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.ádi 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.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Alaska Native Brotherhood’s 1921 Grand Camp Meeting

With the 100 year anniversary of the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) occurring in 2012, many will be reflecting on the history, role, and actions of ANB.

I recently came across the ANB Grand Camp Program for 1921 (scan below). While no minutes from the 1921 meeting have survived (although SHI has published the 1920 ANB minutes), the 1921 program lists the convention’s agenda and the topics discussed. Some of the issues of the day included fishing rights, segregated schooling, Civil Rights, Human Rights, and discussions on sovereignty and land ownership, such as through a reservation system. The final open forum topic for the third day of the meeting, which poses questions for discussion on the legality and fairness of the judicial system in Alaska towards Alaska Natives, is of particular interest. Scheduled be held after a speech on the rights of Alaska Natives presented by Hon. James Wickersham, it reads;

“Open Forum. The tremendous handicap of fair trial by juries composed entirely of White men, through an interpreter, leading to the question; “Would a lone White man consent to a trial by Natives in “Indian Country.”

Such a document provides a glimpse into the history of ANB and the issues of importance to Southeast Alaska Natives nearly 90 years ago.

Credit: Program from the Walter A. Soboleff Papers, Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a noon lecture series to celebrate Native American Heritage Month in November.

The brown-bag lunch series will focus on the impact of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) which was passed by Congress forty years ago, said SHI President Rosita Worl, adding Tlingit and Haida and Sealaska Corporation also will sponsor a November luncheon in recognition of ANCSA.

Alaska settled its Native land claims in a historic way by founding Native corporations. That was a complete departure from the way Native tribes in the Lower 48 settled land claims by forming reservations, Worl said.

“ANCSA is a very different creature than reservations, “Worl said. “I know Alaskans hear a lot about Native corporations but they might not always understand the history of ANCSA, or how corporations work.”

The lectures will be held from 12-1 pm in the 4th floor boardroom at Sealaska Plaza in Juneau. The series was sponsored by McDowell Group and Kathy Ruddy of Juneau. Attendees are invited to bring their own lunches.

12-1 pm, Sealaska Plaza, 4th Floor Boardroom (bring your own lunch)

Friday, Nov. 4

ANCSA: Good or Bad?

Byron Mallott

Fellow, First Alaskan Institute

Monday, Nov. 14

The Interrelationships Between Tribes and Corporations

Edward Thomas

President, Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indians of Alaska

Tuesday, Nov. 15

Alaska Native Corporations and Cultural Models of Sustainability

Thomas F. Thornton

Senior Research Fellow, Environmental Change and Management, Oxford University

Monday, Nov. 21

The Legal Status of Alaska Native Corporations & Economic Self Determination

Chris McNeil

President & CEO Sealaska Corporation

Monday, Nov. 28

ANCSA: A Path to Assimilation or Cultural Survival

Rosita Worl

President, Sealaska Heritage Institute

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indians and Sealaska Corporation also will sponsor a noon luncheon on Wednesday, Nov. 16, to recognize the initial Sealaska Board of Directors and Emil Notti, Chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives when Alaska Natives were pursuing the settlement of their aboriginal land claims.

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.

Photo: Guest lecturer Dan Monteith at SHI’s 2010 lecture series in Juneau,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has received a federal grant to research and migrate old Tlingit language recordings to a format that will make them more accessible to modern-day Native language students and scholars.

The $150,000, two-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services will allow SHI to migrate more than one hundred recordings of people speaking Tlingit from an old format to a digital format, said SHI Archivist Zachary Jones. Recordings with the potential to aid language students and educators will be placed online.

“We’re very excited about this grant because it not only helps us with our archival collections, but it also helps us with our language,” Jones said.

The oldest Tlingit recordings date to the early 1900s, and historic Tlingit recordings from that era will undergo a review. SHI will contract fluent Tlingit speakers to listen to the recordings and provide detailed information on topics such as traditional ecological knowledge and Tlingit history.

