The Walrus Hunter

February 01, 2017 | Dick Duerksen

He was a hunter, a Siberian Yupik who lived in the village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island in the western half of the Bering Sea. An American, living 30 miles from Russia. A First Nation hunter, dying from the white man's disease, tuberculosis.

Many of the other villagers had also caught the disease. Most had died, leaving only a few healthy people in Savoonga.

Nathan Noongkook, hardly able to breathe, had reconciled himself to a wheezing death.

Then the crew of a passing supply ship met Nathan and offered to take the dying hunter with them to a tuberculosis hospital in the large white-man's village called Seattle.

There was nothing to do in the Seattle Tuberculosis Sanitorium, except play checkers and listen to the radio. Nathan chose the radio and listened most of the day. He especially loved the hope-filled voice of H.M.S. Richards on the Voice of Prophecy.

Richards spoke often about how much the Creator God loves His children. Then one day Richards talked about prayer and described it as “our opportunity to speak directly to the God who made us.” Nathan loved the message and decided to try talking directly to the Creator God.

"Please Creator God, heal me of this disease and return me to my people in Savoonga. I will always live as your child, and I will always tell others about you."

The Creator God answered Nathan’s prayer and healing began immediately. In a few weeks a very excited Nathan was on a ship for Savoonga.

When he arrived on the island, the Yupik people of Savoonga were in the midst of a terrible winter. The blizzards never ceased, and many were starving.

Nathan went from hut to hut and showed the people how he had been healed of the white man's disease. Then he told his neighbors about the Creator God. They listened, but the growls of their stomachs drowned out Nathan's words.

Then, one Saturday morning, the sun smiled and the winds ceased. The entire village prepared for a hunt, hoping for a giant walrus or even just a few seals.

Everyone went hunting, except Nathan Noongkook. Nathan told the others he could not go hunting on the holy day of the Creator God. The people laughed at Nathan and told him that if he wouldn't join the hunt they wouldn’t share the catch. Nathan smiled and said, "God will provide."

The hunters found only one small seal — a catch too small to be shared.

The next morning Nathan, his best friend and a young boy named Yuki slipped out to hunt. In moments they discovered a giant walrus sleeping on the ice near the village. They speared it with their harpoons, and Nathan sent his friend to call all the villagers to come and get some meat.

"Why will you share the meat with us?" the villagers asked. "We wouldn't have shared any with you!"

"Because that's what Jesus, the Creator God, would do. And I want to live just like Jesus."

Nathan's walrus hunt, and his willingness to share, are legend on St. Lawrence Island. Two Adventist churches celebrate his memory, and the Yupik of Savoonga speak his name with reverence reserved for prophets and disciples.

"Nathan the walrus hunter," they remember, “was just like Jesus."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kenneth Crawford's book Yuki can be purchased through the Alaska Conference office, some Adventist Book Centers and

LISTEN to Dick Duerksen read the story of Yuki at the online link below. If you are blessed, consider sending a donation to the Alaska Conference for their ongoing work on behalf of native Alaskans.