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Doyon Foundation Profile: Martha Demoski
Sigourney Walker 
Doyon Foundation’s 2008 Educator of the Year,
Martha “Maalhu” Demoski (center), is pictured with her sons,
Howard Darling and Jesse Darling. Photo by Susan Paskvan.

Martha “Maalhu” Demoski was recently honored with Doyon Foundation’s 2008 Educator of the Year award, which recognizes a Doyon shareholder who has proven their devotion to helping direct the future through education, by promoting Alaska Native education and supporting Alaska Native students. The award was presented at the Doyon, Limited annual meeting of shareholders on March 14 in Fairbanks .


“I learned at a very young age from my parents not to brag about myself or any of my family, but I am proud to receive the honor from such a fine organization, Doyon Foundation, which recognizes and promotes learning in two pathways – the Western and the Native,” said Demoski, who was born and raised in Nulato, and is the daughter of the late Andrew K. and Mary Amelia Demoski, and the granddaughter of the late Martha (Maalhu) Brush and Tommy Agnes, and Leo Demoski Sr. and Julia Demoski.


Demoski has dedicated 28 years of her life to the field of education, including a 22-year career with the Yukon-Koyukuk School District , where she is currently an elementary teacher at Nulato’s Andrew K. Demoski School , which is named for her father.


“I hope I’ve fulfilled at least a part of my father’s expectations,” she said. “As a child he would tell me, ‘You will finish high school, go to college, and help your people.’”


Demoski did graduate from Copper Valley High School in Glennallen, then went on to earn a bachelor’s of arts degree through the University of Alaska Fairbanks ’ XCED program, and obtained certificates in high school social studies and elementary education.


“I believe education is important because it is a vehicle to a lifestyle one chooses,” Demoski said. “It disciplines and prepares students for a path that leads to better opportunities and upward development. It broadens students’ global awareness, which develops a keen respect for one’s own culture, language, traditions, subsistence skills, values and extended family.”


Demoski said her sons, Russ, Howard and Jesse, and her nephew, Kelly Sommer, have been inspirations to her throughout her education. She is also grateful for the professors, especially Cliff Mitchell, who believed in her potential.


Throughout her career, Demoski has continued to expand her own education. She said she especially loves learning memorial songs from the elders in her village. She has also dedicated herself to learning the Denaakk’e (Koyukon Athabascan) language, which she then passes on to her students by using simple commands in the classroom and teaching songs she has composed in Denaakk’e.


“Eliza Jones gave me a good start in studying the language, and the elders in my village are very wonderful mentors,” she said.


In recent years, Demoski, with assistance from Susan Paskvan, has also coordinated a number of spring and fall camps, where junior high and high school students learned about survival skills, language, subsistence activities,  storytelling, beading, mending nets, ice fishing and more. 


Spending time outdoors – boating, fishing, berry picking, camping, hunting and snowmachining – is something Demoski personally enjoys.


“Nature has so much peace, quiet and beauty to offer. My favorite season is fall, when the leaves are colorful, the air is crisp and the mosquitoes are gone,” she said.