Reaction to Glacier Bay work unfair

My turn

Posted: Tuesday, January 11, 2000

I am disappointed in the Hoonah Indian Association and Glacier Bay National Park's fast and damning reaction to Sealaska's document entitled, ``A National Treasure or Stolen Heritage,'' which focuses on ``subsistence.'' It was hoped that this document would encourage fresh ideas and new approaches to stale problems and to the new ones sprouting up all around us.

The two boxes of information that researcher Norm Staton sifted through was at one time presented to the Hoonah Indian Association, the records that support Ted Catton's park service report, ``Land Reborn: A History of Administration and Visitor Use in GBNP&Preserve,'' 1995. Those boxes are available for anyone to dig into at Sealaska where they have been archived. Catton has since published another book, ``Inhabited Wilderness, Indian, Eskimos and National Parks in Alaska,'' 1997. Are Hoonah Indian Association board members aware of this?

Both of Catton's works are influential and provide clarity of exposition very worthy of word-for-word citation. His works have something to say to political science specialists, public policy-makers, anthropologists, Native American studies and Hoonah Indian Association as well as political, environmental, cultural and intellectual historians. He speaks to the preservationists' movement that created national parks on the homes and workplaces of Native peoples.

Staton's work is dramatic disclosure of many things not previously known by the Tlingit and mainstream America. It took time and money to advance this knowledge to the many who need to understand the systematic elimination the Tlingit are suffering. Active genocide is an inflammatory reality. It is the park services' administrative history that is shoddy, not Staton's work.

The tribal administrator has failed to advance a 5-year-old memorandum of understanding with the park service from the training-wheel document it is to something solid and practical for tribal needs. The memorandum of understanding services Park Service requirements in its Glacier Bay General Management Plan. It is minimum of what it should be during these confrontational times of Tlingit banishment from sacred homelands and waters. We are not free from restrictions, nor are we in control of our own destiny. The Hoonah Indian Association-Park Service relationship is void of tribal liberties. It is an illusion and a travesty as long as it lacks proper protocol within the tribe.

Hoonah Indian Association's mission does not include management of tribal resources. They have no ordinance, structure or staff to do so. Nor do they have the authority to speak on behalf of any of the Huna clans. Simply involving a member from each clan to participate in the Park Service-Hoonah Indian Association programming activities is not representative of the people. Tlingit protocol is a strict process of recognition and respect. Those key elements are also void in Hoonah's tribal government and the memorandum of understanding.

The highest vote-getter in Hoonah Indian Association's recent election was 33 - from a 600-member association where tribal involvement is a requirement within their own structure. The lack of interest is painfully obvious and is a handicap to effective problem solving.

The current operation is getting us nowhere. It is frustrating. Time for the administrator to expand involvement to more than her own family. There is a lot of real work that needs to be done, a job this big needs everyone's participation in order to be done properly.

Why shouldn't GB/NPS be open to an analysis of the issues they created? The NPS instills their own cultural ethic that Native presence is of no consequence in national parks. Let's discuss this notion. Chookeneidi history speaks of when Glacier Bay was a tropical area. There is no -ologist existing whose knowledge surpasses the science of being Tlingit. Until Tlingit science is entrenched through a HIA-GB/NPS recource management plan, Glacier Bay descendants will continue to confront the go nowhere programming, studies and inflammatory regulations of the NPS.

Regarding inflammatory rhetoric. How about the GB/NPS ``study'' of interviews to learn how Tlingits gather seagull eggs? We are a living culture capable of showing the NPS the hows and whyfors. NPS studies only serve to delay reform or go unattended like Catton's dissertation, for instance.

If my words seem harsh, please relate them to the unjust situation that Glacier Bay's indigenous inhabitants are up against. We have made significant contributions to Glacier Bay's beautiful landscape and history. Cultural existence and protection was an act of Congress because it was not being provided for otherwise, and still is not. GB/NPS needs a superintendent with ears, problem-solving expertise and new ideas.

As a tribal government, as a federal agency and I, as an individual, must all ask ourselves: Are we a part of the problem or are we going to be a part of the solution that must come? I know where I stand and like it or not we will be dealing with each other. . .

Wanda Culp is a Chookeneidi descendant of Glacier Bay

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