January 21, 2021. Anchorage, AK- Trefon Angasan III (Jr.) was born in the village of New Savonoski on March 3rd, 1947 to parents Trefon II (Sr.) and Vera (Kie). He passed away November 29th, 2020 from complications related to COVID-19.
Trefon grew up on the Naknek River between the villages of New Savonoski, Naknek and South Naknek. He was the 3rd of 10 siblings in the household. As a child Trefon spent part of the summer and fall at the family Native Allotment at Kittivik, the traditional gathering area at the mouth of the Brooks River in what is now Katmai National Park. The family lived a subsistence-oriented lifestyle and depended on salmon harvested from the mouth of the Naknek River, red fish from Brooks River and wild game hunted from around the Alaska Peninsula.
Upon completion of his primary school requirements, Trefon attended boarding school at Sheldon Jackson School in Sitka along with siblings Fred “Theodore”, Mary Jane, and Ralph. He graduated high school in 1964 and went on to attend Sheldon Jackson Junior College thereafter.
Trefon spent most of his life participating in the Bristol Bay fishery, beginning with his own set net site at age 10, and ran his first power boat at age 15. He worked on the “beach gang” seasonally at Alaska Packers Association at Diamond NN cannery. He also spent time at Diamond J cannery on the Kvichak River and at Diamond M and Diamond O canneries also located on the Naknek River. Trefon was an insatiable reader. His favorite author was Louis L ’Amour. He also took time to learn public policy from the early start of his career.
Trefon’s professional career was extensive. He was an expert on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 as well as the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. His broad sweeping knowledge and encyclopedic memory of state and national policies, case-law and historic events brought him many places throughout the world. His pioneering work and vision were pivotal to organizational development throughout Bristol Bay and Alaska. Throughout his career, he was a leading advocate for Alaska Native land and subsistence rights. He was successful in many battles to strengthen federal law protecting Alaska Native interests. In Among Trefon’s many accomplishments were his successful advocacy for the restoration of subsistence for the Native Descendants of Katmai with the passage of Section 1035, PL 104-33. That statute restored the cultural rights of the descendants of the 1912 volcanic explosion of Novarupta to harvest red fish for traditional subsistence use within Katmai National Park.
In 1974 Trefon became Regional Director for the Bristol Bay Area Development Corp., the organization responsible for securing funding for the creation of Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation. In 1975 he became Executive Director of Bristol Bay Native Association in Dillingham where he simultaneously began a 30+ year tenure at Alaska Federation of Natives, serving many various roles during the organization’s infancy. In 1976 Trefon began his career at Bristol Bay Native Corporation in both Dillingham and Anchorage, where he eventually retired as Vice President of Corporate Affairs in 2005. Upon his retirement, Trefon created Trefon Angasan Consulting, a professional group providing ANCSA policy expertise to resource developers throughout Alaska.
Trefon began his village corporation leadership career in 1973 as a director of Qinuyang Inc the village corporation of South Naknek. He was instrumental in creating one of the first village corporation mergers in the state as a founding board member of Alaska Peninsula Corp in 1978. He continued on to serve APC as a board member, as an officer and finally as Chairman through the time of his death
Trefon held many statewide leadership roles. He served multiple terms as Vice Chairman of Alaska Federation of Natives, chaired the AFN Legislative and Litigation Committee and for many years chaired the AFN Resolutions Committee at its annual conventions. He also served for many years on the Alaska Board of Fisheries. Initially appointed by Governor Cowper he was reappointed to the Board of Fish successively by Governors Steve Cowper, Walter Hickel and Tony Knowles. As a Fish Board member, Trefon was particularly proud of his work ensuring the state’s duty to protect rural subsistence rights.
Unbeknownst to many, Trefon was a generous soul who donated significantly to those in need and was happy to do so. He delighted and found joy in providing all the latest gadgets to his many family members including up to the latest iPhone, MacBook or other electronic. Trefon always made certain anyone he knew was never in need. He excelled at bartering for Native foods from around the state.
Above all, Trefon was extremely proud of the 30 plus years of sobriety from Alcohol and substance abuse, a daily achievement he humbly celebrated from one year to the next. His willingness to overcome alcohol and drug abuse is a testament to the resilience of his Alaska Native way of life.
Trefon is preceded in death by his paternal grandparents Trefon Anshaiknok I (Angasan) and Ektarina of Old Savonoski, maternal grandparents Joe Kie and Anishia of Ugashik, great aunt Pelagia Melganak of Old Savonoski and South Naknek, Uncles Ignatious and Matfay Anshaiknok of Old Savonoski, aunts Anastasia and Wasillisa Anshaiknok of Old Savonoski, nephews Troy Fredrick Nielsen and Benny Kevin Leon Angasan of South Naknek, Uncle Steve Kie of Naknek, parents Trefon Angasan II and Vera (Kie)of King Salmon and South Naknek, sister Katherine Groat of “Boat Creek”, son Trefon “Trapheme” Angasan IV and daughter Tisha Michelle Angasan both of Anchorage and niece Eva Nielsen-King of South Naknek. He is survived by his loving wife of 24 years Gwennith Angasan, his son Brad Trefon Angasan and his wife Ronalda, grand children Spirit Angasan, Yaana O’Domin, Harold O’Domin, Hunter Angasan, Salleena O’Domin, River Bay Angasan and god-daughter Camilla Nielsen. Trefon is also survived by his remaining eight siblings Fred “Theodore Angasan and companion Elena Chukwak, sister Mary Jane and husband Donald Nielsen, Ralph Angasan and wife Clara, Val Angasan I and wife Cecelia, Vera Viola Savo, Martin Angasan and companion Mary Alice Wilson, Steven Angasan and wife Nola and Anishia and husband Jeff Elbie Sr. Trefon also leaves behind many nieces, nephews and their children and lifelong friends around the world.
The family plans a celebration of his life in Spring of 2021.