Who Was Morris

Morris ThompsonMorris Thompson 1939-2000

Morris Thompson, a Koyukon Athabascan, was born, raised, and is now laid to rest in Tanana, his Native home in Interior Alaska. The son of Warren Thompson from Indiana and Alice (Grant) Thompson from Tanana, he dedicated his life to Alaska issues and its peoples.

Morris was one of Alaska ‘s prominent business leaders. He was the youngest commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, held leadership positions in the Alaska Federation of Natives and Commonwealth North, as well as a cabinet position in the Hickel administration. In 1985, he took over the helm of Doyon, Limited, leading that corporation to become one of the most profitable and stable Alaska Native Corporations.

Native leader, corporate leader, political leader—he was all of these. But his essence was that of a family man, loving and always united with his wife, Thelma, their three daughters and grandchildren. “Big”, his nickname from an early age, will always be cherished by his family and friends.

Morris moved the world, from village to Washington, D.C. But he never forgot where he came from. He always referred to himself as “just another boy from Tanana.” He used his wit, values and wisdom to heal, unite and lead. His lifelong commitment to bringing all Alaskans together in progress and prosperity made him a true bridge between cultures.

His legacy inspired the plan for the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. It embodies a philosophy Morris held true—work together on commonalities and celebrate our diversity.


“In a land of large forests, a very Big tree has fallen. Nurtured with his powerful values, another will grow in its place.”

- Byron Mallott, friend and colleague,
from his eulogy at Morris Thompson’s memorial service in Fairbanks, February, 2000