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Ellen Hope Hays, Interview 1, Part 1
Ellen Hope Hays

Ellen Hope Hays was interviewed on December 7, 1998 by Karen Brewster and Kristen Griffin at the Sitka Tribe of Alaska office in Sitka, Alaska. Robi Craig, Tribal Anthropologist for the Sitka Tribe, was also present during the interview. At the time of this interview, Ellen was living on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and this project supported her travel to Sitka to be interviewed. Ellen was a vivacious, petite, 70-year old who was an energetic and eloquent speaker. She obviously had been in an interview setting before and was comfortable with it. She'd take one question and run with it, thereby discussing topics that future questions had intended to address. Ellen carried herself with strength and pride and did not hesitate to speak her mind. Her responses in this interview indicated these were issues she has thought about before; she knew what she wanted to say. There was so much to discuss with Ellen that this interview carried over into a second day (Interview 2). In this first part of a three part interview, Ellen talks about her family background, her childhood growing up in the Cottages Community that neighbored Sitka National Historical Park, using the park as her playground, and her role in the development of the Alaska Native Brotherhood. She also talks about working to establish the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, history of and changes in Sitka, the relationship between the National Park Service and the community, and how she became park superintendent and then Native Liaison for the Alaska Region of the National Park Service. Finally, Ellen discusses the importance of maintaining her Tlingit identity and continuing Native cultural knowledge and practices, reflects on her career with the National Park Service and the value of Sitka National Historical Park and commemoration of the 1804 battle between the Kiks.'adi and the Russians, key Tlingit teachers and artists who worked at the Cultural Center, and the role of the Cultural Center in the community. At the end of the interview, Ellen talks about historic photographs related to the national park and installation of the Centennial House Post.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) Personal and family background

2) Personal background continued

3) Education and job opportunities

4) Jobs and responsibilities

5) Decision making, becoming a member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the head of committees

6) Understanding and relearning the creation and meaning of symbolic art forms, and working together with the National Park Service to create a place to do this

7) Starting the Cultural Center program, learning the basics of art forms, and who she is in terms of her family and her upbringing

8) Job history, and the tuberculosis epidemic in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s

9) Tuberculosis patients settling in Sitka after they were out of the hospital, and when and where she was born

10) Changes in Sitka

11) Changes in Sitka continued

12) Changes in Sitka continued

13) National Park Service in Sitka, and overview of the Park's history

14) Kiks.aacute;di Memorial and how it changed

15) Alaska Native Brotherhood and why they pursued the control of the presentation of their culture

16) Taking control of the cultural arts wing and welcoming visitors to the Park

17) How she became Superintendent of the Park

18) How she became Superintendent of the Park and development of her Park Service career continued

19) Motivation for applying for higher positions

20) Relationship between the Park Service and the Community

21) Relationship between the Park Service and the Community continued, and her work as a Native Liaison

22) Her work as the first Native Liaison for the National Park Service continued

23) Maintaining Tlingit identity

24) Maintaining Tlingit identity continued

25) Reflections on her Park Service career

26) Reflections on Park Service career continued, and on the value of Sitka National Historical Park

27) Robi Craig asks about talking to people about the story of the battle and the Park

28) The relationship between the National Park and the Cultural Center

29) The early days of the Cultural Center and A.P. Johnson's role as an artist, teacher and administrator there

30) The life and talents of A.P. Johnson continued

31) Esther (Kasakan) Littlefield's work as a teacher at the Cultural Center, and a photograph of her explaining a button blanket

32) Asking artists to create a design that tells the story of Tlingit contemporary history

33) The role of the Cultural Center in the community

34) A photograph of the Centennial House Post and the celebration held in its honor

35) Discussion of the Centennial House Post photograph continued

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: Kiks.'adi/ Sloan sisters -- grandparents/ old custom/ Tlingit lifestyle/ battle -- Sitka/ Indian River site/ Sheldon Jackson -- Sitka training school/ daughter|

Section 2: Metlakatla Street/ clan/ relatives -- aunts, grandmothers/ Sheldon Jackson Junior and Senior High School/ ancestors -- tribal/ church girl/ Salvation Army/ Indian village/ Bible -- books of/ school -- finishing/ epidemic -- tuberculosis/ grandparents/ US government school -- for Indians|

Section 3: Presbyterian Church/ women's organizations/ husband/ Mt. Edgecumbe/ Bureau of Indian Affairs/ employment/ growing up/ Mt. Edgecumbe boarding school|

