claims at the grass roots:
1966 letters and village newsletters
June 14, 1966
Arctic Slope Native Association
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
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
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
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
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
Alaskool - items mentioning Sam Taalak:
and mention in Alaska Native Land Claims book
A great Sam Taalak quote
in the book "Taking Control"
by Willie Hensley:
Rights to Land Have the Alaska Natives?: The Primary Issue"
- May 1966
Testimony at pre-ANCSA hearings - October 1969
Speech - "Why the Natives of Alaska
Have a Land Claim" - November 1969
Speech - February, 1981
Founding and Formation of the Northwest Alaska Native Association"
- March, 2000