (Northway) Demit and Joe Demit. She was born into the Niisüü clan. After her mother passed away in early 1948, Sherry took over a lot of responsibility at a young age, helping her dad to raise her younger siblings. She had several brothers, so she grew up tough. She always says that her dad was both father and mother to them, teaching them not only subsistence skills but also traditional values. Joe was a well-known storyteller and would tell stories to his children late into the night. When Sherry was around seven years-old, the army set up a military base and airport near what is the present-day village of Northway. She often told stories of going to the first school in the village.
In 1952, Sherry moved to Fairbanks to work. She stayed with her sister-cousin Donna Baker and family in California. She later settled in Minnesota with her husband, with whom they raised their son, Kendyl. In the 1990s, she moved back to Northway where she was active in teaching and working with the language. She is one of the last fluent speakers in the Upper Tanana region of Alaska and her traditional knowledge and love of the language will be sorely missed. She was a true Elder and sometimes the words were harsh, but we all knew she loved us and cared deeply for all her family. She loved to laugh, so she was always telling funny stories. She is well known for her creative beadwork, incredible biscuits, and fearless nature. She often drove the highway south many times to visit her son and family in Minnesota.
Sherry is preceded in death by her parents Laura (Northway) Demit and Joe Demit; four brothers, Carl, Josh, Herman, and Jimmy and sisters Louise and Clara. Sherry is survived by her son, Kendyl and his wife Jodi; and her three granddaughters Hudson, Awren, and Revlyn; brother, Glen Demit (Cora); maternal sister-cousins Avis Sam, Donna Baker, and Dorothy Titus; and numerous nephews and nieces whom she loved dearly.