State Celebrates First Dr. Walter Soboleff Day

Today is the first Dr. Walter Soboleff Day in Alaska, and dozens of the late Tlingit leader’s friends and relatives marked the occasion with a parade through downtown Juneau.

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Walter Soboleff passed away in 2011 at the age of 102. (Sealaska Photo)
Walter Soboleff passed away in 2011 at the age of 102. (Sealaska Photo)

Soboleff’s oldest son, Sasha, says humility and inclusiveness are his dad’s lasting legacy. The Presbyterian minister accepted people of all races at his church in Juneau at a time when the town was segregated.

“This man worked well over a hundred years to do things for not only the people of Alaska, but for those who strove to better themselves to do what they need to do. And what was key to his heart and key to his spirit was the service to his God and Jesus Christ,” Sasha said.

Soboleff would have been 106-years-old today. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 102.

He was involved in the Alaska Native civil rights movement of the 1940s, and later in life helped launch efforts to revitalize Native languages, as well as traditional art and spiritual practices.

“He is one of those that started off by writing down Tlingit values, so that people can have a starting point on what it meant, what our values meant,” Ed Thomas, former president of the Tlingit and Haida Central Council, said.

Thomas says those values include honoring your ancestors and elders and having a sense of humor.

Earlier this year, the Alaska Legislature unanimously passed a bill making Nov. 14 Dr. Walter Soboleff Day. Gov. Sean Parnell signed it into law in July.