Governor Bill Walker gives the first formal apology a sitting Governor has offered Alaska’s First People for the challenges they faced because of colonization, and continue to face today. Healing starts with taking responsibility. #2018AFN @NativeFed #strongeralaska #akleg pic.twitter.com/WEhvUPxxVb
— Governor Bill Walker (@AkGovBillWalker) October 20, 2018
If you are a white person living in Alaska this should impress you, but if you are a native Alaskan this likely evokes any number of conflicting emotions.
You have to keep in mind that the first people of Alaska were completely stripped of their heritage, of their language, of their culture by the white missionaries who came to save their savage souls.
What’s more when they were ravaged by the diseases that the white men brought with them they were told they only succumbed due to a lack of faith in the Christian God to whom they had only recently been introduced.
They died by the thousands believing that their culture and desire to cling to ancient traditions were responsible for killing them.
Can you even imagine?
I wrote about this back in 2015 and even linked to an incredible resource for understanding what we did to these gentle people.
Here is just a sample from that article:
Several generations of Native people — many of whom are still alive today — would become targets of a tragic, frequently successful campaign of cultural elimination. Demanding that Natives abandon the cultures and languages of their grandfathers and grandmothers, Natives were given a clear message that one way of looking at the world was superior to the other. That the survivors did as they were told — abandoning their feasts and ceremonials, their dances and even their languages — is testament not to the correctness of the Western message but to the survivors’ states of mind. Having lost multitudes of spiritual and political leaders, artisans, historians, and elders, those who were left were orphans — spiritually as well as physically — destined to live in a world of emotional and material poverty.
In the schoolhouses and boarding schools, in the churches and in the orphanages, Native children would learn how to become good Christians and good Americans.
So yes, what Bill Walker just did was incredible.
However, it was also long overdue.