“It will help document the content of them in great detail right down to the clan or clan-house level if possible,” he said.

The grant also will fund an internship program between the institute and the University of Alaska Southeast, allowing undergraduate students studying Tlingit language to become involved in this language orientated project. And, it will establish a sharing partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Alaska Native Language Archive, meaning the organizations will donate copies of some materials in their archives to each other.

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.

CONTACT: Zachary Jones, SHI Archivist, 907.586.9261

Thursday, October 13, 2011

100 Years of Alaska Native Brotherhood

Next year will mark the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB). For the first half of the 20th century, ANB and its partner organization, the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS – founded 1926), were at times the only organizations representing Native and civil rights in Alaska. ANB and ANS were also some of the first organizations fighting for land claims in Alaska. ANB claims to be the oldest still practicing Native organization in the United States.

Photo Credit: Group photograph of ANB/ANS members at the 1954 Grand Camp Convention, Juneau. Photograph attributed to William L. Paul, Jr. PO064: Item 3, Sealaska Heritage Institute.

The accomplishment list of ANB and ANS is long, but some of the main accomplishments credited to the organizations are: voting rights for Alaska Natives prior to the Citizenship Act of 1924, civil rights reform such as the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, land claims extinguishment efforts leading to ANCSA, and societal reform such as improvement of health care, education, and other social safety nets for Alaska Natives.

According to the international library catalog WorldCat.org, Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) contains the largest collection of ANB records in the world. These papers are open to the public for research and educational purposes. While SHI contains few historical ANS records, SHI hopes in the future ANS donors will contribute their historic papers to SHI to better preserve ANS and ANB’s histories.

From the historic records of ANB, SHI recently compiled a list of ANB Grand Presidents and the locations of ANB Grand Camp Conventions (a list of ANS Grand Presidents is forthcoming). This list is provided below, since SHI occasionally receives inquiries for this information. SHI seeks to promote the study of ANB and ANS’s history.

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.

List of ANB Grand Presidents and Locations
of Grand Camp Conventions, 1912-2010.
Compiled by Zachary R. Jones
Sealaska Heritage Institute Archivist

YEAR              Convention Location                           ANB Grand President

