RIP Bern Will Brown

I just received this news in my Dundurn Authors newsletter. I came across Bern Will Brown and his work during my time in the North and my research for Polar Winds the past few years. A fascinating man and life, and I imagine a really interesting book.


We are saddened by the loss of Bern Will Brown, author of many titles including his most recent work, End-of-Earth People. We celebrate the wonderful, long, hardworking life that he lived. Born in New York in 1920, he began his journey towards a life devoted to the service of others. Bern faithfully served the diocese in the Canadian North as a Roman Catholic priest for over thirty years, establishing missions and building log churches, residences, and auxiliary buildings.

In 1971, Bern applied to leave the priesthood when he fell in love with Margaret Steen, an Inuit woman from Inuvik, but they remained in the North to work closely with the people and communities established there. After their marriage, the couple settled permanently in Colville Lake, Northwest Territories, where they established several long-lasting business ventures and community development opportunities.

Bern’s life in the North was an active one. He was a man of many talents and vocations. He served northern communities not only as a priest and builder, but also as a carpenter, pilot, trapper, artist, author, and photographer.

End-of-Earth People is a testament to Bern’s work in the North and his devotion to the Sahtu Dene and Métis peoples. In this record he shares insights, investigations, and reflections that span the history of these northern communities. He explores and highlights their religious experiences and customs, their language, their traditions of living off the land, their crafts and recreation, and the challenges they face from day to day. Started in 1948 and completed in 2013, this book is the work of Bern’s lifetime. It shares historical data, reminiscences, and wisdom gained from over sixty years spent living this wonderful traditional way of life.

We remember this devoted community leader who passed away on July 4, 2014 at the age of 94.

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