A True Story Told by John Active

photo by James Barker

by Ann Feinup-Riordan

When word came that John Active had passed away, we at CEC (Calista Elders Council) were deeply saddened. Right now we are finishing a new bilingual book that will be published later this year as part of a “Yuuyaraq/Yup’ik Way of Being” curriculum project in collaboration with LKSD, and a number of John’s stories are included in both the book and the curriculum.
I thought readers might enjoy reading what John shared during a story-telling session with Mark John and Lorrine Masterman in April 2017. John shared so much, and his stories will continue to be told. Thanks to video recordings made by Talking Circle Media, students enrolled in LKSD’s 7th and 8th grade Yuuyaraq courses will get to hear John telling this story and many more. -Ann Riordan, CEC
Wiinga qanemciamnek/A story I made
Aqumgaciq/John Active: Wiingallu taum Tan’gaurcuaraam maurluma anglicallerminia quliriyaramek, qanemciyaramek elicungcallruanga qanemcitaqamia. Taumek maairpak mat’um nalliini qanemcistengulrianga quliristengulua tuaten KYUK Bethel Broadcasting Radioni. Qanemciqa’aqlua iliini pilartua, tuaiw’ elicallruamia maurluma.
When my grandmother Tan’gaucuar raised me, she taught me how to tell qulirat, and she taught me to tell stories whenever she told them. That’s why today, I am a storyteller and a teller of qulirat at KYUK Bethel Broadcasting Radio. I tell stories every so often, since my grandmother taught me.
Waniwa qanemcitqataramci wiinga qanemciamnek, piliamnekwa, taugaam piciuguq cali.
I am going to tell you a story that I made, one I created, but it’s also a true story.
Up’nerkami atam ciku mamtuaqan yuut nunarrarnek unaken Kusquqviim painganek nunarraat yuit manaryanga’artelartut up’nerkami tuai nenglairutaqan. Yugyagluteng uavet, wagg’uq’ An’arciim Painga, Johnson Riveraam painganun, qukaanun tuaten. Allamun tuaten manarvigmun taum An’arciim akiani Luumarvigmun manaryaraqluteng.
During springtime when the ice is thick, people from small villages down at the mouth of the Kuskokwim start ice fishing with hook, line, and lure during spring when the weather becomes warmer. Many people go fishing downriver, even to An’arciim Painga, the mouth of the Johnson River, and even to the middle. They even go to another fishing spot at Luumarvik River on the other side of An’arciiq.
Iliitll’-am tuai naspaallermini, Yuvvaq, Yuvv’auluni. Naspaaluni yugyassiyaagata allamun piluni ukicilliniluni. Neq’lipiarluni tauna nunii ukitellra. Tuai maairpak tauna manarvik taum nataqellra Yuvvamek pilaraput. Tauna manarvik.
One day someone attempted, Yuvvaq, his name was Yuvvaq. Since there were too many people, he tried making a hole [in the ice] somewhere else. The area where he made a hole had many fish in it. Today, we call that fishing hole that that person found Yuvvaq. That fishing spot.
Tuai manarviit ayuqevkenateng. Qavani tuaten kuigem paingani manarvigtangqertuq. Tunuirunllu kiatemteni maaken Mamterillermek manarviuluni cali.
There are different places to fish. There are even places to ice fish with hooks and lines upriver at the mouth of a river. And Tunuirun upriver from Bethel here is also a fishing spot.
Tuai maurluqa manaryunqellruuq. Taumek avai nasvitellruyaaqekeka tarenramek neqnguamek ngel’arturluni pillrani.
My grandmother enjoyed ice fishing with hooks. That’s why earlier I showed a picture of her laughing with a toy fish.
Manaryunqellruuq tuai. Uksuarmi cikurraqaami kanavet nemta ceniinun ing’um Aagurem kuigan ketiinun manaryalallruuq. Manaryunqeggluni tuai.
She loved to fish with hooks. In the fall right after [the river] froze, she would go ice fishing down below our house, down in front of Aagur River. She loved to fish with hooks.
