‘Pure gold, a true fisherman’: Venerated Yukon-Kuskokwim elder remembered

Peter Moore at the 2019 convention of the Association of Village Council Presidents. (Photo courtesy of Association of Village Council Presidents)

Members of the Yukon-Kuskokwim region’s Association of Village Council Presidents are mourning Peter Moore, the organization’s traditional chief, longtime leader and elder in the region.

During his 87 years in Emmonak, Peter Moore was a fisherman, a veteran of the National Guard, and participated in many search and rescues. He was there at the beginning of the Association of Village Council Presidents. Vivian Korthuis, the Chief Executive Officer at AVCP, grew up in Emmonak calling him “Uncle Peter.”

Moore left behind years of service and many admirers, including Edward Adams from the nearby village of Nunam Iqua. Adams, who is now in his 60s, recalls moose hunting during a blizzard in the late 1970s with Moore and a group of young men. They didn’t know which way to go. He remembers telling the younger men to “follow the chief,” pointing to Moore, who was wearing a parka with a huge ruff.

Years later, Adams was at an AVCP gathering where Moore was presiding as traditional chief. The way he tells it, Moore approached Adams to ask him if he would serve as second chief. Adams said that he would, if nominated. Moore responded by pointing to a box, saying there was a white kuspuk in there, just his size. Adams chuckled telling the story, explaining that the traditional chiefs all wear white kuspuks at AVCP conferences. Laughing harder, he said, “Peter had a sense of humor.”

Others remember the steadying influence Moore had on his community and region. Myron Naneng, who worked with him at AVCP, said, “Peter was pretty steady in what he believed, and encouraged everyone to do the best job we could for the villages.”  

And he believed in fishing. Jack Schultheis runs the KwikPak processing plant, buying salmon on the lower Yukon River. He said of his old friend, “Peter was pure gold. A true fisherman.”

He added that Moore went to every Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting to testify for the interests of Yukon fishermen. 

Long before he became AVCP’s traditional chief, Moore worked in his community of Emmonak doing whatever was needed. No task was too small. Moore built coffins in the village, and later taught younger men to do the same.

Now that it is Moore’s turn to need one, the skills he transferred to them many years ago are still alive and well. He prepared them, and it’s now their turn to help so that family and friends can grieve and bury Peter Moore, a man who led the way for so many. 

Johanna Eurich is a contributor for the Alaska Public Radio Network.

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