Alaska Lions District 49 History

lionslogoyukonA HISTORY OF

Inspired by an MD49 History published 3/1987 by
PIDs Bill Russel & Bud Sweet

alaskaAlaska is a state in the United States, situated in the northwest extremity of the North American Continent, with the international boundary with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait. Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area, the 4th least populous and the least densely populated of the 50 United States. Approximately half of Alaska’s 731,449* residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area

The name Alaska was already introduced in the Russian colonial period, when it was used only for the peninsula and is derived from the Aleut meaning the mainland or, more literally, the object towards which the action of the sea is directed. It is also known as Alyeska the great land, an Aleut word derived from the same root.

Alaska has a longer coastline than all the other U.S. states combined. It is the only non-contiguous U.S. state on continental North America; about 500 miles 800km of British Columbia Canada separates Alaska from Washington State. Alaska is thus an exclave of the United States, possibly the largest exclave in the world. It is technically part of the continental U.S., but is often not included in colloquial use; Alaska is not part of the contiguous U.S., often called the lower 48. The capital city, Juneau, is situated on the mainland of the North American continent, but is not connected by road to the rest of the North American highway system.

The state is bordered by the Yukon Territory and British Columbia in Canada, to the east, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south, the Bering Sea, Bering Strait, and Chukchi Sea to the west and the Arctic Ocean to the north. Alaska’s territorial waters touch Russia’s territorial waters in the Bering Strait, as the Russian Big Diomede Island and Alaskan Little Diomede Island are only 3 miles 4.8 km apart. With the extension of the Aleutian islands into the eastern hemisphere, it is technically both the westernmost and easternmost state in the United States, as well as also being the northernmost.

Alaska is the largest state in the United States in land area at 586,412 square miles 1,518,800 km, over twice the size of Texas, the next largest state. Alaska is larger than all but 18 sovereign countries. Counting territorial waters, Alaska is larger than the combined area of the next three largest states: Texas, California and Montana. It is also larger than the combined area of the 22 smallest U.S. states.

In 1944-45, Alaska separated from District 19 to become District 49 provisional. In 1944 the Seattle Lions came back and sponsored the Anchorage Club, followed in rapid order by Seward, Fairbanks, Juneau and Ketchikan. A club was organized in Sitka in 1948, followed by Spenard and Mt. McKinley in 1950. In 1950-51, the Yukon Territories, Canada became a part of District 49; District 49 officially became an international district in 19581 when the Whitehorse Club was chartered in Canada. In that same year the Douglas Club joined the district.


yukonregionYukon is the westernmost and smallest of Canada’s three federal territories.

The territory was created from the rump of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s North-Western Territory in 1898. Receiving royal assent on March 27, 2002, the federal government modernized the Yukon Act to confirm Yukon, rather than Yukon Territory, as the current usage standard. Though officially bilingual English and French, the Yukon Government also recognizes First Nations languages.

At 5,959 m 19,551 ft, Yukon’s Mount Logan, in Kluane National Park and Reserve, is the highest mountain in Canada and the second-highest of North 
America after Denali in the U.S. state of Alaska. The territory’s climate is Arctic in the north, north of Old Crow, subarctic in the central region, between north of 
Whitehorse and Old Crow, and has a humid continental climate in the far south, south of Whitehorse and in areas close to the BC border.

The territory is the approximate shape of a right triangle, bordering the U.S. state of Alaska to the west for 1,210 km, 752 mi mostly along longitude 141̊ W, the Northwest Territories to the east and British Columbia to the south. Its northern coast is on the 
Beaufort Sea. Its ragged eastern boundary mostly follows the divide between the Yukon Basin and the Mackenzie River drainage basin to the east in the Mackenzie mountains. Whitehorse is the territorial capital.

Canada’s highest point, Mount Logan 5,959m/19551 ft, is the territory’s southwest. Mount Logan and a large part of the Yukon’s southwest are in Kluane National Park and Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other national parks include Ivvavik National Park and Vuntut National Park in the north.

The capital, Whitehorse, is also the largest city, with about two-thirds of the population; the second largest is Dawson City pop 1,327, which was the capital until 1952.

Growth was rapid over the next few years with the chartering of Fairbanks Midnight Sun, Delta, North Pole, Fairbanks College, and Mountainview in Anchorage. District 49 was still a Provisional district, with Lions Clubs International appointing our district governor. LCI challenged us to become a full fledge district with twenty 20 clubs and one thousand 1,000.

The LCI challenge was met in 1959-60. Don Berry was the first elected District Governor as a fully fledged International District. Watson Lake in Canada and Valdez Alaska were chartered in 1960. Eight years of rapid growth followed and by 1968, fifty-two 52 clubs had been chartered.

