Friday, December 31, 2010

Andrew P. Hope & Ellen Hope Hays Papers at SHI

SHI Special Collections recently obtained a large and very significant archival collection documenting the history of the Tlingit and Haida people. The fifty-five box collection consists of papers relating to Andrew P. Hope (shown in photograph) and Ellen Hope Hays' activities in various Alaska Native tribal, community, and civic organizations between 1947 and 2002. The collection contains detailed materials documenting the activities of the Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indians of Alaska (CCTHIA) and the history of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

Andrew Percy Hope (1896-1968) born in Killisnoo, Alaska, the son of Percy L. Hope and Mary Williams, and was a Tlingit activist, community leader, tribal leader, and politician. He was of the Eagle moiety, Kaagwaantaan Clan, and of the Eagle Nest House. His Tlingit name was Kaa.oosti. After spending his early childhood in Killisnoo and Angoon, he moved to Sitka to study at the Sheldon Jackson School, and later studied carpentry and boatbuilding at the Cushman Indian School in Tacoma, Washington before obtaining his diploma. In 1912 Hope married Matilda `Tillie´ Howard (1896-1975) of Sitka, who bore Hope 14 children. Howard was a Raven of the Kiks.adi Clan, Point House.

Hope was "an early member and organizer of the Alaska Native Brotherhood" (ANB), served as President of ANB Grand Camp for several terms (his first term began in 1922), and remained active in ANB affairs until his death. (Dauenhauer, 1994). From 1924 to 1936 he served on the Sitka City Council, and from 1945 to 1953 and 1957 to 1963 Hope served in the Alaska Territorial House of Representatives and State Legislature. For twenty-six years (1940-1966), he served as the president of the Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indians of Alaska, a federally recognized tribal government. He was also active in other national and state organizations, and was a member of the National Congress of American Indians and active in Alaska Federation of Natives. He died in Sitka in 1968.

Ellen Hope Hays is the daughter of Andrew P. Hope (1869-1968). She is a Tlingit Indian activist, community leader, and cultural educator. She is of the Raven moiety, Kiks.ádi Clan, and of the X’aaká Hít (Point House). Her Tlingit name is Yaa Yeil Tin. She obtained her basic education from Sheldon Jackson Boarding School in Sitka. Early on she became active in Tlingit affairs at Sitka. She joined the Alaska Native Sisterhood, worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, worked for the National Park Service, became superintendent of the Sitka Totem Park, worked for the Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indians of Alaska, and became active in the Alaska Federation of Natives. As of 2010 Hays resided on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Ellen Hope Hays was also interviewed about her life and work as part of Alaska’s Project Jukebox, and the audio for her interview can be listened to by clicking here.

Overall, this collection documents the activities of these two individuals, and others who worked for the same causes, as they sought to support and fight for the rights of Alaska Natives. To view a descriptive inventory of the collection’s contents, click here. The collection is open to public research for educational purposes.

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.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Angoon leader concludes Sealaska lecture series with historical bombardment account

As Native American Heritage Month has come to a close, Sealaska Heritage Institute concluded its lecture series Monday with a lecture on the importance of Tlingit communications and understanding.

Cyril George Sr. spoke to a packed room on how failure to communicate led to problems between Angoon Natives and the federal government that last to this day. George is a clan leader of Deisheetaan of Angoon and Kaakáak'w Hít. He spoke on how proper communications and cultural understandings are integral to Tlingit relations, both in the past and today.

The focus of his story regarded an 1882 incident when the U.S. Navy bombarded Angoon based on such misunderstandings, an incident for which Angoon Natives are still awaiting a formal apology.

This bombardment followed the death of a Native shaman who was accidentally killed on a whaling vessel. The Angoon people demanded payment for this death in accordance with Tlingit law, but were seen as a threat and attacked.

SHI's Head of Special Collections & Adjunct Instructor of History at UAS, Zachary Jones, added the funerary celebrations were also misinterpreted as preparations for war, which further incited the Navy to the attack which ultimately killed several children and destroyed much of the village and food supplies.

George recalled that "The main point is from the first time I hear this bombardment story, we were always told it was an accident. We need to set the record straight," he said on how even though it was based on an accident, the devastation was based on cultural misunderstandings and continue along similar lines today.

