The founder of the Fairbanks Native Association died peacefully Wednesday at the age of 97, the group announced Thursday.

Poldine Carlo’s passing leaves behind eight children from husband Bill Carlo, according to the association. The couple, who married in 1940, founded FNA – Interior Alaska’s first civil-rights organization – in 1967 along with Ralph Perdue and Nick Gray.

The group, originally formed to address inequalities faced by Alaska Natives, has expanded to offer community, education and behavioral health services with a staff of 250 people and annual revenue of over $18 million.

Carlo, who was born in 1920 in the village of Nulato, was raised there by her grandparents. She later wrote the book “Nulato: An Indian Life on the Yukon” and served as a founding member of Denakkanaaga, Inc., a non-profit group named after the Koyukon-Athabascan word for “our people speak,” which helps Native elders in the Doyon, Limited and Tanana Chiefs Conference regions pass on their cultures and traditions.

Carlo has received numerous honors and awards including the Alaska Federation of Natives’ Hannah Paul Solomon “Woman of Courage” award, as well as being named a Farthest North Girl Scout Council Woman of Distinction and receiving an honorary law doctorate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Steve Ginnis, the association’s executive director, remembered Carlo’s humility in Thursday’s statement.

“She was firm in her beliefs, but never boastful,” Ginnis said. “She believed in Native people, our language and culture and always inspired others to do the best they can. She would often get asked how she would describe herself, she would always reply, 'Language. Language is who I am.'”

A service for Carlo will be held Friday at 1 p.m. at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Fairbanks, followed by a 5 p.m. potlatch at the Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall. Her body will be taken to Nulato for a burial scheduled to occur at 1 p.m. Monday.

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