1912                Juneau                                                 Election slated for 1913
1913                Juneau                                                 Peter Simpson
1914                Sitka                                                    Peter Simpson
1915                Metlakatla                                            Peter Simpson
1916                Wrangell                                              Peter Simpson
1917                Juneau                                                 Ralph Young
1918                no convention                                       Ralph Young
1919                Juneau                                                 Ralph Young
1920                Wrangell                                              Louis F. Paul
1921                Douglas                                               Louis F. Paul
1922                Klawock                                              Andrew Hope
1923                Kake                                                   Peter Simpson
1924                Hoonah                                                Peter Simpson
1925                Hydaburg                                             Frank Price
1926                Klukwan                                              Samuel C. Davis
1927                Angoon                                                Louis F. Paul
1928                Sitka                                                    William L. Paul
1929                Haines                                                 William L. Paul
1930                Ketchikan                                             Louis Shotridge
1931                Yakutat                                                Frank G. Johnson
1932                no convention                                       Frank G. Johnson
1933                Juneau                                                 Frank Booth
1934                Saxman                                                Cyril Zuboff
1935                Wrangell                                              Cyril Zuboff
1936                Metlakatla                                            Frank G. Johnson
1937                Kake                                                   Cyril Zuboff
1938                Sitka                                                    Cyril Zuboff
1939                Sitka                                                    Louis F. Paul
1940                Klawock                                              Roy Peratrovich
1941                Hydaburg                                             Roy Peratrovich
1942                no convention                                       Roy Peratrovich
1943                Hoonah                                                Roy Peratrovich
1944                Kake                                                    Roy Peratrovich
1945                Angoon                                                Alfred Widmark
1946                Wrangell                                              Cyril Zuboff
1947                Hydaburg                                             Cyril Zuboff
1948                Sitka                                                    Cyrus Peck Sr.
1949                Klawock                                              Frank Peratrovich
1950                Craig                                                    Harry Douglas
1951                Ketchikan                                            Joseph C. Williams
1952                Hoonah                                                Joseph C. Williams
1953                Sitka                                                    Patrick J. Paul
1954                Juneau                                                 Patrick J. Paul
1955                Petersburg                                            Patrick J. Paul
1956                Hoonah                                                Mark Jacobs Sr.
1957                Kake                                                   Thomas L. Jackson
1958                Sitka                                                    Thomas L. Jackson
1959                Yakutat                                                Alfred Widmark
1960                Angoon                                                Alfred Widmark
1961                Klukwan                                              Alfred Widmark
1962                Sitka                                                    John Hope
1963                Wrangell                                              John Hope
1964                Hoonah                                                Alfred Widmark
1965                Kake                                                    Frank See
1966                Hydaburg                                             Walter A. Soboleff
1967                Ketchikan                                            Walter A. Soboleff                 
1968                Juneau                                                 Walter A. Soboleff
1969                Kake                                                   Walter A. Soboleff
1970                Petersburg                                            Richard J. Stitt
1971                Sitka                                                    Steven V. Hotch
1972                Ketchikan                                            Steven V. Hotch
1973                Wrangell                                              Frank Nelson
1974                Yakutat                                               Frank Nelson
1975                Haines                                                 Frank Nelson
1976                Hoonah                                                Walter A. Soboleff
1977                Hydaburg                                             Frank O. Williams, Jr.
1978                Sitka                                                    Frank O. Williams, Jr.
1979                Juneau                                                 Walter A. Soboleff
1980                Angoon                                                Herbert Hope
1981                Ketchikan                                             Robert Martin, Sr.
1982                Kake                                                    Robert Martin, Sr.
1983                Juneau                                                  Ronald D. Williams
1984                Sitka                                                     Ronald D. Williams
1985                Klawock                                               Ronald D. Williams
1986                Haines                                                  Ronald D. Williams
1987                Sitka                                                     Richard Stitt
1988                Juneau                                                  Richard Stitt
1989                Hoonah                                                 Richard Stitt
1990                Kake                                                    Richard Stitt
1991                Ketchikan                                            Albert Kookesh
1992                Klawock                                              Albert Kookesh
1993                Angoon                                                Dan Johnson, Jr.
1994                Juneau                                                 Ronald D. Williams
1995                Hydaburg                                             Alfred McKinley, Sr.
1996                Yakutat                                               Alfred McKinley, Sr.
1997                Sitka                                                    Richard Stitt
1998                Wrangell                                              Richard Stitt
1999                Saxman                                                Samuel Jackson
2000                Juneau                                                 Samuel Jackson
2001                Kake                                                    Richard H. Jackson
2002                Hoonah                                                Richard H. Jackson
2003                Ketchikan                                            Samuel Jackson
2004                Sitka                                                    Samuel Jackson/Ronald D. Williams
2005                Juneau                                                 Dewey Skan
2006                Hoonah                                                Brad Fluetsch
2007                Sitka                                                    Dewey Skan
2008                Ketchikan                                            Willard Jackson
2009                Juneau                                                 Brad Fluetsch
2010                Saxman                                               Willard Jackson
2011                Klawock                                              Richard Jackson
2012                Sitka                                                    Dennis Demmert

Monday, October 10, 2011

SHI Seeks Submissions for New Native Studies Publication

SHI is soliciting essay-length articles for our new Box of Knowledge Occasional Papers series. We welcome submissions dealing with all aspects of Alaska Native life, including history, anthropology, archaeology, art history, political science, linguistics, sociology, and literature. For more information click here.

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.

