Tom Gamble is one of six candidates for Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tribal Council. He has already served on the council – once in 2004 and then again in 2008. If elected, Gamble wants to focus his term on preserving cultural identity.
Tom Gamble says he’s a big advocate for the subsistence lifestyle in Sitka. So much so that it was a little tricky setting up this interview.
“I said you know how to schedule an interview with me, check the weather and if it’s calm I’m probably out doing something – hunting or fishing,” says Gamble.
A good way to understand Gamble’s commitment to Tlingit cultural preservation is to take a walk through Totem Park.
He says, “I’m intertwined all in through it, whether it was the centennial robe that was beautiful woven by Teri Rofkar – I had the honor to bring it out in ceremony. I really did feel like I transformed into a Raven for a little bit.”
Gamble worked for two years as a ranger at Sitka National Historical Park. Whether it was organizing the raising of Tommy Joseph’s totem pole or placing a plaque commemorating the Kiksadis’ walk across Baranof Island, Gamble says these efforts required a lot of sensitivity and time management.
He says, “that was taking the knowledge of the federal policies and procedures and the knowledge of the traditional protocols of the Tlingit and trying to keep them on time which is near impossible.”
Now, Gamble’s main focus is his business – Tlingit Rain
“I sell seal and sea otter products, but I also frame my business as an artist. I could do performing arts, I could lead tours regarding Sitka’s cultural history,” says Gamble.
It’s an endeavor that allows him to stay close to the Tlingit way of life.
In Tlingit they would say the way we live. Whether it was gathering in the spring, or dancing at potlatches in the fall that’s how we live,” says Gamble.
Gamble sees his decision to run for tribal council as a natural extension of his lifestyle.
He says, “I think that running for the tribal council is just right in line with what my family has always done – we have managed the land and its resources for millennia.”
He feels that it’s the duty of tribal council members to be role models when it comes to upholding a strong cultural identity.
“I think that demonstrating it and walking the walk you put on your robe and your Raven hat or your Eagle hat or whatever you call regalia…”
Gamble believes marketing and outreach to non-tribal citizens also strengthens natives’ identity in the community. He says tourism is one way to do this.
He suggests, “Maybe zoning Katlian street as a historic district and trying to expand, and including it in their tourism plan as opposed to excluding it and saying it’s a run down piece of town that only the native people live in.”
If elected to council, Gamble wants the tribal citizens’ vision to guide all planning, action, and conversation with city officials…
“…as opposed to having the vision of nine elected members sitting in a room, kind of exclusive,” says Gamble.
Tom Gamble is on the ballot with Stephanie Edenshaw, Ben Miyasato, Louise Brady, and Lawrence “Woody” Widmark. Harvey Kitka is running as a write-in candidate. Visit Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi between now and Election Day on November 12 to cast your vote.