Clans Give Views On Events of 1867

Sentinel Staff Writer
    The “Sharing Our Knowledge” Conference of Tlingit Tribes and Clans wrapped up today after a weekend that focused on the theme “Our History, We Are Healing Ourselves.”
     More than 200 people attended the Conference. Events ranged from dozens of workshops and presentations at the Sitka Fine Arts Campus to a ceremony in downtown Sitka on Sunday that commemorated the loss of Tlingit land in 1867.
    The event’s timing before Alaska Day was no coincidence. Conference Executive Director Gerry Hope said that for the past 20 years he has wanted to organize a Tlingit gathering that coincided with Alaska Day.
    The idea first occurred to Hope when he became president of the Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1 in 1999. 
    “Within the Native community, I heard pain, frustration, and anger.” Hope remembers some neighbors talking about Alaska Day: “‘Why should we be in the parade? What are we celebrating?’”
    “There’s an underlying truth about having land, language, culture, resources, and food severely restricted and we’re left with—what?” Hope said. “We need to at least start that discussion.”
    Some of that discussion began publicly on Sunday, when members of the Kiks.ádi clan gathered at the foot of Castle Hill, called Noow Tlein in Tlingit. Prior to Russian arrival, it was the site of Kiks.ádi clan houses.
    Dionne Brady-Howard led a group of about ten in a sorrow song and a discussion about the hill’s significance. One singer carried the bronze peace hat given by the Russian American Company, and Gerry Hope carried a clan hat from his mother’s Sik’nax.adi clan as a symbol of support.
    Dionne Brady-Howard said this was the first time they had marked the Treaty of Cession with a Tlingit ceremony. She acknowledged that some Sitkans with Tlingit heritage regularly join the Alaska Day festivities.
    “Not to detract from that, but we are basically celebrating when we lost our land.”
    Brady-Howard said this is also the first year that the Alaska Day organizing committee sought to incorporate Tlingit perspectives. The committee invited her and others to participate on Wednesday, but Brady-Howard says she’s not sure whether to accept.
    “I can see why the people who received this vast land would celebrate it,” she said. “But for us, it marks the selling of our land. It’s something we go through every year.”
    The theme of healing - and renewal - permeated the conference throughout the five days since it started on Friday. At a workshop on languages, participants said much of their healing has come from learning and teaching Native languages.
    Alfie Price shared his experience of gathering Sm’algyax (Tsimshian) learners in Juneau.
    “I never intended to be a language guy. I’m a bookworm. I thought I was going to be rocking out and playing video games”, he laughed.
    But instead, at age 48 he decided to relearn the language he had heard growing up in Metlakatla. There are only six fluent speakers of Sm’algyax in the world. Price also attends Haida and Tlingit classes.
    “Our language informs our worldview and teaches us how our people saw the world,” Price said. “It’s not just yet another way to say ‘Hi, how are you?’ In Sm’algyax we greet each other by saying ‘How is your name?’”
    Price started an Instagram account for his language learners’ group to document words and to recruit learners from afar. Now, people of Tsimshian descent Skype into their weekly meetings from California and North Carolina.
    Tlingit language teacher Selina Everson remembered how Sheldon Jackson High School, despite its reputation for providing a strong education, punished her family members for speaking Tlingit.
    “Deep in my heart I carry the hurt that they were trying to westernize us, after 10,000 years of civilization,” Everson said. She then congratulated her young students in the room, who have worked with her for years through the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Mentor-Apprentice program.
    Other elders shared medicinal recipes and stories in Tlingit, which Everson’s students recorded for the conference’s archives. Recipes included spruce pitch for healing cuts and a tonic of seal grease and warm salt water to flush out stomach infections.
    A group from the Tlingit village of Teslin, in the Canadian Yukon, also attended the workshop. As the participants introduced themselves, one woman stood up and said, “It’s good to finally be here and see your faces. I feel like I’m finally home.”
    The conference ended this afternoon with a panel at Mt. Edgecumbe on Russian, American, and Alaska Native perspectives on the Treaty of Cession. Videos of the event will be shared on the conference’s website next year:

You have no rights to post comments

Login Form




At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






September 2003

After the season-opening Ketchikan High School swim meet last week, Sitka High swimmer Matt Way is ranked first in the state in the100-meter breaststroke, while Carrington Gorman is ranked second in the 50-meter freestyle.



September 1973

From Around Town: Sitka Historical Society met Sunday at the Centennial Building with the people who had hosted the Historical Room during tour ship visits here. The ladies of the society served a nice Russian Tea from their samovar, and passed around Russian tea cakes.