Ken Hale, a founding member of Resist, died on Monday, 8 October 2001 at age 67 after a long illness.
Ken openly joined the resistance on 16 October 1967, when as part of a national draft-card turn-in, he handed in his selective service registration at the Arlington Street Church in Boston. At roughly the same time, Ken became a member of Resist, remaining active until illness forced him to curtail his work on the Board. Nevertheless, he continued to comment, when asked, on grant proposals and on issues into which he had special insight.
Among linguists, Ken is held in awe because of the great number of languages he knew, fifty or more - and still counting at the time of his death! Although Ken actually worked very hard at it, he seemed to learn them through simple and brief exposure, in the way that we normal folks catch a cold.
Since Ken worked most particularly with the indigenous people of the Americas and of Australia, Ken was admired by those of us who worked with him politically not only for his linguistics, but also for his sense of how to put his incomparable knowledge to work for social change. His extensive work on aboriginal land claims in Australia is a case in point, as is his educational work there, among the Navajo, and on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.
Ken's special importance for Resist goes back to its earliest days when Resist had a tripartite structure: a board, a staff, and a set of "area persons". Area persons were volunteers who took on the task of encouraging and developing grant proposals from a particular area of the country. Ken, because of his extensive knowledge of American Indian communities, was Resist's link to Native America. Ken's understanding of Native America and his trusted role in it enabled Resist to support important work in American Indian communities.
When asked to comment on Ken's death, Noam Chomsky (also a founding member of Resist) said, "Ken Hale was ... a colleague whose contributions are incomparable and of immense intellectual distinction, and above all, a person of honor and courage, who dedicated himself with passion and endless energy to protecting the rights of poor and suffering people throughout the world. One of the world's leading scholars, dear to countless people, he was also one of those very few people who truly merits the term 'a voice for the voiceless.' The loss is immeasurable."
But Ken was not only "a voice for the voiceless"; for he also made sure that the voices of the voiceless were heard directly: in land-claims hearings in Australia, by legislators and boards of education in the Americas, and by Resist.
We will all miss Ken's voice, but we must continue to
hear and listen to the people that Ken empowered.