Native Leader Richard Frank Remembered
September 24, 2012
Murkowski writes, “Richard Frank is an individual of great significance in the history of post-statehood Alaska. He was among the first Alaska Native leaders to recognize the risk that development of the modern state of Alaska posed to the subsistence lifestyle of traditional villages like his home village of Minto in Interior Alaska. He was among the first Native leaders to organize his people in opposition to state land selections that would prejudice the eventual settlement of the aboriginal land claims of Alaska Natives. And his leadership, recognized throughout the state, is one of the reasons that the Native peoples of Alaska won their battle for land claims with passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971."
In her tribute Murkowski writes, “Richard’s wartime experience is chronicled in Fern Chardonnet’s book, Alaska at War, 1941-1945. She relates that World War II presented an extraordinary opportunity for Alaska Natives. Many, for the first time, received the same pay and benefits as white workers, and a chance to acquire new skills and to build genuine self esteem. Richard Frank was a case in point. Upon enlisting he was encouraged to pursue specialized training as an aircraft mechanic. At first he said, “No,” but his commanding officer had confidence in Richard and he agreed to pursue the training."
“The son of a traditional village chief, he found his calling in the early 1960s as the battle for Alaska’s lands was beginning. The Alaska Statehood Act gave the state of Alaska the right to select lands but left resolution of Alaska Native land claims for another day," Murkowski writes for the Congressional Record.
Murkowski concludes, “Alaska has truly lost a significant figure. If it is any condolence, Richard’s life experiences were rich, he accomplished a great deal for his Native people, and he supported a truly wonderful family. Thanks to modern technology, his stories and life experiences will live on for eternity. On behalf of the Senate I extend condolences to Reverend Anna, Richard’s family and the Athabascan people of Interior Alaska who are preparing to honor and celebrate Richard’s life next week with a Memorial Potlatch.”
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