Living in Juneau I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Áakʼw Ḵwáan and Taku Kwaan , the original inhabitants of Lingít Aaní. We pay respect to the Áakʼw Ḵwáan and Taku Kwaan elders, both past and present, and extend that respect to other Indigenous people present.
Rúhíyyih Khánum (1910 – 2000 ) was born Mary Maxwell in New York City in 1910. Her parents were prominent Baháʼís and very involved in the early spread of the Baháʼí Faith. At the age of 26, Rúhíyyih Khánum married Shoghi Effendi — the Guardian of the Baháʼí Faith and great-grandson of Baháʼu’lláh, the Founder of the Faith. For 20 years she assisted him as he nurtured and grew a fledgling Faith into a global community. When Rúhíyyih Khánum was 47 years old, her husband died, leaving her as the last living link to the family of Baháʼu’lláh and the Founders of the Baháʼí Faith. She was elected to the Council of Custodians who shepherded the Faith while preparations were made for the first global election of the body that leads the Faith today.
After completing her administrative responsibilities, Rúhíyyih Khánum began a series of travels around the world. She visited over 185 countries to spread the message of the Baháʼí Faith, including in places where the Bahá’í Faith was little known or where the Bahá’í community needed encouragement., She especially encouraged members of indigenous peoples to participate in the global Baháʼí community. In 1973, Rúhíyyih Khánum embarked on a notable trip to Alaska, as part of her travel teaching activities throughout the Americas during that time. During her stay in Alaska, she visited several communities, met with Bahá’ís, and offered encouragement and guidance. While visiting Southeast Alaska, she was adopted into the Wooshkeetaan clan at a ceremony in Juneau. At that time, she was gifted a Tlingit blanket which she treasured very much.
On the weekend of September 2 and 3, during a two-day celebration held among local Tlingit clans, ceremonies included honoring the 50th anniversary of Rúhíyyih Khánum’s adoption into the Wooshkeetaan clan. At this celebration, the blanket that was gifted to her all those years ago came home to be shared once again with the relatives of those who originally gifted it. Fifty years of living has caused some wear and tear on the blanket. It has been graciously restored by a local artist and will return to Haifa, Israel, where it will be kept in the Baháʼí archives. I am not adequate to the task nor is it my place to explain the significance and meaning of a Koo.éex’ where Tlingit clans from across Lingít Aaní came together for a joint celebration of birthdays, marriage vows, and historical remembrance. Suffice it to say, I was honored to be in attendance and truly moved by the sincerity and openheartedness of the Tlingit families who came together for this occasion and shared these celebrations with the Baha’i community.
It is fitting that we should take a moment to remember an amazing woman who played such a remarkable role of service to her Faith and the world at large. I wish to thank all the people who made this remembrance at the recent Koo.éex’.
I also wish to thank the Juneau Empire and the Juneau Interfaith Council for making this column possible.
Much Love to all.
• Adam Bauer is the secretary of Local Spiritual Assembly of Bahá’ís of Juneau. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Saturday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.