Roy Ewan represented Ahtna people in ANCSA negotiations

Roy Ewan grew up in the subsistence tradition of the Ahtna people, represented them in land claims negotiations, and went on to receive much recognition for his quiet leadership of Athna Inc. and the Alaska Federation of Natives, all while abiding by the traditions of his people.

Born Feb. 25, 1935 on the banks of Copper River in Kluti-Kaah, Alaska, he passed away on Feb. 20 at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, surrounded by family and friends.

His passing was honored on Feb. 25, which would have been his 83 birthday, with funeral services in Glennallen and, following burial at the Gulkana Village Cemetery, a dinner and potlach at the Kluti-Kaah hall in Gulkana.

His final message, said those with him, was to love one another, work together, and always take care if each other.

“Roy’s heart was always for the people,” said Nick Jackson, chairman of the Ahtna Inc. board of directors. “Roy was orphaned at a young age and sent away, but he later returned to become a respected and beloved leader of the Ahtna people.”

“He was there early, and he stuck with the effort all the way through and helped implement his region, getting it up and running,” said Emil Notti, of Anchorage, who served as a major force in achieving the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and was the first president of the Alaska Federation of Natives. “He advocated right up until he could not do it anymore.”


“He was dedicated; he wasn’t there for himself,” said Marlene Johnson, of Hoonah and Juneau, and the Raven Moiety, T’akdeintaan Clan, Taax Hit.

“He was there for his community and the area and for future generations and to protect the land,” said Johnson, another prominent figure in the land claims movement who went on to serve on the Sealaska Corp. board of directors and Sealaska Heritage Institute.

“He worked for what we thought was best for our communities. He was so respectful of the elders. I learned from him,” said Johnson, a friend of over 50 years.

Evan was the son if the late Jessie Charley of the Udzisyu clan, and the late Estaco Ewan of the Talsiine clan.

After graduating from high school, Ewan served in the U.S. Army. Upon his return home, he was selected for leadership by his elders, and became president of Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp 31.

He represented the Ahtna people at AFN meetings and then, when the regional Native corporations were formed, as president and chief executive officer of Ahtna Inc.

He also served as co-chair of AFN and received the prestigious AFN Citizen of the Year award, as well as the First Alaskans Institute’s Howard Rock award for his leadership. Rock, an artist and journalist, founded the Tundra Times, the statewide Alaska Native press, which was also instrumental in the land claims movement. He served on the boards of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, Alaska Native Heritage Center, Resource Development Council. He was also a past co-chair of the Southcentral Subsistence Advisory Council, president of the Gulkana Village Council and honorary elder director of the Copper River Native Association.

Ewan was an avid reader of everything from autobiographies to business books and articles on local, state and national politics. He also enjoyed team sports and working on the fishwheel.  His freezers were always filed with traditional foods he gathered as a hunter and fisherman. He advocated for statewide hunting and fishing rights for all Alaska Natives.

Ewan is survived by his wife of 60 years, G. Glenda Ewan; their daughter, Jacqueline and son-in-law, Patrick Johnny, and grandchildren, Roy Shane and Adrian Ewan, and Ryan and Jolenda Johnny; and great-granddaughter, Tre-ann Ewan; brother, Wilbur Joe, and wife, Marilyn; first cousin, Robert Marshall; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.