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It has been more than five years since an executive order came out of the White House decreeing all governments to work with tribes on a government to government (g2g) basis. For years it was as if the other governments didn't even care about that g2g order. They acted like if they ignored it long enough, it would go away. The governor of Alaska even coughed up a million dollars to fight against the tribes.
I was hopeful when the state finally agreed to work g2g with tribes. Athabascan Chief Gary Harrison attended many meetings as a tribal rep. He would like people to understand the potential problems being created by the state's g2g proposed agreement.
Chickaloon Village Traditional Council is not in concordance with the state of Alaska on the Millennium Agreement, even though the state of Alaska would like the world to think otherwise. It was wrong for the state of Alaska representatives to claim that "they are in negotiations with the tribes" during the international meeting in Africa. That is simply not true. The state of Alaska is NOT in negotiations. They have no plans in the Juneau Legislature to accept tribal governmental functions. The governor's proclamation is only a directive to his administrative world, it is not a directive of the state of Alaska.
The agreement has no clause for the state to keep it's side of the agreement, but it has an escape clause so they can get out of it after they tell the international community they are handling the indigenous rights of Alaska Natives.
It is obvious how poorly other governments have "managed" resources and how greedily they gobbled up the billions of dollars extracted from the land, water and air. But still the state claimed they didn't have enough funding to deal with 228 Tribes. Do they have a problem dealing with all their corporations, cities, municipalities and boroughs?
Why should the state of Alaska expect one tribe to speak for another? Do they expect the Kenai Borough to speak for the Mat-Su Borough? Or do they expect the city of Palmer to speak for the city of Nome?
The meetings were not respectful. Some questions weren't even discussed, let alone answered. There was pressure to get the deal done. Why is time such a big factor when the state of Alaska Constitution, Article 12 Section XII clearly states, "The state of Alaska and its people FOREVER disclaim all right and title in or to any property ... including fishing rights..."
The tribes are not being treated as equals at tables of negotiations in decision-making activities. Tribes are at the table without attorneys while the state has many, negotiating in terms that are very misleading and potentially damaging.
The state of Alaska would like tribes to recognize that the state has sovereignty. The USA got its sovereignty from the Indians on the East Coast of Turtle Island. This is a recognized fact. President Lincoln's speeches proclaim that states are not sovereign. When those southern states decided they were sovereign, it created one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. history, the Civil War.
It appears the current government(s) want one more thing. The last time they put a pipeline through, they took our land and used ANCSA as their instrument. We're still arguing over subsistence as a result of that. Now they want a gas line in exchange for tribe's sovereignty for the next millennium? The Millennium Agreement should just be a simple statement of working government to government. How hard can that be?
Patricia Wade is the editor of the Chickaloon News.