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Alaska Native veterans speak out at SHI lecture

Sealaska Heritage Institute hosted a panel of Alaska Native veterans at an event held as part of Native American Heritage Month, on the eve of Veterans Day. Panelists Fred Bennett, Donald See, Royal Hill, Warren Sheakley, George Lindoff and James Lindoff spoke about their experiences during and after the Vietnam War, following a showing of the documentary “Hunting in Wartime.” The film, made by Samantha Farinella, features interviews with the men, who all served in Vietnam and who all came from Hoonah. “We weren’t the same people when we came home – and we’re still not the same,” said veteran and panelist Fred Bennett. “It took a long time to get where we are today, to where we can talk about it – and we’re real careful when we do.” The veterans spoke of the harsh treatment they received on returning to the United States after serving in the brutal conflict, of keeping quiet about their service, and of the devastating media stereotypes perpetuated about Vietnam veterans. The panel was hosted by Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Commander Ozzie Sheakley.

Prior to the panel, special guest US Sen. Dan Sullivan spoke in praise of Alaska Native veterans, noting that despite the shameful treatment Vietnam veterans received on returning home, these same men have shown the country that those who fight are owed our respect for their service, shifting public perception for those that have come after them.

At the end of the presentation, SHI president Rosita Worl said she hadn’t understood the depth of the Tlingit Vietnam veterans’ anguish until she watched “Hunting in Wartime.” “I can’t tell you how proud I am of you, I can’t tell you the sorrow I feel in my heart for you, for all that you have gone through,” Worl said, adding that the veterans would be praised and honored in Tlingit history moving forward. “You are going to live in the hearts of our people.”

For more on the documentary, visit
For more on SHI’s lecture series, visit

(Photo by Brian Wallace)

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research and advocacy 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 and a Native Artists Committee. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.