Bern Will Brown was born in Rochester, New York in 1920 and came north in 1948 as a priest with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. In his first fourteen years in the north, he worked in a variety of locations, including Fort Norman (Tulita); Fort Franklin (Deline); Goldfields, Saskatchewan; Fort Chipewyan, Alberta; Aklavik; Fort McMurray, Alberta; and Nahanni Butte.
In 1962 Father Brown was sent to Colville Lake, only a short distance north of the Arctic Circle, in the traditional homeland of the Hareskin (North Slavey) Dene. On the shore of the lake he planned and built a log church, “Our Lady of the Snows”, in what was soon a growing community of log buildings. In 1971, he left the priesthood and married Margaret Steen of Inuvik; the couple remained in Colville Lake and continued to be active members of the community.
In addition to his regular duties, Father Brown performed routine medical work and dentistry and has been a fire warden, dogcatcher, storekeeper, postmaster, and newspaper editor. He was also a prolific artist, creating many paintings and photographs, and published five books. Bern and Margaret Brown built and operated the Colville Lake Lodge as well as a small museum and art gallery.
Bern Will Brown died on July 4, 2014 at the age of 94.