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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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Picturing Alaska history : USA territory to statehood

Turner Publishing ( asked if I would consider reviewing a new book. I’m glad I agreed. Historic Photos of Alaska has just been published, a large format book of black and white photographs from the period 1867 to 1979. Dermot Cole, long-time columnist for the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer, provides the text and captions.

As a journalist, Dermot also has an interest in history (apart from his twin brother, Terrance, history professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks). Dermot Cole is the author of Amazing Pipeline Stories published by Epicenter Press in 1997, about the people and Fairbanks during the Alaska oil pipeline construction.

The perspective of Historic Photos of Alaska, is for those readers outside Alaska. That is, this is a pictorial history of Alaska as part of “America”. [Through no fault of this book, many in the US will still consider Alaska as a foreign body, along with New Mexico.]

The photos are arranged by time periods, from purchase to statehood– 1867-1905, 1906-1919, 1920-1940, and 1941-1979. These periods represent significant periods of US and Alaska relations. The orientation is a deliberate effort to stand apart from the usual Alaskana picture books. Another significant difference in this book is the choice of rarely seen photos and not the ubiquitous ones. The photos are reproduced with sufficient quality to review again and again and see something new each time.

Readers can follow themes such as regional changes (southeast Alaska also known as the Northwest Coast compared to Nome in northwest Alaska) and transportation. However, other themes can be chosen by readers according to personal interest.

    Most of the dogs are Alaska huskies (freight variety), such as ones on pages 44 and 55 and in harness, page 58. However, the team on page 67 is actually part of a Saami family (reindeer herders originally from Scandinavia. Note the hats and boot toes.) The harness setup is very different from that of the Eskimo family team on page 128. There are also sporting dogs (early 20th century conformation) such as the one on page 92 belonging to Jim Haly. Look carefully. The dog has just spotted another dog out of view, and kicked up a cloud of dust with his hind legs.

    Electric trees
    Even on the frozen tundra of Nome (page 111) and sprouting ever more branches over time in populated areas such as Cordova page 120 and Fairbanks page 151.

    One way to trace the influence of the military in Alaska is through men’s hats in the photos. Since Territorial days, the military has been a significant economic and development force in Alaska. Much of the early geological studies and geodetic surveys were military. World War II and then the Cold War continued the inflow of money and people. Photos from pages 168 to 180 show differing aspects of building the Al-Can or Alaska Highway and the later battles of Attu and the Aleutians. (see related posts here on the Al-Can and the Aleutians,

    Everywhere. The curiosity of Edwardian women’s fashion in open-air fish camp (useful against mosquitoes I suppose); the plank streets (for cars and horses) 400 miles from the nearest highway; even a Piggly-Wiggly store outside of the South.

Dermot Cole avoided the shop worn stash of Alaska photos. However, the next to last photo, page 197, is of the oil pipeline’s zigzagged engineering (to avoid temperature stresses) up the North Slope and over the Brooks Mountain Range. It’s a clever homage to the iconic Klondike gold rush photo of the future miners traipsing up the Chilkoot Pass.

I do have some quibbles with the book. There is an amazing variety of horses depicted but no photos of cows at Creamer’s Dairy in Fairbanks (I like the image of the wood stove chimney peeking out the milk truck to keep contents from freezing at 40 below).

More importantly, an outline map of Alaska is needed, with the places of photos identified.

The southwest of Alaska is mostly excluded. Considering that most folks in or outside Alaska believe everyone lives in an Eskimo igloo, it would also be helpful to include a map of languages/cultural regions in the state. Most readers will not be aware of the significance of the temporary, river going, hide boat depicted on page 44 built by the Athabascan Indian trapper to bring his skins to market. Compare with the more permanent skin boat built by Iñupiat Eskimo marine hunters on page 103. I already noted the Saami family.

The period of the first half of 1919 is missing although extremely important in the demography and history of non-urban Alaska. Upwards of 80% to 100% of people in some communities died during the pandemic of the “Spanish Flu”. The Jesse Lee Home (I ran across this recently published history) was one of several that cared for orphans left behind (those that survived long enough for help to reach them).

A suggested reading list would be nice, including Steven Langdon’s 1993. The Native People of Alaska. Anchorage, AK : Greatland Graphics. ISBN: 0936425172 9780936425177 OCLC: 27405205

A great companion volume would be John S. Whitehead’s 2004. Completing the Union: Alaska, Hawaii, and the Battle for Statehood. Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press. ISBN: 0826336361 9780826336361 082633637X 9780826336378, OCLC: 55665367

This book is not supposed to be a comprehensive pictorial history. Cole did an amazing job just to make a selection from all the possibilities and put together such an enjoyable book.

