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1/14/2014
Soboleff Day

Dr. Walter A. Soboleff Day has a ring to it.

Southeast legislators think so, too. Reps. Peggy Wilson, Cathy Munoz, Beth Kerttula and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins propose to make it official.

Soboleff was a greatly admired Tlingit elder until his death in 2011 at the age of 102.

Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins says Soboleff "was a man of spiritual wisdom, profound humility and deep cultural knowledge."

Rep. Wilson says, "he made great strides for the educational advancement of Alaska Natives."

Rep. Munoz adds, "he led by example. His words, deeds and his very presence were imbued with grace.

Rep. Kerttula continues that Soboleff "was a very moral and spirital man" who had a great sense of humor.

A member of the Raven moiety and Dog Salmon clan, Dr. Soboleff translated and studied the Tlingit language and told Native stories. He became the first Native Alaskan to be an ordained Presbyterian minister.

He started as a trustee of the Sealaska Heritage Institute in 1985, serving as its chair from 1988 until 2011. He served as president of Kootznoowoo, Inc.; director of Sealaska Corporation, and Grand Camp president of the Alaska Native Brotherhood. He chaired the State Board of Education during his tenure there, and also was the first Native on the board.

The Sealaska Heritage Institute broke ground on the Walter Soboleff Center to be located in downtown Juneau in August. It will be devoted to the study of Southeast Alaska Native cultures.

It is scheduled to completed this year — perhaps just in time for the first Walter Soboleff Day, which has been proposed for Nov. 14 in House Bill 217.

Alaska should honor its distinguished citizens of all cultures. Dr. Soboleff is one of the most obvious in the Native culture.