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Marie Nash’s father was a Japanese-American, born in Hawaii, who came to Alaska to fish and met her mother in the Aleut village of Ugashik. When World War II broke out, her father was sent to an internment camp and her mother insisted that she belonged with him. That is where Nash was born. After the war, the now larger family returned to the small Bristol Bay village where the family resumed commercial set-net fishing. Because there was no school in Ugashik, Nash was taught by her parents using Calvert Correspondence School methods until she was eight. Then she was sent hundreds of miles away to the public school in Haines where she lived at a children’s home known as Haines House. The residence also housed orphans, wards of the state and other borders from small villages without schools. The cost of transportation and housing had to be borne by her family because the head of her household was not Native, therefore the Bureau of Indian Affairs would not pay.
In high school Nash lived with a doctor’s family in Haines serving as their babysitter to help offset the cost of her food and lodging. She returned home every summer to help with the catching and drying of fish, berry picking and with the vegetable garden.
Nash’s distinguished career in politics started at the University of Alaska where she was a member of Young Republicans and served as a campus tour guide for Howard Pollock during his campaign for Congress. After graduating, she traveled to Washington, D.C., where she worked in his office. Moving to Juneau she worked briefly for the very politically connected law firm of Banfield, Boochever & Dugan. She served as executive secretary to Gov. Jay Hammond, staff assistant to boards and commissions, and deputy commissioner of Community and Regional Affairs. She served as a staff assistant to Sen. Ted Stevens in his Washington office and was his state director in the Alaska Office. She retired after 29 years in October 2004.
Many organizations and committees benefitted from Nash’s commitment to public service. She is currently the secretary of the Japan Relief Fund of Alaska Foundation (JPRF) and vice president of the Japanese American Citizens League – Alaska Chapter. She was Chairman and President of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation. and board member for BBNC, director and secretary on the board of the First Alaskans Institute, a member of Ugashik Traditional Village Council Elders, treasurer of the Anchor Presbyterian Church and YWCA board member. She was a member of Anchorage’s Downtown Rotary Club, where she chaired the military committee and served on the scholarship committee. Nash also served as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Program.
In 1967 Nash was selected the University of Alaska Fairbanks Student of the Year, and in 2008 she received the UAF Alumni Achievement Award for Community Support from the UAF Alumni Association. The American Red Cross, Alaska Southcentral Chapter presented Nash with a plaque in appreciation of her fundraising efforts when the Red Cross purchased what is now known as the Ann Stevens Red Cross Building. Certificates of appreciation were presented to Nash from the U.S. Army Alaska for help with America’s Arctic Warriors; the Anchorage School District and the Gifted Mentorship Program for sharing time and talent with mentorship students (one Dimond High student still keeps in periodic touch with her from New York City where she lives and works) and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help with the severe winter storms and avalanches in Alaska.
Nash is known widely for her work as a public official (both in the state and federal governments) to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, Denali Commission, reparations related to Alaska Japanese-Americans and Alaska Native Americans incarcerated in relocation camps during WWII.
Nash serves as a role model for many of the former interns, both men and women, by becoming their friends, their second mothers and grandmothers to their own children, never forgetting a birthday or holiday wish. She shares with them her love of picking wild berries and making jam. “I have learned from Marie the secret in life is keeping in touch with your friends and sharing special moments together when you can,” Joy LeDoux Mendoza, former high school and college intern with U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens’ office.
Nash graduated in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Alaska. She is married and has one son.
Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/aUAjOyf2S80
Alaska’s Japanese Pioneers: Faces, Voices, Stories; copyrighted 1994 by Alaska’s Japanese Pioneers Research Project. Written by Ron Inouye, Carol Hoshiko and Kazumi Heshiki sponsored by the Alaska Historical Society ISBN 60 Pages
Marie Matsuno Nash has a very long and deep history of contributions to the people and communities of Alaska – both rural and urban – as a professional and volunteer with non-profits. Currently, Nash serves as the board secretary of the Japan Relief Fund of Alaska Foundation and has been instrumental in JPRF’s efforts to raise donations and awareness of the Great East Japan Earthquake /Tsunami that Japan experienced in 2011. Nash was born in the Minidoka Internment Camp in Idaho where her Aleut Mother and Japanese-American father, along with her older brother, were interned during World War II. After the war, her family returned to Ugashik, Alaska, her mother’s village. From the fourth grade she was schooled in Haines and returned home during the summer to commercial fish and assist in the food preservations for winter. These life experiences greatly influenced her advocacy and humanitarian work.
Her distinguished career in politics started at the University of Alaska when she met Howard Pollock during his campaign for Congress. After graduating, she worked for Pollock in his office in Washington, D.C. This was followed by working for Governor Hammond and Senator Stevens.
To quote her nominators Tony Nakazawa and Irene Rowan: “Nash is a truly genuine person who is committed to helping individuals in a crisis, serving at all levels, going above and beyond the norm in helping individuals and community organizations.” Joy LeDoux Mendoza, former high school and college intern for Senator Stevens, says Nash “served as my mentor then and currently as a second mother.” She remembers Nash for the home cooked meals she supplied to many interns and, “how she guided me gracefully to overcome the mistakes I made along the way.”
Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/aUAjOyf2S80