PUBLISHED: 5:39 PM on Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Spotlight: Martin T. Perez Sr.

  Martin T. Perez, Sr. is the Tlingit Chief of the Teikweidi Brown Bear Clan, Hoots Kudee-hit Bear Nest House. His Tlingit name is Dunakaw. Raised in Ketchikan, Chief Perez began his life 87 years ago in when he was born in Seattle. He has been commercial fishing in Alaska's waters since 1927, and in the off-season has also been employed as a shipwright and a construction worker.
CCW: What responsibilities come with being the chief?

MP: Attending all the meeting and approving decisions that the clan has made. Most of it involves working with the Forest Service. They are careful about getting clan approval before they do anything on certain areas of land.

CCW: How has being the chief changed your life?

MP: It hasn't changed my life, not a bit.

CCW: In your youth, what did you want to be when you grew up?

MP: I wanted to fish, but my dad didn't want me to. I said to my dad, "This is the life for me." So he fired me! I was 10 years old. Then he found out he needed me to cook for him after he fired me and brought me back on the boat.

CCW: What hobbies do you enjoy?

MP: I used to enjoy trapping. I'd like to go fishing by myself, but she won't let me [referring to his wife] even though I do just fine out there on my own. I also enjoy traveling.

  Chief Perez is a member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood as well as the Eagles and the Moose. He is a shareholder in Capefox and SeaAlaska. He lives in Ketchikan with his wife, Juanita. He has six children, 18 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.
CCW: What are you most passionate about?

MP: Fishing, I'd say. I love the outdoor life. When you get out there fishing, you're free. You're your own boss. I fished alone-trolling for years, I enjoyed it. I like seining because it's a challenge and you're working with other men. Trolling is more or less a hobby - more relaxing. When trolling, if you don't want to go, you don't have to go. With seining, you have to go because you have a crew that depends on it. A lot of times, I would go down to the boat and my crew would be there on the rail waiting for me. Then other times I'd have to go around town looking for them [laughing].

CCW: Who has inspired your life the most and in what way?

MP: My mother. She was the one who inspired me. She taught me right from wrong, and to not forget our Native heritage.

CCW: When was the best time in your life? Why?

MP: When I was 18 my dad got sick, so I took over the fishing for him and supported the family. I felt that I was responsible for taking care of them. My brother and sister were still in school and my dad was ill, so I quit school, jumped right in, and went fishing. They didn't argue with me. Later in life, I also worked construction during the off-season of fishing. Out of all the construction jobs I've done, the Alaska pipeline was the most interesting. It was hard work, cold, and miserable but you meet many interesting people, and go to interesting places. I really enjoyed it. I spent two winters up there.

CCW: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

MP: That's hard to say. Everything I went through I was able to do. I was able to do everything I had to, or was asked to do. So now, when I look back, I wouldn't change anything.

CCW: How do you hope to be remembered?

MP: I tried to make it easy going all around. Oh, I could raise Cain, but I like to just sit back and listen to other people's arguments and analyze them. I don't get into my own if I can help it. I try to get along with everybody all the time.

CCW: If you could pass on one piece of advice to the next generation, what would it be?

MP: They would have to use their own judgment-that's what I think. That is what I did.