Dr. Walter Soboleff Day to be observed Nov. 14

Dr. Walter Soboleff, center, wears his dog salmon hat during opening ceremonies of Celebration 2010.

Walter Soboleff Day is Nov. 14, an observance that was made official last year following passage of HB217.

The following events have been scheduled in the late Tlingit spiritual leader’s honor.



Sealaska and Sealaska Heritage Institute will host a discussion about Soboleff on Friday, Nov. 13, at the Walter Soboleff Building on the eve of Walter Soboleff Day,

The event, “A Restrospective View of Dr. Walter Soboleff,” will feature stories about his life, a reading of his hand-written letters and a formal transfer of an original painted portrait of him from Sealaska to Sealaska Heritage Institute.

“He had a profound effect on Native and non-Native people across the state. He was a prominent spiritual force for our people at a time when we needed it the most,” said SHI President Rosita Worl in a release.

Albert Kookesh, who was Soboleff’s nephew and close friend, will lead the discussion, and he and other guests will share stories about Soboleff and the wit and wisdom he imparted. The Rev. Dr. Phil Campbell, pastor of Northern Light United Church, will tell a story about why that church was shut down under Soboleff’s ministry at the height of its popularity.

The panel also will share copies of some of his letters at the event. Dr. Soboleff was famous for sending hand-written letters to people, often to encourage, congratulate or thank them. The Juneau Empire recently chronicled the transformative effect his letters had on a young Native man who did not know Soboleff yet received a letter of encouragement from him while an inmate at Juneau’s prison. The inmate wrote back, prompting a series of letters between the two.

“I began to realize if I set my mind to it, I could have a pretty good life. I felt like he was on my team,” the former inmate said in the article. “I thought my life was over but his letters helped rebuild who I was.”

SHI is hoping people who have letters from Dr. Soboleff will share copies for this event. People who want to share letters should send them to Dixie Hutchinson at dixie.hutchinson@sealaska.com by Thursday, Nov. 12.

Sealaska Chair Joe Nelson and Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott will formally transfer a painted portrait of Dr. Soboleff commissioned by Sealaska to SHI Chair Marlene Johnson. The painting will hang prominently in the Walter Soboleff Building. The event will close with comments by a Soboleff family spokesperson.

This free event is scheduled at noon Friday, and is sponsored by Sealaska and Sealaska Heritage Institute.



The Juneau Douglas City Museum has also organized an event in Soboleff’s memory. In honor of Soboleff’s letters, the museum has invited the community to send someone a note of encouragement on Saturday, Nov. 14. The Museum will provide complimentary note cards, including U.S. postage, at the museum.

For more information regarding this event, exhibits or other upcoming programs, visit: www.juneau.org/museum or call 586-3572.


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