John Pingayak stars in "Big Miracle," opposite Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski, as Malik. The role marks Pingayak's major film acting debut.

An Alaska-native member of the Cup'ik tribe, John Pingayak was born in Chevak, Alaska, and educated at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he graduated with a degree in elementary education in 1977.

Known as a dancer, composer and singer of ancestral songs, Pingayak has taught native dancing for 34 years. He travels throughout the state teaching dance and cultural activities, and performed in Siberia in 1985 for Performing and Fine Artists for World Peace, as well as at the 1988 expo in Brisbane, Australia.

Pingayak acted for the first time in 1987 in an educational television series called "Shadow Walker," which was his only previous experience in front of a camera.

He taught cultural studies of the Cup'ik people at Kashunamiut High School in Chevak, which is located 130 air miles from the nearest hub (Bethel), 20 miles from the Bering Sea in Yukon and the Kuskokwim Delta in the southwestern part of Alaska. Among the honors he has earned is an honorary doctorate in laws from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Pingayak lives with his wife, Teresa (who also plays his wife in "Big Miracle"), in rural Alaska, where they have raised nine children and 20 grandchildren using the hunting and cultural skills passed down by their ancestors.

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