November 8, 2016

Enfranchisement of Women and Natives in Territorial Alaska

"Large group of people, some in costume, pose for photograph in front of bunting and American flag; signs held by people on far right advocate women's rights" St. Patrick's Mask Ball, Flat City, Camp A.B. no. 26. 
"Gov. Clark of Alaska signing the Shoup Women Suffrage Bill. First bill passed by First Legislature.  March 21, 1913." Left to right: "Arthur Glendinning Shoup, House of Representatives - Sitka.Governor Walter Eli Clark. Conrad Freeding, Senate - Nome. W.W. Shorthill, Sec." ASL-P226-171
Perhaps one may, with ease, read the contextual aspects of the photograph above consigned as it is with the gendered, racial, and colonial contexts of early twentieth century United States representational politics. Four white men, government officials, signing in to law the right of women to vote in territorial Alaska in 1913.In the above image, Nome W.W. Shorthill's posture, his neck tilted a few degrees forward is mimicked with the framed image behind him. I am unsure who the images on the walls are representational of, but they too add to the dramatic aspect of the historic moment as they too look on as Governor Clark places his name on this document. Below is an image of the bill as it went through the state government.  Beginning in the 19th century in the contiguous part of the nation women's suffrage movement(s) worked securing voting rights in specific states and localities. Within seven years of the law in Alaska, the United States government was pass ratify the 19th amendment, guaranteeing all American women the right to vote after a bill was passed by Congress June 4, 1919.

Along with a women's suffrage movement in the Alaska Territory activists from the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood worked tirelessly since their inception in 1912 for the enfranchisement of Native people. In an action by the Second Legislature of the Territory of Alaska in 1915 Alaska Natives could become electoral voters. They could take on the "obligation of suffrage if that showed a "total abandonment of any tribal customs or relationships, and the facts regarding the applicant's adoption of the habits of a civilized life." Then the Native applicant for citizenship would have to find at least "five white citizens of the United States" that could attest to the the applicant's degree of cultivated civility. In 1923 Alaska Native Brotherhood member William Paul, of the Raven clan, was elected to the legislative house of the territorial Alaskan government.

The Alaska Native Brotherhood
Within a decade the The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 (43 U.S. Stats. At Large, Ch. 233, p. 253 (1924)), or the Snyder Act, made Native American citizenship  in the United States compulsory, asserting "Be it enacted by the Senate and house of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all non citizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States: Provided That the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property." This act of citizenship followed the devastating consequences of 1887 Dawes Act, asserting citizenship upon tribal members in the contiguous part of the nation who participated in allotment. Similar to women's Suffrage, until the passage of  Indian Citizenship Act states and territories acted unsystematically in declaring Native people as voting citizens.

August 29, 2016

Whiteness and the 1923 Southern Alaska Territorial Secession Plan

Map of Southeast Alaska, 1911
"In justice to the white residents of the First Judicial Division and in accordance with their wishes," the 1923 delegates of Southeastern Alaskan Territory, also known as the Alaska Panhandle, wrote amid a political convention that they supported the establishment of a colonial territory separate from that of Alaska. Southeast Alaska is located northwest of Seattle, Washington, USA, and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Unique from the rest of the state of Alaska this region, due to its proximity to the contiguous part of the nation, possesses a culture  fastened to the Pacific Northwest. When the United States arrived amid the mid-nineteenth century and the international boundary disputes between the USA and Canada somewhat settled by the early twentieth century,  the politics of Southeastern Alaska dominated the political order because people could relocate from the states to there with more ease than other parts of Alaska. Given this aspect of US settlement, the region's Indigenous history and politics, and even it arts, emerged with characteristics distinct from the larger body of Native Alaska. Mentioned in earlier posts, Native people in the Southeast faced the wholesale theft of their material culture and cruel forms of displacement under the guise of the national forest proclamation. There was even a plan after World War II to create a settlement in Sitka for jewish survivors of the European Holocaust (fictionalized in Michael Chabon's 2007 novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union). In response the Native people of the region politically organized  forming the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood that made progress to achieving political rights for Native people in the US governance of Alaska. Yet their tremendous activism paled in the light of non-Native politicos  who created policies and instituted laws to strip Native people of their land and stop them from practicing their cultures.

