The Southeast Alaska Native community is mourning the loss of a cultural leader. Marge Byrd, 81, died on July 24. Services were held at St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church Saturday.
Byrd was deeply involved in Wrangell’s Native community. Long-time friend, Tis Peterman, credits Byrd with helping to bring back Tlingit culture.
“She celebrated her culture very proudly, and when I was growing up in Wrangell, I remember her in the ‘60s on the Fourth of July parade being the only one in regalia,” said Peterman. “And, it wasn’t very cool to be Native back then. She brought up all of her kids that way too. They all drum and sing. They all know the songs, even the little ones.”
Byrd was instrumental in the renovation of Wrangell’s Chief Shakes Tribal House, which re-opened in 2012. The Wrangell non-profit, Alaska Native Sisterhood Association, spearheaded that project. Byrd was one of the founding members.
“It was a project we were all very proud of. I think she was very proud to show it off, especially during rededication. Her handprint is one of the ones on the four corner posts,” said Peterman.
She was also heavily involved in the Alaska Native Sisterhood, Wrangell Cooperative Association, and was the matriarch of Stikine Kiks. Adi Clan and led Wrangell’s Shx’ at’ Kwa’an dancers.
Byrd’s mother, Louise Bradley, a Tlingit song leader and dancer passed down those traditions to her. Byrd was the youngest of eight children.
Byrd is survived by her sister, Hankie Hoyt and her five children, Lee, Louise and Sandra Byrd, Katherine George and Ethel Lane. She is also survived by several grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Her parents were Louise and James Bradley.