AFN backs governor's subsistence proposal

Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Alaska Federation of Natives officials have pledged to get behind Gov. Tony Knowles' subsistence amendment this year.

The AFN Board of Directors voted Tuesday to support Knowles' call for a rural-plus subsistence amendment to the state constitution, which could go before voters in November.

But Albert Kookesh, co-chairman of the board and a Democrat state representative from Angoon, said his group has many misgivings about the plan.

"They are going to support this because they believe what Gov. Knowles said, that this is a starting point," Kookesh said.

Kookesh said AFN agreed to support Knowles' plan "because we are Alaskans and we want Alaska to continue to manage its own resources."

But many Alaska Natives think the federal system of subsistence management is an improvement over past state practices, he said.

Prior to the vote, Knowles addressed the board and asked for support in resolving the decade-long stalemate.

Knowles wants voters to decide on a constitutional amendment that gives rural residents first priority to subsistence resources. The measure also says the Legislature may grant a secondary priority for subsistence to urban residents who have a history of dependence on the resource.

But the AFN said its legal analysis shows the proposal has several flaws.

Kookesh said AFN will pursue amendments to the plan when it reaches the Legislature to assure Native co-management of subsistence.

Federal management has brought some improvements for Natives who rely on subsistence and there's a growing belief among some in rural Alaska that the federal system "is probably the best it gets," he said.

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