May 14, 1998


Born in 1912 in Kluckwan, near Haines, Alaska, Judson’s name meant “Big Fin.” Brown was one of the first from his village sent away to school where he learned to read & write in English. When Native Alaskans got the right to vote, to register, they had to recite the pledge of allegiance in English and be able to sign their names. Judson, still in high school, taught the village people how to mimic the pledge & sign their names. The 1st native graduate from an integrated Alaskan school (1929), he also was the 1st native mayor of an integrated city (Haines) in 1932. Brown also worked as a longshoreman. In 1977, he became director of the Sealaska Corp. (owned by the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian) before founding the Sealaska Foundation in 1987. In that role, he donated 2 Sitka Spruce logs used for the creation of the Hawaiʻiloa, a traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe, launched in 1993. In 1995, the canoe sailed from Seattle to Alaska, visiting native villages from Vancouver to Juneau. Brown died on May 14, 1997.

  “Judson Brown, Tlingit Elder,” Hawaiian Voyaging Traditions.  Retrieved 10/25/2021, Judson Brown, Tlingit Elder (
Carole Beers, “Judson Brown, Native Leader,” Seattle Times, 5/18/1997. Retrieved 10/25/2021,  Judson Brown, Native Leader | The Seattle Times
Photo:  Stan Shebs,3/2002. Permissive Use.