PAUL, Frances Lackey




Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors, Civil Rights

Although this study is chiefly concerned with Aboriginal cultures within British Columbia, and the Tlingit were primarily in Alaska, the international border at 64-40 degrees north meant little to the Tlingit and Haida in the early 20th century. There has been considerable cultural and literary overlapping between the Haida and Tlingit, and between Washington State and Alaska.

Born in 1889, Alaskan schoolteacher Frances Lackey Paul, for instance, graduated from Whitworth College in Spokane as Frances Lackey in 1910. While attending college in Washington she met William Paul and married him in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1911. After the couple moved to southeastern Alaska in 1920, her husband and his brother became deeply embroiled in civil rights issues. Specifically, in 1925, the Alaska Territorial Legislature passed a new law stipulating only those who could read and write the English language were able to vote. Born in Tongass, Alaska in 1995, William Paul was a mixed race Tlingit who attended the Sheldon Jackson Presbyterian mission school at Sitka, then gained further education at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, the Banks Business College in Philadelphia and Whitworth College in Spokane. He acquired a law degree through an extensiop program at LaSalle University. In 1920, at the eighth annual convention of the Alaska Native Brotherhood in Wrangell, William Paul and his brother Louis succeeded in radicalizing the agendae of the organization. The Pauls met with Charles Hawkesworth, head of Indian schools in Alaska, to present their demands for improved education, and William Paul adopted a controversial tactic of instructing illiterate Aboriginals how to vote--and who to vote for. His struggle with regards to the controversial literacy act legislation of 1925 helped William Paul become the first Aboriginal to be elected to political office in the Alaska territory.

When she wasn't teaching school to Aboriginal children, Frances Paul helped in her husband's law office and shared his goal of de-segregrating Alaska's school and fighting for equal rights. Having started work for the National Tuberculosis Association in 1933, she served as its president and executive secretary. Prior to her retirement in 1957, she wrote Home Care of the Tuberculosis in Alaska (1947) and Spruce Root Basketry of the Alaska Tlingit (1954). She wrote her memoirs in 1969 and died in Seattle in 1970. Written in 1938, her children's story about Tlingit girl in the 1800s, Kahtahah: A Tlingit Girl (1976) was released posthumously, illustrated by Rie Munoz. Her grandson Ben Paul is a leading Tlingit artist. "She was continually drawing every piece of artwork she saw because she observed the loss of so many of our precious artifacts in Southeast Alaska," he has said. "She was particularly interested in frogs because it was the crest on her mother-in-law's, Tillie Paul Tamaree, button blanket. Tillie was Teehiton, the cedar bark house people." Two other titles by Tlingit authors are Devilfish Bay: The Giant Devilfish story (Woodinville, Washington: Wolfhouse Pub., 1997) by Rudy James and From the Wilderness (Karmichael Pr, 1996) by Walt Larson.

BOOKS:

Paul, Frances Lackey. Home Care of the Tuberculosis in Alaska (1947).

Paul, Frances Lackey. The Spruce Root Basketry of the Tlingit (Lawrence, Kansas: Haskell Institute, Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1944, 1954).

Paul, Frances Lackey. Kahtahah: A Tlingit Girl (Alaska Northwest Publishing Co., 1976, 1977. 1981, 1996). Illustrated by Rie Munoz.

[BCBW 2005]