The 1923 initiative to create the Southeast as a political territory autonoumous from the then Alaska Territory based on claims that white people composed the majority of the region's denizen proves a fascinating part of the region's history. For throughout the United States policies and laws have been constructed based on how it served to make and strengthen "whiteness" as a social category and this movement to form the Territory of Southeast Alaska serves as a example of such a development. In the iconic article "The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: Raicalized Social Democracy and the Problem with "Whiteness" George Lipsitz contends that this practice proved to be an "investment" in creating and maintaining the fictive identity of whiteness, organized from European settlers in the Americas to possess an unified an identity. He writes as follows:

"From the start, European settlers in North America established structures encouraging possessive investment in whiteness.The colonial and early-national legal systems authorized attacks on Native Americans and encouraged the appropriation of their lands. They legitimated radicalized chattel slavery, restricted naturalized citizenship to "white" immigrants, and provided pretexts for exploiting labor, seizing property, and denying the franchise to Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans,and African Americans. Slavery and "Jim Crow" segregation institutionalized possessive identifiertion with whiteness visibly and openly, but an elaborate interaction of largely covert public and private decisions during and after the days of slavery and segregation also produced a powerful legacy with enduring effects on the radicalization of experience, opportunities and rewards in the United States possessive investment in whiteness pervades public policy in the United States past and present-not just long ago during slavery and segregation but in the recent past and present as well-through the covert but no less systematic racism inscribed within U.S. social democracy."(371)

Juneau Delegate John Troy who signed the resolution. ASL-P523-11
Collection Name John Weir Troy Photograph Collection, ca. 1933-1939. 

As one can see that in territorial Alaska at the beginning of the twentieth century, the number of white residents became the main argument in 1923 when political actors proposed that Southeastern Alaska should become its own separate territory. Using numbers gathered from the 1920 cenus they made a claim that due to the number of white people living in the area that they were special should be proclaimed a separate territory from the greater Alaska Territory. Delegates of towns such as John Troy of Juneau and Henry Roden of Petersburg wrote that "Our white population is greater than that possessed by Arkansas, Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Utah, Dakota, or Washington when they were organized as Territories," and thus deserved to stand as its own political unit. For these politicians whiteness justified not only racicalized social segregation from Natives and other non-whites in daily southeastern life through Jim Crow laws but the racial construction served to them as a reason to be distinct from the rest of the Alaska colony. Unstated in their resolution is that Native and non-Native populations elsewhere in the colonial holding amounted to either a more even split or more Native in the hundreds of villages.

In the wording of the movement's "Memorial of the People of the First Judicial Division of Alaska" that they sent to the Congress and the president they write:

"An analysis of the foregoing and of the bulletins on Alaska issued by the Federal Departments and by the Governor and Territorial officials of Alaska shows:
(1) That Southeastern Alaska has a permanent population which has been steadily increasing for the past fifteen years and which is two-thirds white people;
(2) That the white population of the combined Second and Fourth Divisions has steadily decreased during the same period, until now comprises only 35 percent of their total population and is 35 percent less than the white population of the First divisions"

Supporter and Senate member, Henry Roden, First Alaska Territorial Legislature, 1913
Identifier ASL-P461-22
The proposal was denied yet its history enlightens us to how people used whiteness in their expression to govern parts of what is thought to be a social democracy. The southeastern part of the then Alaska Territory was valued to them more because of its relationship to white dominance and the political economy it created there. This is a great example of what Lipsitz asserts as the "possessive investment in whiteness" that "pervades public policy in the United States past." This example also shows me the atmosphere that gave rise to the sort of activism Tlingit, Haida, and coastal people engaged in at the time. (check previous posts on this) I think the legacies of such a "possessive investment in whiteness" continues to touch the Native lives and cultures of Southeastern Alaska.

Memorial of the People of the First Judicial Division of Alaska and Resolution. 1923.

