Chickaloon storyteller and activist remembered

Courtesy of CIRI Shareholder Lisa Wade.
Courtesy of CIRI Shareholder Lisa Wade.

Family and friends gathered Sunday, Aug. 24, at the Ya Ne Dah Ah School in Chickaloon, Alaska, to celebrate the life of CIRI shareholder Patricia Mae Wade, a member of the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council and an Ahtna Athabascan storyteller, mother, writer and activist, who passed away in Seattle, Wash., on July 31, at the age of 69, while visiting her son Dimi Macheras and adopted daughter Kelly Wooster.

Patricia Wade was a fixture in school classrooms in Chickaloon and Anchorage, and throughout the Mat-Su Valley, sharing Alaska Native culture through storytelling.

After working for the Tribe for several years beginning in 1995, it became clear to Wade that Ahtna history and storytelling was a disappearing craft in the Matanuska-Susitna area. To share the Ahtna history and cultural stories with others, Patricia enlisted her son’s artistic talent to illustrate several legends.

Patricia began taking the presentations into the schools and community and their new blend of talents combined the old ways of storytelling with modern technology to add a new dimension of excitement. “She made it okay to be Alaska Native in the school system,” said niece and CIRI shareholder Lisa Wade in a Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman article.

On a recent trip to Chickaloon, CIRI employees were treated to the fruits of Patricia’s efforts when a classroom full of students eagerly shared the songs she had taught them. They sang in Ahtna and danced, displaying the pride in their culture they’d learned from Patricia.

“She taught them self-esteem,” Lisa Wade said. “She was a champion for everyone.”

Patricia Wade was born in Palmer on Aug. 17, 1945, to Richard Wade and culture bearer Katherine Wickersham Wade, who started the Ya Ne Dah Ah School in 1992. After graduating from Palmer High School, Patricia explored several careers, including working as a secretary, a business owner, a writer, a musician and a storyteller. She worked for the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council as editor of The Chickaloon News.