Language matters: The alleged disappearance of Áak’w Kwáan, T’aaku Kwáan


What happened to the Áak’w Kwáan and T’aaku Kwáan? Did they all die of disease? Become assimilated? Move away?

A state researcher challenges the modern day, persistent narrative implying that local Tlingits seemed to have just vanished as soon as non-Native settlers arrived in the area.

Anastasia Tarmann with the Alaska State Library and Historical Collections explained her ongoing research during a session at “Sharing our Knowledge” clan conference held recently in Juneau.

“The stories that we tell ourselves, these interpretations, they reinforce or they cultivate relationships,” Tarmann said. “They can make relationships. Or they can just reinforce old messages. … They are our identities. And they also are possibilities.”

Tarmann pointed to recent interpretive signs for the new Brotherhood Bridge and the Auke Village Recreation Area as examples. The wording and the past-tense language implies that the Áak’w Kwáan either moved on from the area or abandoned their winter village early last century.

Tarmann highlighted the Brotherhood Bridge sign: “It says, ‘Although changes in Áak’w Kwáan lifestyle occurred, they continued to live in their traditional homeland.’ That bothers me. I’m sure it bothers you.”
Then, for the Auke Village sign, Tarmann noted: “By 1900, most of the Natives had moved to Juneau to work in the mines, and by 1926 all structural remains of the village were gone.”

“It’s like Áak’w history is a preface to Western history,” Tarmann said.
In Berners Bay, the forest was clear cut by gold miners in the area.
In 1962, Douglas Village Natives were forced from their homes without compensation and the village was burned down while many villagers were at their fish camp on the Taku River. The City of Douglas seized the land for a harbor project.

There’s an old saying that history is written by the victors, or the occupiers. Based on Western ideology and values, Tarmann said it seems that local history really didn’t start until after the United States took possession of the territory and the Gold Rush started. Does morality and virtue really only begin with Western civilization?

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Conservation interests fear prized yellow cedar may face extinction

Paul E. Hennon, USDA Forest Service Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Paul E. Hennon, USDA Forest Service Commons Attribution 3.0 License


By Theresa Soley

In some areas, yellow cedar trees stand white and empty of needles against a background of green hemlock. The places appear skeleton-like, bare trees standing with limbs exposed, said Paul Hennon, a research forest pathologist with the U.S. Forest Service.

He said in some of its range, 75 percent of mature trees have died.

Gregory is Tlingit Raven Beaver from Angoon, but was raised in Juneau. He began carving at a young age, inspired by other local artists.
Gregory carves almost exclusively with yellow cedar. Its wood is strong, yet easy to carve, and the tree has natural anti-fungal properties that inhibit decay. It is one of the few local woods that can withstand the elements over time and avoid rot outdoors.

These are the reasons that yellow cedar is valuable in the market.
Research suggests that yellow cedar could live up to 3,500 years. The tree grows slowly and can survive in nutrient-poor soils. Bears gnaw on yellow cedar bark and deer shelter within the tree for warmth in winter.

In a 2012 paper published in the journal BioScience, researchers identified climate change as a culprit of yellow cedar deaths. A warmer climate has reduced snow cover and created areas with poor soil drainage. With no blanket of snow for protection, roots freeze, causing immense injury to the base of the tree system.

This has killed swaths of trees prematurely.


Posted in ANCSA, Environment | Leave a comment

Public Testimony Against S. 872

Canoe - Wrangell, AK

Canoe – Wrangell, AK

The following is public testimony given by John Martin, Sr. of Hoonah, AK against S.872 – Unrecognized Southeast Alaska Native Communities Recognition and Compensation Act. The bill is currently being considered by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. If passed, it would convey land to the five landless communities of Wrangell, Petersburg, Tenakee, Ketchikan and Haines in the form of ANCSA Corporations.

Members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,

I am presenting a written document in lieu of a video clip that was prepared for this hearing.

