If you talk to any of her eight surviving children, their spouses, twenty-five grandchildren, twenty-four greats, all the nieces, nephews, and cousins, they will tell you this small woman Maria Moses known as Cup’aq welcomed everybody into her home, loved them, fed them, and prayed for them – one and all – everyday of her life. On October 17, 2020, shortly before her eight-ninth birthday, Maria passed at her home in Toksook where she lived with her daughter, Susie and family.
She was born on December 14, 1931, to Mik’ngayaq Molly and Amyagalria. Raised by her mother and stepfather, Aassanaaq Qiirtuli Phillip Joseph, Maria gained a step sister, Rita from Aassan. Thereafter, the family grew when siblings were born: Theresa, John, Evan and Eliza. Today, only her sister, Theresa (Kang) Lincoln is left. Maria’s large family included five half-brothers from Amyagalria – the late Jobe Nevak and George Nevak. She gained three more half-brothers when Amyagalria remarried in Tuntutuliak – the Jimmies, which included her sister Annie Nelson.
Maria’s daughters all say she had a special relationship with their Auntie Kang. Cup’ was the quiet, bashful one, known to cover her mouth with her hands when she laughed, and Kang was just the opposite. They teased each other and laughed all the time.
Maria was raised in Chefornak. She cherished her many extended relatives in Chefornak and Kipnuk. She was Catholic and she remained faithful to Catholicism. She didn’t go a day without saying her prayers the moment she woke up, and the moment she laid down to sleep. She was devoted to her rosary. She would gather everyone in the house and make time to say the rosary every day.
Our dad, Phillip knew he would marry Maria because it was love at first sight. He wrote letters to Maria and eventually married her in Nightmute in 1950, where he was from. Phillip and Maria started their family in Nightmute. They had Katie – her firstborn who was born in a boat in 1952, Rosalie, the late Moses, Paul and Molly. When Molly was five years old, they moved to Toksook Bay as one of the many first settlers of the new Toksook Bay in 1964. They then had Simeon (adopted to Aunt Stella), Susie, Sarah, Charlene, and finally Laverna. Moses passed away ten days before Susie was born, at age eight.
Maria was a very skillful seamstress and a skin sewer of traditional garments for all seasons. She was creative and talented with native arts and crafts, to name a few: grass baskets, dance fans, and headdresses.
As subsistence was an important part of her livelihood, she taught her children how to harvest, prepare, and store food properly. As she observed her children do the same, she would say, “I have nothing to worry about” meaning that she had taught her children well to live a subsistence life.
Her family was her life, even as she grew old. Nothing made her happier than her children and grands and greats. In Facebook videos within the last year, she is playing jacks with her grands and laughing like crazy.
Known as “Aan” to so many, Maria Cup’aq Moses leaves a family who cannot gather together during this time of COVID — Katie Curtis (Richard), Rosalie Lincoln (Simeon), Charlene Bosco (Jonathan) and Susie Moses in Toksook Bay; Molly Creasey, Sarah Kashatok (Grant), Laverna Johnston (Paul), and her only son Paul Moses (Virginia) in Anchorage. May each one of them, their children, and their children’s children feel her love and remember what Cup’aq so often said, “Agayutem tegumiaqaakut.” (We Are in the Hands of God.)