"A Close Look at the ANB"

Anchorage Daily News, December 10, 1971, Editorial

Dear Editor:

In your Dec. 4 issue appeared an article regarding the functions of the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB). This organization was referred to as a social organization. I don’t like having to correct reporters, however, facts are facts and with this thought in mind I have decided to write this letter.

The Alaska Native Brotherhood is the oldest Indian organization in all of the United States. This organization was formed in 1912 by a group of dedicated, religious men who received training at Sheldon Jackson Training School, now referred to as the Sheldon Jackson Junior College. This organization has met each year since then and during these conventions endeavored to reach a solution to correct injustices imposed upon our Indian people.

While the activity of this organization was confined more or less to Southeast Alaska, the fact remains that when an issue came up before the territorial legislature or the Congress of the United States which would adversely affect our Indian rights this organization took it upon itself to fight and protect Indian rights and this included Eskimos, Aleuts, and Athabascans.

During all these years this organization never turned to anyone for financial support. These people were so dedicated that with the limited personal funds they had they carried on these battles. At times some of them had to borrow monies from others in order to meet expenses of carrying on the fight for various rights.

Without getting into all of the many wonderful things this organization has done, I shall list a few which will enlighten you and perhaps the public, who may be believing the ANB is really just a social organization:

In the early 1920s, this organization fought for the Native people of Alaska to be recognized as citizens, not only of the territory but the United States of America. This, of course, was realized in 1924 when Congress passed an act making all Indians citizens. This also included the right to vote. In this instance the Alaska Native Brotherhood financed a lawsuit when an Indian woman was denied the right to vote. Fortunately, the courts were fair and we were upheld.

The ANB fought for the rights of our Indian children to attend public schools. In Juneau when 11 of our Indian children were dismissed from public school because of their Indian ancestry the Alaska Native Brotherhood went to court and forced the school system to admit Indians.

The organization was successful in having the workman’s compensation law extended to all Naives in Alaska.

It fought for the right of Natives to receive the aid to dependent children.

The organization was successful in bringing about the extension of the old age pension to the Natives of Alaska.

It was successful in having the Indian Reorganization Act amended to include Alaska. This was done in 1936.

It was also successful in obtaining a large appropriation for Native hospitals in Alaska.

Through the efforts of this organization, Alaska now has one of the best anti-discrimination bills of any state. This organization fought for this over a period of years.

I believe the organization was successful because of the unselfishness of our ex-Senator Gruening who at the time was governor of Alaska. We owe a debt of gratitude to this fine, outstanding man for the manner in which he helped us in passing this much-needed legislation.

Signs were placed, prior to that time, on business establishments saying . . . "No Indians allowed" . . . or . . . "We cater to white trade only" . . . and some went so far as saying . . . "No Indians or dogs allowed here."

There was also a segregated theatre system where one side was reserved for the so-called whites and the other for the Indians. One of our Natives in Nome tried to violate it by sitting on the white side and when she refused to move she was bodily removed from the theater. The equal rights bill or the anti-discrimination bill became a law in 1945 and since then all minority groups in Alaska are benefiting from this protective legislation.

Last but not least, the Alaska Native Brotherhood was the organization that initiated the land suit. They were instrumental in bringing about the filing of the claim for the Tlingit and Haidas in the Southeast. I may add here that during the middle 40s or late 40s when we had at least two Eskimo legislators we endeavored without success to get them to start land claims for the people in their vast country which is now in dispute. It appears that if this had been done in these early days, we perhaps could have avoided the verbal battles that are now going on with the recent land claims settlement.

During this period of time it was not popular to be an Indian because of the manner in which we were treated. I am glad a few people stuck by and I am also thankful that this old situation has changed for the better.

We do have our social hours like most other organizations, such as the state legislature. I don’t think you would dare call the state legislature a social organization.

I trust you will publish the foregoing in order to correct the misinformation that was published in your article.

Roy Peratrovich
Member of the Executive Committee
Alaska Native Brotherhood

[Alaskool Home]