Desa misguided on subsistence policy

Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2000

On Tuesday, Desa Jacobsson, poignantly lodged her protest of the Federal Subsistence Law, by beginning a hunger strike. My father and my grandparents often told me that ``The Truth Will Out!'' Over the last several months Desa has found out the hard way that the truth I told her about subsistence, during the last race for governor, was accurate. Unfortunately, she believed all of the misinformation distributed by the ANILCA subsistence supporters and all of the rhetoric of the AFN. She honestly believed that because she is an Alaskan Native that she was a subsistence-qualified person and could participate and practice her cultural heritage. WRONG - Desa is one of over 43,000 Alaskan Natives who happen to live in towns that are too large; they are urban and just like their neighbors they don't qualify.

I had several private conversations with Desa on the campaign trail about subsistence. I found her to be a compassionate and caring lady with a true love for this state and all of its people. Unfortunately, she, like many others, had been inundated with political spin and outright lies about my position opposing this discriminatory federal mandate called ANILCA equals subsistence. So she didn't believe me when I told her that she would be arrested if she tried to practice subsistence. She is now awaiting trial over a fishing protest in which she participated.

Under current Alaskan law she can qualify for and get a personal use permit to take salmon. If the Alaska Legislature surrenders control of our navigable waters to the federal government by adopting ANILCA into our constitution and laws (as Desa has strongly advocated), she will no longer qualify for even a personal use permit as she is an URBAN resident. The largest Native village in Alaska is Anchorage, the second largest is Fairbanks, etc; the largest percentage (60 percent) of all Natives living in Alaska all live in URBAN, not RURAL, communities. The federal law specifically limits subsistence to rural communities and areas. Yes, some of us have tried to change that - in fact some of us have fought for years to change ANILCA to comply with the state's personal use system, so that people like Desa would not be arbitrarily discriminated against. Sadly, if the state ever does adopt ANILCA (and all the forces are aligning to do just that), not only will all URBAN residents like Desa be precluded, as personal use permits will disappear, but because the federal law allows for the CASH SALE of subsistence caught resources it will also destroy our commercial, sport and recreational fishing industries.

Over time as this discriminatory law is enforced against individual Alaskan's the ``Truth Will Out,'' but at what cost in human suffering and economic loss?

Senator Robin L. Taylor

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