[Dermot Cole. 2008 Historic Photos of Alaska. Nashville: Turner Publishing Co.
# ISBN-10: 1596524243
# ISBN-13: 978-1596524248
# LoC 2007938665
Hardcover: 216 pages, Language: English, Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 10.1 x 1 inches, list price $39.95]

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2008 free tax help for some in Alaska

Free Tax Help – 2008 Tax-Aide and VITA sites. The VITA program is a federal grant that rural senior programs can apply for.

This program is designed to prepare basic tax returns for most low and middle income taxpayers, with an emphasis on senior citizens and disabled taxpayers. Sites are staffed by volunteers trained by the IRS to prepare basic tax returns. E-file means it’s fast, accurate AND it’s absolutely FREE. Volunteers receive training on the Earned Income Credit and other personal tax credits. If your income is below $39,783 you MAY qualify for an Earned Income Credit, up to $4,716.

*** You must file a 2007 tax return to receive the Economic Stimulus Payments. To be eligible for this payment, you must have a tax liability, or at least $3000 of earned income, Social Security benefits, or certain VA benefits. If you had at $3,000 of qualifying income, you should file a tax return even if you are not required.

AARP TaxAide sites may offer priority service to taxpayers age 60 and older.

As all locations are staffed by volunteers using donated space, these dates and times may change. To get the most current information, please call the Alaska 211 referral line by dialing 2-1-1, or 1-800- 478-2221. [try this and see if it works. There were problems last week or so– the software couldn’t figure out rural Alaska zip codes.]


Social security cards or current record of SSN’s for you, spouse and all dependents.
Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) from each employer.
All income information (such as Forms 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, SSA-1099 or RRB-1099 and 1099R).
Record of VA benefits received
Property tax and mortgage interest statements.
List of your medical, interest, contributions, and miscellaneous expenses (to itemize your deductions).
Copies of last year’s tax return (helps volunteer prepare this year’s return).
Child care payment information and name, address and SSN/EIN of your child care provider.

The rest of the document is written in a way to make it difficult to re-post so I’ll only list the names of places. Contact them for hours and dates.

  • Anchorage Senior Center Tax-Aide
  • Northeast Anchorage Tax-Aide
  • First Free Methodist, Anchorage
  • Spenard Rec Center
  • Crosspoint Church Tax-Aide, Anchorage
  • University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Palmer Senior Center
  • Mid-Valley Senior Center
  • Wasilla Senior Center
  • Upper Susitna Senior Housing
  • Glacier View Bible Church
  • Willow Senior Housing
  • Fairbanks Senior Center Tax-Aide
  • North Pole Library Tax-Aide
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Noel Wien Library Tax-Aide
  • North Pole Senior Center Tax-Aide
  • Nikiski Senior Citizens, Inc.
  • Homer Senior Center
  • Seward Senior Center
  • AVTEC Library (Seward)
  • Soldotna Tax-Aide Site
  • University of Alaska, SE
  • Swan Lake Senior Center
  • United Methodist Church, Sitka
  • Tongass Credit Union
  • Rendesvous Senior Center
  • Ketchikan Parks & Rec Center
  • Metlakatla Tongass Credit Union
  • Craig City Youth Center
  • Juneau Mendenhall Library
  • Wrangell Senior Center
  • Kodiak College
  • Valdez Tax-Aide
  • Kodiak Senior Citizen Fair

Long-term nursing care in Alaska

Alaskans pay the most for long-term nursing home care

SURVEY: Insurer says average of $388 a day is highest in the nation.
November 21, 2006

Aging Alaskans and their families are paying the highest nursing home rates in the country, according to a study by New York Life Insurance Co. Nursing home costs average $388 a day in Alaska. In New York City, by comparison, the average cost of long-term care is $311 a day, according to the insurance survey.

Alaska has a total of 15 long-term care, or nursing homes

Many of the growing number of Alaska residents who need assistance as they age could get similar care at home and pay less, said Margaret Andrews, deputy director of the Center for Community…

CFC is a state-wide provider of home and community-based services for people with disabilities, the elderly and others who experience barriers to community living in Alaska. They have offices in Anchorage, Sitka, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, Juneau

O’Folks (off their rocker)

Old age isn't a disease.

Arctic sunset

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