Arthur Nagozruk Sr.

This article appeared in the Nov. 2, 1981 Northland News

Nome Honors Arthur Nagozruk Sr.
Nome Honors Arthur Nagozruk Sr.

Northwest Community College in Nome has named its main administration building in honor of the late Arthur Nagozruk Sr., a beloved Nome educator who died in 1978.

Born in 1890 in Wales, Nagozruk began his own schooling at a newly completed facility in his village. He was known by his teachers to be an enthusiastic student and by the age of 14 he had finished all the courses available to him in Wales. He liked school so much that he stayed on at the village school to assist his uncle, Thomas Illayok, who was the assistant teacher there.

In 1907, Nagozruk entered the Alaska Native Services (Bureau of Indian Affairs) with an appointment as the junior member of the three-person staff in Wales. In 1911, he took charge of the new school in Shishmaref before returning to Wales as principal/teacher where he remained until 1922.

School children in Wales, circa 1910. The boy on the left is a member of the Nagozruk family. Photo: Susan Bernardi Collection, Anchorage Museum of History and Art
School children in Wales, circa 1910. The boy on the left is a member of the Nagozruk family. Photo: Susan Bernardi Collection, Anchorage Museum of History and Art

Followed by a lengthy period collecting specimens for the Colorado Museum, Nagozruk returned to his first love, teaching. He began the new school at King Island, moved to Nunivak Island where he opened a new school at Mekoryuk, then to Napakiak, Noatak and Point Hope.

In each of these villages, Arthur Nagozruk brought the light of learning. Where ever he taught, he improved the standard of living for Eskimo adults and young people through education and good health practices. Voluntarily assuming responsibilities beyond just his teaching duties he assisted villages in organizing for better local government and helped village workers to improve their resources and their local economy. He also set a high standard in construction, maintenance and repair of government buildings, which brought about similar improvements in Native homes.

After more than 35 years of teaching, Mr. Nagozruk retired to Nome in 1954 where he continued to lead an Eskimo language class in Bible studies at Nome Community Methodist Church.

In April of this year (1981), the Alaska State Legislature honored Nagozruk with a special message commemorating his life and contributions to Alaskan education.

"Arthur Nagozruk's pioneering career in education serves as a role model for other Native educators to follow," said Mike Metty, president of Northwest Community College in Nome. "We have named our main administrative building in his honor, to keep his memory alive."

A carved memorial plaque was designed and fabricated by Ron Senungetuk, director of the Native Arts Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and head of the UAF Art Department. The memorial plaque suggests a frontal view of a skin boat. The artist wanted to represent Nagozruk as a skin boat owner, or "umealik."
"In Inupiaq culture, an umealik was a leader as well as a prominent individual," explained Senungetuk. "Among other things Mr. Nagozruk did in his life, he was also an umealik."

In 1955, Nagozruk received a citation for meritorius service from the federal Department of the Interior. He was honored for his more than 35 years of service with the Alaska Native Services, the BIA and the Interior Department. He died on June 23, 1978 at Norton Sound Regional Hospital in Nome.

In his long life, Nagozruk had been student, teacher, principal; son, father, husband; pioneer, innovator, leader. He lived for 88 years.


UA Site named after Arthur Nagozruk Sr.:

Nagozruk Building

Arthur Nagozruk Sr. is also mentioned in this article:

Arthur Nagozruk Jr.