Editor Answers State Senator in Regard to Affiliation
Tundra Times, Eben Hopson Letter to the Editor
July 22, 1963
In your recent issue there appeared a plea for unification of southeastern, Alaska Native Brotherhood, the Interior Natives, and the Eskimo Inupiat Paitot organizations. In answer to that, you generally stated that there probably would be no objection from the Inupiat Paitot. Personally speaking, I would be in favor of the merger in due time.
I would like to make a statement through your paper if you will permit me, about this very thing. And my statement would be directed primarily to the Natives of the Interior and the Eskimos of the North.
In the first place, the idea is a good one and perhaps should have been a reality years ago. But I do not want my friends of the Interior and the North and Northwestern Alaska to overlook any possibilities that might be detrimental to their purposes at the present time.
I have in mind the fact that the Southeastern Natives who have been organized for many years are way ahead of their Northern friends. Having some knowledge of parliamentary procedure, I can clearly envision a conference taking place next year or the next, after the merger. The Alaska Native Brotherhood of Southeastern Alaska is organized almost to a head. There are very few Natives, if any, who are not members of that organization now. This is very desirable and they already have it.
I cannot speak for the Yukon Natives because I do not know to what extent they have organized. Speaking for the North and Northwestern Eskimos, we have not as yet organized by any means. We have a well functioning conference called the Inupiat Paitot, but that organization is not to be compared with the Alaska Native Brotherhood. By this organization I mean, we are not actually organized to the point where we can support ourselves financially. In order to be financially able, we must organize, enlist members, draw up our by-laws, and bring some money into the organization.
We do not know how many members we will have unless we organize. We must know how many members we have in order to determine a number of delegates to a convention. We must organize and be financially sound in order to accomplish what we sought to do in the first place.
I can just picture you and a handful of other Eskimos sitting at a conference table with a full battery of the members of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, and being voted down on every proposal you might have. On the other hand, every proposal by the Alaska Native Brotherhood that you might not like will become a reality without a struggle on their part because they will have all the votes they need to get a majority. This very thing will happen if we don’t get our membership chartered. By this means only will we be able to determine the number of our delegates. I have seen this happen and it will happen in any organization.
Personally I deal with this sort of thing every year at the legislature and I know too well that if we permit ourselves to be merged in the unorganized state that we are, we have lost before we started.
The primary reason for this thinking is of course the adoption of the majority rule in a conference or a convention. I don’t care who, how, or when you propose something and bring it to a vote, the majority rules.
Because I am representing in the legislature, some 3000 potential members of this organization, I could not permit this to happen without a single word of advice or warning.
I would like very much to have the Inupiat Paitot consider this at length and perhaps hold a meeting to determine the advisability of a merger at this time.
Should the Inupiat Paitot decide to take this under advisement, I will offer my services, if needed, and if possible, I would like the opportunity to speak to them before the conference.
If you will, please print this in our paper as a message from a future member of the merged organization.
Thank you very much for the opportunity.
Senator Eben Hopson
Dear Senator Hopson:
I received your letter of July 8, in which you expressed concern about the “merger” among the organizations, Inupiat Paitot, Dena Nena Henash, and the Alaska Native Brotherhood. At the outset, I would like to say that what happened at Tanana Indian meeting was not a move toward a merger, but a step toward affiliation. A merger of the three organizations was never mentioned at any time during the discussion of this subject.
Personally, I don’t think a merger among the organizations would be practical at this time because of the distinct nature of the problems faced by the different regions. In great part, the natives of Southeastern Alaska face quite different problems from the natives of the far north. For instance, the Indians in Southeastern Alaska are now fighting for compensation for lands that have been extinguished, while the natives in the northern parts of Alaska are fighting to retain their lands on which they have existed for centuries and which, for the most part, have not been lost.
My interpretation of the “affiliation” at the Tanana meeting was cooperation among the organizations in which they would seek to aid one another in resolving common problems. I am sure you will agree that while natives in widely separated areas face different problems, there are many problems that are the same in all areas. By cooperating, all the organizations would be able to present a more solid front and become more effective.
My view on the meetings of the organizations would be meetings of the executive committees of each organization where problems of each area would be discussed as well as common problems. In my opinion, these meetings would not necessarily be tests of strength where each organization would seek to dominate the others. I believe the organizations can cooperate with one another without merging. It might be pointed out in passing that each organization has roughly the same number of persons on its executive committee.
My view in this regard is that we need to be better organized having Eskimo villages and towns as members. We have not made any concerted effort along this line but we should do so. In order to make the Inupiat Paitot a more potent organization, we need better village leaders, leaders who fully realize the purposes of it: that of sounding out those problems that most affect the Eskimos.
Village leaders need to educate their people that the Inupiat Paitot is an organization that is dedicated to the betterment of their lot and one that will speak out in a forceful manner if it has to. If the villages were organized to back the Inupiat Paitot, it could become a really fine organization.
My idea has been that if the villages were organized to back Inupiat Paitot, it could function well also as a pressure to both the State Legislature and the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to benefit natives. The natives have never presented a [. . . ] questions fully. If I have not done so please write to me again.
As you probably know, another organization similar to the Inupiat Paitot and Dena Nena Henash has sprung up in the Lower Yukon-Kuskokwim area where about 10,000 natives live. That organization is called the association of Village Council Presidents. It met last October for the first time and has scheduled another meeting for early September this year. As can be surmised from its name, the AVCP is also a village membership organization.
I am sure you remember the parable from the Bible where one stick is easy to break but the strength of a bundle of them is hard to cope with. I feel the same way about the organizations that in the last few years have sprung up and I feel that the proposed affiliation among the organizations will add much strength and effectiveness to the efforts of our people all over Alaska to solve our problems and better our lot in life.