Tuaill’ waten up’nerkami unguvaurlullermini manaryaraqluni. Maaten uitnaurtua unuakumi elitnauryaqataraqama ak’a tayima ayallrullinilria manaryarluni. Taugaam yuayuunaku tuaiwa atakutaqegciqataamta luqruuyagnek.
While she was still alive, she would go fishing in the spring. I would wake up in the morning to go to school, and she would have already left to go ice fishing. But I didn’t miss her because we would have a delicious dinner of pike.
Tekitnaurtuq tang Tan’gaucuar luqruuyagugarnek cangellrullinilria.
Tan’gaucuar would return having caught a lot of northern pike.
Tuaill’ qamiquitnek kenirluni uqurrarmek piluta ner’aqluki tamakut. Enlingraata tuai wangkuta assikluki. Taugaam ulliggluki inilallruit ellamun kinercirluki nengllingraan. Tuai tamakut aspiartut uqumun akurqurluki. Aqsinaicaaqut taugaam wiinga arulailartua tamualngungaqama, tegg’amengwa kinertat tamakut luqruuyiit.
Then she cooked the heads, and we would eat them with some seal oil. We liked them, even though they had many bones. But they would cut them and hang them outside to dry despite the cold weather. Those are very good eating dipped in seal oil. They don’t satisfy the stomach, but I eat until I get tired of chewing because dried northern pike are hard.
Tuai Agayunret iliitni elitnauqatarpek’nii unuaquani Maqinruan maurluma ayaucugaanga manaryautnalua.
One Sunday, I wasn’t going to go to school the next day because it was Saturday, my grandmother wanted to bring me ice fishing.
Tuaillu nutaan manaryaqatallinilua; manaqsaunii taum ciungani.
It was going to be my first ice fishing trip; I had never fished prior to that.
Wiingaam tangercetaaliaryunqeggaqlua; alarrluaam tangercetaaliyaqilii tangercetaaliyarvigmun suurgivmun. Uumek tangercetaarluni, tangcetaarluteng carayagmek Gillmanaulunigguq tauna. Mer’em aciani yugcuraqluni. Aterluni tauna tangercetaaq Kass’atun, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Tuai tuaten aterluni; carayak mer’em aciancetuli, Black Lagoon.
I liked going to the movies; I made the mistake of going to the movies at the theater. There was a matinee about a monster called Gillman. It would try to kill people from underneath the water. The movie was called in English, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” That’s what it was called; it was about a monster who lived underwater, [in the] Black Lagoon.
Tangercetaaliyarluaam taumek tangvaliyarlua alingqapiarlua uterrlua. Inarcamtallu qavarciigacaaqlua, taugaam qavaqerlua tayima.
I went to go watch that movie, and I returned home very scared. I couldn’t fall asleep when it was time for bed, but eventually I fell asleep.
Taunaam ciissiq carayak umyuaqurluku alinglua. Sugtupiallruuq tauna iirpiluni, qengarpiluni, qanerpiluni, keggulviluni. Mer’em aciani kuimarnaurtuq tauna yugcurluni, yugnek yuarluni nernalukiwa pilallikai. Qanra ikiqetaaraqluni mer’em aciani piaqami.
I was frightened thinking of that monstrous insect. The creature was extremely tall, it had large eyes, a large nose, a large mouth, and large teeth. It would swim underwater trying to kill people, searching for people probably to eat them. Its mouth would open and close as it swam underwater.
Manaryartukut uavet An’arciim painganun. Maurlumallu tuai manamek cikirlua, akurrluku, elliin cuqluku kanavet anluamnun manaqcaaraasqellua.
We went ice fishing at the mouth of An’arciiq. And my grandmother gave me a fishing stick, dipped it in water to measure the depth of my fishing hole, and told me to fish.
Tuai tuani aqumgaurall’erlua tanqigpak qakemna manaqcaarlua.
I sat there in the bright daylight, fishing.
Tuaill’ piqerlua maaten anluaqa tangrraqa. Ulyunga’arteqataraqami atam un’a Kusquqvak, meq may’uqtaaqalartuq waten. Wall’uqaa neqtangqerraqan acia may’uqtaaraqluni meq anluam iluani.
