“Probably for the first time ever, practitioners [of indigenous cultures] came together with scholars as equals to discuss their mutual knowledge of and experience with the cultures of people indigenous to this part of the world.“
Andy Hope’s description of the first conference in the book documenting presentations made at Haines/Klukwan: Will the Time Ever Come: A Tlingit Source Book, published 2000.
Andrew Hope III
It was Andy Hope’s idea to hold a conference of Tribes and Clans indigenous to Southeast Alaska, including related groups living in western Canada. Richard and Nora Marks Dauenhauer signed on early and provided much organizational help. Andy, Richard and Nora were founding members of Tlingit Readers, Inc., the non-profit organization that was to sponsor the first and later conferences.
The three have since passed away: in 2008 (Andy), 2014 (Richard), and 2017 (Nora).
Andy had been pushing for this type of conference for well over a decade prior to 1993. He organized conferences of tradition bearers (elders), including Canadian Tlingits living in northern British Columbia and the Yukon, to create a list of clans and clan houses that became the “Traditional Tlingit Country” poster (now in its sixth printing).
The first of the Sharing Our Knowledge conference, held in Haines and Klukwan in May 1993, proved to be a break-away success. Hundreds of people attended and participated in presentations by dozens of experts, indigenous and academic. Raven and Eagle host clans held culture nights and Klukwan welcomed conference participants on tours of clan houses with displays of priceless regalia and clan art. As Andy said amid the tumult, “There’s a hunger for this!”
In the “founding documents,” the newspaper op-ed columns published in 1992 and 1993, Andy describes his vision of the gathering he was organizing and, in an afterword in July 1993, an appreciation of the grand collaboration that became the Sharing Our Knowledge conferences, now going strong for over a quarter of a century since Andy brought his idea into being.