"The Navy has not apologized," George said.

Jones said it was an example of how Tlingit cultures have been misunderstood and resulted in shooting first and sometimes asking questions later.

"In looking at the historical documents of the individuals who perpetrated this attack, you can see how they spent a lot of time justifying what they had done, more time than was necessary," said Jones.

The Navy did pay $90,000 following a 1973 damages lawsuit. George said the insulting aspect of this is that the amount not only valued the property at their 1880s values instead of accounting for a century of inflation, but also, in a way, valued the deaths of seven children within this amount.

George said the Navy acknowledged its attack should not have happened, but never apologized.

George also shed light on different connections he's encountered to the incident. He told of how his work led him to talk to several people through the years that felt the effects from the attack, including a woman who found a letter from a relative that gave a first-hand account of it.

A commemoration of the event was put on in 1982. "I got to talk to some of the old people on how they hurt," said George.

To illustrate how much Tlingits value cultural understanding, he expressed how appreciative they were on Angoon when a descendant of one the Navy personnel in the attack came forward to offer a personal apology for his relative's role some years ago.

Elder John Martin gave a tribute to the speaker at the speech's end and said George showed a refreshing perspective on history that demonstrated a need for people to learn to understand each other, linking the past and the present. He said the bombardment story brought out the importance of respect and understanding between cultures. He said this incident also helped introduce Tlingit law to the United States, saying "respect comes from individuals in any man's world."

"It was about setting the record straight from an accurate historical perspective of bombardment and parables and little stories about the duty and love of Tlingit culture," said Tlingit storyteller Ishmael Hope. "He's one of the last tradition bearers that can tell traditional stories in both Tlingit language and English. He's a living cultural treasure and these people, they're like diamonds in the rough because you only have written accounts of things Cyril just knows and he talks about."

George's granddaughter and Sealaska Corp. director Barbara Cadiente-Nelson said as an elder, he serves as a conscience and a voice to those past who suffered the injustice that stemmed from cultural misunderstanding and differences. She said he expressed that hardship and that no matter what the government said it did to alleviate the suffering, it struck a deadly blow to the community. She said his speech expressed the Tlingit virtues of respecting all things and living those values.

Besides this historical incident, George gave several personal stories that helped illustrate Tlingit values. George's speech also likened the bombardment to the loss of language, culture and traditions, and that Angoon is doing its part to recover it by living those values. He said he hopes as time goes on, these traditions will become more widely known and respected.

"Now there are people interested in learning our way and we're thankful," said George.

Martin said these personal stories demonstrated a methodology of survival with a message to try not to violate Tlingit laws of respect.

George was mayor of Angoon for many years and interim director of the original SHI board of directors. He has also been a Kootznoowoo Permanent Fund trustee and chaired the Kootznoowoo Heritage Foundation.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Native leader explains Tlingit education's relevance for all societies

Tlingit educational values have kept its clans alive since before European contact in Alaska, and Tlingit leaders recognize how the pillars of that education are important to Native and non-Native students alike, a speaker discussing Native education said Monday.

David Katzeek, who goes by Kingeisti, is a leader of the Eagle Thunderbird Clan of Klukwan. He's spent years discussing education with students across Alaska for years, and shared the insights of that journey as part of Sealaska Heritage Institute's lecture series.

Kingeisti detailed how the spirit of encouragement and intelligence has kept Tlingit prosperous generation after generation. What's more, he said this spirit isn't for Tlingits only. It should be something encouraged in all children to help them reach their full potential.

Through anecdotes and lecture, Kingeisti explained how Tlingit clans are studied more for culture and not education, but this is inadequate because that "culture includes education."

He said even ancient clans survived with a strong utilization of math, science and history. Even today, Tlingits become lawyers, teachers, ministers and business people, all drawing from the midst of how they were taught and their ancestors were taught.

"We have had an impact on society from the beginning and the hard part is people don't want to accept that instead of just acknowledging our culture," he said.

He discussed traditions of the Tlingit educational system that have built that impact. The system focuses as much on the students' selves as much as reading and writing.

One of these main points is human beings have a unique ability to learn to listen for a purpose. He said this ability to learn to listen requires students to really focus, to not just hear what someone is saying but really comprehend it and to think about it if not immediately understood.

