Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_Cyril George: 75 Years of Perspective through Photos

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Cyril George at Sealaska Heritage recording stories in 2013. Photo by Christy Eriksen

Cyril George: 75 Years of Perspective through Photos

By Mikayla Mitchell

“I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for pop. Some people will never be forgotten, and neither will you,” said Roberta Jack, daughter of the late Angoon Elder Cyril George, to Kathy Kolkhorst Ruddy over Zoom at a ceremony in Sealaska Heritage Institute’s clan house, Shuká Hít.  

Cyril George’s daughter, Roberta Jack, addressing Kathy Kolkhorst Ruddy (onscreen)Photo by Lyndsey Brollini

Kathy, a historian as well as a close friend and legal representative of the family, has been pushing to move a collection of 75 years of photos taken by Cyril from the University of Alaska Southeast to SHI’s archives. Cyril’s family chose to transfer the collection to SHI because the institute’s state-of-the-art facility meets the highest standard for care of archives and collections. The transfer has been of high urgency to Kathy due to health issues. A private ceremony for the transfer deed signing was held on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. 

Cyril George’s daughter, Roberta Jack, signing the transfer deed with Dr. Rosita Worl, president of SHI. Photo by Lyndsey Brollini

During the emotional ceremony, SHI President Dr. Rosita Worl assured Kolkhorst Ruddy, “You will live alongside Cyril in our archives.”

To the family, Worl said “We will take care of his photographs. They will be in a special place. We have the best facilities and technology. I want to make that promise on behalf of Sealaska and Sealaska Heritage Institute. I want to assure you it is in the best hands and the best place.”

One of several thousand photos from the Cyril George collection. Almost all of the images were taken by Cyril.

Cyril was a beloved photographer, orator, story teller, and musician. He belonged to the Deisheetaan clan of Angoon. He served as the mayor of Angoon, was on the first board of directors of Sealaska, and served as a member of the Kootsnoowoo Incorporated board. Additionally, Cyril was among those who built the famous Princeton Hall wooden boat in the 1940s, which was commissioned by the Presbyterian church and used for missionary travel. The boat was purchased in the early 1980s by Kolkhorst Ruddy and her husband, Bill, leading to a close friendship between the couple and Cyril, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 92.  

In a speech given on behalf of her family, Cyril’s granddaughter Lillian Woodbury said, “Cyril had a love of people and enjoyed capturing special moments. Had a knack for it. He was a natural… This means so many things today. It means without you [Kathy], none of this would be possible.”

Lillian Woodbury giving a speech to Kathy Ruddy. Photo by Lyndsey Brollini

“Cyril George is going to live on through the centuries,” Worl said. “He will be with us through his work-- be studied by generations. They will enrich our history.... We have been working on our culture to make sure it survives. What Cyril’s contribution is going to be is a closer look into our history.”

One of several thousand photos from the Cyril George collection. Almost all of the images were taken by Cyril.