British Columbia Stitkine Region

stikineregionThe Stikine Region is an unincorporated area in north westernmost British Columbia, Canada and is the only area in B.C. not in a regional district. The Stikine Region was left unincorporated following legislation that established the providence’s regional districts in 1968 and is not classified as a regional district, and contains no municipal governments which normally constitute the majority of seats on the boards of regional districts. There is only one local planning area, the Atlin Community Planning Area, which was combined in 2009 with the Atlin Community Improvement District to provide fire, landfill, water, street lighting, sidewalks and advisory land use services. All other services not provided privately are administered directly by various provincial government ministries. The area around Dease Lake, formerly in the Stikine Region, is now within the boundaries of the Regional District of Kitmat-Stikine.

The Stikine Region has a total population of 1,352 2004 est. including 282 First Nations persons, most from the Taku Tlingit of Atlin and Teslin, British Columbia, and some reserves of the Kaska Dena Council, reserves and band governments are outside the jurisdiction of the provincial government and of the Stikine Region as an administrative body. The 2006 census count was 1,109 persons. It has an area of 132,496.2 sq. kilometers 51,157.07 sq. mi. Its 1 person per 100km makes it the least densely inhabited census division in British Columbia and least densely inhabited census division in Canada.

Most of the Stikine Region, the boundaries of which reflect modern-era administrative realities, is composed of areas not part of the historical or geographical Stikine Country and the related Stikine Mining District but which were part of the Stikine Territory. These were the Atlin District and some of the Cassiar Mining Districts, as well as some of the Liard basin, plus the basin of the Tatshenshini-Alsekin the BC panhandle west of Skagway and north of Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park.

Growth continued through the ‘60’s until it became apparent with the vast distance and time involved, one district governor could not five the needed service to the District.

inuvikregionInuvik Region, Northwest Territories

The Inuvik Region in relations to the Northwest Territories. The Inuvik Region is one of five administrative regions in the Northwest Territories. The region consists of eight communities with the regional office situated in Inuvik. Most of the communities are in the Beaufort Sea area and are a mixture of Inuit Inuvialuit and First Nations mostly Gwich’in.
The Inuvik Region administrative entity includes the following communities.


Community Name Population Community Name Population
Aklavik 594 Sachs Harbour 122
Fort McPherson 761 Tsiigehtchic 175
Inuvik 3,484 Toktoyaktuk 870
Paulatuk 294 Ulukhaktok 398

LCI issued a challenge that if we had seventy 70 clubs and two thousand 2,000 members, we could become a multiple district w/35 clubs per district.

We met the challenge in 1970. The new organization was to become Multiple District 49, with two sub-districts 49A and 49B, with each having their own Governors and other officers to serve their District.

yukonIn 1970-71, District 49 divided into District 49-A Aurora; which is comprised of that portion of Alaska, south of the 62nd parallel Susitna River, near Trapper Creek, to include the southeast and west through the Aleutian Islands. This geographic area represents approximately 229,727 square miles and currently approximately 575,049 residents. It was comprised of 35 clubs and 1069 members; and District 49-B Borealis comprised of the remaining portions of Alaska, Yukon Territory, the northern portion of Northwest Territories shared with MD37 and the northern portion of British Columbia shared with MD19. This geographic area represents approximately 1,092,920 square miles and currently approximately 184,498 residents. It was initially comprised of 38 clubs and 1068 members. The manner in which the split was made was primarily based on an even split of members and clubs. In turn Multiple District 49 was formed with its Council of Governors to govern the body.

MD49 pinnacle in terms of total clubs was in 1986-87 with 99 Lions Clubs, with 2,732 members; and in 2003-04 in terms of membership with 3,038 members in 86 Lions Clubs.


Attached you will find the cumulative historical data of MD49, D49A, D49B, and charts which portray the related trends

Throughout our Lions history in MD49, we have enjoyed periods of steady growth; however we were not immune to the affects of the economy, industry changes, and population booms.