Section 4: employment -- dormitories/ Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act/ National Park Service/ Anti-Poverty Act/ Vista Volunteers/ Peace Corps/ Neighborhood Youth Corps|

Section 5: fisheries/ economic corporation/ anti-poverty programs/ Alaska Native Brotherhood -- application/ open discussions/ Alaska Native Brotherhood -- membership/ ANB Education Committee -- chairman of/ ANB Arts and Crafts Committee/ descendants -- Kiks.'adi people|

Section 6: art forms/ emblems -- relationship to form/ organizations -- cooperation between/ ANB Arts and Crafts Committee/ National Park Service/ Alaska Native Brotherhood/ Sitka National Monument/ Olsen, Charlie/ employment -- park technician/ National Park Service -- purpose/ Cultural Center -- formation of|

Section 7: Cultural Center/ budget/ material/ art form -- learning basics/ regalia/ wood carving/ silver/ art -- meaning of/ culture -- understanding/ parents -- Andrew and Tillie Hope/ mother -- Lottie Sloan Howard/ grandmother -- Cottage Community/ father -- Kaagwaantaan/ Hope, Percy Lee/ Puget Sound/ gold rush/ children -- fourteen/ English -- spoke/ disease -- tuberculosis/ school|

Section 8: Hope family/ career/ Park Superintendent/ Native Liaison Officer/ Park -- retirement/ Cultural Center -- Executive Director/ disease -- tuberculosis/ tuberculosis -- treatment/ hospital -- Mt. Edgecumbe/ Sam, Robert/ Sitka/ deaths/ hospital culture/ Simpson, Mary Jane/ tuberculosis -- spine|

Section 9: Simpson, Mary Jane/ school -- Mt. Edgecumbe/ employment -- hospital/ relocation/ Sitka -- birthplace/ introduction -- Kristen Griffin, Robi Craig|

Section 10: Sitka -- changes/ history -- documents/ Tlingit/ oral history/ behavior/ observations -- traditional people/ history -- defined by observers/ Russians/ Aleut/ population -- locations/ Hays, Ellen Hope -- grandfather/ Hope, Percy Lee/ gold mining/ fortune seekers|

Section 11: furs -- sea otter/ Hays, Ellen Hope -- grandfather/ Seattle/ Norwegian/ boats -- trolling/ boats -- lived on/ military/ World War II -- population increase/ construction/ Sheldon Jackson -- growing/ people -- diverse/ missionaries/ cannery/ Pyramid Packing Company/ labor -- cheap/ employment -- sliming fish|

Section 12: "Iron Chink"/ Chinese/ pulp mill/ Sheldon, Washington/ loggers/ change -- effect of/ growth/ community/ Mt. Edgecumbe/ transportation -- shoreboat/ organizations -- social|

Section 13: Park -- establishment of/ totem poles -- placement of/ Monument/ "Governor's Walk"/ Merrill, E.W./ Craig/ Klawock/ blockhouse/ World War II/ Park -- military/ Park -- facilities/ "Lover's Lane"/ "The Park"/ National Park Service -- Mission 66 program/ Visitor Center/ exhibits/ collections/ staff|

Section 14: memorial/ gatherings/ battle/ World War II/ nephews -- drafted/ barricade -- military/ uncles/ memorial -- ended|

Section 15: historian/ Geerdes, Ray -- historian/ Glacier Bay/ Jackson, Sheldon/ Presbyterian Church/ meeting -- Sheldon Jackson's mission/ opportunity -- work at Park/ father/ Sloan family/ Cultural Center/ Arts and Crafts wing|

Section 16: King Island/ Tlingit/ Arts and Crafts -- worked for/ Washington D.C./ Olson, Charlie/ Yup'ik/ Board of Directors -- Arts and Crafts/ proposal -- operate Cultural Center wing/ employment -- National Park Service|

Section 17: Park -- Superintendent/ Indian/ Park -- Native employment/ "good old boys"/ jobs -- highest level|

Section 18: Geerdes, Ray/ employment -- Bureau of Indian Affairs/ employment -- Post Office/ Park -- job recruitment/ Visitor Center/ application/ salary -- decrease/ employment -- clerk typist/ Grand Canyon -- training/ employment -- park technician/ Kuehn, Dan -- Superintendent/ employment -- Park Manager/ National Parks -- new/ employment -- Native Liaison|

Section 19: work -- enjoyment of/ political/ Park -- minority hires/ National Park -- sincere about work/ Elders -- called the Park "Center"/ Cultural Center -- community role|

