Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Organized Village of Saxman, Saxman I.R.A. Council
Hold New Tribal Office Open House
Story & Photos by Gigi Pilcher


January 27, 2003
Monday - 12:45 am

Saxman - A large crowd turned out Friday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the new Saxman I.R.A. Tribal Office building. The mood reflected excitement and the event was very festive.

New Saxman I.R.A. Tribal Office Building

The Master of Ceremonies Albert White, Vice Mayor of Saxman and Vice President of the Saxman I.R.A. Tribal Council, welcomed and thanked all for attending. White introduced Marilyn Blair, President of Cape Fox Corporation who then also extended a welcome to

Albert White
everyone before introducing Nora De Witt who is the Secretary of the Saxman I.R.A. Council.

De Witt welcomed and thanked everyone for coming and said, "Today we put out our finest for you." She said, " a lot of prayer went into this building" and "this is our tribal office for the membership and everyone is welcome here." De Witt said, "We are proud and very thankful the building is completed."

Captain Joe Thomas, who has served as a Salvation Army Officer for 14 years and served in the Saxman ministry since 1997, gave the opening prayer. Earlier in the day Captain Thomas came and blessed the new Saxman I.R.A. Tribal Office building.

Following the opening prayer, the pledge of allegiance was lead by U.S. Army veteran, Tom Abbot who originally came from the Klukwan people of the Thunderbird clan. Abott was born

Nora De Witt
in Haines. He attended school in Juneau and enlisted in the army in 1957.

Two members of the Saxman Youth Group lead the audience in singing the Tlingit National Anthem which was followed by the pledge of allegiance.

Following the pledge, Winona Wallace who is the Administrative Assistant for the Organized Village of Saxman was introduced by the Master of Ceremonies Albert White.

In introducing Wallace, White remarked that Winona Wallace has been instrumental in all the affairs of the Tribe. He noted that Wallace is married to renowned Master Carver Lee Wallace and is the mother of three children. He said Winona Wallace attended college at the University of Washington in Seattle and formerly worked in the personal health care field for the Navajo Headstart Program as Curriculum Coordinator, and for the City of Ketchikan's Museum Department as the Visitor Services Manager.

Wallace presented a brief history about the first Tribal Office. The office was located in a space 18' X 10' with two staff and later moved to a larger space which was 18' X 16' with a staff of five. The new Tribal Office building is over 30' X 50' and will house a staff of eight.

The funding for the new Tribal Office building came from a grant from the First Alaskans Institute (, Wallace said.

The mission of The First Alaskans Institute is to help develop the capacities of Alaska Native peoples and their communities through projects that:

  • Preserve Native cultures, languages and traditional lifestyle
  • Enhance Native education and encourage academic achievement
  • Encourage the development of Native youth and elder leadership
  • Support research, data, policy analysis and planning related to the Institute's goals and objectives
  • Diminish the incidence of social problems and improve the quality of life for Native

    Winona Wallace &
    Saxman Tribal Council President Joe Williams

The funding for the First Alaskans Institute comes from a grant under the Denali Commission which is an innovative federal and state partnership designed to provide critical utilities and infrastructure throughout Alaska, particularly in distressed communities.

In addition to housing the offices for the Saxman Tribal Government, the new Tribal Office building will house several Tribal programs.

The Environmental Program, which is funded through a five year grant through Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. This program is managed under the direction of Linda Williams and employs two Saxman youth during the summer and is responsible for organizing the annual spring clean up, special projects such as last summer's mulching pile, information and awareness, and conducting research.

Another program now housed in the new Tribal Offices is the Saxman Youth Opportunity Program under the leadership of Carlen Williams. This program provides educational, vocational, and career development opportunities for Alaska Native Youth, ages 14 - 21 who are living in Saxman.

Two Tribal programs that are not housed at the new building are the Saxman Youth Outreach Program and the Saxman I.R.A. Social Services. Both programs are currently located in the Saxman City Hall building.

After providing this information, Wallace introduced the Saxman Tribal Council.

President: Joe Williams
Vice President: Albert White
Treasurer: Lee Wallace
Secretary: Nora De Witt

Council Members:
Frank Seludo (not present)
Sarah Abbott
Karen Huff

It was noted that I.R.A. Tribal Council elections are held the third Thursday of April.

Following the introduction of the Tribal Council, President Joe Williams addressed the crowd with his message.

