Paul Wilson speaks in Tlingit during the dedication of interpretive signs at the Skagway Traditional Council in June 2008. Jeff Brady

Paul Wilson, 1933-2008

Haines Mayor Jan Hill said that Paul Wilson Jr.’s passing is a loss for the community. The good-natured Tlingit elder and lifetime Alaska Native Brotherhood member brought enthusiasm to dance groups and was, according to family and clan leadership, the “true last survivor” of the Kooshdaa Hit, or Land Otter House, formerly of Tanani Point.
“He was one of the few people that had recollections of the Tanani village out by the tank farm,” Hill said. “That knowledge was invaluable.”
Wilson died Sunday, Oct. 22 at Providence Hospital in Anchorage of pneumonia, with his family by his side. He was 74.
Wilson’s Tlingit name was Kaadashaan; he was a member of the Raven House, and from the Gaaw Hit, or Drum House, in Klukwan. Wilson also served on the Chilkoot Indian Association Tribal Council and was a supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
He was born in Skagway on Nov. 11, 1933 to Paul Wilson Sr. of Klukwan and Nancy Dennis Wilson of Chilkoot. His father worked on the railroad and fished commercially. He was raised in Skagway and in Haines. He enlisted in the Army in 1953 and son Duane Wilson says “was on his way to Korea when the war ended.” He was a member of American Legion Post #13.
He married Marilyn R. Wright in Skagway in 1956. The couple raised their family in Haines where Wilson worked as a longshoreman and fished the Averill Jeanne. He was also an ironworker, and worked in Valdez on the Trans-Alaska pipeline.
Wilson served several terms as president of ANB Camp # 5 and as ANB convention delegate. Haines ANB President Ray Dennis said Wilson joined during the struggles for Native land claims. He will remember him most for his generosity. “He often gave away things that he needed, like the last of his personal foods, the fish his sons prepared for him. That’s the way he was,” Dennis said.
Sonny Williams said you never left Wilson’s hungry. “Paul would make sure you ate with him, even if it was just pie or some fish,” he said.
Wilson was an advocate for sobriety, and a member of North Tide, an alcohol and drug free dance group organized by Wayne Price. He brought his grandchildren to the practices and performed at a Road Recovery youth concert at the Chilkat Center.
“We were always honored by his presence. The loss of every elder is a loss to all of us,” Price said, adding that he’ll miss talking hunting with Wilson. “We had fun telling mountain goat stories, I really enjoyed his company, he had a good sense of humor and nice things to say.”
In addition to his wife Marilyn, four siblings, Richard Wilson, Fred Wilson, Florence Wilson Wright and Dorothy Wilson Jackson survive him, as do children Stanley Wilson, Paul Kelly Wilson, LaVerne Bryant and Duane Wilson, and grandchildren Aaron, James, Joshua, Savanna, Bradley, and Saldie Wilson, and Lee Bryant, Mary Bryant Jones, and Polly Bryant. A son, Bradley Vincent Wilson precedes him in death.
Wilson’s funeral was Nov. 3 at Haines ANB Hall. A 40-day party will be Dec. 13. – Heather Lende, Chilkat Valley News