  • Major events which have impacted the club and membership dynamics of MD4include:
  • Post WW II – fostered a new world and mobilized the populations and spurred the baby boom
  • Alaska became a state in 1959 and opened the gateway to the last frontier homesteads, by way of the WWII constructed Alaska-Canada Highway
  • From the early 1900s mining has always been a factor in population surges, but gold mining dwindled by the beginning of our MD49 history; Silver mining experienced a surge in the 60-70s, but was negatively impacted in the 80s. This impacted the Canadian clubs especially.
  • In the late 70s, the Alaska Native Settlement Act, created native corporations which eventually became a main source for serving native community needs by the 90s
  • In the 70s, Alaska also enjoyed the boom with the construction of the oil pipeline; after completing its construction in the 80s, migrant workers either left the state or went where the jobs were, primarily the Anchorage-Mat-Su Valley.
  • In 1987, women were openly invited to be part of the Lions, and many of the existing Lioness Clubs converted to Lions Clubs; as well as an overall increase in women membership. MD 49 leads LCI with nearly 41% women members.
  • The 70s & 80s brought a new sense of independence and free spirited lifestyles in the western cultures. This impacted the basic family unit. The number of single parent homes became the prevailing norm; which narrowed the amount of free time available for community service activities
  • The 80s & 90s, amongst the .com and techno-geeks fostered a thirst for wanting/getting instant information/pleasure, while adapting to a need for two-person incomes in each home.
  • Going into the 21st century, there is a renewed focus on the family and a desire to contribute to the community. This has impacted our average age 47 in contrast to the lower 48’s 60+
  • Generation X/Y are completely connected to the social media and left untapped. They, like many others, struggle with the idea of going to meetings…
  • The economy continues to fuel the conflict between the desire to be a community volunteer and paying dues to do so. We see decreases in membership during periods of recession, i.e., late 70s, early 80s, mid 90s and 2008-09, 2011
  • In our beginning, our Lions organizational was more a fraternal oriented organization doing community service. As of late, we are no longer fraternal and are more community service centric.

In the 90s, LCI imposed a new standard for a full fledged district, raising the bar to 1,250 members across 35 clubs. The new threshold is presumably based on an average administrative cost of a district.

Over the course of D49B’s history, the district has struggled under the new standard; primarily because the district demographics were changing at the same time, namely due to the oil pipeline completion and the down turn of silvering mining communities. Another factor is tied to the limited pool of governors willing and financially able to serve over 1M sq miles.

At the same time D49A experienced a major shift in population in the Anchorage-Mat-Su valley. The growth was relatively very fast and changed the character and way of life in the area. With so much attention given to the Anchorage –Mat-Su Valley area, the outlying areas have had to compete for the district’s attention and support, i.e. the last new club outside the area was Valdez in 2000, which was cancelled a year later.
From an administrative perspective, a couple of MD49’s challenges are:

  • Vast geographic area -1.3 million square miles, with 288 communities, most of which are rural native bush communities. Putting a Lions Club in a bush community drives a tremendous cost for the club and district officials to feel as and be a viable part of the association.
  • Bush community Lions Clubs expect their fair share of the Districts Governor’s attention, namely a club visit-not coming or sending a substitute is a slap in the fact. This creates a death spiral in terms of maintaining clubs in good standing.
  • Leadership is the be all – end all! How well MD49 thrives is directly proportionate to the availability. support and use of vibrant leaders. Members react positively to a deliberate vision that comes with structured actions. In contrast, members/clubs begin to wander from the association’s focus, purpose and ethics, without it. 
They also avoid multiple district and district activities when conflict prevails, i.e., amongst its past and present leaders, perceived politics, etc.
  • Our pool of leaders have dwindled over recent years, partly because we have reduced the number of intermediate leaders, i.e., region chairs, Lions seeking Region Chair positions get a chance to experience the election process, building their self confidence, as well as an opportunity to experience a greater span of responsibility, but not quite as large and involved as a district governor. Region Chairs have not been employed in either district since 2002-03.

To put things in perspective, over the period of 1953 to the present MD49 has had the following success and failures in terms of club extension and membership growth/losses:


Do we exist to serve LCI or our communities? That is a question which challenges us every day. As you look at our history, every time we have been challenged by LCI we embraced and met the challenge; and immediately paid the price with significant losses in clubs and members the following year. 
The losses foster political baggage district leaders have to overcome, of which flash in the pan successes and failures spur consternation, and adversely impact the dynamics of potential future leaders. In essence we have fostered mediocrity, and the leaders we want, want no part of that or the excessive scrutiny of pas leaders frowning upon them.

In 2011, MD49 recognized the crux of our underling issues stemmed from our deficit in leadership, not membership or club numbers. To that end, the MD embraced a 19 page policy which set out a series of leadership activities which would not only change the leadership culture in MD49, but increase the pool of willing leaders with the required skill set we need. It was agreed, it would take anywhere from 3-5 years to fully transition to this new way of doing business. However, there has been significant resistance to change, compounded by the brewing idea of redistricting, which has impeded many elements from being implemented.

One key element to the new leadership culture is the MD49 Lions Leadership Academy, piloted in 2012 in Fairbanks with 27 graduates; with the second scheduled for February 2013 in Anchorage, with 32 students. This has been the one significant success from the new leadership policy. Every graduate has walked away having a life changing experience, that has had positive impact in their profession, personal life and as a Lion.

Past Dignitaries: Over the span of our history, we have been honored to have six Lions serve as International Director: Don Berry – 1965-67; Ray Marley – -1977-79; Wm “Bill” Russell – 1985-87; Leon “Bud” Sweet – 1991-93; Buster Hall – 2000-2002; and Dr. Jeremiah Myers – 2008-10.

CONTINUED: Ready for future history.