Nearly 130 delegates of Tlingit-Haida Central Council Tribal Assembly have met in Juneau, its capital city, for meetings that run through the week.
The sovereign, tribal government of the Central Council represents more than 28,000 Tlingit and Haida worldwide, according to the organization’s website.
With plenty to spare to make a quorum, 129 out of 132 delegates came to annual event, located at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. They wore black, red and white at their seats in the hall. A banner above the stage read in Tlingit and English, “Respect People. Respect yourself, too, and other people will respect you,” credited to Dr. Walter Soboleff.
John Borbridge Jr., former president of Central Council, said he was happy to have the chance to address the Assembly.
“You bring back a lot of good memories,” Borbridge said, “a lot of good things accomplished.”
He challenged the attendees to ask themselves “what is in your mind and in your heart that you want to accomplish? I know that you will achieve them.”
Borbridge said that in 1968 the Central Council was not going to be included in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. He said at a U.S. Senate meeting from that year he was told that the Central Council in Southeast Alaska are not eligible for benefits from any bill that may be enacted to solve the claims of Natives of Alaska.
“We were out,” Borbridge said. “Ladies and gentlemen, things changed and they changed fast.”
That same day, Borbridge said, Native testimony to the Senate and his impromptu meeting with a Senate committee president changed minds.
“At the beginning of the day we were out. At the end of the day we were in,” Borbridge said.
Mayor Bruce Bothelo welcomed the delegates to the capital city the Central Council shares with the state of Alaska.
“(It’s) My last opportunity as mayor to welcome you to the capital city,” Botelho said.
The Central Council, Botelho said, played “no small role” in a central theme of the ongoing Temperate Rainforest Symposium in Centennial Hall.
“And that is the importance of sense of place,” Botelho said. “And the centrality of the people of the Tongass in defining what that sense of place is. Merging a complementary role of both traditional knowledge and science. And how that combination will make our region a place that will survive for countless generations to come.”
The mayor also thanked the council for its help with gaining a place for the recent coastal management initiative on the ballot.
“Local people should have a meaningful voice in deciding what happens, how development takes place, where it takes place” Botelho said, “respecting those that have highest values for other uses.”
The meetings continue through Saturday. For more information or to live stream the event visit
• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.