Clan conference to sponsor more workshops
July 14, 1993
There was a good feeling from the time we boarded the ferry in Juneau on Wednesday, May 5. The Tongass Tribe dancers were performing in the forward lounge. The weather improved as we pulled out of Juneau and just kept getting better and better. It was a little cool for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings, but by Saturday it was quite warm.
One of the conference videographers, Tony Armlin, conducted interviews with conference participants on the ferry from Juneau to Haines.
During the Thursday workshop session on developing a list of tribes and clans, there was a consensus among the workshop participants that lists of Tlingit tribes and clans developed by George Emmons, Frederica de Laguna and Louis Shotridge should serve as the basis for developing a contemporary list. The inland Tlingit should be included on the list, as well as Tlingit relatives in British Columbia (Telegraph Creek and Port Hardy) and Yukon (Tagish, Haines Junction).
The Thursday evening was Raven moiety night at the Chilkat Center in Haines. Judson Brown (Dakl’aweidi) and Richard Jackson (Teikweidi) served as co-emcee’s for the Wolf moiety. A Raven’s Tail robe woven by Marie Laws (T’akdeintaan) was presented in public for the first time on Raven night. Marie’s article on Tlingit weaving will appear in the forthcoming conference proceedings.
Judson introduced Dixie Hanson (Kaagwaantaan), who brought out a Raven blanket for her daughter-in-law to be, Darlene Bezezkof (K’alchaneidi). Tommy Jimmy Jr. (Kaagwaantaan), the bridegroom to be, was down in Juneau at the time, attending graduation ceremonies at University of Alaska Southeast.
Tommy made it to Haines for the Saturday evening program. He served as co-emcee for the Wolf moiety. His first statement on stage was “I understand that Judson Brown gave me away when I was down in Juneau receiving my Associate of Arts degree.”
The title for the conference proceedings came from a statement made by Matthew Fred during the Angoon Dance presentation on Raven moiety night. Matthew was introduc1ng a song the Angoon people obtained from the Tsimshians. He spoke of the reluctance of many to perform certain songs, usually with the rationale that “the time isn’t right.” Matthew asked rhetorically, “will the time ever come?”
Annie Hotch, matriarch of Kaagwaantaan Bear House of Klukwan, took in much of the conference in her wheelchair.
Chilkat Indian Village brought out the 1876 treaty between Chilkat and Stikine, which caused some excitement in the Wrangell group. The treaty was negotiated by the U.S. Army. The conflict was between Wolf moiety clans — the Naanya.ayi and the Kaagwaantaan. I have ancestors on both sides.
There was a long peacemaking process that involved the U.S. government, the territorial government, the Alaska Native Brotherhood, a number of Tlingit clans and many other entities. Though this conflict is still a sensitive issue, it is important to recognize that it has been well documented. Joe Hotch, president of Chilkat Indian Village, the tribal government of Klukwan, has suggested that a Klukwan-Wrangell dinner be held sometime in the near future.
Conferees took a break Friday morning for tours of Klukwan clan houses. Caretakers of Dakl’aweidi Killer Whale Dorsal Fin House and the Kaagwaantaan Bear House graciously shared their clan treasures. Bear House also contains the crest panels from the Box House of Sitka (which were brought to Klukwan by Charlie Joseph) and the Killer Whale House panels.
Friday night at the Chilkat Center was Wolf Moiety night. Kelly James, patriarch of my clan, the Sik’nax.adi, spoke on behalf of the Wolf Moiety. Representatives from Saxman and Ketchikan presented an invitation to host the next conference during the Wolf night presentations. The conference committee has accepted the invitation. The dates for the next conference haven’t been set, though it will be sometime in the spring of 1994.
The northern lights put on a display Friday night and early Saturday morning, following Wolf night. They came out despite a full moon rise early Saturday morning – the moon seeming to rise from Glacier Bay.
One of the highlights of the conference was the Saturday afternoon elders panel. Anna Katzeek (Shangukeidi), Matthew Fred (Deisheetaan), Antonia Jack (Dakl’aweidi), Frank Jackson (Kookhittaan), Elizabeth Nyman (Yanyeidi) and Amy Marvin (Chookaneidi) spoke in Tlingit about their clan traditions. Jeff Leer, Anna Katzeek and Walter Soboleff provided translation services.
On Saturday evening at the Chilkat Center, Annie Hotch was getting tired, so Klukwan performed first. Tommie Jimmy Jr. led the drummers like a young Charlie Joseph. He was a co-emcee, with Richard Jackson for the Wolf Moiety. Paul Jackson and Paul Marks (both Lukaax.adi), served as Raven Moiety emcees.
The ferry trip back on Sunday afternoon was beautiful, calm, clear and warm. I was able to talk to quite a few people. Several new members were recruited for the planning committee.
I think that it should be formally organized as a learning institute, the School of Tlingit Customs and Traditions. I have recommended that the Sitka Tribe of Alaska charter an independent educational subsidiary with the current planning committee members serving as charter members of the board. Perhaps this entity, whatever it will be named, can serve as the basis for a tribal college.
The April 7th issue of “Indian Country Today,” reported the following comments of Vine Deloria at the 12th annual Conference of American Indian Higher Education Consortium: “Indians must be the standard-bearers for their culture as it gains currency with others. The traditional knowledge of Native Americans on plants, animals, stars and geology is so coveted,” he said, “that to discuss conference possibilities even in passing is to provide grant-writing fodder for some enterprising New Ager. We have got to move on this in the next five years. Young people have got to seek out elders. Our tribal colleges should be a spokesperson on this for all Indian people.”
The clan conference will continue to sponsor workshops in communities to develop and refine educational materials and information. There is about 60 hours of high quality video from the conference. The conference video catalog will be published in early August. The conference proceedings will be published later this year.
Andy Hope is president of the ‘Before Columbus Foundation,’ a nation-wide group organized in 1976 to promote and disseminate American multi-cultural literature.