Section 20: Alaska Centennial/ city -- working with/ Centennial Building/ Hardcastle, Romaine/ Ingersol, Bill -- historian/ Olson, Charlie/ Geerdes, Ray/ community/ business/ tourism/ Prewitt, Gene/ Indian people/ Sloan family/ Park -- home/ support/ interest/ Chamber of Commerce|

Section 21: Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall/ Vista Volunteer officers/ Native Liaison Officer/ background/ involvement/ agencies/ Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act/ ANILCA/ gatherings -- Native|

Section 22: gatherings -- Native/ identity -- Native/ cooperation -- agency/ Park -- work with local Natives/ employment -- Native Liaison/ National Park Service/ Superintendent -- training/ Anchorage/ Anungazuk, Herb|

Section 23: Alaska Native Brotherhood/ policy making/ Alaska Federation of Natives/ social issues -- resolution/ identity -- Indian/ identity -- Christian/ listening/ knowledge -- sharing|

Section 24: Olson, Charlie/ organization -- Indian/ community -- involvement/ article -- "The Testimony of a Born Again Indian" Sitka Native Education Program/ Alaska Native Brotherhood/ identity -- Indian/ skills -- writing/ skills -- oral expression/ drums/ Hope, Andy -- literary artist/ Native writers -- lack of/ language/ culture -- learning|

Section 25: career -- difficulties/ National Park Service -- lack of Native professionals/ jobs -- Native/ teacher/ Native corporations/ museums/ celebrations -- tribal/ replacement -- lack of/ Native Liaison -- lack of|

Section 26: career -- success/ Park -- perfect fit/ land -- ancestors'/ Sitka/ history -- Tlingit/ place -- sense of/ identity -- Indian/ National Park -- protection/ place -- sacred/ Skagway/ Katmai/ career -- influence of|

Section 27: Kiks.'adi/ Park -- story/ story -- gathering/ Native -- advantage of being/ Elders/ stories -- private/ oral history -- caretakers/ story -- documented/ story -- battle/ visitors -- teaching/ Park -- telling story/ Park -- exhibits/ Cultural Center|

Section 28: Hoonah/ story -- Sitka/ story -- sharing/ relationship -- people/ Cultural Center/ relationship -- Park and Cultural Center/ National Park|

Section 29: Cultural Center/ money -- lack of/ artists/ administration/ Johnson, A.P. -- Director/ Johnson, A.P. -- teacher/ culture -- Tlingit/ culture -- learning/ Kiks.'adi/ Sitka/ Arizona/ disease -- tuberculosis/ health/ missionary|

Section 30: Johnson, A.P./ Sheldon Jackson School/ teacher/ preacher -- radio/ sermon -- Tlingit/ radio station -- missionary program/ Presbyterian/ Nazarene/ Alaska Native Brotherhood/ committees/ disease -- tuberculosis/ culture -- Tlingit/ art| Click here for image.

Section 31: Littlefield, Esther/ Cultural Center -- instructor/ Williams, Emily/ beadwork -- learning/ Johnson, A.P./ Kiks.'adi/ art -- teaching/ context -- teaching/ culture -- teaching/ Brotherhood Blanket/ blanket -- button/ story -- Alaska Native Brotherhood/ moiety -- separation/ society -- successful/ rock -- foundation/ religion -- Christian/ wings -- spiritual/ religion -- power/ clan -- emblem| Click here for image.

Section 32: Littlefield, Esther/ Alaska Native Brotherhood -- symbols/ panel -- carved/ Davis, Robert/ Cultural Center -- benefits of/ story -- culture change/ design -- creation of/ Tlingit history -- contemporary/ weaving/ culture -- loss and gain/ Laws, Marie/ Rofkar, Teri/ emblem -- use of/ Tides People Robe|

Section 33: weaving/ Tides People Robe/ Cultural Center -- role/ events/ people -- coming together/ culture -- sharing/ Cultural Center -- opportunities/ art -- expression/ Joseph, Tommy/ wood -- carving|

Section 34: Nielsen, Peter/ Cultural Center/ Nielsen, Ray/ Indian/ National Park Service -- Centennial/ celebration/ totem pole -- battle/ Seattle/ Northwest Regional Office -- Seattle/ performance -- traditional/ Glacier Bay/ Howard, Eli/ dance/ James, Susie -- mother/ Seattle Center| Click here for image.

Section 35: Howard, Eli/ health -- cancer/ identity -- expression of/ culture -- meaning of/ Centennial House Post/ Seattle/ Kirk, Ruth/ Kirk, Louis/ National Park/ Alaska Native Brotherhood/ accomplishments|