Elsie (Hanson) Wilson as a Young Lady

Elsie's maiden name was Hanson. Her parents were Louie and Mary Hanson of Hoonah.

Elsie was born to Mary and Louie Hanson in Hoonah, Alaska where she was raised. Elsie was born April 15, 1902 and was promoted to glory August 1, 1973. Her mother belonged to the Kach.adi, Land Otter clan. Her father was a clan leader of the Wooshkeetaan, Shark clan of Hoonah. Louie was also a peace dancer, what is known as a Guwakan (deer). Louie’s peace dancer name was Dei Yeek Guwakan (On the Deer Trail). On Louie’s grave, on Pitt Island in Hoonah, the head stone is a wolf head with it’s tongue hanging out, this is known as Kaw Wa Shagee Gooch (A Tired Wolf), a Wooshkeetaan emblem. A shark totem also stands over his grave.

Elsie had two brothers, the oldest was Robert Hanson and Albert was the youngest. Elsie’s maternal grandparents were clan leaders from Kake. When Elsie grew older, she married George Williams from Kake, Alaska.  Together they had a daughter, Emily (Williams) Bezezekof. While Elsie was married to George, he had a 64-foot boat that he used as a cash buyer and bought fish for the cold storage. The name of the boat was the Southern and caught fire when Hoonah burned down in 1944.

George Williams would take a break from being a fish buyer and help his father-in-law Louie Hanson work on smoking fish and meat. One time they shot a bear for the smoke house. They found out the bear had a little cub. Elsie stopped them from killing the cub, took it home and raised it. The cub went everywhere with her, walking with her through town and anywhere she went. When it got too big, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game felt that the bear became a danger to keep and took the bear away. They sent the bear to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington.

The marriage to George Williams did not last and Elsie later married Bill J. Wilson of Hoonah. Together they had five more children, Bill Jr., Starina, Barbara, Nina and Harlena. Elsie’s Tlingit name was Shu Wu. Her Kake family were all clan leaders, so she was given a clan name. Elsie loved her culture and she was very active in clan activities. She knew a lot of clan stories that she was happy to share. She also knew many Tlingit songs and was always asked to help teach and would teach songs often and help with leading songs at events and gatherings.

Elsie attended the Russian Orthodox church because her husband was Orthodox. She also attended and helped the Salvation Army because her parents were members of the Salvation Army. She would always bake for the after-church get together. She also shared with people jarred and canned foods that she preserved. Elsie worked in the fish cannery in Hoonah and her husband Bill Wilson was a boat captain for that cannery.

Elsie Wilson