Native scholar reminds gathering of cultural values

93rd ANB convention to focus on teaching respect in youth

Posted: Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Walter Soboleff gave the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood a strong reminder of its cultural values in a keynote speech on Tuesday morning for the organizations' weeklong convention in Juneau.

The theme of this year's gathering is "Teaching Respect to Our Youth Through Our Families", with a focus on family-based education. Children's welfare, Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq are among the social and political topics to be discussed at the 93rd convention.

Soboleff, a Juneau pastor and Native scholar, said spending time with Tlingit elders in the 1940s was a high privilege and was "like going to college and graduate school."

Soboleff, 97, developed what has since been dubbed "Tlingit Protocols," which can be used as a moral guide for Tlingit clans and families.

Alaska Native Brotherhood 2nd Grand Vice President Ray Sensmeier noted that Soboleff continues to send hand-written letters to a lot of people in Southeast Alaska.

"He spends a lot of time ... even at an advanced age ... to make sure that we keep the brotherhood and sisterhood alive," Sensmeier said.

The 15 protocols, or Native values, are based on Soboleff's observation of Tlingit elders from Yakutat to Saxman, he said Tuesday.

"I heard them sharing and I saw them living the values," Soboleff said.

The values include: obedience; respect; patience; careful speech; conservative use of land and marine resources; familial and clan pride; sharing of burdens; respect for others' property; family-based education; health; no stealing; peace; unity and self-determination; good conduct; and humor.

From watching nature, Tlingits were able to "(develop) quite a library in the mind," Soboleff said, noting that Tlingit parents are their children's first teachers.

For example, Tlingit children are instructed to speak with care, and thus prevent harm from coming to their clan and their family members that might later require the clan to apologize or pay for the error, Soboleff said.

Today, the Alaska Native Brotherhood will discuss teaching respect to youth, and two U.S. Forest Service officers, including a tribal government specialist, will speak to the convention at 3 p.m.

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