Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Kenneth "Utuayuk" Toovak

Kenneth Toovak

Kenneth Utuayuk Toovak was born in 1923 in Barrow, Alaska to Timothy (Quilluq) and Ethel (Agnik) Toovak. He grew up hunting and whaling, and learned to understand the sea ice and how to travel and hunt safely on it. Starting in 1949, Kenneth worked for Arctic Contractors and then the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL). For over twenty years, he operated heavy equipment, served as project support foreman, helped build the NARL camp, worked on the ice island research stations, and assisted many research projects on the sea ice. He was a keen observer who later assisted scientific researchers by sharing what he knew about arctic animals and their environment, and became a well-respected science partner. In 1940, he married Thelma Stine and they had eleven children. In 1988, Kenneth Toovak (along with Harry Brower) received a certificate of recognition from the Sigma XI Scientific Research Society for nonprofessional scientists who have made significant efforts in promoting scientific research, and in 2003 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks for his contributions to arctic science. Kenneth was active in the Utqiagvik Presbyterian church, and was one of the founders of Barrow’s Volunteer Search and Rescue. As an elder, Kenneth continued to share his knowledge and experiences with visiting researchers and was an active participant in annual Elders Conferences held by the North Slope Borough’s Inupiat History, Language and Culture Commission, was an advisor to the People of Whaling exhibition at Barrow’s Iñupiat Heritage Center, and served on the board of the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC). In 1978 and 1979, he conducted oral history interviews and translated for UAF researchers Dr. Lewis Shapiro and Ron Metzner on the project Historical References to Ice Conditions Along the Beaufort Sea Coast of Alaska (Scientific Report, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1979). Kenneth Toovak died on November 19, 2009.

Date of Birth:
Apr 19, 1923
Date of Death:
Nov 19, 2009
Kenneth "Utuayuk" Toovak appears in the following new Jukebox projects: