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Copyright vEsti24
Dec 05 2011
Afognak Elder Remembered as Teacher With a Sense of Humor PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 05 December 2011

1.91 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup



Dennis Knagin. Photo by Sven Haakanson/Alutiiq Museum


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            Afognak elder, community leader and language teacher Dennis Knagin passed away last Tuesday. He was 81. 

            Dennis Knagin leaves behind his wife Julie, sister Thayo Brandal, his children, 20 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. The memorial will take place today (Monday) at 1 p.m. at the Holy Resurrection Cathedral. The graveside service will follow at 2 p.m. and repast will be at 3 p.m. at the Elk's Lodge.

            Gary Knagin says his father's health had been declining but that he was feeling rejuvenated after a recent visit with family. 

--          (Knagin 1                    :19                   "He went to Wasilla ... just loved to dance. I know that."

            Knagin was born in the village of Afognak in 1930. His daughter Denise May says her father was passionate about his home.

--          (Knagin 2                    :17                   "He loved Afognak ... loved being on Afognak Island.")  

            He and his wife Julie had nine children and were together for more than 50 years. Together they were an integral part of the Dig Afognak program. Melissa Borton is the administrator for the Native Village of Afognak, which oversees the program. She says their hardiness and dedication to teaching youth about their culture was an inspiration.

--          (Knagin 3                    :45                   "Often times they are the ... traditions to our youth was just so important.")

            Knagin, an Elks lodge member for over 40 years, was well-known for his humor. Borton says his infectious laugh will be missed.

--          (Knagin 4                    :23                   "One of my favorite things ... loved to joke and he loved life."

            Knagin was an ardent promoter of the northern dialect of the Alutiiq language. The Alutiiq Museum provided this audio of Dennis singing a silly song in his language.

--          (Knagin 5                    :12                   SONG

             He also spent his time teaching youth about boats and traditional subsistence. May (His daughter Denise) says knowledge was very important to her father.

--          (Knagin 6                    :33                   "He went to school ... teach how to build boats.")

             Some of Knagin's friends might know him by his nickname (uh-shuh-muh) Ashama. For the longest time May thought the name meant something important in the Alutiiq language. He earned the name long before he became a husband, father and community elder.

--          (Knagin 7                    :16                   "My aunt told me ... just started calling him Ashama."

            Gary Knagin says that while his father's death wasn't unexpected, it was a bit sudden but in accordance with how Dennis lived his life.

--          (Knagin 8                    :14                   "One thing he ...wanting to do something it was right now."




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