July 28, 2016

The Paintball Shootings of 2001

Photograph by Jerzy Strzelecki
On January 14, 2001 along an Anchorage street two non-Native male seventeen year-olds from Eagle River, a suburb, posed as tourists from California as another teenager, a nineteen year-old legal adult, named Charles Deane Wiseman —brother to one of the younger males—videotaped them confronting a Native man. They asked him if he was drunk then shot him in the face with a paintball gun. This attack was one in a series of assaults the three would commit that winter night targeting Alaska Natives they marked as intoxicated and homeless. That is to say they willfully searched out  Indigenous individuals who posed no threat to them so they could videotape themselves shooting their victims with marble-sized paint pellets from an instrument like the one below.

The police reported that at least a dozen Native individuals were shot.(1) On the videotape, what the press describe as a "voice," says "We're going to go nail some eskimos." Other accounts site that they said they were intent on "hunting" "muktuks."The videos show victims flinching as they are shot in the face, followed by the sounds of laughter from the the young men. One of the victims told the police of the crime soon after it took place and was charged for disorderly conduct, due to allegedly being under the influence of alcohol. The victim served 10 days in the anchorage jail.

Wiseman, and the two teenagers, were charged with seven counts of misdemeanor assault on march 20th to which they pleaded not guilty. In court the two brothers claimed the third assailant was the shooter and that the younger bother drove his new Subaru Impreza, while the older brother filmed the assaults. Wiseman asserted he video taped while his brother drove the car that tracked people on the street, placing the responsibility of the crimes on their partner whom they were not related to.(2) A week before the youth's first day in court Governor Tony Knowles began setting up a review of the crime and what ways the government could respond.

Upon hearing of the attack and the charges against the assailants the Alaska Federation of Natives called for a Civil Rights Commission review of hate crimes against Alaska Natives. Leadership of the organization expressed that this attack was "representative of an undercurrent of racism" in the state.(3) On March 23rd the state house joined AFN is asking the US Commission for an investigation while passing a resolution condemning the assault as a hate crime. (That spring the state government put together a plan to introduce Hate Crimes bill that has yet to materialize) Alaska Senators held contrasting views of such an investigation. Senator Frank Murkowski at the time believe there was little need for a review, while the late Senator Ted Stevens, quoted here from the Peninsula Clarion, said

 "'No, I think they're (the Alaska Federation of Natives) entirely within their rights to ask
for a Civil Rights Commission review of that and other incidents,'' Stevens told the
Alaska Public Radio Network.''There seems to be nationwide an increase in the so-
called 'hate crimes'. And I think that there are existing laws and we should use them.
'I don't think we need new laws right now as much as we need enforcement of existing
laws. And the Civil Rights Commission ... has the right to investigate,'' Stevens said.
''As far as I'm concerned, I think it should be done.''(4)

Wiseman pleaded no contest to three counts of misdemeanor assault that June. During this legal process the man remained out on bail and his attorney asked the court to reinstate his driving privileges that were revoked in January. The judge declined this.

Upon being sentenced to six months in jail, 6,000 dollar fine, and 300 hours of community service on August 31st Wiseman expressed an apology to his victims. The two others as minors have their identities sealed from this type of research. Wiseman's attorney argued that he was not culpable to the crime since he was not the one who pulled the trigger on the paintball gun. Judge Ashman asserted to the court that this crime held racist overtones from its conception.(5) After spending 40 days in solitary confinement, seeking protection from other facility's other inmates Wiseman asked for house arrest, to which the Judge declined the request. Often in situations where racially and economically privileged people face jail terms, scholars have noted that, their lawyers and family members plead for them to be separated from the prison population for their own safety or not to serve prison sentences because being around such prisoners will turn them into criminals, as with rapist Brock Turner. The conclusions are easy to understand that the attackers saw these people as socially dead and that they could hurt them without justice being brought to them. One of the victims filed a civil suite against the defendants, settling out of court for 10,000. It appears that 5 other victims filed also filed a civil case as well, but I have yet been able to locate any settlement.

