About the www.Alaskool.org project and its developers
Land claims at the grass roots:
1966 letters and village newsletters

Box 120
Kotzebue, Alaska
June 14, 1966

Mr. Sam Taalak,
President Arctic Slope Native Association
Barrow, Alaska

Dear Sam:

Because the native vote is so important and because the ASNA has been a vociferous defender and promoter of the interests of the native people in Alaska, you have received many letters requesting your support and that of your organization in the coming political campaign.

Unlike the office-seekers who have beseiged you--I seek your attention as a fellow Eskimo within a district from which a Barrow candidate has also filed. I have nothing adverse to say about any of the candidates who have filed for the House seat. For several reasons--I am writing you and sending copies of this letter to your friends and fellow workers in Barrow.

You are as well aware as I am of the tremendous need our area has for the best possible representation in the legislature--especially since reapportionment. We cannot be content with anyone who takes his representative duties lightly--or goes to Juneau without at least bringing home a slice of the public bacon for his constituents.

Our district, as I see it, has a great potential for development. It is already in the process of being discovered. My desire is to see us take an active part in the determination of our future--not as mere laborers or part-time employees, but as makers of decisions and participants in policy-making.

As students of politics, you and I, both see the need for the development of an active interest in politics among the native people throughout the state. Your organization, though few in number, has made a difference in this year's election already. The Northwest area is just now in the process of acquainting itself with its political muscles.

We met on Friday, June 10 for the purpose of making a rights assertion on our aboriginal lands. Six villages were represented--and twice that number will soon join the others. Through the mechanism of the land issue, we hope to build an organization which will work in conjunction with yours for the benefit of us all in various fields. The possibility of uniting the western half of Alaska as a political unit is certainly not a pipe dream--and could result in other combinations of more significant proportions.

Already I have heard the labled limitations given me by opponents in this race--age, inexperience, etc. This bothers me none for I know that I can hold my own with anyone sent to Juneau from any district.

It was a pleasure to have met you in Fairbanks and to have talked with you briefly. I admire the calibre of men in ASNA--for it is through such leadership that we can play a more than meaningful part in the future of Alaska.

I write to introduce myself to you, the officials of ASNA and to the people of Barrow--not strictly from the political standpoint, but as one who appreciates your collect­ive efforts and as one who would like to give his heart, time, and mind to the difficulties our people face. Nothing strikes me more than the realization. that we must stick together and spear as ore now and in the future. We need to avoid the plague of factions if we are to reach our objectives.

Hunger and cold are not strangers to me and my family. Last winter my folks spent the winter in a tent up near the Noatak River. I spent my early years in sod houses and tents--there have been many times when food was scarce and fuel was hard to get. Now, after years of separation from friends for the purpose of education, I want to offer myself as a servant to the people of the North Slope and Northwest.

Of course the decision is up to the people. Win or lose in the election--I figure we'll all come out ahead. The people will have been given a choice, issues will have been brought out that may have been ignored, and greater political awareness will have been generated.

This wordy letter may not go beyond your shirt pocket, but at least you know a little of my thoughts when I visit Barrow the latter part of this month. I'm in no market for a crowd of 200--just an opportunity to meet the people and shake hands. We'll do whet we can here in this area to make your candidates feel welcome to present their views and faces. (Eben should begin his visits now--it has been a long time since people have seen and talked with him around here. I hope that he'll be able to hold his seat, but he's got to begin now.)

Best regards and a reply will be sincerely appreciated.


William L. (Willie) Hensley

Elsewhere on Alaskool - items mentioning Sam Taalak:
Photo and mention in Alaska Native Land Claims book
A great Sam Taalak quote in the book "Taking Control"

On Alaskool by Willie Hensley:
"What Rights to Land Have the Alaska Natives?: The Primary Issue" - May 1966
at pre-ANCSA hearings - October 1969
Speech - "Why the Natives of Alaska Have a Land Claim" - November 1969
Bilingual Conference Speech - February, 1981
"The Founding and Formation of the Northwest Alaska Native Association" - March, 2000