Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: October 26th, 2016

Annual lecture series to kick off next week

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) and Sealaska will honor traditional Native warriors and veterans at the institute’s annual noon lecture series next week to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

This year’s series will feature a panel discussion on Tlingit and Native American code talkers and lectures on traditional warrior training and Tlingit and Haida armor and weapons. It will also feature a screening of Samantha Farinella’s documentary Hunting in Wartime, which profiles the lives of Tlingits from Hoonah who fought in the Vietnam War, followed by a panel discussion that will include Native veterans and special guest U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan.

Alaska Natives and American Indians have served in the U.S. Armed Forces in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War and in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic group—facts unknown to many Americans.  During World War II, more than 44,000 Native Americans and Alaska Natives served in the U.S. military.  More than 42,000 served during the Vietnam War as well. Today, an estimated 24,000 Native American and Alaska Native men and women are on active duty, and more than 150,000 veterans self-identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.

Native code talkers played a pivotal role in World War II, said SHI President Rosita Worl, noting Judith Avila, the best-selling author of Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII will be one of the guest lecturers.

“During the war, the Japanese had cracked every code the United States used, but when the Marines turned to Navajo, Tlingit and other Native American recruits to develop and implement a secret military language, they created the only unbroken codes in modern warfare—and helped assure victory for the United States over Japan in the South Pacific,” Worl said.

Navajo code talkers have long been recognized for the crucial part they played in World War II.  But until very recently, no one knew that Tlingit code talkers also used the Tlingit language as a code that the enemy was never able to crack. Even the families of the Tlingit code talkers did not know of their secret service.

In November 2013, Congress awarded silver medals posthumously to Tlingit code talkers Robert Jeff David, Sr; Richard Bean, Sr., George Lewis, and brothers Harvey Jacobs and Mark Jacobs. Sr.  Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Commander and guest lecturer Ozzie Sheakley, who attended the Congressional ceremony in Washington, D.C. along with representatives from thirty-two other tribes whose members were also code talkers, received the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the Tlingit tribe.

Former House Speaker John Boehner reported at the ceremony that “during forty-eight hours on Iwo Jima, they say 800 Native language battle communications were received and translated.  It took seconds, at a time when decoding by machines could take half an hour.  The men undoubtedly saved lives.”

Historically, Southeast Alaska Native warriors were formidable and legendary fighters who drove the Russians from Sitka in 1802. Alaska Natives had the most sophisticated body armor system of any of the North American Native peoples, said Steve Henrikson, curator of collections at the Alaska State Museum. Some helmets were designed to inspire fear in the enemy, and the body armor was made of layers of material similar to modern bullet-proof vests, he said.

“Fully dressed in armor, the warrior’s silhouette was concealed and appears larger than life—offering a psychological advantage. In the late 1700s, the Russian fur trader Alexander Baranov survived a nighttime battle with armored Tlingit warriors, calling them ‘terrifying visages’ and stating that their armor repelled bullets,” said Henrikson, who will give a lecture on traditional armor and weapons.

The lectures will be held from 12-1 pm in Shuká Hít (the clan house) at the Walter Soboleff Building in Juneau. The talks also will be videotaped and posted online.


  • Thursday, Nov. 3  (CANCELLED–SHI will reschedule)
    “Terrifying Visages”:  Armored Warriors of the northern Northwest Coast 
    Steve Henrikson,
    Curator of Collections
    Alaska State MuseumThis talk will feature images of armor mostly housed in museums and cultural centers around the world. Henrikson has located nearly one hundred war helmets in museums and private collections, with new ones showing up every year or two.  The helmets—elaborately carved with fearsome sculptures of clan crests, ancestors, and spirits—are part of a system of armor that protected the face, body and appendages. The armor was designed to protect warriors from traditional weapons:  arrows, daggers, spears and clubs, many of which are elaborately decorated. By the 19th century, the armor became obsolete as high-powered firearms became commonplace, and war helmets were kept as sacred clan objects and worn and displayed at ceremonies.
  • Thursday, Nov. 10
    Hunting in WartimePanel: Ozzie Sheakley, Donald See, George Lindoff, Fred Bennett, Warren Sheakley and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan

    This event will feature a screening of Hunting in Wartime, a documentary by Samantha Farinella that profiles the lives of Tlingit veterans from Hoonah who fought in the Vietnam War. The film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Native veterans Donald See, George Lindoff, Fred Bennett, Warren Sheakley and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan and moderated by Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Commander Ozzie Sheakley.