Gunal’cheesh gaaw ux’ jeet ye teeyi ya x’ax’ da taani ha tlatke daat.
(Thank you for allowing me time to speak about our Tribal Lands in Tenakee.)
Keiheenouk’ yu x’at duwa sakw Lingit xei nax.
(My Lingit name is Keiheenouk’)

My English name is John Martin, Sr. I was born and raised in Tenakee, Alaska. I am the Clan Leader for the members of the Sockeye House. Our Clans occupied and utilized all of the traditional lands in the Tenakee/Hoonah/Angoon area until we were forced to move to Hoonah to enable the children to attend the Hoonah Territorial School. My parents had a place to live and a beautiful garden that provided our family with fresh vegetables for the dinner table. We had access to all species of fish in the waters of Tenakee Inlet and nearby.

I oppose S. 872, as it is written. Our true Lingit people want culture and language. We oppose corporations. They are profit-making corporations and have nothing to do with traditional cultural values. The future of our traditional culture depends on safeguarding the integrity of the indigenous habitat that remain in this Senate Bill as it is written, will convey indigenous habitat to a short-term, profit-driven corporation, the antithesis of traditional culture.

Some people say that they represent Tenakee and that’s a fallacy. They were not born there and did not live there as children. They were not occupants of our traditional lands. I am a blood descendant and was placed in leadership properly by our forefathers.

Tenakee is the last Tlingit village in Southeast Alaska that is not corrupted by corporations. Please help us keep it that way! Don’t let the corporation steal our Lingit land!

The Federal Government with Governor Brady, allowed the Tsimpshians to have their cultural village on Lingit land. Please consider filling the balance by doing the same for the Lingit blood descendants to have Tenakee as a Lingit cultural village to keep our culture, language, songs and dance alive for our Children and grandchildren.

We have less than eight fluent Lingit speakers in the northern saltwater area. Don’t let our language die. This also was a vision of the late William Paul, Lingit Attorney from the village of Wrangell, Alaska.

Thank you very much for your time.

Posted in ANCSA, Clan Based Property, Decolonization, Village Resilience | Leave a comment

8th Annual Abolish Columbus Day March – Seattle Washington


From the event page on Facebook:

Sunday, October 11 at 12:00pm
Westlake Park, Seattle, WA

The state of Washington, and several other areas across the so called “United States” still celebrate the man who helped to initiate the worlds worst cultural genocide and slave trade.

Join an all star list of powerful presenters and leaders as we take it to the streets until the state of Washington, and Federal level governments recognize that Columbus was no hero!

Everyone is welcome! We need your support to raise the awareness and motivation of the general public and shift the atmosphere of the world we live in for a better tomorrow

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Realpolitik: Obama’s Visit to Alaska

Obama prepares to take Uncle Sam’s share of the fish! Alaska Public Media

Obama’s visit to Alaska and wooing of Alaska Natives, while friendly and nice and even commendable on a personal level, is really a part of a greater trend to legitimize the US Government’s brutal occupation of North America and it’s attempted extermination of indigenous peoples. Why does the President of the US suddenly care after so many Presidents have been commended for leading military campaigns against us? Probably because there’s a general leftward trend in the legitimizing ideology of ruling class: gay rights, women’s rights, racial justice, etc. In the past Manifest Destiny legitimized the US conquering and ruling of Indian Country. Now social justice, protection of Human Rights, and making sure a Republican doesn’t end up in the White House is what is used to legitimize their rule. All of this is extremely convenient now that their control of Indian Country and North America is consolidated and absolute.

Until this leftward trend began, some of the most fiercest internal opposition to the United State’s domestic power came from revolutionary movements from minority groups, including such organizations as AIM. Now it’s “carrot and stick” approach is to reward some members of this population while unleashing it’s police state on those who won’t or can’t prove their loyalty; typically the urban poor and reservation poor. In the meantime, some of us Natives have been and will continue to be accepted into the middle class in return for our loyalty and votes.

