49 Voices: James Hart of Haines

James Hart (right) with Tlingit and Haida Central Council president Richard Peterson (Photo courtesy of James Hart)

This week we’re hearing from James Hart in Haines. Hart is a young tribal council member of the Chilkoot Indian Association, and a delegate on the Tlingit and Haida Central Council. He received an “emerging leader” award from the Council last month.

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HART: What led me to get involved with Tlingit and Haida Central Council as a delegate was probably based off my mother, first of all. She’s been involved all throughout my life and it wasn’t until I was older and started asking more questions that she started to prompt me to look at being involved.

I went to National Congress of American Indians probably about five years ago now. And there was thousands of Native Americans from across the country there, all fighting the same issues that we’re fighting here in our hometown of Haines. I’d say the biggest issue for everybody is sovereignty, and figuring out how to use our sovereignty. I think that’s one thing I’d really like to see is figuring out ow we can solely rely on ourselves — not the federal government or the state.

A lot of our funding comes federally and if the federal government doesn’t like tribes, then that means we’re not gonna get a seat at the table. And, most of the time, if you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re part of the meal. You’re what’s on the table.

Awards for myself are kinda interesting. It’s not something I wanna go after, but to be acknowledged was really nice and to have that acknowledgment meant a lot to me. I was trying to hide it for as long as I could. A funny story was President Peterson saw my mom on a plane, and he asked her, “Hey. What’d you think about your son’s award?” And she said, “What award?” I neglected to tell my mother until after she texted me afterwards and got on me about it.