First Lady Donna Walker was adopted into a Tlingit clan Thursday night during a surprise ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Juneau. The adoption ceremony came at the end of an Indigenous Readings event hosted by the First Lady and organized as part of the Sharing Our Knowledge Tlingit Clan Conference at Centennial Hall, which runs through Sunday.
Walker was given the name Koodeishghé, once held by the late Lydia George of Angoon, and adopted into the Deisheetaan clan. Deisheetaan clan elder Selina Everson, of Juneau, approved the adoption, embracing Walker afterward with the affectionate words, “Now you’re my grandmother,” a reference to her close relationship with George, Walker’s namesake.
Ishmael Hope performed the ceremony with his uncle Gerry Hope, elder Paul Marks, and Lance Twitchell, as Gov. Bill Walker, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and his wife, Toni, stood by.
“This name (Koodeishghé) is from a wonderful elder,” Hope told the First Lady, “and that shows the value Selina and the Deisheetaan have for you and your family.”
Audience members were asked to bear witness by repeating the name four times after Hope. Money was held to the First Lady’s forehead by Gerry Hope as the name was pronounced, and then handed over to elder Marie Olson of the Wooshkeetaan clan.
Gov. Walker was adopted into the Tlingit Kaagwaantaan Clan in April, making him part of the Eagle moiety. The First Lady is of the opposite moiety, a Raven, following Tlingit tradition for marriage partners.
Earlier in the evening, unaware that she was about to be adopted, the First Lady commented on how much her husband’s Tlingit adoption has meant to him.
“Of all the honors my husband has received, being adopted into the clan has been a highlight for him,” Donna Walker said.
The naming ceremony was not announced as part of the evening’s program of events, which included poetry readings by Hope, Twitchell and Maria Williams, of Anchorage, and an oratory reading by Tlingit elder Nora Marks Dauenhauer. Ernestine Hayes, also a Tlingit poet and author, provided introductions.
For more on the Tlingit Clan Conference, see the Nov. 4 issue of the Capital City Weekly.