Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Human Rights Actions of Alaska Native Brotherhood & Sisterhood Camp 2 in 1940

The detailed history of racial discrimination against Southeast Alaska Natives remains to be written. Fortunately the late Dr. Walter A. Soboleff (1908-2011), an advocate for Tlingit culture and Human Rights, saved his correspondence, meeting minutes, and other records while an active and leading member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB), which served to document the historic Human Rights actions of ANB and ANB’s counterpart, the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS). The materials he saved, amounting to 37 boxes of historic documents stored at Sealaska Heritage Institute, detail this effort on many levels, and are available to the public for educational research.

Recently, I reviewed the 1939-1945 ANB/ANS Camp 2 meeting minutes ledger. Reading over the joint ANB and ANS meeting for February 12, 1940, I encountered documentation speaking to Human Rights actions undertaken in Juneau by ANB and ANS.
Under the direction of ANB Camp 2 President William S. Wanamaker (1889-1944) (Tlingit of the Kiks.√°di Clan), the meeting minutes record Cyril J. Zuboff Sr. (1892-1869) raising the issue of the Juneau Sports Arena refusing to allow Alaska Natives entrance. Minutes then record proposals to address this situation, which included; 1) engaging in efforts that encouraged people from “refraining from patronizing” the arena, 2) the creation of a four member committee (two ANB men and two ANS women) to address the issue, and 3) that this committee “present a written protest at the next [Juneau] Chamber of Commerce meeting.”

These two short pages (provided below), from this old ledger, speak a great deal about the history of Human and Civil Rights and the reasons ANB and ANS fought for the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 and additional efforts.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a regional nonprofit representing the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures. SHI maintains a large collection of archival materials that document the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures.

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