TLINGIT ELDER JAMES WILBUR WALTON (Khaalaaxh), the initiator of the Spiritual Unity of Tribes Gatherings, was born March 29, 1923, in Sitka, Alaska to Rudolph Walton (Kaawootk', Aakw'taatseen), of the Tlingit Kiks.di clan, and Mary Charley (Davis), Kaagwaantaan clan.
He was a leader of the Kaagwaantaan Wolf House, Eagle/Wolf Moiety, of Sitka.
As a child, Jim received traditional Tlingit training and became an expert in oratory and protocol. He graduated from Sheldon Jackson School in Sitka in 1943, and married Clara Hamilton of Craig. As a young man Jim struggled with finding the balance between his traditional Tlingit training and living in the modern world. Like many others of this time, he struggled with alcohol for a period of his life when he served in the U.S. Army during World War II and later as a young father when he worked as a fisherman and carpenter.
But Jim’s life began to change when he was introduced to the teachings of the Baha’i Faith in 1953 on the importance of unity of all people. About that time he also read the book “Black Elk Speaks.” He was so taken by the teachings of unity of all peoples and by Black Elk’s vision as it was relayed in the book that he went to the Sacred Black Hills in South Dakota himself to find the family of Black Elk and to determine if the book had accurately portrayed Black Elk’s vision.
Myron Pourier, a descendent of Black Elk, confirmed in an email that his grandmother “Olivia Black Elk-Pourier had relayed that her brother, Henry Black Elk, the grandson of Black Elk, had met with Jim Walton” to consult about and confirm Black Elk’s vision.
From that time on Jim would often talk about how that meeting changed his life. He dedicated his life to bringing about a rebirth of traditional indigenous teachings in order to affect the health of his people and in order to help bring Black Elk’s vision into reality.
In the early 1980s, Jim established the International Cross-Cultural Alcohol Program, to create a cross-cultural approach to alcohol recovery. He also traveled across the United States, talking to elders and spiritual leaders of many tribes to learn more about the spiritual prophesies and to garner a better understanding of the meaning behind those teachings. Whenever he spoke with elders he sought permission to begin holding sacred gatherings.