Athabaskan elder Doris Charles dead at age 99

Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Doris Charles, an Athabaskan elder who helped Katie John in her fight for subsistence rights, has died.

Charles died Monday at the Pioneers' Home in Fairbanks. Although her birth date was not definitely known, it is believed she was 99.

Charles was born in Batzulnetas on the Copper River, where she was raised by her grandmother. In 1915, she lived at St. Timothy's Church Mission in Tanacross for two years before marrying Peter Charles.

According to family members, Doris Charles lived a subsistence lifestyle. She trapped, hunted, fished and picked berries. She had her own dog team until the late 1960s.

Katie John was her childhood friend. In 1990, the Alaska Board of Fisheries denied a request from the two women to set up a subsistence fish camp on the Copper River.

The two women joined with others and sued. The ruling in the case established that the federal government had authority on most waters in Alaska to ensure subsistence rights for rural residents.

''There is a big void left in our lives by the passing of Doris Charles. Because of her loving audience, we are who we are,'' the family said in a statement.



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