Original CIRI shareholder and 2016 CIRI Elder of the Year award recipient Fiocla (Sacaloff) Wilson passed away Oct. 8 at Heritage Place continuing care facility in Soldotna, Alaska. She was 100.
Wilson was born June 30, 1916, in Old Town Kenai, Alaska. Growing up she attended the Eklutna Industrial School for Natives, where she learned skills like sewing and waitressing. In the book Our Stories, Our Lives, a publication of The CIRI Foundation, Wilson recounted being punished for speaking a language other than English. “I said something to another girl at school in Russian, and it was overheard, and we both had our mouths washed out with soap! That’s how strict they were,” she recalled.
As an adult, Wilson served as a Sunday school teacher, Cub Scout leader, volunteer librarian for the City of Kenai, member of the Kenai Senior Citizen Committee, member of the Homemakers Association and volunteer for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s youth programs and Elder services. While serving her community, Wilson raised six children and commercial fished with her late husband.
A respected Elder of Athabascan and Russian decent, at the time of her passing Wilson was the oldest living CIRI shareholder and the oldest member of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe. For her exemplary dedication to her Alaska Native culture, heritage and community, and through a lifetime of contributions that benefited Native peoples, Wilson was recognized as CIRI’s 2016 Elder of the Year. Her family accepted the award on her behalf at the CIRI and The CIRI Foundation’s Friendship Potlatch on Oct. 8, the day of her passing.
Wilson was preceded in death by her husband, Philip Wilson; and sons, Arnold and Philip Wilson. She is survived by her daughters, Joyce Williford, Phyllis (Jim) Bookey and Kathy (Carl) Rodgers; sons, Coby (Connie) Wilson, Phillip Wilson and Russell Wilson; 27 grandchildren; 21 great-grandchildren; and nine great-great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were held Oct. 15 at The Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church in Old Town Kenai.