Decades before the marches and victories of the
1960s, a group of Alaska Natives were making civil
rights history. Throughout the early twentieth century,
the Alaska Native Brotherhood fought for citizenship,
voting rights, and education for all Alaska Natives,
securing unheard-of victories in a contentious time.
Their unified work and legal prowess propelled the
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, one of the
biggest claim settlements in United States history.
A Dangerous Idea tells an overlooked but powerful
story of Alaska Natives fighting for their rights under
American law and details one of the rare successes
for Native Americans in their nearly two-hundred-year
effort to define and protect their rights.
[H]ere the tireless effort of ANB (Alaska Native Brotherhood) leaders gets its due. The situation regarding Native land claims was particularly tenuous during the period roughly spanning the New Deal to the Great Society. . . . The economic text takes up less than 90 pages; notes and index material occupies more than 40 pages. Photos include incidental shots that peel away some of the formality of familiar group portraiture while revealing the grit at the heart of the ANB leadership.
The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) dramatically altered the economic and cultural lives of Alaska’s indigenous people. . . . [Metcalfe] does a splendid job of providing an exhaustively balanced analysis of this decades-churning journey as it zigzagged its way to today’s legislated compromises.
Assimilation is a quiet process that destroys indigenous cultures by absorbing and diluting them. ‘Resistance is futile,’ the Borg would say in Star Trek: The Next Generation. But it’s not. When you see it coming you can protect what’s most important and survive. You can resist. That’s what the early leaders of the Alaska Native Brotherhood did. In his recent book, A Dangerous Idea: The Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Struggle for Indigenous Rights, Metcalfe documents how Native leaders in Southeast Alaska fought the oncoming firestorm of assimilation a century ago. . . . These guys were hardcore.
Peter Metcalfe is the author of several books
documenting the history of Alaska Native tribal
organizations, most recently Gumboot Determination.