Walter Soboleff, Tlingit linguist 1908-2011

“Tlingit Elder Walter Soboleff Dies at 102”,0,4639306.story

Noted Tlingit elder Walter Soboleff dies from the Juneau Empire.

2009-11-14 Celebrating 101 years Juneau Empire – Juneau,AK,USA
In the summer, he’d return to Alaska and work on the seine boats out of Sitka or the cold storage. The price of salmon then included humpies selling for 4 …

2008-11-14 nonagenarian centenarian Tlingit linguist

Dr Soboleff was a main speaker at the Elders and Youth Conference and at AFN in Anchorage this year. Elders and Youth is the convention which precedes the statewide Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention. Soboleff is important in anthropological linguistics but better known for his contributions to Alaska as reverend, teacher, organizer, archivist.

Walter Soboleff, AFN 2008

1908 was the year that the 88 million Americans living at the time heard about a “ball” dropping in New York’s Time Square to celebrate the coming of a New Year; it was the first year that Americans would honor their mothers (Mother’s Day). Teddy Roosevelt was president, a postage stamp cost 2 cents, and Henry Ford was developing the Model T, which would sell for $850.
Kajakti, “One Slain in Battle,” was born November 14, 1908, to Alexander Ivan Soboleff, the son of a Russian Orthodox priest, and his wife, Anna Hunter of Killisnoo, Alaska. Kajakti (also spelled Kha’jaq’tii) was born into a world where his mother’s Tlingit culture was being forever changed by his father’s European one. He was named after an Angoon Clan leader to whom he was related.

As a 7 year old, Kajakti was taken to an Iicht (shaman) by his mother and was treated for reasons he never understood. He also experienced being sent to the “Russian school” in Sitka as an 8-year-old, only to be sent home again because it closed due to the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, its benefactor (1917). A year later, the 10-year-old served as an interpreter for a doctor who visited Killisnoo during the 1918 flu epidemic that brought many Alaska Native tribes to the edge of extinction.

JUNEAU — More than 1,000 papers documenting Alaska Native history by Tlingit elder Walter Soboleff have been posted on the Internet by Sealaska Heritage Institute in what officials are calling a unique and priceless collection.

Running from 1929 to 1995, the documents provide insight into the Native land claims struggle and the Alaska Native Brotherhood, institute president Rosita Worl said. … “He begins at a real pivotal time in our history,” she said.

Web Extra: Dr. Soboleff at 100 (extended version)

Tue, October 21, 2008 At the Elders and Youth gathering that precedes the AFN convention, First Alaskans Institute trustee Byron Mallot spoke about the incredible legacy of Tlingit elder Dr. Walter Soboleff. Soboleff will turn 100 years old in November and Mallot said introducing him was humbling. Here is an extended interview with Dr. Soboleff.

[revised 2008-11-14] The Anchorage Daily Newsreader provides additional links to his birthday celebration.

CELEBRATING A CENTURY-OLD NATIVE LEADER: The tributes continue for Walter Soboleff of Juneau – a Tlingit scholar and Presbyterian pastor – who turns 100 years old today, reports the Juneau Empire. In a speech Thursday at the Southeast Alaska Native Summit, Soboleff said that as white culture overtook Alaska, he “tried to take the best of both worlds.”

His son Ross Soboleff, 57, said that pluralist attitude was novel in his father’s time. “It certainly was presented to us, and to his generation, ‘The Native ways are old. We’ve got to put those aside and take on the new life.’ He was someone who pioneered the idea that, well, no, you don’t have to put those aside, those things are part of who you are. … I can make it in this greater society we live in, but I’m still a Native. Things that are part of our way of life have validity and value. Someone had to come up with that idea. This guy was one of the first to see that it’s possible – not just see that it was possible, but to actually do it.”

The article includes photos from Soboleff’s life. Soboleff gave a dramatic keynote speech at the Elders and Youth Conference last month in Anchorage. You can hear it at the Alaska Public Radio Network site. More than 1,000 papers by Soboleff documenting Alaska Native history are being archived by the Sealaska Heritage Institute. Many can be seen here.

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2 Responses to “Walter Soboleff, Tlingit linguist 1908-2011”

  1. 1 apolk 2011 April 19 at 4:50 pm

    Wow! Walter Soboleff baptised me on my first birthday (and his birthday) at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Juneau, 1948. My Mom thought that the “white” Presbyterian Church in town was too snooty so she went to Walter’s Church. My husband and I visited him 10 years ago (2001) at his church during my first visit back to Alaska since 1949. My Dad knew Dr. Soboleff when he was at Sheldon Jackson High School many years ago.

    We are returning to Alaska for a visit to the Anchorage area in June 2011, with a cruise ship stop in Juneau. I found this article doing research for our visit.

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