Photo Credit:
PO023: Item 1: Douglas Progressive Native Group Photograph, 1916. 7.5 x 9.5 inches. Photo by Edward Andrews. Reverse reads "Old Douglas Hospital." Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Photographs Document 1992 Tlingit Subsistence Protest

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) recently received a small but important photograph collection documenting a peaceful subsistence protest undertaken by the Tlingit community of Hoonah in 1992. The twenty-one photographs received by SHI, donated by protest participant and photographer Misty Jack of Hoonah, document the May protest carried out at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve by the Hoonah Tlingit concerning the infringed rights of the Tlingit to engage in subsistence gathering and fishing within Park boundaries. The Park currently limits, regulates, and forbids certain subsistence activities in the Park by the Tlingit of Hoonah.

The area known today as Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve has been inhabited by the Tlingit people for thousands of years according to archeological evidence and oral history. The Tlingit of nearby Hoonah have historically managed the water and land’s resources and wildlife with balance and harmony for thousands of years. However, in 1925 areas of the current Park were made a National Monument, and in 1980 it was made a National Park and Preserve. Since these enactments, the Tlingit of Hoonah have lost further control and access to the lands and waters in Glacier Bay, and federal laws restricted and/or forbade traditional subsistence practices.

For decades the Tlingit of Hoonah, and the tribal governments and organizations representing Hoonah and the Tlingit in general, have petitioned the federal government for subsistence rights and claim to the land. After decades of work and petitions, and with little response from the federal government, the Hoonah Indian Association (HIA)—a federally recognized tribal government representing the Tlingit of Hoonah—facilitated a community discussion on subsistence in Glacier Bay.

Over the winter of 1991-92 meetings were held in Hoonah, with leaders of each traditional clan house serving on a committee to discuss the issue. After long and careful discussion, the clan house leaders of Hoonah felt it was best to engage in a peaceful demonstration within Glacier Bay.

In May 1992 the Tlingit clans and people of Hoonah boarded a number of boats that sailed into Glacier Bay. The boats put ashore and held a number of ceremonies connected to the Hoonah Tlingit’s history and ownership of the land. Those of the Raven moiety conducted part of the ceremony, and those of the Eagle moiety conducted other portions, in accordance with traditional culture and to ensure balance. Important and historic regalia and totem poles were brought into Glacier Bay for this event, and used in ceremony. Tlingit elders from Hoonah gave speeches on the history of their people and subsistence in Glacier Bay. At the conclusion of this ceremony, the people of Hoonah peacefully engaged in subsistence practices according to historic and cultural practice.

While this topic requires additional research, those who participated in the event stated that federal officials felt it was best to not interfere with the Hoonah Tlingit during their peaceful protest in May 1992.

While the issue of subsistence remains unresolved for the Tlingit of Hoonah today, and their right to engage in subsistence activities in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is still regulated and in some situations forbidden, this peaceful demonstration captures the values of a people and community as they work to challenge the federal government’s ownership and management of Tlingit land.

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.


Phone interview with Ken Grant, employee of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, September 2011.

Phone interview with donor, Misty Jack, participant and resident of Hoonah, September 2011.

David Hulen, “Look but don’t take: Tlingit battle Park Service for Glacier Bay subsistence,” Anchorage Daily News (July 22, 1990).

David Hulen, “We are made criminals for our food,” Tlingit say Park scorns culture in citing hunter,” Anchorage Daily News (Oct. 22, 1992).

Photograph Credits:

1) Top image captures a view of the Tlingit ceremony at Glacier Bay, 1992, photograph by Misty Jack.

2) Above image captures small boat displaying the Hoonah Tlingit screen which tells of Hoonah's connection to Glacier Bay, 1992, photograph by Misty Jack.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Southeast Alaska Totem Parks Lecture Online

If you missed the lecture given this past Monday by SHI's Visiting Scholar on Southeast totem parks, you can now watch it online. In her talk, Emily Moore discusses Southeast Alaska totem poles that were made or restored during the Great Depression and shows a 1949 newsreel about the project that was recently rediscovered. To view the lecture click here.

Photo Credit: CCC Carver, dated 1939, from the Linn A. Forrest Collection, Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a noon lecture on Southeast Alaska totem poles that were made or restored during the Great Depression and show a 1949 newsreel about the project that was recently rediscovered.

