Interview with Frank Peratrovich, Tlingit

"When I was born, there were more Natives than whites in Alaska and the average life expectancy for Natives was about 45. We Alaska Natives were at the bottom of the totem pole, considered a Third World nation.

Land claims were raging, and Walter Hickel, President Nixon's nominee for secretary of the interior, was threatening to lift Stewart Udall's "super land freeze" without tribal approval. I called the Fairbanks Native Association and said, "If Hickel won't maintain the freeze, we won't support his confirmation as secretary of the interior and we'll get AFN to back us." So we did, and I got flak from every politician. Even AFN wavered in the process.

There was a lot of traffic in those days from Alaska to Washington, D.C., testifying for land claims. Congressmen insisted that Natives could not have used five-eighths of Alaska. Don Wright, president of AFN, gave explicit testimony of where hunting, trapping and fisheries took place and had maps to back it up.

When Richard Nixon became president in 1968, the 1964 civil rights law began to get funding. As the poverty program began funneling money into the state, the federal government told the state to clean up its civil rights or there would be no grants."

Get the Story:
Alaskana: Road to dissent [Part 2] (The Anchorage Daily News 11/18)
Alaskana: Civil rights battles [Part 1] (The Anchorage Daily News 11/12)

Related Stories:
Interview: Clarence Alexander, Gwich'in leader (07/17)
Interview with Marion Dennis, Tlingit elder in Alaska (7/3)
Interview with Joe Hotch, Tlingit elder in Alaska (6/19)
Interview with Paul Wilson, Tlingit elder (05/29)