Chief Franklin Madros Sr. was a man of many hats and much wisdom who brought experience, enthusiasm and expertise in a number of areas to Kaltag and all of Alaska. Born on March 28, 1920, he was a family man who raised ten children, had 24 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren at the time of his passing on July 29, 2006. He was a musician and a storyteller who knew the oral histories of his people.
As the first Mayor of Kaltag he had ball fields and airfields built. He was instrumental in getting water and sewer to Kaltag and helped bring the community its first telephone. As a member of the group that Incorporated Tanana Chiefs Conference, he worked to stop the Rampart dam project and has helped shape TCC policy since. Chief Franklin Madros Sr. lived to be 86 years old.
Franklin was born to Dinah and Jack Madros in March 28, 1920 in Kaltag. He has spent all of his life in the village, always working to make it a better place to live. He started attending school in 1926 and completed the 6th grade, which was the highest grade in school at that time. He quit school several times to help his dad carry mail by dog team from Nulato to Old Woman.
In 1949, Chief Madros married Anna A. Ruben in Nulato; they had to travel by boat to their own wedding because Nulato was the only place there was a priest to marry them. Together, they had ten children and two others who died in infancy. His children are John Madros, Shirley Notti, Franklin “Tubby” Jr., Judy Demoski, Marvin, Bernard (deceased), Beverly Madros, Marlene Benjamin, Tony (deceased) and Bennett. Franklin’s other children include daughters Franklene, Lisa and his son Tracy Hailey. He has 24 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Chief Madros’ wife Anna died in 1974, while many of their children were still young. Through the hardship of losing his wife, Franklin still continued to serve his people by traveling throughout Alaska to advocate for Kaltag and Interior Alaska.
When he was 18 years old, he traveled to Fairbanks to work on the railroad. He said he was the only Alaska Native working on this particular crew; he worked this job for a couple of years. He then served in the Army in from 1942-46. For the last six months of his hitch he served in the Air Corps. After being honorably discharged, he worked several seasonal jobs, but his primary means was living a subsistence life style. He worked on the Steamer Nenana for a couple of summers traveling from Nenana to Marshall and back. He also worked construction in Galena and Unalakleet. In addition, he worked in a cannery in Bristol Bay for 12 years. Franklin also spent time firefighting and served as a crew boss before moving on.
In the 1960’s, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) Incorporated and one of its first tasks was opposition of the Rampart Dam. TCC was one of the first Native Organizations at the time to discuss land issues and their impact on Alaska Native’s.
TCC’s first meetings were held in a little church on 1st Avenue in Fairbanks near the old NC Company. In some of their first meetings there were two University of Alaska students who attended; these two were John Sackett and Willie Hensley, both later served in the State Legislature. Franklin has attended all TCC Annual Conventions since since TCC’s formation in the 60’s, sometimes paying his own way to listen and to see old friends. He has served on the Executive Boards for TCC and the Interior Regional Housing Authority (IRHA). He was also the TCC Representative for RurAlcap for several years. He was on the Gana A Yoo Limited Board for several years recently chaired the local school board.
Franklin Madros Sr. was the Traditional Chief of Kaltag for 4 years and prior to that served as the 1st chief. During this time, he brought two housing groups to Kaltag, IRHA and Alaska Housing. Both of these organizations helped to build homes that are still being used today.
Kaltag was one of the first in the region to get water and sewer while he was Chief. He was instrumental in establishing the Co-op Store, which is still open for business, and bringing the first telephones to the area.
When Alaska became a state, Franklin was elected the first Mayor of Kaltag. One of his first duties as Mayor was to write a grant to obtain a D-4 catepillar. The D-4 was obtained and was used to make a softball field and to extend the airfield. He said he had to ask the priest and the teachers to help him understand the grants because he wanted to understand them before he presented them to the people of Kaltag.
As a young man, Franklin started singing Native songs. He learned songs from Missourie Stanley and his uncle Alexie Pitka. He also learned how to play the guitar and sing country and western music and has played yearly at the Athabascan Fiddlers Festival. He was picked as the Doyon Elder of the year in 1993. He is a very traditional man who knows the stories of the Koyukon Athabascan and a Native singer who knows the songs of the Koyukon people.
Through family, music, hard work and with his tireless energy to make Kaltag, and Interior Alaska a better place, up until his passing, Chief Franklin Madros Sr. was a man who has served the land and his people well.