SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Papers documenting 76 years of Alaska Native Brotherhood,
land claims struggle donated


January 04, 2008
Monday PM

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has posted online more than 1,000 historical papers donated by Dr. Walter Soboleff, a widely known Tlingit Elder and chair of the institute's board of trustees.

The papers, some of them hand written, mostly document activities of the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) from 1929 to 1995. The collection includes issues of the ANB periodical "The Voice of Brotherhood," ANB meeting minutes, correspondence, working files, camp files and papers that show how the ANB fought to improve the lives of Alaska Native people and to secure Native lands prior to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

The collection is important because it shows Native people were trying to resolve the issues they faced in the context of an unfamiliar western system, said SHI President Rosita Worl, noting historical and anthropological studies very often portray Native people as passive recipients of cultural change.

"It provides documentation that portrays the Native point of view, and you don't always get that in publications," Worl said. "I'm hopeful we're going to have researchers who come and look at this collection and begin to write the history as Native people were perceiving it, as they were living that historical period."

Soboleff for decades was an active member of ANB, a nonprofit fraternal organization founded in 1912. He currently serves as Grand President Emeritus. He considered donating the collection to several universities, including the University of Dubuque in Iowa, his alma mater, but ultimately he decided it should be closer to home.

"Papers of that nature are to be as near possible to the people of whom the articles have been written," Soboleff said. "They have been very interesting articles -- even hand-written letters telling of historic events of the people. Those are among them."

The institute digitized the collection through a two-year federal grant received in 2005 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It is posted online at Sealaska Heritage encourages anyone with materials or objects of historical or cultural importance to donate them to SHI's Special Collections Research Center.

SHI is a Native nonprofit established in 1980 to administer educational and cultural programs for Sealaska, a regional Native corporation formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The institute's mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures. Language revitalization is a priority of SHI.



Source of News:

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI)


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Ketchikan, Alaska