  • Tuesday, Nov. 22
    Honoring Our Nations Code Talkers
    Ozzie Sheakley
    Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Commander
    Judith Avila
    Best-selling author of Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWIIOzzie Sheakley will speak about Tlingit code talkers Mark Jacobs, Harvey Jacobs, George Lewis, Jeff David and Richard Bean and their Congressional Gold and Silver Medals. Sheakley will be followed by Judith Avila, who will provide the context of the work of code talkers through her lecture Code Talker—Looking through the Eyes of Navajo Marine Chester Nez (1921–2014).  She will be accompanied by Chester Nez’s grandson, Latham Nez.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 29
    The Way of the Warrior
    Kai MontureKai Monture of the K’iniex Kwáan in Yakutat will provide a lecture on his training he received from his grandfather, George Ramos, who is an expert on Tlingit warriors.


  • Richard Bean, Sr.
    T’akdeintaan Sockeye House, Hoonah
    Chookaneidí dachxánRichard Bean, Sr., was a well-known commercial fisherman from Hoonah. He was a purse seiner, crabber, troller, and halibut fisherman. In addition, Richard was an elder in the Hoonah Presbyterian Church, a lifetime member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, and a member of Sealaska, Huna Totem Corporation, Juneau Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Sitka American Legion. He served in the South Pacific theater during World War II.
  • Robert “Jeff” David, Sr.
    Kaasgú Suk kees
    Kaagwaantaan, Bear House, Haines
    Takdeintaan yádi, Chookaneidí dachxánRobert “Jeff” David, Sr., was a well-known basketball legend from Haines. He was a member of the Gold Medal Hall of Fame, was a top fisherman, and was one of Sealaska’s first board members. Jeff was described as charismatic, confident, and outspoken. However, his son, Jeff David, Jr., says his father never talked much about his service in World War II, other than that he served in the Philippines for part of it and was in special services.
  • Harvey Jacobs, Sr.
    Tleeyaa Kéet, Gaandawéi
    Dakl’aweidí, Killerwhale House, Angoon
    Deisheetaan yádi, Teikweidí dachxánHarvey Jacobs, Sr., was a fisherman from Sitka. When he and his brother, Mark Jacobs Jr., joined the Navy shortly after Pearl Harbor, they skipped basic training and were put to work immediately on picket boats in Southeast Alaska and the Aleutians, and then in the South Pacific. Harvey was a Machinist Mate 1st Class in the U.S. Navy and was stationed on the USS Morrison (DD 560), but he was taken off the ship prior to it subsequently becoming lost off Okinawa.
  • Mark Jacobs, Jr.
    Saa.aat’, Keet wú, Oodéishk’áduneek, Gusht’eihéen, Woochxkáduhaa
    Dakl’aweidí, Killerwhale House, Angoon
    Deisheetaan yádi, Teikweidí dachxánMark Jacobs, Jr., was a well-known fisherman, leader, and historian from Sitka. He had vast knowledge of Tlingit culture and held positions in many regional and national groups, such as the Alaska Native Brotherhood, the Alaska Federation of Natives, the National Congress of American Indians, Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, and Sealaska. Mark served four years in the U.S. military, nearly all of which were in sea duty and in war zones. He served on the USS New Mexico in the Aleutians and on the USS Newberry and two years in the Amphibious Forces in the South Pacific. When he first joined the Navy with his brother Harvey Jacobs, they skipped basic training to immediately work on picket boats in Southeast Alaska and the Aleutians.
  • George Lewis, Jr.
    Saa.aat’, Naagei,  Xaakaayí
    Dakl’aweidí, Killer Whale House, Angoon
    Kiks.ádi yádi, Chookaneidí dachxánGeorge Lewis, Jr., was a boat builder, carpenter, and mill worker from Sitka. He was also active in silver carving, fishing, boxing, and carving totems and Tlingit helmets. In addition, George gave 45 years of service to the Salvation Army, was a lifetime member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood in Klawock and Haines, and was a fluent Tlingit speaker and storyteller. He served in the U.S. military in World War II.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research and advocacy that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars and a Native Artists Committee. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

CONTACT: Rosita Worl, SHI President, 907.463.4844

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