In his remarks, President Williams first expressed his respect to the honored elders. He acknowledged the special guests present, Representative Bill Williams, the Saxman City Council members and staff, the Honorable Mayor of Saxman Dan Williams, Cape Fox Corporation Chairman Richard Shields, Sr., Cape Fox Corporation Board Members and staff, and Ketchikan Indian Community's newly elected President Stephanie Rainwater - Sande.

President Williams then went on to introduce himself by saying that his real name is Kake'shka, and that he is an Eagle of the Killer Whale clan. President Williams paid homage to his mother, Elizabeth Williams, who was Eagle of the Killer Whale Clan of Wrangell and his father, Joe C. Williams, Sr., who was of the Beaver Clan of Saxman. Both of Williams' parents were past Grand Presidents of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood. It was from them that President Williams credits his training to be a leader within the community of Saxman.

President Williams said he gives God the glory for what he has done in his life, in Saxman and in what was happening right now. He also acknowledged his family - his wife Suzi and

Representative Bill Williams
& Newly Elected KIC President Stephanie Rainwater-Sande
their six children - in his remarks.

Williams referenced the quote, "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is not a path and leave a trail." Williams said, "I believe that is what your IRA Council has been doing here in the community of Saxman. It wasn't always this way. I can remember the IRA Council deciding who was going to open the mail and when. The Saxman IRA had an office on the second floor of Saxman City Hall - when it was just your president that was ok. We have come a long ways since that time. Because of your Council we now have all the roads in Saxman paved, a good parking lot for the city staff and for people doing business with the city and a large parking lot for the new community hall and tourism during the summer months. For the first time in the history of Saxman, the IRA Council, and the (Saxman) City Council participated in a joint retreat at Craig, Alaska to discuss the future of Saxman. I believe we are now on the same page, same paragraph, same sentence, and same word for the future of Saxman, which will affect Saxman Tribal members for the next seven generations."

Following President Williams' message, Albert White introduced special guests, elders Willard and Mary Jones, Cee Cee Johnson, Tom and Sarah Abbott, Albert Ketah President of Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp 15 and his wife Betty, City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein, Ketchikan Borough School District Superintendent Harry Martin, and Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens.

Following the recognition of the special guests, Albert White then introduced Irene Shields Dundas who is the Reparation Manager for Cape Fox Corporation. Her former employment includes two years working as Legislative Aide for Representative Bill Williams. She is the daughter of Chigee and Wayne Shields and is of the Killer Whale Clan. Dundas recited the Tlingit Values written by Walter Soboleff.(pdf)

Following Ms. Dundas presentation was special guest Cee Cee Johnson who beautifully sang a rendition of the Lord's Prayer in Tlingit.

The closing prayer was delivered by Tribal Council Treasurer Lee Wallace which was followed by drawings for door prizes. A special thank you was expressed to the businesses who donated the prizes. Businesses recognized were:

  • Alaskan and Proud - Ketchikan
  • Bernie's
  • West Coast Cape Fox Lodge
  • Elisica Timmerman and First Alaskans Institute.

The food for the Open House was prepared by the Saxman Youth Group.

A history of Saxman was also included in the evening's program which included the following:

In the year of 1884, Tlingits from the villages of Cape Fox and Tongass wanted a new site to construct a BIA school and Presbyterian Church. The village was named after Samuel Saxman, a Presbyterian teacher, who with a Cape Fox elder was lost at sea while searching for the new site.

In 1894, the new village site was chosen. A house, a church and homes began immediately. By 1900, one hundred and forty-two Tlingits were living in Saxman.

In 1929 the residents incorporated Saxman as a second class city. The totem poles were brought from the villages of Cape Fox, Tongass, Cat Island, and Pennock Island to Saxman as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

On May 1, 1936, the Indian Reorganization Act, which included Alaska Tribes passed Congress, giving authority to organize as "The Organized Village of Saxman".

On October 18, 1940, the Secretary of Interior certified the Constitution and By-Laws. Initially, the IRA was organized as a vehicle for fishing boat loans from the federal government.

Since 1993, Saxman IRA has been on the list of Federally recognized tribes in Alaska. On April 11, 2001, the Organized Village of Saxman along with 87 other federally recognized Tribes signed a Millennium Agreement which established a framework within the State of Alaska and the Saxman IRA to build a government to government relationship.

Today, Saxman IRA is continuing to develop a working relationship with the city of Saxman, Cape Fox Corporation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, Ketchikan Indian Community, National Congress of American Indians, United States Forest Service, and provides services to all Tribal members.




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