Tlingit Elder Frank Johnson

Tlingit Elder Frank Johnson in 1972 - photo by Richard Dauenhauer

I first met Frank when I was 16 back in 1972.  Gilbert Lucero (from Angoon, Alaska – originally from Salinas, California) was the director of the “Totem Center” (Juneau, Alaska), a place for young Native people to begin to learn more about their culture because at that time many of us didn’t even know we belonged to a distinct indigenous peoples.  In fact, I didn’t even know there was a word called “native.”  Gilbert had invited three men to spend a month teaching classes to young Native children; those three men were:  Cy Peck, Sr. (from Angoon, who taught the Native history and ways of being; Cy was also Gilbert’s mentor), Harry K. Bremner, Sr. (from Yakutat, who taught native song and dances; I became an apprentice), and Frank Johnson (from Sitka, who taught Native/Western politics).

I will always remember Frank as an uplifting, inspiring soul; he wore a permanent smile no matter what, even when he spoke of the injustice amongst our people and one another!  On the very first day of classes, when he first met me, his first words were:  “Hey, Harry (he enthusiastically waved Harry Bremner, Sr. to come over and meet me)…come and look at this nose!  You’ve got to meet this young girl and her nose!”  Embarrassed as I was with this scene happening in front of at least 40 people, the two men checked out my nose, laughed to their heart’s content and each gave me a big hug.   Little was I to know how these classes taught by these three men would impact the rest of my life!  Many thanks to Gilbert Lucero for all his work bringing these elders into our lives at that time period with the resurgence of Native ways of  being and doing.

My son-in-law, Ishmael Hope has a wonderful blog featuring various Native elders of present including those who have passed.  Ishmael is an excellent writer; he has recently posted a blog on the Clan Conference, featuring Tlingit elder Frank Johnson.  Ishmael has several blog entries featuring Frank Johnson.  Check out writings including Frank at:  http://alaskanativestoryteller.com/blog/

1 Comment

  1. A poignant recollection of a potentially embarrassing event, while offering respect and honor to those you owe much. I enjoyed this, Clarissa.