"We were raised on fish," Richard said, but when Native children were sent to boarding schools, they came home filled full of chemicals and foreign foods.
"If I was on a reservation, I would have been raised on commodities, and I would have been 250 pounds before I was 22, because of these starches," he added. The couple talked about other historical accomplishments of the ANB/ANS, such as winning the right for Native children to attend public schools, getting money for Native hospitals, assisting with legislation, helping with the land claims for Tlingits and Haidas in Southeast Alaska, and winning the right for Natives to vote. The ANB and ANS encouraged Alaska Natives to abandon their heritage at first, and also supported the funneling of Native children into boarding schools. The Jacksons explained that the organization's leaders thought, at first, that embracing the foreign culture would benefit the Native population, helping them to adapt.
"We had to assimilate to survive," Janice Jackson said.
It wasn't until the 1970s or 1980s, the couple explained, that Natives began to truly embrace their culture again.
"We have to work on keeping that identity. It's becoming a big struggle," Richard said. "The egg has been broken, and still has cracks in it; but we have to keep that egg together somehow."
They both emphasized the inclusive nature of the ANB/ANS.
"In 1951, our president was Drency Dudley, who Dudley Field is named after, and he was black ... we can't advocate for causes of equality unless we demonstrate it," Richard Jackson said, adding that Norman Walker was another of the many non-Natives who worked in support of equal rights.
The ANB and ANS were formed in 1912 to work for the rights of Alaska Natives throughout the territory. By 1945, 19 years before the U.S. Civil Rights Act, an anti-discrimination act was passed by the Alaska Territorial Legislature.
Another project the couple plans to tackle in the coming year is to review the ANB/ANS constitution. That work will begin with a committee in Klawock at the beginning of 2011.
Richard Jackson's favorite historical document is the original "Robert's Rules of Order" book used by Roy and Elizabeth Peratrovich at their meetings. He smiled as he riffled the yellowed pages of the slim, paperback book.
"That book is like the Holy Grail to me," he said later. Janice Jackson said that the fact that she and Richard are a couple was an important factor to the voters who chose them as Grand Presidents. Both are Tlingit, Janice from the Raven clan and Richard from Eagle.
"They knew that we would communicate; and that's a big deal to the delegates that come together at the convention. They want that communication. We also want to be more visible, so people know what we're doing, and will get excited enough to join us."
Information from: Ketchikan Daily News, http://www.ketchikandailynews.com
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