The lecture will be given by Emily Moore, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. SHI is sponsoring her research through its Visiting Scholars Program.

The brown bag lunch lecture is scheduled from noon-1 pm, Monday, Sept. 19 in the 4th floor boardroom at Sealaska Plaza. It is free of charge and open to the public. Space is limited.

Moore, who is originally from Ketchikan, is writing her dissertation on the totem parks created in Saxman, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Kasaan, Klawock, and Hydaburg and restored in Sitka. The project was launched when the federal government, acting through the U.S. Forest Service and through an emergency relief program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), hired Tlingit and Haida men to restore or replicate nineteenth-century totem poles from Native villages.

“The CCC totem parks represent a pivotal moment in totem pole history in Southeast Alaska, transferring poles from the clan houses and gravesites of Tlingit and Haida villages to more centralized totem ‘parks’ geared specifically for tourists,” Moore said.

“At the same time, however, the parks helped to continue carving traditions by employing carvers trained in nineteenth-century apprenticeship traditions to teach a younger generation of carvers the techniques and stories behind the poles. The parks also represented the first major act of government patronage for Northwest Coast Native art in the U.S., and they continue to be important sites for Tlingit and Haida communities today. Despite the importance of these totem parks, however, there is no in-depth study of the CCC project or of the individuals who worked to realize its goals.”

The 11-minute film is titled Timber and Totem Poles and was produced by the U.S. Forest Service.

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.

CONTACT: Emily Moore, Lecturer/Visiting Scholar, 510-590-6676; Zachary Jones, SHI Archivist, 586-9261

Photograph Credit: Image of CCC workers at Wrangell, 1939, photo by Linn Forrest, from SHI Linn Forrest Photograph Collection.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Alaska Native Sisterhood Human Rights Leader Amy Hallingstad – A Glimpse to 1947

There are a number of individuals associated and credited with the Human Rights movement in Alaskan history. These range from individuals such as Frank Johnson’s 1930 boycott of segregated theaters, Bessie Quinto’s tireless advocacy toward equal pay and benefits for Natives working in salmon canneries, William L. Paul’s fight for Native rights and land, to Roy and Elizabeth Peratrovich’s ANB and ANS leadership during the passing of the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945. Another name that should be spoken of alongside with these individuals is Amy Hallingstad.

Amy Booth Hallingstad (1901-1973) was born in Haines, Alaska, the daughter of Frank Booth Sr. (1889-1964) and Sally Jackson (1885-1943). Amy was Tlingit of the Eagle moiety, Tsaagweidí Clan. She is often remembered as a Human Rights activist and leader in the Alaska Native Sisterhood, and was referred to by some as the First Lady for the First People. She was widely known for using her quick wit and humor to make her point, and her jokes are often retold to this day during joking sessions in traditional gatherings.

In Amy's youth she moved to Sitka to attend the Sheldon Jackson College, and then moved to Petersburg, Alaska. During the 1920s in Petersburg, Amy married Norwegian-born Casper Hallingstad Sr. (1901-1980) and they later raised six children together.

During the early 1930s, as Amy's children began to attend school in Petersburg, Amy became angry that the Native children in Petersburg were forced to attend a segregated school. Since Alaska Natives had to pay taxes that went toward the public school system, Amy was able to force the closure of the Native school in Petersburg and soon Alaska Native children were able to attend the public school in Petersburg. Her oldest son, Casper Hallingstad, Jr. was the first Alaska Native student in the Petersburg public school. During this time Amy became very active in the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS), serving in various leadership roles within the Petersburg ANS Camp 16, and later serving as Grand President from 1947-49 and 1953-56. She was a supporter of the land claims movement as early as 1937. Amy was also instrumental in forming the Petersburg Indian Association in 1948.

