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2002 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Honoree: Robert Sam

Robert Sam
Robert Sam

Robert Sam is honored as a finalist for the 2002 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award for his work involving repatriation of human remains as well as his efforts in preserving traditional Tlingit culture. He is a member of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and resides in Sitka.

Sam is currently assisting a Sitka clan in attaining human remains presently held by the National Park Service. He also provides his time to national and international forums regarding sacred sites, traditional Tlingit culture and the respectful return of human remains.

Robert Sam worked for several years as the Sitka Tribe of Alaska's Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Coordinator. During this time, he assisted tribal families and the State of Alaska Department of Transportation in repatriating the remains of 133 individuals who had passed away from tuberculosis at the Mt. Edgecumbe Indian Health Services hospital in Sitka during the 1940s and 1950s.

Sam has served on the Sitka Tribal Council and has been active in local conservation issues. He played an important community role during the investigation of the potential Superfund site of Silver Bay. Sam is also an original member of the Department of Defense Tribal Steering Committee and was instrumental in helping draft their policy on tribal relations, which is used as a model by other tribal governments and agencies.

Sam has spent most of his adult life learning and sharing traditional Tlingit oral narratives. As a member of the Tlingit performing arts troupe, Naa Kahidi Theatre, he shared traditional stories with audiences around the United States and Europe. The local school district brings children to hear his stories at the end of each school year.

Sam is a regular traveler to Japan where he is host to those interested in learning about Tlingit culture. He is scheduled to share oral narratives this fall at conference that addresses children's mental health. In 1999, Mr. Sam was a keynote speaker at the National Conference of Oral History, organized by the University of Alaska.


2002 Honorees

Kelly Brown

Carol Craig

Kathleen Shaye Hill

Robert Sam

John Ward


Astrid Scholz
tel: 503.467.0758
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Jason Pretty Boy
Indigenous Resilience Fellow
tel: 503.467.0803


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