Bi-partisan legislation introduced Jan. 10 would designate Nov. 14 as Walter Soboleff Day, honoring the life of the Tlingit elder who died in 2011 at age 102.
Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, and Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, are co-prime sponsors of the legislation, according to a news release from the House Democratic Caucus.
Soboleff was a member of the Raven moeity and Dog Salmon clan, and was a translator and scholar of Tlingit language and storytelling. He was the first Alaska Native to be ordained a Presbyterian minister, and the first to serve on the State Board of Education, the release stated. He also served as president of Kootznoowoo, Inc., was a director of Sealaska Corporation and was Grand Camp President of the Alaska Native Brotherhood. “A trustee of the Sealaska Heritage Institute since 1985, he served as its chair from 1988 until May of 2011, when he ‘walked into the woods’ at the age of 102,” the release stated.
“Dr. Walter Soboleff was a man we all loved and admired as a spiritual leader and as a teacher,” Muñoz said in the release. “He led by example. His words, deeds, and his very presence were imbued with grace. Soon, there will be a cultural center in Juneau to honor this remarkable man. We hope there may be a day set aside as well to commemorate this great man.”
The Sealaska Heritage Institute is building a multi-million-dollar arts center named for Soboleff in downtown Juneau. Construction on the Walter Soboleff Center began in August 2013 and is scheduled to wrap up at the end of 2014.
“Dr. Soboleff was a leader, a very moral and spiritual man, but he also had a great sense of humor,” Kerttula said in the release. “I will always remember his laugh and I am proud to be part of the effort to have a special day to remember him and what he stood for.”