He was known as the voice of the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta, a voice that has now gone silent. John Active, a veteran broadcaster and Yup’ik storyteller, died around midnight at the Bethel hospital. He was 69. 

Active had been struggling with health problems and recently retired from KYUK, the public radio and television station in Bethel, where he translated the news from English into Yup’ik. He was also a popular talk show host. One of his shows, “Ketvarrluku,” was broadcast entirely in Yup’ik. 

Active was a pioneer Alaska Native broadcaster. When KYUK went on the air in 1971, a regional tribal chief recruited him to translate the news. Active said Chief Eddie Hoffman told him “to do the news for them Eskimos” — and Hoffman, he said, was not anyone you could to say no to, so he wound up scavenging newspapers off of airplanes every day to translate for the station’s first newscasts.

Active was also an encyclopedia of Yup’ik stories and culture. He was raised by his grandmother, Maggie Lind, a famous storyteller in the region, often heard on KYUK radio. Active later recorded audio essays about his language and culture that were aired on National Public Radio. One of his popular stories was about his love of berry picking, in which he sang a song in Yup’ik to the tune of Fiddler on the Roof.

Questions or comments about this story? Email reporter Rhonda McBride.

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