Then I happened to look at my fishing hole. When the tide is about to rise in the Kuskokwim River, the water rises and falls like this [motions hands floating up and down]. Or if there are fish underneath, then the water in the fishing hole goes up and down.
Piinanemni atam umyuarteqngelrianga, “Imuulliuq akwaugaq tangercetaani tangelqa.” The Gillman from the Black Lagoon. Ilai! Alingengiinalrianga tang tuai anluaq tangvagluku. Umyuamnillu tangrruarluku tauna carayak anluama aciani tangvaurqii waten manaqa mayuraqan atraraqanllu. Alinglua cakneq manaqcaaralrianga.
As I sat there, I began thinking, “Maybe it’s that [creature] I saw at the theater yesterday.” The Gillman from the Black Lagoon. Oh my! I was getting more and more scared as I watched the fishing hole. And I imagined the creature watching my fishing hook from under my fishing hole as it went up and down. I was so frightened while fishing.
Tuaill’ tang piqerlua cam manaqa tegukii kanaken cam. Nucugluku cakneq, cakneq tuai manaqallu atraqerrluni waten. Atraqertellrani aarpaglua ilamallu tanglerlua. Aqvaqurlua manamnek tegumiarlua grandmamnun alingqapiarlua auguuyukluku ciissiq tangvalqa tangercetaami atakuani taum erenrem ciuqliani. Taunguyuklukuam Gillmanauyukluku alingallalrianga manaqa tegumiaqluku aqvaqulrianga qimaglua ciissimek taumek grandmamnun.
Then something grabbed my hook down there. It pulled it very hard, and my fishing stick was suddenly pulled down like this. I screamed when it was pulled downward, and my companions looked at me suddenly. I ran to my grandma holding my fishing stick, being very afraid thinking it was the creature from the movie I watched the evening before. Thinking it was the Gillman, I got scared and ran away from that insect to my grandma.
Piqerlutengllu ukut ngel’allagluteng. “Cang’uten tang!” Maaten tuigtua luqruuyagmek luqesvall’ermek cangellrullinilrianga. Tegumiaqlukullu manaqa aqvaqullemni anqertelliniluni tuaken anluamnek.
Then these [people around me] suddenly began laughing. “Look, you caught one!” I looked back and saw that I had caught a northern pike, a really large pike. When I ran away holding my fishing stick, it came right out of my fishing hole.
Tuani ciuqlikacaarmek manaryallruunga. Wiinga tuaten manaryunqegglua. Enlingraata tamakut luqruuyiit wangkuta neqkaqaput. Tuai manaryunqeggluki uklirraarlukillu keniraqluki uqurissiyaagpek’nateng. Uqumek aturluta ner’aqluki. Ulliggluki tuaten kinerciraqluki. Aspiat tuaten, uqumek akuqcaarluki.
That was my very first fishing trip. And [now] I love fishing. Even though pike have a lot of bones, they are our food. I love to fish for them, then filet and cook them, and they are not too oily. We eat them with seal oil. We also cut and dry them. They are delicious prepared like that, dipped in seal oil.
Tauna qanemciliaqaqa wiinga manaryaqarraallemnek luqruuyagmek cangqarraaqemnek. Tuai quyana niicugniluci. Augna quliraqa quliraliaqa wiinga iquklituq. Quyana.
That is my personal story about my first fishing trip when I caught a northern pike. Thank you for listening. That’s the end of the quliraq that I made. Thank you.
Miisaq/Mark John: Camekgguq kangiluni?
What’s the moral?
Aqumgaciq/John Active: Well, kangiawa wangni: Tangercetaaliyaqsaunaci alingnarqellrianek manaryaqataquvci unuaquani. Ciissim taum acivceni tangvagyuaraa manaci nuq’lerlukullu.
Well to me, the moral is this: Don’t watch a scary movie if you plan to go fishing the next day. The insectcreature below you might watch your fishing line, and pull it.
Tuaiw’ allamek meanarkaitellilria moralaarituq. Moralaaricugnarquq. [ngel’artuq] Tuai tuaten ayuquq augna qanemciliaqa.
Well, it doesn’t have any other meaning or moral. It may not have a moral. [laughs] That’s what my story is about.
Quyana.

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