Herbert, a Inupiaq traditional whaling captain and Vietnam vet, was from the remote Alaskan village of Wales. He loved Wales very much and talked about it often in his job-related exile in Anchorage. His highest wish was to return there someday.
I remember when he told me how the oldtime shamans could travel from place to place through the curls in waves and hollow beach logs. We shared many stories of places we had gone and spirits we had encountered. He told the essentials of proper behavior in Alaska. He was my "sanity-maker" when I was in Anchorage, and the politics got some good wounds in me. When things got ugly there and I lost my job, blackballed from the NPS forevermore, Herbert was the only one there who remained constant, and my friend.
I got this notice this morning.
"It is with great sadness that I pass along news that our friend and colleague Herbert Anungazuk has passed away after lengthy treatment for cancer [8/25/2010]. Herbert died peacefully at about 11:30 this morning at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. Herbert was 65. He had worked for the National Park Service in many roles, most recently as a cultural anthropologist. Prior to his work with the Service, he had a distinguished military career and was a successful whaling captain. Herbert's career accomplishments only begin to tell of a life well lived, of the friendships he formed and of the insights into his Native culture that he shared with all of us. Our thoughts are with his family and friends in this sad time."
I loved my friend Herbert. The last time I saw him was in Washington DC at a NAGPRA meeting. We had some good talks, while he, my wife Lisa and I sat on the sun-streaked grass outside visiting. That was an afternoon I will always remember.
Well, hopefully he has found his way home to Wales, and is whaling joyfully in the Otherworld now. Now he is free to be in his home Wales, and on the Land and on the Sea.
"I think over again my small adventures, my fears,
These small ones that seemed so big.
For all the vital things I had to get and to reach.
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing.
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world." (Inuit song)