On August 23–24, 2001, and October 25, 2001 the Alaska Advisory Committee on Civil Rights held community forums with a wide range of panelists representing a wide variety of Alaska community members. Their April 2002 findings and statements can be found in the document Racism’s Frontier: The Untold Story of Discrimination and Division in Alaska. (Their recommendations and advice are far too massive in scope to discuss here.) The governor appointed a 14-member "Commission on Tolerance" who on December 6th asserted that the state educational curriculum should include and emphasis Native cultures and people. 

1. "Alaskan charged with assault in egging on of 2 paintballers." Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - March 21, 2001.
2"Briefly" Juneau Empire (AK) - March 21, 2001.
3. "Community horrified by attacks on Natives." FEBRUARY 27, 2001
4. Friday, March 23, 2001
5. Juneau Empire (AK) - September 4, 2001

June 3, 2016

"Whoever holds Alaska will hold the world:" The Bombing of Dutch Harbor June 3, 1942.

"I believe that in the future, whoever holds Alaska will hold the world. I think it 
is the most important strategic place in the world."
General Billy Mitchell, 1935.

On the 3rd of June 1942 the Japanese military using two battle ships, The aircraft carriers Junyo (the peregrine falcon), and the Ryūjō (the "Prancing Dragon") on a bombing raid on the US base of Fort Mears located at Amaknak Island in Unalaska. At the time of the attack Fort Mears housed the 206th Coast Artillery, 37th Infantry Regiment, 6 anti-aircraft batteries, marines, and 30 fighters.

"U. S. Marines are on the alert in their trenches during the Jap [ Japanese ] attack on Dutch Harbor, June 3 and 4.  Black smoke in the background is coming from fuel tanks, set afire by Jap [ Japanese ] dive-bombers."San Francisco Call-Bulletin, Aleutian Islands Photographs, 1942-1948Identifier UAF-1970-11-23
The air fighters killed 25 soldiers that first day with 44 losses the next. The US military had been in residence there for two year in the build up of the Northern part of the pacific theater of battle in World War II, called the Aleutians Islands Campaign, also known as the “Williwaw War."
Unangax internees in Dutch Harbor in route to camps in the southeast.National Archives.
The then territory of Alaska served as a strategic site for the military and the Unangax and Sugpiaq homelands became prime geographies for the war to ensue. In the middle of the war between the Allies and the Axis Unangax communities bore the burden of being subject hosts to the carnage. By the time of the bombing Unangax, forced to raze and evacuate their villages, maintained a presence there as subjects of interment by the government. The US would separate 881 Native individuals from their non-Indigenous families members and move them to places far out of their homelands for years. The public conversations surrounding this cultural experience often use the words Aleut "relocation," or "internment."

Aleut children - Unalaska Alaska.  "Before the evacuation." Identifier ASL-P233-V141
On June 7th the Japanese military struck and occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska for a short time without incident. Months later, in 1943 during May 3-11 the Japanese forces would move forward with attacks on Attu in a battle to control sea lanes, referred to as the war's "Forgotten Battle." Japanese military also held over 40 Unangax civilians as prisoners of war in Japan. That both the Axis and the Allies held Unangax communities against their will allows for one to consider how Indigenous people are treated amid times when (strengthening) nation-states are at war. For the Unangax individuals as citizens of the nation deserved the freedoms the nation itself was explicitly fighting to uphold at the time. The Spanish nationalist government bombing of the Indigenous Basque community, by the Spanish partners the German and Italian air forces in 1937 presents a similar dreadful situation, Picasso depicted in Guernica.

General Billy Mitchell's 1935 assertion to Congress "that in the future, whoever holds Alaska will hold the world..." because, "it is the most important strategic place in the world" was not wasted sentiment for either the Allies or the Axis, but such thought, and the actions that followed, required the denial of the right of the Unangax to decide how their homelands and surrounding waters should be used amid this global conflict. The rise of the cold war between the West and the Soviet Union in the decades that followed brought about conditions in the new state of Alaska that reflected Mitchell's conception of the region. Increased military presence and weapons testing brought about uses of land and water that would be decried if even given consideration elsewhere in the nation. Below is a clip of the October 2, 1969 Milrow nuclear detonation on Amchitka Island, one of the contested places in the war.

