Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_SHI to sponsor lecture on Alaska’s father of Native land claims, William L. Paul, Sr., other activists

<<back to news page


Event free, open to the public

Nov. 8, 2019


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a lecture on Native civil rights activists, including William L. Paul, Sr., who was Alaska’s first Native attorney, the state’s first Native legislator, a gifted orator and a formidable warrior who fought on the front line of many legal and political battles. 

The lecture, Remembering William L. Paul, Sr., the Father of Land Claims, and Others will be given 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, had immeasurable benefits for Native and non-Native Alaskans, and 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,” Demmert wrote.

Paul, who passed away in 1977, is so highly regarded in the Native community that SHI’s board of trustees named the institute’s archives after him to honor his accomplishments and to publicly recognize him for his life’s work.

Demmert served for many years as the head of the Rural Student Services Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In honor of his service to the Alaska Native community, the university named its Dennis Demmert Appreciation and Recognition Award for him. Demmert also served as president of Sealaska Heritage Institute and as grand president of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, where he now serves on the executive committee and remains very active in ANB activities.

The lecture is scheduled from noon-1 pm, Wednesday, Nov. 13, at Sealaska Heritage’s Walter Soboleff Building, 105 S. Seward St. in Juneau. The lecture will be videotaped and put online shortly after the talk.

This program is provided under the Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska Schools (PITAAS) program and funded by the Alaska Native Education Program.

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: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,