Rural Alaska

Poldine Carlo, noted Alaska Athabascan elder, dies at 97

Poldine Demoski Carlo, born on the Yukon River at Nulato in 1920, died this week after a half-century as an influential Alaska Native leader in the Fairbanks area. She was 97.

Carlo, one of four founders of the Fairbanks Native Association, "dedicated the past 51 years of her life" to the organization, according to a notice posted Wednesday. The nonprofit provides services in the Fairbanks area including behavioral health, language and educational programs.

"She will be sorely missed yet the contributions she made in her lifetime will never be forgotten," the association said. "Poldine would want you all to know that she lived a good life."

Carlo was raised by her grandparents, Joseph and Anna Stickman, "known as two of the most powerful medicine people living on the Yukon," according to a biography that accompanied a University of Alaska Fairbanks oral history project.

She married William Carlo in 1940, and they had eight children: William Jr., Kenny, Walter, Glenn, Dorothy, Lucy, Kathleen and Stewart, who died in 1975.

Carlo wrote a book, "Nulato: An Indian Life on the Yukon," and served on the Alaska Bicentennial Commission board and as a consultant for Tanana Chiefs Conference.

News of her death brought remembrances from elected officials including Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski — Murkowski called her "a culture bearer" — as well as the Tanana Chiefs and Episcopal Diocese of Alaska, which said people are still talking about an address she gave to the Episcopal House of Bishops last year. Others called her a mentor and second mother.


Carlo received several honors over the years, including an honorary doctorate of law degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Hannah Paul Solomon "Woman of Courage" award from the Alaska Federation of Natives, a BP Golden Citizen Chieftain honor and recognition as a Farthest North Girl Scout Council Woman of Distinction, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

A potlatch coordinated by numerous organizations was scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday at the Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall.

A service will be held Friday at Sacred Heart Cathedral before Carlo is flown to her home village of Nulato on Saturday in preparation for burial Monday, a Fairbanks Native Association spokesman said.

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at