During this time Amy also made it a practice to forcibly remove signs from businesses in Southeast Alaska that contained discriminatory language, such as "No Natives Allowed." Amy was also an organizer of boycotts against businesses that discriminated against Alaska Natives, or preferred to hire non-Natives. Newspaper articles speak of her efforts of enforcing a boycott of the Petersburg movie theater, which had segregated seating. The boycott continued until the segregated seating practice was eliminated.
As Grand President of ANS she also made strong efforts to pressure businesses, such as canneries that sought to employ non-Natives, to change their policies and hire locally. She influenced reforms that were enacted at canneries in Hood Bay, Excursion Inlet, Pillar Bay, and Chatham. She fought to improve medical care to Alaska Natives. She also regularly corresponded and met with state politicians about the important political issues of the day. With her contemporary, the celebrated Elizabeth Peratrovich, they both worked towards ensuring Human Rights were guaranteed to Alaska Natives. Amy was an advocate for Native rights until her death at age 72 in 1973.

Recently the decedents of Amy donated some documents and family memoirs about Amy to SHI’s archival collection, which is available to the public for educational purposes and study. (click here for description of collection) Within SHI’s other collections, some additional documents connected to Amy can also be found. Recently, researcher Ishmael Hope was studying SHI’s Curry-Weissbrodt Papers and came across a letter composed by Amy in 1947 discussing Native rights and the issue of land claims. She composed this letter while serving as Grand President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood. A quote from this letter was recently featured in the Sealaska Corporation’s special annual report, which focused on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Below is the quote from this letter and used in this report.

“We have decided that the real reason why our possessions are being taken from us is that we are human beings, and not wolves or bears. The men from Washington have set aside many millions of acres on which wolves and bears may not be disturbed, and nobody objects to that. Perhaps if we were wolves or bears we could have just as much protection. But we are only human beings. There are no closed seasons when it comes to skinning Alaskan natives.”
This important quote, and the words of Amy’s entire letter, is something that provides great insight and context into the fight for civil rights and land claims. Below is the full text from Amy’s 1947 letter.

All in all, there are many individuals who fought for Native Rights, Human rights, and land claims during Alaska’s history. SHI seeks to collect historical materials documenting this and connected topics, including recordings, photographs, and manuscript papers—such as diaries, letters, and meeting minutes.

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.

