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Yupik Bahais

MELBA CALL KING YUPIK NATION BAHA'I


Melba Call King declared as a Baha'i (Bahai) on May 23, 1943 in Albquerque, New Mexico. She was the first Indigenous Native Alaskan to become Baha'i.

She was born on October 11, 1910 in Savanaska, Bristol Bay region of Alaska. She married Eugene King a Tlingit Baha'i (see Tlingit Bahai's) She died in 1979

THE BAHA'I WORLD
AN INTERNATIONAL RECORD
Prepared under the supervision of The Universal House of Justice
VOLUME XVIII

136-140
OF THE BAHA'I ERA
1979-1983

MELBA M. CALL KING
1910-1979

A casual observer might assume mistakenly that Melba King lived in a limited and narrow world of darkness, for she was blind. But those who were privileged to share her world know that she lived in beauty and light, her horizons uncircumscribed by physical limitations.

A Yupik Eskimo, she was born on 11 October 1910 in the village of Savanaska in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska. Orphaned at an early age and physically handicapped, she might have been lost had it not been for Dr. French, a United States Commissioner, who took an interest in her welfare and assisted with planning for her physical and educational needs. She was reared by a white, foster-mother, Corrine Call, a teacher for the Alaskan Indian Service.

Melba earned her way through college, attended the School for the Blind at Vancouver, Washington, and studied at Perkins Institute in Massachusetts. Later she completed two years' study at Washington University and an additional two years' study at Central Washington University. She was the first blind student ever to graduate from that University. Her diploma was presented to her by the Governor of the State of Washington, the Hon. William Langley.

Determined to help others to broaden their perspective through education, Melba accepted a position teaching newly-blind adults in New Mexico. It was there that she met Kathryn Franklin2 who introduced her to the Bahá`í Faith, an event that was to change the course of her life. Melba declared her belief in Bahá`u'lláh on 23 May 1943 in Albuquerque, New Mexico--the first full-blooded Eskimo to do so.3 This occasion, unforgettable for Melba and significant for the Faith, was made more memorable by a letter written on the Guardian's behalf by his secretary on 24 July in which he predicted a radiant future for Melba and for her people. In his own hand Shoghi Effendi wrote, `Your most welcome letter has rejoiced my heart. I extend to you a most hearty welcome into the ranks of the followers of Bahá`u'lláh, and will greatly value your support and co-operation. Your conversion to His Cause is indeed an historic event, and will greatly rejoice the hearts of the believers. I will pray for your success and spiritual advancement from the depths of my heart. Rest assured and be confident.'

To teach the Faith among the Eskimos became her greatest hope.

She returned to Seattle, Washington, in May 1944 and attended the Washington State Training Center for the Blind where she met Eugene King. They were married on 30 September 1944.

Humility was an integral part of Melba's personality. She was a determined and completely honest champion of the Faith of Bahá`u'lláh, never hesitating to speak out to prevent misunderstandings or misrepresentations. As an active member of numerous Local Spiritual Assemblies she was to become adept in the art of consultation. Unafraid of controversy, she believed that all the facts were necessary to full and frank consultation, and encouraged everyone to express his opinion as openly as she did. Outstanding among her gifts was that of love which she extended to Bahá`ís and non-Bahá`ís alike. She was an accomplished pianist and often performed at public meetings. She was, as well, a skilled secretary, and a competent speaker and teacher. Her teaching trips were numerous and varied. She, Eugene and her gentle guide-dog became a familiar sight throughout Alaska, Oregon, California and Washington. She taught on Indian Reservations and at Bahá`í summer schools from Geyserville, California to Juneau, Alaska. She served on the committee that launched the first mass teaching effort in Washington which reached nearly three thousand people, and made repeated visits to teach the Yakima and Tulalip Indians on their reservations. Melba and Eugene were the first public speakers in an Indian community at Neah Bay, Washington. In addition to her dedicated and varied services as a member of the Local Spiritual Assemblies of Tacoma and Seattle she served on the National Bahá`í Committee for the Blind.

Throughout her many years of service in the Bahá`í communities of Washington, part of Melba's heart yearned for her native Alaska. In 1969 she and Eugene moved to Juneau and soon endeared themselves to the entire Alaskan Bahá`í community. Despite difficult weather conditions and precarious health they served on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Juneau and its numerous committees, did extensive teaching throughout the country, and helped build and strengthen the Juneau community before moving to Anchorage in 1971, a move which became necessary because of the need for access to medical facilities. Melba also served on the National Teaching and National Goals Committees. In 1972 ill health forced the Kings to relocate in the milder climate of Washington. They were able to attend the 1976 International Conference in Anchorage, following which they made a teaching trip into the central and northern regions of Alaska. In July 1978 they made a teaching trip to Sitka and formulated plans to settle again in Alaska, this time in Haines. But it was not to be. On 7 September 1979, after a year of puzzling illness, Melba was called to her greater home in the Abhá Kingdom, leaving us very blessed for having shared her world of infinite vision. She was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Seattle. On 10 September the Universal House of Justice cabled:

PASSING MELBA KING FIRST ESKIMO TO EMBRACE CAUSE BAHAULLAH GRIEVOUS LOSS. HER UNSTINTING SERVICES ADMINISTRATION AND TEACHING FIELDS FOR NEARLY FOUR DECADES IN ALASKA AND NORTHWEST UNITED STATES DESPITE LIFELONG PHYSICAL HANDICAP DESERVE SPECIAL MENTION ANNALS FAITH AMERICAN BAHAI COMMUNITY. EXTEND LOVING SYMPATHY ASSURANCE PRAYERS TO HER HUSBAND EUGENE KING. SUPPLICATING HOLY THRESHOLD PROGRESS HER SOUL KINGDOMS GOD.

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