Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_SHI to sponsor lectures, events for Native American Heritage Month

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Events free, open to the public

Oct. 21, 2019


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor the following lectures and special events in honor of Native American Heritage Month and Walter Soboleff Day.  All lectures are free and open to the public and will be posted online. The courses may also be taken for credit at the University of Alaska Southeast. All events scheduled from noon-1 pm.

Friday, Nov. 1

  • Lecture: The Tlingit & Haida Indians of Alaska v. United States by Chris McNeil, the owner of Native Strategy Group and former president and CEO of Sealaska. This was a key decision that affected both the Tlingit and Haida citizens and the trajectory of the final settlement of all Alaska Native land claims under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. The Tlingit and Haida settlement was a pivot point between the concept of a cash only settlement of Indian land claims and a settlement to included returning aboriginal lands to Native people...(more)   

Tuesday, Nov. 5

  • Lecture: A Story Not Told: The Metlakatla Tsimshian Salmon Fishery on the Annette Island Reservation, Alaska by Steve J. Langdon, Professor emeritus of anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage. In 1887, a portion of the Tsimshian community associated with missionary William Duncan departed northern British Columbia and settled on Annette Island in Southeast Alaska.  The Tsimshians proceeded to re-establish their communal enterprises, including a salmon cannery, in their new home. In 1916 the Annette Island Reservation was established with an external boundary extending 3,000 feet offshore. The Metlakatla Tsimshian community has sustained their reservation salmon economy for more than 100 years. This talk will present information on the Metlakatla reservation salmon fishery and how that fishery provides the economic foundation for a community of 1,200 residents.  The Metlakatla situation will be compared to the situation that other Indigenous Tlingit and Haida Indians find themselves in in Southeast Alaska subject to the laws and policies of the state.

Thursday, Nov. 7

  • Lecture: Tee-Hit-Ton v. United States: A Case Study in Indigenous Injustice by Walter Echo-Hawk, an author, attorney and legal scholar. Most Americans rightly equate our judicial system with "justice," but every once in a great while a shocking miscarriage of justice occurs. Whenever that happens we must pause and diagnose the cause, because a free and democratic society cannot tolerate injustice anywhere. This talk examines a miscarriage of justice affecting the Tlingit Nation in one of the worst Indian cases ever decided—the 1955 Tee-Hit-Ton decision. In that case, the Supreme Court upheld the federal government's outright confiscation of Tlingit aboriginal land to create the vast Tongass National Forest without compensating the Alaska Native landowners a dime as is normally required by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. What led to this shocking miscarriage of justice? And how can we prevent this from happening again?  

Tuesday, Nov. 12

  • Lecture: In Re Sah Quah: Self-Determination and the Perils of Common Law Indigenous Rights by David S. Case, an attorney who practiced law for 38 years in Alaska where he represented Native village corporations, tribes and municipalities.  In the case In Re Sah Quah, the 1886 Alaska Federal District Court held that Tlingits could not keep slaves as an aspect of original sovereignty. That case was the set screw of Indigenous sovereignty in Alaska until the United States Supreme Court’s 1918 decision in Alaska Pacific Fisheries v. United States, which upheld the integrity of the Metlakatla reservation, prohibiting Alaska Pacific Fisheries from installing a fish trap in the waters set aside for the reservation.  Both cases marked subtle changes in the judicial analysis of inherent tribal sovereignty in Alaska. Subsequent state and federal decisions have alternatively loosened, advanced, reversed and ultimately advanced those rights, until it seems now that Indigenous sovereignty in Alaska is an established legal fact of the common law.  This notable accomplishment will always be at risk unless and until it is recognized either as part of the United States Constitution or as a matter of the International Law of Human Rights. 

Wednesday, Nov. 13

  • Lecture: Remembering William L. Paul, Sr., the Father of Land Claims, and Others by Dennis Demmert, a distinguished Tlingit educator. William Paul and other notable Native people worked tirelessly, mindfully and strategically in the twentieth century for citizenship, civil rights, land rights, and other rights denied Alaska Native people.  Their work literally transformed the standing of Native people in Alaska.  The gaining of Native rights, sometimes reluctantly conceded, has immeasurable benefits for Native and non-Native Alaskans. William Paul was clearly a major figure in Alaska history. Today’s cadre of young, educated Natives should study the work of Paul and his Native peers to understand how they methodically changed their world.  If succeeding generations intend to maintain the cultural tradition of helping others, Paul and his contemporaries show the way.

Thursday, Nov. 14

  • Event: Walter Soboleff Day: Reflections on Dr. Soboleff by Albert Kookesh, a former Alaska senator and an Alaska Native leader who has served Native people in many capacities including as a board member of Sealaska and First Alaskans Institute and as a trustee for Sealaska Heritage. In this talk, Kookesh will share his recollections of his uncle, Dr. Walter Soboleff, the late Tlingit spiritual leader.  Participants will also be invited to share their stories of Dr. Soboleff. 

Monday, Nov. 18

  • Lecture: Juneau Indian Village: Pilings, Pavement and Politics by Ernestine Hayes, a Tlingit author and former Alaska State Writer Laureate. The story of the Juneau Indian Village functions as a metaphor for the Alaska Native experience: as with Tlingit society itself, the Juneau Indian Village and its residents have been renamed, removed and redefined by outside influences for generations. In this lecture, UAS Professor Emerita Ernestine Hayes traces the history of her birthplace and relates it to protecting aboriginal rights and reclaiming Indigenous identity.

Tuesday, Nov. 19

  • Lecture: The Alaska Federation of Natives and the Inclusion of Sealaska in Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 by Emil Notti, a long-time political activist and first president of the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN). Notti will address the formation of AFN and the debate and vote at the federation to include Sealaska in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). He cast the tie-breaking vote at AFN to allow Southeast Alaska Natives into ANCSA, and, if not for him, the first peoples of Southeast Alaska would not have been able to reclaim their Indigenous lands under ANCSA.

Thursday, Nov. 21

  • Lecture: The Molly Hootch Case: Rejection of Mandatory Boarding Schools in Favor of Local Secondary Schools by Bruce Twomley, an attorney who served as co-counsel on the case representing the plaintiff. Tobeluk v. Lind, 589 P.2d 873 (AK. Sup. Ct. 1979), popularly known by its original named plaintiff Molly Hootch, was a class action on behalf of 2,667 Alaska Native secondary school age children seeking the opportunity to reject boarding schools and to attend secondary school in their home communities. By consent decree with the State, Alaska Native children in 126 villages became entitled to attend secondary school in their home villages, and the state became obligated to expend more than $158 million for the construction of local secondary school facilities and to afford the children and their families a say in their new local high school programs. Recently, an Alaska State legislator startled Twomley with the comment that insensitivity in current political leadership may require revisiting principles that gave rise to the Hootch case.

Tuesday, Nov. 26

  • Lecture: Herring Egg Distribution in Alaska: Generosity, Reciprocity, and Benefit Flows by Thomas Thornton, dean of arts and sciences and vice-provost of research and sponsored programs at the University of Alaska Southeast and affiliate professor at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute. Herring eggs are the preeminent distributed resource in Southeast Alaska’s subsistence economy, with more than 85 percent of harvested eggs from Sitka Sound shared, bartered or traded around Alaska and beyond. This talk explores the sociocultural basis for this unique distribution economy by tracing the multiple benefit flows that accompany herring egg distribution.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Kathy Dye, SHI Media Specialist, 907.321-4636,  

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