May 31 is officially Katie John Day in Alaska
A senate bill establishing a day for Katie John is now law.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed Katie John Day into law Thursday, marking May 31 as the official day to celebrate John's legacy.
Katie John is a well-known Athabascan elder who made a big impact in Alaska and across the country.
John was an Ahtna Athabascan leader. She lived in Mentasta and was raised to live off the land by her mother, grandmother and other elders of her community. She later fought to protect the subsistence rights of Alaska Natives on federal lands and waters.
"Every great culture in the world is known by their traditional foods and the survival of a culture depends on the people's ability to gather those foods," Ahtna President Michelle Anderson said in a statement, "Katie fought for our right to access our traditional homelands because she knew that we need to be able to feed our families. It was a matter of cultural and human survival."
John also helped create the first written Ahtna alphabet and recorded pronunciation guides in her voice to help teach and preserve the language.
She passed away in 2013, but Gov. Dunleavy says her influence is still felt in Alaska.
"During her 97 years on this earth she bridged Alaska Native culture, with its traditional values and knowledge, and the western world, and in the process blazed the trail for the Alaska Natives to flourish in both worlds," Gov. Dunleavy said. "Katie John accomplished all of that while raising 14 children and six foster children. For those monumental achievements and many more, every May 31st will be remembered as Katie John Day.
Her family says Katie John Day was a long time coming for a woman who worked to save the Alaska Native way of life. For the signing, the room was packed with friends, family and Alaska officials remembering and celebrating Katie John.
John's youngest daughter Nora David says her mother was a good role model for her and her siblings.
"That's my mom. You know my mom, she was amazing," David said. "She taught us so much. She taught us how to give and how to take care of ourselves."
Robert John Jr. was adopted by Katie John and says she inspired him to live more off the land.
"She was an awesome person. She did beadwork, trapping, she did everything off the land. She raised me off the land, and I'm kinda hoping I can do that too," he said.
Katie John left behind approximately 250 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Her family says the bill signing is a day they will never forget.
The John family will be gathering Friday at the Mentasta City Hall to celebrate the first-ever Katie John Day, and they say anyone is welcome to join them. The celebration begins at 5 p.m.
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