JULY 4, 1871

TSIMSHIAN ACTIVIST PETER SIMPSON BORN–FATHER OF THE LAND CLAIMS ACT

While some differ on birth year (1871 or 1864), Simpson held he was born on July 4, in Lax Kw’alaams, British Columbia (B.C.).  He grew up with his uncle and aunt in Old Metlakatla, B.C., but when the community divided, he went to form Metlakatla, Alaska.  In 1892, he founded Port Gravina, near Ketchikan, and started a sawmill—the 1st business owned & run solely by Alaska Natives.  However, in 1904, a suspicious fire destroyed most of town.  Simpson eventually moved to Sitka where he studied parliamentary procedure which became significant in 1912, when he helped found the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB).  Initially a fraternal lodge for Natives, it soon focused on Native property rights.  Simpson was ANB Grand President from 1913-16 and again in 1923-24.  In Sitka, he was involved with what would become Sheldon Jackson College.  He was also a skilled boat builder.  Simpson, who died on December 27, 1947 in Sitka, has been referred to as the “Father of the Alaska Native Brotherhood.”

Source:  Dane Kiffer, “Canadian Tsimshian Was a Leader for Alaska Native Rights: Peter Simpson Also Owned Alaska’s First Native Business,” Sit News: Stories in the News, 2/18/2010.  Retrieved 7/1/2020, http://www.sitnews.us/Kiffer/PeterSimpson/021810_peter_simpson.html
Photo:  B.A. Haldane, 1895.  Hamilton and Simpson Sawmill, Port Gravina, Alaska.  Sir Henry Wellcome Collection, 1856 - 1936 (National Archives Identifier: 1208 National Archives Identifier (NAID) 297380.  Public Domain. 

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