On October 17th, during the 2019 National Congress of American Indians/Alaska Federation of Natives Tribal Conference, TCC Chief/Chairman Victor Joseph spoke on a panel discussing subsistence. Chief Joseph covered the history of Ceremonial Moose hunting and the landmark Frank v. Alaska case.
This December marks 40 years since Carlos Frank of Minto went to court against the State of Alaska for illegally transporting a moose after he and several other hunters were caught transporting a moose for a funeral potlatch. During the trial, Frank, the late Chief Peter John, and many others fought against the State to protect Alaska Native Ceremonial rights.
“Throughout colonialism, our people have maintained the funeral potlatch despite all efforts to take away our culture, our people have preserved this ceremony,” said Chief Joseph.
Chief Joseph recounted a story that Frank had shared with him the previous day – when the Alaska State Troopers came to Frank’s house they asked him if he had shot the moose. Frank admitted to transporting the moose but not to shooting it. When the troopers began asking who shot the moose – several men and elders from the community came forward and said ‘I did’. “That was a great moment of a community standing together in unison to protect a way of life that needs to be protected,” said Chief Joseph.
Eventually, the courts ruled in favor of Frank, due to the fact that there was no evidence that moose obtained for funeral potlatches had any effect on the moose population.
“Because of those actions, we are still able to maintain our ceremonial rights today,” said Chief Joseph, “We must make sure that we continue to practice and protect our way of life.”
Chief Joseph gifted Frank a Chief’s necklace for his work and making it possible for the Alaska Native people to continue practicing our way of life.
“When someone passes away, the first thing you do is go find something to eat because you know friends are going to come,” said Frank, “It’s just in your heart. It’s inside you, it’s already built inside you. Keep it going.”