It's important to remember choice

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, January 04, 2004

I've read many of the letters, pro and con, about smoking. They reminded me of a keynote address made at one of our ANB Grand Camp conventions by one of our executive committeemen. It was the 1977 convention. I will quote parts of the address.

"My first observation of our leaders performing on our behalf was during the early 30s while working on a missionary boat called The Princeton." We stopped off in Juneau for a few days. Unbeknownst to me, a bill was up before the Legislature which would have prohibited the sale of liquor to our Indian people. I heard about our leaders appearing before the Legislature and I went to the Legislative Chambers to hear their testimony.

Mind you, these men were the products of the teachings of Christianity at Sheldon Jackson School. They were taught to look down upon the partaking of alcoholic beverages and smoking as being very sinful. As strongly as they were opposed to the use of alcoholic beverages, they opposed the legislation because it would take away a part of our rights as citizens of the Territory. They testified before the Territorial Legislature and called upon lawmakers to extend that privilege to our Indian people. In other words, although they were opposed to this, they argued that this is a right that should be extended to all citizens. The bill was defeated and, as a result, we can get just as drunk as our white brothers. These men fought for principles and continued to do so until they passed away from our midst.

The ANB fought long and hard for rights as citizens, the right to vote, attend public schools, to remove signs that said "no dogs or Indians allowed" - equal rights. Today, ANB does not allow smoking at ANB functions, but does allow smoking at bingo. There are bingo games at other places in town that are non-smoking, so people have choices. Right of choices is important.

Frank O. Williams

Juneau



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