Opinion: Walter Soboleff defies all odds and succeeds
"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.

Born that year were a number of "notables": Amy Vanderbilt, Bette Davis, Edward R. Murrow, Edward Teller, Jimmy Stewart, John Kenneth Galbraith, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Thurgood Marshall, William Randolph Hearst Jr., and in Alaska, a Tlingit boy, Kajakti, the subject of this letter.

At the time of Kajakti's birth, Alaska had a population of about 63,000, 25,000 of whom were non-Native. It was a "frontier" to the wild-eyed gold rushers and fishermen who had stampeded north to get rich on gold and fish. It had no central government, no legislature, and no "law and order" but for the U.S. marshal. It had an appointed governor, Walter Clarke -- and for the first time that year -- a popularly elected delegate to Congress, James Wickersham.

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. "

Get the Story:
Harold Napoleon: Native leader's rise against all odds inspires hope (The Anchorage Daily News 10/23)