Poldine Carlo

Poldine Carlo (Koyukon Athabascan), December 5, 1920 – May 9, 2018

Founding Member/Elder Representative, served on the board for 50 years (1967-2017). Poldine, originally from Nulato, along with her husband Bill Carlo and friends Nick Grey and Ralph Perdue were the original founders and instrumental in the formation of Fairbanks Native Association and setting the stage to what has become an organization leading change in the community through service and legislation over the years. Her knowledge, wisdom, and persistence guided the creation and growth of Fairbanks Native Association.  When Poldine Carlo and her husband Bill first moved to Fairbanks, Alaska Natives didn’t have a meeting place to call their own.  “Even the people who didn’t drink had no place to go (In the 50’s and 60’s) except the bars,” said Poldine.  “We started inviting them over to our house.   For two or three winters, we had different village mushers (and their dogs) staying here in the woods behind our house.” That all changed after Poldine’s relative Ralph Perdue suggested to her that they start a Native organization in Fairbanks.  “I really didn’t have a vision of what (the organization) would look like”, Poldine said.  “I would never have thought (the organization) would go like it has been.”  What started as four or five people meeting around the Carlo kitchen table has grown into a multi-million dollar organization with forty different programs and a staff or over 200.  Poldine was involved with FNA through much of its growth as a Board Member and advocate.

Poldine was also an active member of the Denakkanaaga Board of Directors, the University of Alaska Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, and Alaska Native Education Advisory Board, North Start Borough Senior Citizens Commission, Alaska Bicentennial Commission Board, Aboriginal Senior Citizens of Alaska and many other organizations including the Koyukon Athabascan Singers.  She served as an elder/mentor during the World Eskimo Indian Olympics and was seen participating in every Doyon Limited Shareholder meeting until her passing.  Through her early demonstration of gathering people, Poldine continued to accept any opportunity to show support to those in times of need by volunteering her support.  For more than 15 years Poldine shared Athabascan traditions with children through a program of cultural enrichment in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

Awards and Honors Received:

  • 2001 UAF Honorary Doctorate of Law Degree
  • 2012 Hannah Paul Solomon “Woman of Courage” Award
  • 2015 BP Golden Citizens Chieftain Award
  • Poldine Carlo Building, FNA Head Start Building

Most recently, Poldine was selected to be one of four recipients of the Farthest North Girl Scout Council Women of Distinction Award.  The awards are based on a nominee’s accomplishments and their role as mentors for other women.  Award recipients are chosen because they have shared their expertise and resources with the community. 

The Athabascan tradition with which Poldine loved most is singing and dancing.  In 1994, Poldine was profiled for her singing in “Singing We Come: Shaping our Future Through Language and Song,” an Institute of American Indian Arts collection of stories about Native women singers and storytellers from throughout the United States.  Songs, said Poldine are “your feelings that you get out…as you start thinking the words just naturally come in place.”  For her this was no clearer than in the song she wrote for her late husband Bill.  Two years after Bill passed away, singing robins reminded Poldine of the times she and Bill had shared together.  Rather than being sad she decided to sing and the robins became a part of the love song she wrote to her beloved husband. 

Poldine was an accomplished author, with the publication of Nulato: An Indian Life on the Yukon.  This novel describes what life was like in the 1920’s and 1930’s growing up in the Athabascan way in the village of Nulato.  Poldine wrote this book to provide insight into the Athabascan way of life and share her culture with all.