Letters, essays and other writings by Tlingit leader William L. Paul Sr. collected by the late Cyrus Peck, former grand president of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, have been donated to the Sealaska Heritage Institute by Peck's sons, Ray and Cy Jr.
Paul (1885-1977) was a leader in the movement for Native rights and Alaska self-determination for much of the last century, on the front line of many legal and political battles of the time, said SHI President Rosita Worl.
As a lawyer, legislator and publisher, he pushed for Native voting rights, educational opportunities and land claims. He also helped forge a political coalition of Alaska Natives and non-Natives in opposition to Outside business and government powers that he argued were not acting in the best interest of Alaskans. His achievements are still honored by Native people in Southeast Alaska, Worl said, "but the public is largely unaware of his legacy." The institute's archive is named for him.
The papers, which date from the 1940s to the 1970s, contain Paul's analysis of issues ranging from cultural influences to Watergate and Wounded Knee. They include photos and other papers written by Native leaders and cast fresh light on the thinking of Paul and his contemporaries. The donation is also significant because many documents from the era are missing.
"I thought these materials were gone," Worl said and expressed hopes that families of other Native rights advocates who may still have materials from the era stashed in a file cabinet or box would consider donating such papers to archives so that future generations can study them.