Oldest tribal citizen dies at 96


February 2, 2023

Cecilia David

Cecilia David, a steadfast volunteer for the Alaska Native Sisterhood who also was the Chilkoot Indian Association's oldest tribal citizen, died Jan. 6 at Haines Assisted Living. She was 96.

Tribal administrator Harriet Brouillette said David attended the tribal office open house in December, arriving as dignified as she had been her entire life. "She was always well-dressed and beautiful. She would give you a big smile and always opened her arms."

Cecilia Beatrice David was born to Solomon and Sarah Dundas on March 1, 1926. She grew up in Metlakatla and attended the Sheldon Jackson School in Sitka, where she met Robert "Jeff" David.

They married when she was 17. After World War II, the family lived in Haines and other Southeast communities in the 1950s, including Sitka. They settled down in Haines, where Jeff worked as a fisherman and pile-driver and Cecilia raised their three children.

They were adopted into the Raven Sockeye clan by Austin Hammond, moving into a Front Street home two doors down from the Raven House.

Cecilia became involved with the ANS, serving in roles including as president, and volunteered as well for the American Legion Auxiliary. She sang in the Presbyterian Church choir, helped family members prepare fish, picked berries, knitted and enjoyed playing cards with friends. "They played canasta all night long," said son Jeff David Jr. of Haines.

Besides cheering for her husband's legendary basketball teams, she was a regular at bingo games, part of a group of friends that included Dorothy Willard, Margaret Thomas, Isabel Katzeek, Harriet Brouillette and Betty Ewing.

"She and my mother were very good friends," tribal administrator Brouillette said this week. "There was a whole crew of bingo buddies. They all had the same hair style and wore red lipstick. I think that generation of women were all like that. They all dressed nice."

Daughter Debra Fite of Juneau said that although her mother was Tsimshian from the other end of the Panhandle, she adjusted to her new surroundings and made lifelong friends. "She made Haines her home. I think she loved everybody and everybody loved her."

Deb Kemp said Cecilia was known as the honorary "mother" of the Haines ANS for her long service to the local camp.

Cecilia David is survived by sons Jeff David Jr. of Haines and Ted David of Juneau and by daughter Debra Fite of Juneau. She also is survived by grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and nephews and nieces in Alaska and the Lower 48.

A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for late July.

Donations in David's name can be made to the Haines ANS or to the American Legion Auxiliary.


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