Ethel Lund remembered as a health care trailblazer for Southeast Alaska Natives

Ethel Lund
Alaska Native Sisterhood Executive Committee Member Ethel Lund enters the Grand Camp meeting room with a procession at the beginning of the annual convention, Oct. 7, 2015. (Photo by Katarina Sostaric/KSTK)

The Alaska Native Sisterhood honored Ethel Aanwoogeex’ Lund as a champion for Native health care at a memorial service in Juneau on Friday. Lund died earlier this month at the age of 91.

Lund grew up in Wrangell, the daughter of a Lingít mother from a prominent family and a Swedish fisherman father.

In 1975, she used her clout as an ANS officer to help found the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, which grew into one of the largest Native-run health care organizations in the country.

“She had a great big heart for everybody,” said Marcelo Quinto, who first met Lund at a joint convention of the Alaska Native Sisterhood and Brotherhood.

“She was a smart gal. And she was determined for sure,” Quinto said. “She was probably one of the nicest people I ever met in my life. She was just a real lady.”

Quinto is 81, and most recently served with Lund on the Healing Hand Foundation board. He said they often shared stories about the difficulties of getting medical care when they were growing up.

Quinto believes the death of Lund’s mother from tuberculosis fueled her passion for health care.

Ethel Lund
Ethel Lund receives the Della Keats Healing Hands Award at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. The award goes to people who have played a role in bringing health care to indigenous communities. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

In a 2020 interview with KSTK Radio, Lund talked about her own battle with TB while she was in nursing school in Portland.

“Nowadays, you just have to take some pills once a week,” she said. “I had to stay in the hospital for a year and a half in bed. That really made me kind of angry.”

TB put an end to her schooling and other dreams. She also spoke about a boyfriend she had but could only see from her hospital window. It wasn’t long before the boyfriend fell in love and married someone else.

Lund eventually recovered, became a medical transcriber, got married and had three children.

In her later years, one of her passions was integrating traditional and modern medicine. Her grandfather would take her to the forest to teach her about the healing power of plants.

“The devil’s club,” she said. “That’s a magic plant to our people.”

Lund spent her last years at the Sitka Pioneer Home and talked about her hopes that a new generation of Alaska Native medical professionals would incorporate traditional healing into their work.

In 2020, she was named Grand President Emeritus of the Alaska Native Sisterhood. She also served as a founding member of the Sealaska board of directors and was executive vice president of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska.

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