"When students are taught as respected human beings instead of being talked at, and these are two different things, students will respect you and want to work and understand more," said Kingeisti.

This respect is another pillar. Kingeisti explained respect is needed to practice and utilize intelligence because every human possess it.

"Every human that has that power to listen will find its not hard to learn," he said.

This notion of intelligence in every child measured through encouragement rather than judged by a single test score is another foundation of Tlingit education.

"Intelligence is probably one of the most traditional things any human being has," he told the audience.

He said Tlingit students are recognized as being precious and intelligent, and this can be lacking some other educational systems. He said when young people realize how precious they are, they really start to focus and control their minds, bodies and spirits.

"Basically to accept that if a man learns to listen he'll learn and gain knowledge, and accepts that he is intelligent and he'll gain more intelligence," he said.

Another pillar he discussed was the concept of "woocheen," which means "working together."

"The most important thing for me is that these particular truths are timeless. Truth never gets old. It's just as right now as it ever was. Truth is truth," he said.

Kingeisti has also worked in management and Tlingit cultural consulting since 1971 and served as president of Sealaska Heritage Institute for 12 years.

Watch the full lecture online here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Did you miss one of our lectures?

No problem--you can watch it online! Videos of lectures by Madonna Moss, Dan Monteith, and Zachary Jones are now posted in our video library. Check back soon for more coverage of lectures sponsored by Sealaska Heritage Institute in celebration of Native American Heritage Month!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A New Look at an Old Battle

"It was called the "Kake War" of 1869 but few people today know of it, said Zachary Jones, archivist with the Sealaska Heritage Institute and Adjunct Instructor of History at University of Alaska Southeast.

Among those who are aware of it are the Kéex' Kwaan Tlingit of the Kake area, as well as other areas where related battles were fought, including Sitka, Wrangell and Cape Fox.

Jones spoke of his research as part of a series of talks held at the Sealaska Building during Native American Heritage Month. He's been using Tlingit oral histories to add to the official record of the clashes, and has been filling in a picture that's been based mostly on Caucasian written records.

The picture history paints does not reflect well on the U.S. Army, he said.

"This is a situation where the U.S. Army attacked the Tlingit people," he said.

In 1869, the United States had just purchased Alaska from Russia, but the residents of Alaska, including the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska, weren't happy about that, Jones said.

"Was the land for sale?" asked Nora Dauenhauer, who already knew the answer.

Jones said one of the reasons for difficult relations between the Tlingits and the U.S. Army, which has been put in charge of the newly acquired territory, was the Tlingits didn't think their ancestral homeland was the Russians' to sell.

The military commander in Alaska, Jefferson Davis, served as governor of the area and enforced the rule of the United States with the cannon of the U.S.S. Saginaw, a gunboat operated by the army.

Davis, unrelated to the Confederate president of the same name, noted at the time the Native people didn't like the U.S. intrusion on their lands.

"The Tlingit do not like the idea of whites settling in their midst without being subject to their jurisdiction," Davis reported in 1869.

Those resentments, as well as communication errors, led to clashes at Sitka during which unarmed Kéex'' Kwaan who were visiting there were killed, and then retaliatory killings that escalated things, Jones said.

Davis sent the Saginaw to punish the Kéex'' Kwaan, but it arrived to find several communal houses apparently vacant, Jones said.

Failing to find anyone to fight, the soldiers shelled the village and burned the houses, destroying stocks food and plank houses needed for shelter.

Sadly, one fatality was documented, Jones said.

"An old lady was burned in the fire because she was too old and frail to rise from her bed (and flee) and most likely assumed that the soldiers wouldn't hurt her," he said.

The soldiers reported their actions had not killed anyone, which was reported in the official account, but Jones said he learned from oral histories not only of the Kake death but the Tlingit side of how the conflict developed.

The previous colonial narrative of the U.S. Army fighting "criminal" Alaska Natives has been reassessed, broken down, and corrected with oral histories that explain the Tlingit side for the first time, Jones said.

These includes a series of errors by the army, and their brutal - and likely illegal under the laws of war - retaliation on the innocent Tlingit, he said.

Contact Zachary Jones by clicking here.

Watch the full lecture online here.