Tununak elder dies on snow machine trip

by Angela Denning-Barnes on January 31, 2012

An elder from Tununak passed away while attempting to travel from Nunapitchuk back to his village by himself. The trip is about 100 miles, and Andrew Chikoyak almost made it. However, the 74-year-old was found deceased near Nightmute, not far from his destination.

Chikoyak left the tundra village of Nunapitchuk Jan. 27. When he didn’t show up at home the following day, Alaska State Troopers were contacted. Troopers searched for Chikoyak by air on Jan. 28 without success. However, the next day a trooper pilot was able to locate Chikoyak near Nightmute, which is just about 20 miles from Tununak. Back up was called in from Bethel, including two Life Med paramedics and three US Army National Guard members in a Blackhawk helicopter. When they arrived on the scene, they pronounced Chikoyak deceased. His remains were sent to Anchorage to the state medical examiner’s office, however, no foul play is suspected.

Chikoyak’s next of kin has been notified.

Chikoyak was a filmmaker, creating several films in the 1970s. One of his better known works was, “Once Our Way,” about the rebuilding of a traditional mens’ house in Tununak.

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