Galena elder Sidney Huntington turned 100 years old on Sunday. Hundreds of family members, friends, and community members gathered in Galena to celebrate the occasion on Saturday.
As any reader of his biography “Shadows on the Koyukuk” can attest, Sidney Huntington’s life has been full of near-death experiences in the wilderness of the middle Yukon and Koyukuk River valleys.
At his centennial birthday celebration, Sidney recounted one of those experiences, in which he got lost in extreme cold temperatures while chasing down a marten. With only an ax, a gun, and the clothes on his back, he was forced to make camp. Exhausted and near death, he remembered a story told by the late elder Edwin Simon, advising him to make two fires instead of one.
With that experience in mind, Sidney came to realize that not only must young people listen to elders, but elders also have the responsibility to tell the truth.
“Edwin Simon told me, if you use a story, tell a true story. A false story can cause someone to lose his life. Never use a story to make yourself good. That’s an example of listening to your elders. I always give credit to Edwin Simon for teaching me to save my life.”
Sidney saved himself in other ways, as his daughter Agnes Sweetsir remembered:
“When you realized that your drinking was affecting us negatively, you had your last. When you were told that to continue to smoke would cost you your life, you had your last. Maybe it was your stubbornness that helped some, but I think it was your love of life and believing that your life was more than just about you and your good times and self-satisfaction, it was about all of us. And we thank you.”
Besides quitting drinking and smoking, Sidney also attributed his longevity to eating small, light meals – something he said he learned from the Japanese.
Also at the centennial, family members read a selection of birthday greetings that Sidney has been receiving from the likes of President Obama, Senator Murkowski, Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Mallott, and the co-author of Shadows on the Koyukuk, Jim Reardon.
Sidney lives at the Yukon-Koyukuk Elder Assisted Living Facility in Galena, along with his wife of 70 years, Angela. The K thru 12 school in Galena, where the party took place, is named after him. He remains a strong advocate for public education, and high school basketball. Until recent health challenges, he attended every Galena Hawks practice and game.