Monday, August 29, 2011

Alaska Native Storyteller Speaks on Research at SHI

While SHI Special Collections receives many researchers, recently Ishmael Hope, author of the Alaska Native Storyteller Blog, has been spending some time researching archival collections at SHI. He has been writing about his research on land claims, civil rights, Tlingit culture, and the Alaska Native Brotherhood/Sisterhood. Below is a small but important post he made in mid-August 2011 relative to the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Cyril Zuboff. A number of his posts from this period document his research in SHI's collections.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a regional nonprofit serving the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.

This editorial by Cyril Zuboff was originally published in The Voice of the Brotherhood, a newsletter of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, in October, 1960. According to Cyril Zuboff’s (1892-1968) obituary in the Juneau Empire, he was born in Killisnoo, moved to Sitka as a small boy to attend the Russian Mission, and as an adult lived in Juneau. He was a member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, Camp No. 7 at Angoon, AK. He was an executive member and Grand President of ANB six times. His Tlingit name was Eech T’éi, and he belonged to the Dakhl’aweidí clan and the Keet Hít, the Killer Whale House, of Angoon (Thanks to Harold Jacobs for this information.).

I find this historical document important because Zuboff articulates very soundly how the Alaska Native Brothorhood was successful in integrating older and younger generations, and, like a great orator as his ancestors were and as he must have been, he powerfully combines a rational appeal and a historical perspective with an emotional appeal of Brotherhood solidarity.

Cyril Zuboff at the Wrangell ANB/ANS Convention in 1946. Photo by William Paul, Jr.

The financial standing of the Brotherhood is lower this year than it ever was in the past.

You may rightly ask, “Why?”

I can tell you the recent poor fishing seasons were not the cause. We’ve had hard times before, but the Brotherhood was always able to have money coming in from the camps. But the ANB was never so poor as it is today.

From our beginning 48 years ago we have always advocated giving our younger generation a chance to run the local camps because our founders realized that the youth of today would be our leaders of tomorrow. However, at the same time the “senior members” — men and women who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Brotherhood when the need came to send an ANB attorney to Washington, D.C.

How many of you recall the battles, dark days and victories of former years? Do you recall when we sent legal aid to the nation’s capital on the matter of fish trap abolishment; the Wheeler-Howard Act for Alaska; when some of our people were refused the right to cast a ballot; when our children were barred from public schools; when our widows and destitute children were barred from receiving help by territorial law; and when there were signs in many businesses in Alaska that proclaimed, “White Trade Only”?

And then in 1939 when legislation was introduced in the territorial Senate to “prohibit the sale… or give Indians, Eskimo, Aleut… intoxicating beverages,” and then the discrimination law. Yes, there were these and many more.

These obstacles were met by our “senior members.” Men who, in many cases, could barely read or write the English language, but who were blessed with the brains of our ancestral Indians. These soldiers in our battles were sincere, powerful, honest, and yet humble.

They were always seeking the betterment of our race and to educate our children. Yes, they never lost sight of the virtues and teachings of the past but they realized the importance of providing education for the newer generations. They said, “They must be educated because they will take our place as leaders.. they will be like ‘channel lights’ in a storm… we will depend upon them, for we are all Christian soldiers united in harmony.”

The “senior members” dug deep into their savings in camps from Yakutat to Saxman to finance the Brotherhood and its programs.

We are urgings, dear sisters and brothers, please don’t sidetrack the “senior members” — the ANB-ANS needs them. Some must come as delegates to the convention, others should have positions of responsibility in our local camps. Younger generation and elder statesmen alike have a common meeting place in the Brotherhood.

Together in Brotherhood we can accomplish the goals laid out by our founders and recapture glories of past years.

Thanks very much to Ben Paul for use of the Cyril Zuboff photo, and to the Sealaska Heritage Institute and archivist Zachary Jones for archiving these important documents.

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