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Barbara Johnson is Tlingit and was born on January 12, 1937 in Petersburg, Alaska. Her mother died when she was 6 months old, and her grandmother, Maggie John, raised her in Yakutat, Alaska. Her grandmother was a midwife and inspired Barbara's interest in healthcare. Barbara attended the Catholic Mission school in Skagway and Mount Edgecumbe school in Sitka. She met her husband when working at the Hood Bay Cannery and moved to Angoon with him in 1960. She became a volunteer health aide in the village, and in 1968 started to get paid when the Community Health Aide Program (CHAP) was established and provided a salary. She and Jessie Jim worked closely together for twenty years. Barbara moved back to Yakutat in 1988 to be closer to family, was hired as the health aide, and retired in October 2005.