Some resources:

March 2, 2016

Link to the post, "Save This For Your Autobiography," on the Critical Ethnic Studies Blog

 "Save This For Your Autobiography"

By: Thomas Michael Swensen, Colorado State University  
When I was 26 I started at a community college with aspirations to learn how to become an architect. Not just any architect, but one who designed and built sets for rock bands like Mark Fisher. Along with a drafting course, and one in creative writing, I enrolled in the course “Race, Class, and Gender in Film.” As an introduction to academic prose, I read the articles “Erotic Autonomy as a Politics of Decolonization: An Anatomy of Feminist and State Practice” by M. Jacqui Alexander and, “More Human Than I Am Alone: Womb Envy in David Cronenberg’s the Fly and Dead Ringers,” by Helen W. Robbins. Though I’d written punk songs, short plays, and fictional stories previous to this course yet the deft work of academic writing drew me in a way that these other forms hadn’t. I immediately grew fascinated with Alexander’s commitment language and Robbins’s incredible read of David Cronenberg’s misogynistic Dead Ringers and The Fly.These writers compelled me to transfer from a 2-year community college architectural drafting program to a small liberal arts college where I enrolled as a literature and fine arts major, putting off my aspirations for architectural training until graduate school.
At the four-year school, the first upper-division English course I enrolled in was British Literature II. Turning in the first 750-word essay on something either about a piece of George Elliot’s or perhaps a poem by one of the Brownings. The comments marked on the returned essay were of great surprise. For on the margin the professor wrote, “save this for your autobiography,” near one of my passages, with an added and concerned “come see me” noted at the bottom of the last page. During the meeting with the professor she told me that I earned an F on the essay but that I could choose to rewrite it over and over again throughout the term. The detailed option she offered was that I would focus solely on revising that essay with the qualification that I’d walk away from the course with a C+ grade. That, or I could choose an F for the term. I took the professor up on the deal, revising that piece about 5 times before the semester was over. I have never looked back with regret on that choice.
I learned a few things about writing academic prose from this initial experience of revision. For instance, the phrase the professor wrote, “save this for your autobiography,” has proved a source of inspiration throughout the years. Thinking about the comment always forces me deliberate the ways one constitutes ideas through the act of writing and what it means to get beyond the self to produce scholarly work. That is, something about this labor of writing academic prose forces me to get outside the intentions I have for the sake of a successful piece. A draft’s intervention most always needs the help of a few readers and editors in teasing out the directions it wants to travel. For me, an argument’s evolving destination (its derivative?) is where I let go of my aims to allow editing and re-drafting processes to shape the essay in productive ways.
This last month an essay that has gone through multiple revisions in the last 2 years is finally in press. The readers and editors worked hard to turn it into something I’m proud of. Trusting the suggestions these people had provided the most important and needed aspect in this essay’s production. Close to a couple of decades ago when that Brit Lit professor sat me down with the grave ultimatum they indoctrinated me into the peer-review process of letting go to let the work flourish with its own path. The other lesson that I’ve taken away from that experience was that a C+ allows one to pass a course. It's a sign of success. Only later after dropping out of architecture school to pursue a masters in literature would the techniques put forth in John Gage’s The Shape of Reason further test my resolve as a writer. Give that a read.

January 31, 2016

"The Fish Belong to Everybody:" The Native Environmental Politics of Fish Traps

People and organizations have employed the fish trap in Alaska since before the beginning of the fishing industrial complex in the late 19th century. However, new technologies that allowed for the canning of fish at a higher rate brought capital into southern Alaska like no previous time in history. Industrial fish traps coming into use threatened the traditional ways of living for Native communities throughout Alaska. I have read many letters from village leaders, dating from the nineteenth to well into the 20th century addressing territorial and federal government officials with appeals to cease the practice for the sake of village survival. 

