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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number One  -  Page 3
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Tom Richards: Like you, I wonder if today we could have a successful meeting to address an issue if there wasn’t any money. How many people would come to town on an important issue if they weren’t going to get per diem? I don’t think it would happen.

I would like to get your reaction. We talked before about why it was that Alaska Natives were not put on reservations and how the circumstances were so different in Alaska, so we were able to get organized and we were able to provide an offense rather than a defense. We weren’t marched away half way across the country and put into encampments.

During the early part of the second world war, there was a fella by the name of Colonel Muktuk Marston who was asked by the territorial governor to organize the Alaska territorial guard. Colonel Marston chartered a boat. The boat was owned by my uncle, Louis Reich from Kotzebue. He had a partnership with Doctor Stewart Rabeau was the physician in charge of the Alaska Native Service Hospital at Kotzebue. They traveled from Stedman and Norton Sound all the way to Barrow to organize the Alaska Territorial Guard.

There was an Army war correspondent on that boat. It was called The Ada, and when he got back from that cruise, he wrote a book called The Cruise of The Ada. We are fortunate, I think, in terms of historical perspective, to have his notes.

They stopped at the village of King Island, which was inhabited now in Norton Sound, and he wrote down what Colonel Marston said to the King Island Eskimos. He said men and women of King Island, I am here representing the President of the United States and the Governor of Alaska. You know that we are at war with the Japanese. Some of your young men have been called into the Army and they are fine soldiers, but I have gone up and down the coast from one end of the Eskimo Empire to organize all of you. I have been to Kuskaquim, Point Barrow and up to Kolvak and the Notack rivers to visit all of you. I have seen more Eskimos than any Eskimo, and everywhere I find them to be fine people and fine Americans. They are helping in this war 100 percent. We need you to be the eyes and ears of the Army. You know how to hunt the seal and the walrus. You’re fine shots. I want every man who is willing to join the Alaska Territorial Guard.

I think that points to a difference in terms of history between the Alaska Native experience and the broader experience of Native Americans.

Nels Anderson, Jr.: I think it goes back to what the elders were saying years ago that this was their land, and I still believe it today. You know, there has been a Claims Act, it was not complete and so I think the young people of our state need to delve into the history and the treaties.

Going back to what you’re saying, my father was part of the Territorial Guard. I’m very proud of that. I’ll always be proud of the rifle he had and I always wanted it, because he had lots of ammunition too. Anyway, our people had something inside of them that maybe other parts of the world did not: that they were never militarily beaten. Never once did the military defeat them and take away their pride.

An emissary representing the United States government and the territory of Alaska, saying we need you to help us defend this country, had a tremendous impact on the psyche of our people. It translated into a pride that was projected to people like me, and I felt it.

Tom Richards: I was thinking this morning about how to kind of introduce our next guest lecturer, and one thing came to mind, and that was navy bean soup. That might seem a little strange, but I woke up early this morning and I read for a while and I thought about Senator Gravel and I thought about navy bean soup.

I remember twice, one time was after the disastrous Alaska Airlines crash in a mountain near Juneau in September, Labor Day weekend, 1971. My father went to Washington to help lobby for an improvement in the airline safety transportation system. Senator Gravel invited us to lunch at the Senate dining room. We had navy bean soup. Very shortly thereafter, Senator Gravel was able to secure funding for an instrument landing system at Juneau, which I am sure has saved countless lives, and I know it’s made me feel a lot better about flying to Juneau.

A few years later, I traveled to Washington D.C. at the request of the BIA to accompany the president of Klukwan Inc., Irene Rowan, and her attorney Donna Willard. Because of some freak accident in ANCSA, Klukwan was a recognized village corporation under ANCSA. Klukwan didn’t have any land except by accident they had the 808 acres that had belonged to the Chilkat Indian Reserve, owned by the Chilkat IRA. We went and saw Senator Gravel. He invited us to the Senate dining room. We had navy bean soup. Shortly thereafter, Klukwan got their land entitlement under ANCSA.

Very wonderful things have happened to me when I’ve had navy bean soup with Senator Gravel. With anybody else, I have to kind of stay downwind from them for a couple of hours.

Senator Gravel has had a distinguished career, both in Alaska and nationwide. He served with distinction in the Alaska Legislature, and become Speaker of the House. He was elected to the United States Senate, was a very influential and prominent figure during the events meeting up to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Senator Gravel is now the chairman and chief executive officer of the Democracy Foundation in Arlington, Virginia.

I would like you to join me in welcoming Senator Mike Gravel.

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