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Maranda Nelson was born in 1951 in the village of Blackburn (also known as Holikachuk) on the Yukon River. She came to Seward at age three, when her mother came for tuberculosis treatment at the local sanitorium. After her mother's death in a car crash, Maranda was raised by her aunt, Lucy Broughton, who worked for many years at Seward Fisheries. Although they lived in Seward, Maranda grew up living a semi-subsistence lifestyle, going trapping, hunting, and berry picking with Lucy. Maranda is a ceramicist and served seventeen years on the Qutekcak Tribal Council, Seward's Native tribal organization.