Katie John Day bill passes House

Alaska’s House of Representatives has passed a bill to establish Katie John Day annually on May 31, a tribute to an Athabascan elder whose advocacy of Native rights made her a hero to people around the world.

“Katie John was an icon who devoted her life to convincing the public of the cultural importance of traditional fishing in her ancestral homeland,” said Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, sponsor of the companion bill in the House to Senate Bill 78, sponsored by Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks.

A consummate teacher, who lived in Mentasta, she was raised to live off the land by her mother, grandmother and other elders, and always eager to share her ancestral traditions, culture and history.

She passed away in May 2013 at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, at the age of 97. The community honored her by naming its K-12 school the Mentasta Lake Katie John School. Her fame as an advocate for Native rights stemmed from a series of lawsuits to ensure fishing rights for Native people on the waters within her traditional lands, when the state had closed the area to fishing.

“She was a skilled teacher and mentor who lived what she believed and inspired countless Alaskans,” Foster said. “I thank everyone in the House and Senate who supported Senate Bill 78, establishing Katie John Day, which ensures her legacy will continue for generations.

“Katie John was known for her determination and persistence in defense of Alaska Native customary and traditional hunting, fishing and gathering rights,” said Bishop, whose Senate district includes Mentasta. “She was a mentor to many Alaskans through her teachings, humor, gentle spirit and loving ways. She is an Alaska icon who devoted her life to protect the traditions of her ancestral homeland.”


SB 78 now heads back to the Senate, where a concurrence vote will be held on the addition of an immediate effective date made to the bill.

Then it heads to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s desk for his signature.