Tribal Spotlight- Alfred L. Smith + Levi’s

Tribal Spotlight- Alfred L. Smith + Levi’s

This is a little history about my father, Alfred L. Smith, a Klamath/Modoc tribal member. 

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Thank you,

Matthew Smith
PO Box 5536
Vancouver, WA 98668

There’s a new addition to Levi Strauss: A History of American Style with a remarkable story behind it: a denim jacket belonging to Al Smith, a Klamath tribal member who was a key figure in shaping U.S. laws around religious freedom. In this gallery chat, Smith’s son, Matthew Smith, and Levi Strauss & Co. Historian Tracey Panek talk about the jacket, its meaning, and the history behind it.

This hand-embellished jacket was worn by Alfred (Al) Leo Smith, who worked as a drug and alcohol counselor in Indigenous communities throughout the state. Smith was the lead plaintiff in a landmark 1990 Supreme Court First Amendment case that, several years later, led to the passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, resulting in the Congressional reaffirmation of the right of Americans generally to freely exercise their religion, and the right of Native Americans specifically to participate in religious ceremonies involving the ritual use of peyote. Smith received the jacket as a gift from his children, Matthew Smith and Maurine (Smith) Napoleon in the early 2000s.

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith (Klamath/Modoc/Chasta) was born 1957 and raised in Portland, Oregon. He is the second son of Al and Dorleen Smith. Smith is the president of Kimi-Wa Inc. (meaning “New Day” or “New Beginning” in the Sahaptin language, a Columbian Basin Indigenous language), a nonprofit organization founded to provide exceptional low-income housing for the elderly. He is the owner of a fifty-unit affordable retirement living complex built in 1984 through the vision, dedication, and efforts of the Native American people of Portland, OR; the Urban Indian Council; and financing secured from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Smith is a retired commercial carpenter, after a thirty-five year career in the trade. He is a retired tennis player and instructor, having been the president of the Pacific Native American Tennis Association and the North American Indian Tennis Association, and a retired Native Rezballer.

Smith is married to Karen “Therese” Moore, an internationally-recognized singer-songwriter and NAMMY nominated artist, and is a father of four and grandfather of twelve. He is an avid reader, lover of great music, astronomer, rock hound, and artist, who always enjoys a good bowl of pho!