In August of 1980, Austin Hammond (Gunx̱aa G̱uwakaan, Daanawáaḵ), clan leader of the Lukaax̱.ádi, gathered together the Tlingit and non-Native community to protest the mistreatment of the land and people of his ancestral homeland of Lḵoot, Haines, and to lead a G̱uwakaan Ḵu.éex’, a Peace Ceremony. According to the film Haa Shagóon (Kawakey, 1981), Austin requested that “the peace rock, or ‘Deer Rock,’ G̱uwakaan Teiyí, broken into pieces by road builders, be made whole; that the fish weir be removed; that our sacred burial grounds be protected so never again will the bones of our ancestors lay scattered and disturbed; and we ask that we may lawfully catch salmon for our subsistence in this river, a heritage denied to us that is rightfully ours.”
In this excerpt of the ceremony, Austin is joined by George Davis, Kichnáalx̱, clan leader of the Deisheetaan, Shdeen Hít, who was a lead orator with Austin; and Walter Soboleff, Ḵaajaaḵwtí, of the Aanx̱’aakhittaan, who translated the speeches. George Davis shares some history about Lḵoot, and speaks about traditional strength training and Tlingit cultural values. Austin tells Tlingit history, explains aspects of the Peace Ceremony, and powerfully articulates the meaning and value of their sacred land, uniting Tlingit spirituality with a powerful political request. Walter Soboleff delivers an eloquent English translation, artfully conveying the meaning and passion of Davis and Hammond. George Davis, Austin Hammond and Walter Soboleff are among the most deeply admired and revered Tlingit Elders in memory. In this ceremony, they teach young Tlingit people how to be powerful catalysts for change, while making a courteous but insistent request to the government and larger community for respectful and appropriate political adjustments, a request that cannot be overlooked.
This archival recording is from the Dauenhauer Tlingit Oral Literature Collection at the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s archives. This recording was placed online as part of an Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS) grant program. From left to right, the picture includes Walter Soboleff (Ḵaajaaḵwtí), Austin Hammond (Gunx̱aa G̱uwakaan, Daanawáaḵ), and George Davis, (Kichnáalx̱).
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