Fish Traps: Logs lie in the water near shore and small wooden structures perch atop them in the Tongass Narrows near Ketchikan. 4 X 5 B&W negative.Steve McCutcheon, McCutcheon Collection, Anchorage Museum, B1990.14.5.TV.93.46

The Days of Salmon Traps & Fish Pirates

By 1889 the territorial government made illegal blocking off entire rivers with traps. In 1906 any permanently secured traps within known salmon migration routes were forbidden. Scholar Steve Colt has the great resource "Salmon Fish Traps in Alaska:An Economic History Perspective" on the Alaskool website here. He contends that the rise of fish traps brought two problems to Native Alaska. "Besides appropriating [Native people's] major food source," he writes, "the fish trap replaced purchases from Native fishermen and made Natives the first group to join a growing chorus of protest against the brutal efficiency of the trap." In other words, the trap left Native fishers without jobs and the larger Native community with less food.
Alaska Packers Association fish traps on Wood River, Bristol Bay, Alaska, 1900 Photographer John Nathan Cobb.
When an organization would set traps at the mouths of rivers these traps would capture great amounts of salmon, leaving little to none for village subsistence users. What was seen as blocking off entire traditional fishing areas to Native communities proved a deeply political issue for decades within Native and non-Native households. William Paul in the October, 1928 publication of the ANB newspaper The Alaska Fisherman made the desisting of fish traps one of the main agendas during a campaign for office. He writes that what sets him apart from other candidates was that, "I will not rest until ALL FISH TRAPS ARE ABOLISHED." "Fish" he asserts, "should be caught by Alaskans." In the statement he also aligns the seasonal colonial fishing enterprise with the racialized migrant labor force these companies hired in situations extremely asymmetric for Filipinos. In a previous post I've examined how William Paul felt camaraderie with Filipinos workers in Alaska, yet this political advert below is not without the intonation of racialized language.

Previous to the 1930s Filipino cannery workers, not yet unionized, faced harsh and forbidding conditions amid long hours of work often in secluded cannery sites. Paul's affront to "trapowners" and "Filipinos"I think should be weighed with the consideration that many in these two groups would leave Alaska after the closing of fishing season to places where food sources where in great supply. Perhaps with this statement he could rouse non-Native non-Filipino workers into voting for him by figuring an imagined sincere bond between the "trapowners" and Filipino workers. As a student of power, I find the forging of affiliations and dis-alliances between racial and indigenous communities in formal political arenas as unending and not surprising in anyway. Additionally,  if ones peers to the bottom of the advert one can see Paul's appeal to women voters with his support of  a platform that would "recognize woman's part in life," by redefining "Community Property Laws." Taken together, the racialization of the fish trap issue, and all for the mobilization of women voters, shows the importance fish traps and property rights were in Alaska Territory amid the first decades of the 20th century.

20 years later  William Paul still found the topic of fish traps deserving of his time.  Here is a 1948 article (from I believe Eskimo Magazine) where Paul, freed from the impressing discourses of formal governmental politics, lent a more substantial read to the problems fish traps cause for Native communities. Entitled "Fish and Fish Traps—The Indian Viewpoint," the article pits industrial fish traps as contrary to Indigenous ways of living. Yet as Paul drew out this argument he also put forth that Native people have always being willing to "submit" to any regulation that "honestly" seeks "conservation" as "its end." Noting forms of conservation efforts as colonial practice, he writes that, "The Indian realized that all areas suitable for his form of gear the seine is closed 'in the interests of conservation.' " Perhaps one could infer the meaning of this passage as Paul communicating that industrial capital with fish traps could convince governments to open expanses of water to suit their needs while Native communities without such power would find their traditional areas closed to their use.

In the end of this article Paul wrote that those fishing up river should be allowed to capture as many fish as the fish traps built along its mouth. "The fish belong to everybody," he writes, "and therefore you a lower fisherman [at the mouth] will not be allowed to capture all the fish and deprive me an upper fisherman of my share." This saying was to him a principle as "old as the Magna C[]arta," signed in 1215 by English king John proclaiming that no one is above the law. These pieces by William Paul are only two of the many pieces written by Alaska Natives concerning the Native environmental politics of fish traps in 20th in Alaska.