The Defenders of Alaska Native Country

Ishmael Hope, a good friend of mine, is embarking on a project to tell the story of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood’s Civil Rights movement. I have already contributed to the project, so should you, even if its just $1!


The Defenders of Alaska Native Country

2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood, making it the oldest indigenous civil rights organization in America. Yet the history of these two great organizations is widely unknown.

Your support for this project will send Tlingit/Iñupiaq playwright Ishmael Hope to the University of Washington, where he will study the William Paul Sr. Papers to learn more about the major events and the struggles of the ANB and ANS.

Ishmael will turn his research into a play, The Defenders of Alaska Native Country, to be produced in Juneau at the Perseverance Theatre and directed by Flordelino Lagundino to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ANB and ANS.

From the playwright:

“We want to do right by the Brotherhood and Sisterhood; to our Elders and teachers; and to Alaska, a state that largely doesn’t know this amazing history. The play is filled with outstanding people with a lot of “character” such as William Paul, the first Alaska Native lawyer (in the 1920’s!) and an all-too-human political brawler who fell many times and got up just as many; Andrew Hope, the great grandfather of the playwright, who joined the Brotherhood as a teenager, and became the leader of the lawsuit that brought compensation to the Tlingit and Haida Indians; Roy and Elizabeth Peratrovich, two well-known civil rights leaders but little known in their humanity; Peter Simpson, the Father of the ANB, a Tshimshian man who led the ANB through its first years of survival through assimilation, and a great businessman and quiet leader who planted the seed to William Paul for fight for the land; Charlie Jones, who was arrested for voting illegally because he wasn’t “civilized” and who ultimately triumphed with Native and non-Native support in becoming Shéiksh, “Chief Shakes,” one of the richest names in Tlingit history; and many more.

There are chapters in the history that have never been written, or may have not been fully understood, or have been misinformed. There are treasures of letters, transcripts, speeches, that tell about the lives of these people in all their richness, faults, humanity, and heroism. This visit will give us a chance to tell the story as well as we can tell it.

We are using Kickstarter because, like the Alaska Native Brotherhood, we are not a rich organization, though we are proud, and we need to rely on the donations of our peers. As the late Judson Brown, a lifetime ANB leader, told the playwright’s father, Andrew Hope III, “Some of the people didn’t have five dollars to spare… When the money-raising teams went to the different villages, the procedure was to make an appeal to the public. They would pass the potlatch bowl around. I witnessed occasions where the old people sitting in the balcony would drop one hundred dollar gold certificates down in the bowl. They carried more than their share of the battle.”

The battle lingers on in the need to tell this story. We humbly and respectfully ask for a donation to remember the spirit of the Brotherhood and the Sisterhood. ”

-Ishmael Hope


About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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