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Gertrude M. Wolfe

Photo of Gertrude M. Wolfe
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Categories: 2014 Alumnae, Education, Health Care

Biography

A life-long Alaskan, Gertrude Wolfe worked tirelessly for the betterment of the people of Hoonah and for all Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. She was a certified village health aide, member of the Hoonah School Board, active with her local chapter and the statewide Alaska Native Sisterhood, and a member of the boards of local and regional Native health corporations. With each activity, Wolfe held top leadership positions. With the Alaska Native Sisterhood, she served as grand president. Wolfe was instrumental in starting the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in 1975, a vital, nonprofit tribal health organization of 18 communities serving Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. The organization promotes healthy lifestyles, has a traditional foods program, and provides health services today.

Hoonah, 40 air miles west of Juneau, is only accessible by boat or plane. Most of the 750 residents engage in commercial fishing and some logging, but must rely heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing for their livelihoods. More than half of the community’s population is Tlingit. The “village by the cliff” was founded in 1880. The first cannery opened in the town in 1912. In 1944 a fire destroyed much of the town. Wolfe came to the rebuilt community with her husband Wilfred “Bill” Wolfe Sr.  She started working as a health aide in 1954, before there was an organized program, and when a program was initiated Wolfe was one of the first in the state certified. Wolfe was a leader as Federal Indian policies changed and the Southeast Native people fought for their land, improved education and medical care.

Wolfe was born in Sitka and was a member of the Coho Clan. When she retired after 34 years as a Certified Health Aide Provider in Hoonah in 1988, a wing of the Hoonah medical center was dedicated as the Trudy Wolfe Clinic. After her formal retirement Wolfe continued her many civic activities in Hoonah, Sitka and Juneau. The Alaska Legislature passed a proclamation honoring her in 2007 and that same year she was inducted into the Sheldon Jackson Hall of Fame. A wife, mother of six of her own children and foster mother to a number of others through the years, health care provider, midwife and community activist, Wolfe is a role model for many women. Marlene Johnson, colleague and long-time friend, describes Wolfe as a hardworking, common-sense person, concluding: “Trudy had a commitment to young people, education and health. I don’t know how you can get much better than that.” Johnson noted that on more than one occasion when there was a community potluck Wolfe would bring eight dishes — hers, her husband’s and one for each of her six children.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/VoGF669NIbg