The information shared in this presentation is meant to inform and enlighten local residents as well as visitors who may be new to the region served by the Western Arctic National Parklands. For those visitors who may never have an opportunity to set foot in a northwest Alaskan village, the collection offers glimpses of the people of Kiana, their history, and the setting of their community.
Roger Atoruk was born in Kiana to Peter and Nellie Ward Sheldon Atoruk on July 28, 1930. He grew up in Kiana and spent his entire life there. His mother, Nellie, married Peter Atoruk after the death of her first husband, Tommie Sheldon, Sr. After Nellie passed away, Peter married Effie. This brought several families and children together. As a result, Roger has many brothers and sisters: Elwood Atoruk, Stella Dugish and Norma Stagnero; half-brothers and sisters: Wilbur, Michael and Ben; and stepbrothers and stepsisters: Tommie Sheldon, Jr., Harry Hobson, Vera Douglas, Grace Forselles, and Cora Gooden. While in his early 20s, Roger worked for six seasons in Nome and with mining contractors up the Squirrel River. He was later employed by the Kiana School District (formerly BIA Schools) for thirty-six years. Roger was the first guardsman recruited for the National Guard in Kiana, and the recruiters found him on a trail to Selawik. Roger and his wife, Mary, were married in Nome on July 23, 1953 and celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 2003. They have eight children, all of whom are grown and living in Kiana, Noorvik, Kotzebue, and Anchorage. Roger and Mary enjoyed parenthood a second time around by raising their beloved grandson, John Roger Atoruk (named after Roger's grandfather and himself), and teaching him survival skills as well as hunting and fishing. Many years ago, when it was an active organization, Roger was a member and race timekeeper for the Kiana Dog Mushers Association. He has been an active member of the Kiana Elders Council for many years. Although officially retired, in 2002 Roger continued to serve as the village agent for several local airlines. Roger Atoruk passed away in 2010 at the age of 80.