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Announcing my Candidacy for President of the United States of America

As of today I am old enough to be President of the United States of America. Let this be my official announcement that I’m running for President. My platform:

  • Drugs – end Federal prohibition and allow municipalities, neighborhoods and counties to make the decision to prohibit or allow drugs on their own.
  • Public Safety – urban neighborhoods and small towns know best how to handle matters of public safety and crime in their communities. Let them handle such issues at the local level and hire their own public safety constables and mental health crisis responders. Release and pardon all non-violent “criminals” and perpetrators of victimless crimes. Pardon all felons and remove the “scarlet letter” that they bear. Allow for and encourage the establishment of penal colonies for sex offenders and other pathological criminals; transfer all federal inmates to these colonies and allow them to manage their own affairs and live their own lives.
  • Gay Marriage – this is a local concern to be handled at a local level.
  • Military – end all “Defense” spending and put it toward veterans benefits and back into the hands of local communities; perhaps in the form of a basic income. Encourage the establishment of local militias.
  • Welfare – dismantle most social services and instead institute a negative income tax or basic income for all citizens of the US
  • Education – leave this matter to local municipalities, counties and neighborhoods
  • Taxes – Disband the IRS. Immediately. Maintain taxes on corporations on US soil and trade with other countries.
  • War on Terrorism – Disband the Department of Homeland Security, immediately. Disband the NSA, immediately. Disband the CIA, immediately.
  • Gun Control – this is a local matter to be handled at a local level.
  • Police state – disband the FBI, ATF and DEA. Tupac Shakur had it right when he said these are just gangs.
  • Economy – End the Federal Reserve and adopt Milton Friedman’s Monetarism, where the money supply is expanded by a fixed amount every year. Perhaps this would be a first step toward transitioning to a gold standard or the establishment of local currencies.
  • Pardon and release Chelsea Manning. Pardon and welcome home Edward Snowden. End all investigations of Julian Assange and offer him asylum in the US.
  • Implement a basic, universal income for all citizens. This idea was endorsed by a wide diversity of thinkers from Martin Luther King Jr. to Milton Friedman.

So obviously I have less than a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected. But my intention is to develop a national platform that:

  • cannot be co-opted by establishment politicians and parties
  • has broad, populist appeal that cuts through left/right divides
  • is actually a threat to the ruling class, banksters, illuminati, or whatever you would like to call them

The purpose of a platform such as this one is not to win, but to grow a third political tribe that is neither the Blue Tribe or the Red Tribe. The purpose would be to grow a Gray Tribe that rejects the current political system and power structure out of hand in the same way that the Red Tribe rejects gay marriage and the Blue Tribe accepts it. Grow the Gray Tribe.

This kind of platform is not without precedent. The inspiration for this platform was Norman Mailer’s candidacy in the 1969 New York City Democratic Mayoral Primary election.

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Denali – What’s in a name?

Denali - Mt. McKinley Highest point in North America - National Parks Service

Denali – Mt. McKinley
Highest point in North America – National Parks Service

President Obama recently “renamed” Mt. McKinley to Denali. Denali is, of course, the Athabaskan name for the mountain. Denali is the name by which I knew and called the mountain my entire life growing up in Lingít Aaní (southeast Alaska.) There is no Tlingit name for the mountain that I am aware of, otherwise I would refer to it by it’s Tlingit name. As far as I know, most Alaskans refer to the mountain as “Denali,” or at least recognize this name for the mountain. So does it matter that the federal government recognizes “Denali” as the mountain’s official name?

For me it doesn’t matter one way or the other. “Mt. McKinley” is surely a colonial name for the mountain. Did President McKinley, for whom it was named, even lay eyes on the mountain? The overwriting of indigenous place names across the continent is a claim to the land by the United States of America. It is the crossing of T’s and dotting of I’s after conquest of indigenous tribes. Supporters of a name change may have you believe that an “official” renaming of the mountain is to pay respect to the original inhabitants of the land. But I would throw it in with the same category as changing the name of the Washington Redskins football team – it’s a 21st century attempt to legitimize the United State’s claim to North America by purportedly representing native tribes and peoples. But these are the very people whose extermination was a part of US policy at one point. I believe that this is about making us upwardly mobile Natives feel better about voting Democrat and supporting the United States, even as it continues it’s original Indian Policy in the Middle East. Even as it refuses us real sovereignty (which would be a threat to it’s legitimacy) in return for dependence and third world living conditions.

I will support an “official” name change once we have genuinely reclaimed our land from our conquerors. Until then I don’t particularly care what the federal government calls any mountain, river, or monument. For me and the people I know and love, it has always been Denali and will always be Denali.

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