My Turn: A champion of human dignity and rights

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2002

During my childhood grade school days, our teacher would put salt in our mouths for speaking our own Tlingit language in school. I didn't mind the small jail, we could sleep another half-hour, but not the salt instead of studying or listening to our teacher. Anyway, the English language wasn't that easy to digest or even learn away from home, where we spoke Tlingit always. Today, I keep wondering which is better, the jail and the salt or the American extinguishing the Tlingit language, embodied in ANCSA of 1971 as a simple provision. Now I consider the latter the winner, simply because without this titanic language, we cannot qualify the greater self-determination that ANCSA offers Natives in disguise. No offense, just concerned.

But the thing I want to emphasize is that our ANB founding fathers put together a model blueprint framework example for this confused Native generation in the form of our ANB organization of 1912 itself; a unique model we can use to correct ANCSA and to form a more perfect union this time around. But no one ever mentioned anything about this in the Empire, other than the ANB constitution question itself. Better yet, the framers did this without impressive academic background like college degrees. But they listened very carefully to the Presbyterian minister who played a significant role in this historic event. However, the ANB is a disciple by way of Matthew 12:50; ordained by way of John 8:31 and 32.

Actually, the time is long overdue. What we need to do at this point in time is place the ANB constitution in a brilliantly-adorned charter of freedom it more than deserves, depicting the new independence and national government it gave us on ancestral lands. After all, this document still represents all the benefits and basic rights we have gained since 1912. It is a work that deserves this recognition: "Faith of Our ANB Founding Fathers." It mandates the troublesome ANCSA, which looks like a pagan corporation-type constitution whose extinguishing language reflects the last rites or a curse rather than blessings. The way we know our aboriginal Native rights and values involved, centuries.

Frankly, it was a big surprise when AFN sent a letter of appeal to our ANB/ANS Grand Convention held in Kake, my birthplace in 1928, the only Native village located on Kupearanoff Island. An appeal asking the Grand Convention to join AFN to rise and stand against this titanic extinguishment of language itself. But this was the same reason why I set myself up as an independent Native culture and sovereignty advocate, quickly following 1971, hoping it might reach someone more intellectually-inclined, like AFN itself. Although most of my Native peers saw me as a rebel without a just cause, the ridicule and mockery involved wasn't that bad at all, coming from those who have the natural ability to miss what was intended for them to have. Although the campaign I set up wasn't anything like a pie-eating contest, at all, knowledgeably and materially unprepared.

However, I began with a small manual Smith Corona typewriter, an American Collegiate Dictionary, a Bible and the Juneau Empire. To improve my stubborn Tlingit conscience, I did two years at UAJ out at Auke Lake campus and downtown at the Bill Ray Center. Before that with my wife Emma, now deceased, I took a six-month office procedure course under the state MDTA program in downtown Juneau. But I got my high school diploma at Mt. Edgecumbe High, where I also received a Braves Basketball Hall of Fame plaque that I cherish most. Today the AFN, a champion of human dignity and human rights, will hopefully finish that quest for freedom which began in 1912 with our ANB (a liberator, not a conqueror).

"But I always knew that the hand of Providence is not that short nor the pit so deep that He is not deeper still."

Franklin "Shkane" Williams Sr. is a member of Kake ANB Camp No. 10, local Southeast Alaska Native Veterans and the Juneau SA Corps.P>



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