Photo credit: Amy Hallingstad at ANB/ANS meeting, undated, from the William Paul Jr. Photograph Collection, Courtesy of Ben Paul.
December 19, 1947
Mrs. Ruth Muskrat Bronson
Secretary, National Congress of American Indians
1426 35th Street. N. W.
Washington, D. C.
Dear Mrs. Bronson:
Here in the land of Santa Claus, Christmas will bring little cheer to our children this year. We natives, 35,000 Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts, are half of Alaska's permanent population, and we must watch our children die of diseases that come from cold and lack of food. Our homes and lands, our fisheries and trees, our trap· lines and reindeer, everything we possess is being seized or threatened by unscrupulous white men, who tell us that what they are doing to us has been approved in Washington.
All of the promises that have come to us from Washington are now broken.
Presidents and Secretaries of the Interior have promised us the last time was in June, 1946—that the boundaries of all our lands would be marked out clearly so that no trespasser would take the fish and game and furs that we need to keep our children warm and well fed throughout the long Alaskan winters. Now Secretary Krug, who is supposed to be our guardian, refuses to let this promise be kept. Petitions on his desk from many native villages are still unanswered.
Secretary Krug himself promised us, on the 9th day of last December, that he would have such boundary line drawn immediately, beginning with the lands of Klukwan. That promise, too, stands broken. Our friends in the Indian Bureau have made many efforts to hold such hearings. Always Secretary Krug has stopped them.
We were promised by Secretary Krug on the same day, that our farthest north Eskimo town, Barrow, on the Arctic Ocean, would be allowed a town reserve to include its whaling grounds and the places where its men dig the coal to keep warm with through the long Arctic night. That promise, too, stands broken. We were promised by President Roosevelt, President Hoover, President Coolidge, President Wilson, and even by presidents before their days, that our possessions would always be protected. Now the men in Washington who are supposed to be our protectors say that big corporations can take our trees, our minerals and all our lands without asking our permission or paying us. One of our Eskimo boys was arrested and thrown into jail when he tried to mine jade on the lands that belong to his own people. One of our Indian men was arrested when he tried to fish in the fishing grounds that always belonged to the people of his house. Now the Agriculture Department men threaten to arrest us if we cut down our own trees. We are wondering if they expect us to live on snow and to keep warm in the winter by burning ice.
Now a bill has just been introduced in Congress by the heads of the Indian Affairs Committees, who are supposed to protect us, that would take away our reservations, which are our homes and our Promised Land. Where can we go then? We are not like white men who are always moving. Most of our homes and villages have been right where they are now for many hundreds of generations. We know this is true because animals that have not roamed on earth for thousands of years are sometimes found in the dump heaps of our villages. Taking our land from us means driving us off the face of the earth. When we were under the Russian Czars they said that nobody should take our possessions without our consent. When they sold Alaska they did not consult us, but they asked the United States to promise that our land rights would be respected. That promise is set out in the Treaty, but it is no longer observed.
Congress in 1884 promised that the lands we claimed then should never be disturbed. In 1900 and in 1936 that promise was renewed. When a Secretary of the Interior takes his oath of office he promises to execute all the laws of the United States but now our Secretary says that he will not execute the law that Congress has passed to safeguard our possessions.
Instead he sends doctors to investigate our chests and they report that our people are dying of tuberculosis ten times as rapidly as other people in the United States. We could have told him that a year ago when he toured Alaska, if he had stopped at our Indian villages instead of spending all his time at luncheons and parties given by Chambers of Commerce in white towns. And we could tell him now, if he asked us, that we will be able to afford decent food and clothing and better housing and bring up our children as we would like to bring them up if he would only carry out the promises that he and other Secretaries of the Interior before him have made, to protect our lands and possessions. We have gone to schools and learned how to operate sawmills and canneries in the most modern way. Now that we are attempting to do this with our own resources, everything is taken from us, and we are thrown into jail.
Why? Why are we suddenly to be made what you call "displaced persons?"
Is it because our skins are not as light as yours? But the Declaration of Independence you brought us says that all men are created equal. Your constitution promises that the property rights of all men-not just white men-shall be safeguarded. And the Bible that you brought us and translated into our native tongues says that we are all brothers and children of God. It does not say that it is all right for white men to rob from men of copper skin.
Is this done to us on the ground that we are not citizens? But your Congress passed a law in 1924 making us all citizens, and that law is still alive.
Is this done to us because Secretary Ickes tried to protect our lands and because;, we are told, many people in Washington do not like him? Is that why the reservations that were established by other Secretaries of the Interior are allowed to stand, when the reservations that he marked off for us are being wiped out? But we do not pick Secretaries of the Interior, though we wish we could.
We have thought about this matter and talked about it in the long evenings of the past autumn. We have decided that the real reason why our possessions are being taken from us is that we are human beings, and not wolves or bears. The men from Washington have set aside many millions of acres on which wolves and bears may not be disturbed, and nobody objects to that. Perhaps if we were wolves or bears we could have just as much protection. But we are only human beings. There are no closed seasons when it comes to skinning Alaskan natives.
You have asked us not to lose faith in the American people, but to tell our story to those who will listen. And so we are asking Santa Claus, when he rides through Alaska this year, on his way south to gather the cries of our children and to take them with his sleigh bells to the hearts of men and women in the States who will dare to raise their voices in our behalf and to insist that their public servants in Washington shall not enrich their friends by giving away our trees, our fisheries, our traplines, our lands, and our homes. With God's help we still hope that what our parents passed on to us we may in turn pass on to our children and our children's children forever.
Respectfully yours,

Credit: Scan of original letter from Curry-Weissbrodt Papers, Box C2A.