JANUARY 31, 2004

AHTNA TRADITIONAL CHIEF HARRY JOHNS, SR. DIED

Born November 9, 1909, on the Klutina Lake Trail, Johns began working at age 9 hauling water.  In 1929, he joined the Territorial Railroad Commission and retired in 1975 from the Alaska Dept. of Highways.  He personally received a placque from the governor for 45+ years of service.  From 1975-85, Johns served as a paralegal for Alaska Legal Services.  In 1954, Harry presided over the 1st meeting of the Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp at Copper Center.  In 1966, the State restricted a subsistence fishery without consulting the Ahtna.  Johns asserted that the State had acted arbitrarily and, in protest, the Ahtna would fish in defiance.  The State backed down.  This action served as a guide in 1978 when the State tried this again and again backed down.  In 1991, Johns was chosen as Ahtna Region Traditional Chief.  An advocate for his community, he bought phones auctioned by the Alaska Road Commission and had them installed through the entire village.  He did the same for electricity and water wells. 

Sources:  “Harry Johns, Sr.,” Project Jukebox: Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Retrieved 6/28/2020, https://jukebox.uaf.edu/site7/p/707 Bill Simeone, “Government to Ahtna in 1898: Assimilate or Be Removed,” Ahtna Kanas, 1/2017.  Retrieved 6/28/2020, https://www.ahtna.com/government-to-ahtna-in-1898-assimilate-or-be-removed/
Photo:  Karen Brewster.  Courtesy of Project Jukebox, University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Source: https://jukebox.uaf.edu/site7/p/707