Alaska Native/Indigenous People

Paul John – Koyukon Athabascan

Paul John in the early 1990s. Photos developed at the YKSD Print Shop.
Paul John in the early 1990s. Photos developed at the YKSD Print Shop.

I recently wrote about Dineega Clothing, and thought I would share a little bit more about its owner, Paul John. Paul and I recently caught up in Fairbanks, and he shared some of what he has been doing since high school. Paul and I graduated the same year, and were in the Yukon Koyukuk School District (YKSD). YKSD used to have a print shop in Nenana and students would go there to learn about the print shop. That’s where I first met Paul.

Paul’s hometown is Ruby, Alaska. Paul and his wife, Alberta, have a daughter and are also raising a nephew. They live in North Pole, Alaska. Paul joined the Army after high school. He was stationed in Korea, Arizona and New Mexico. When talking about his time patrolling the US border in Arizona with the Shadow Wolves, Paul says, “We take freedom for granted.”

Dineega Clothing company logo
Dineega Clothing company logo

In the Army, Paul learned how to be an electrical worker. After returning to Alaska, he joined the Alaska International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union. Over the years, he worked in construction as an electrical worker. Paul now works as an electrician for the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company on the North Slope.

In addition to being an electrical worker, Paul sold t-shirts and other apparel with Native Threads and Smoke Signals. In 2013, he started Dineega Clothing with partners, Alberta John and Rudy Rojas. Paul appreciates sharing apparel that builds pride in Alaska. According to Paul, Dineega Clothing is “Alaskan first with a small Native twist”. Dineega Clothing is now being sold in one store in Fairbanks and two stores in Anchorage.

Paul says, "This photo is of myself, my aunt Maudry and my late uncle, James Honea, Sr. My mom, Annie Honea, took the photo."
Paul says, “This photo is of myself, my aunt Maudry and my late uncle, James Honea, Sr. My mom, Annie Honea, took the photo.”
Paul and his wife, Alberta. Courtesy photo
Paul and his wife, Alberta. Courtesy photo

Paul’s uncle, the late James Honea, Sr. of Ruby, shared some great advice over the years. James shared an analogy of a moose, much like the analogy of eating an elephant one at a time. James asked Paul, “How do you eat a moose?” Paul answered, “One meal at a time.” Then, James asked, “How do you eat the meal?” He answered, “One bite at a time.” That’s the way you should approach school and other life’s challenges. Paul compared it with school saying, “You shouldn’t worry about the whole semester. Do one assignment at a time. Pretty soon, you’ll finish the semester, then the school year. Then, pretty soon you’ll be ready to get another moose, or another year of school.”

John Honea, also Paul’s uncle, shared advice over the years. When Paul completed his time in the Army, we was looking for jobs. John told him to look at it like fishing. You put a big fish net out. Apply for as many jobs as you can so you can have a choice. Don’t plan on catching just one fish.

Paul appreciated the time he served in the Army. It was a great path for him to gain valuable electrical work training and experience. Thank you Paul for sharing advice from his uncles. It’s great to catch up with old friends.

0 thoughts on “Paul John – Koyukon Athabascan”

  1. Loved the wisdom shared in this posting!! Far too often we humans want to get everything handled taking no real time to accomplish the goal. Because of this we often fail but if we did slow down, appreciate the ‘big picture’ but proceed to tackle a chore or issue with measured efforts aimed at going piece by piece we would be so much more successful. We Americans tend to do the same thing regarding taking trips; so often the real joy is in the journey, not in reaching the destination…

  2. Very nice article! I loved seeing your merchandise at AFN last year. Keep up the great work. More needed like that.

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