Juneau Native groups oppose confirmation of attorney general

Ross raises ire for views on subsistence

Posted: Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Alaska Native groups in Juneau voiced opposition to the nomination of Attorney General Anthony Wayne Ross and called on other Native groups to speak out against Gov. Sarah Palin's selection to head the Department of Law.

In a special session on Saturday, both Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood Glacier Valley Camp No. 70 passed a resolution asking the Grand Camp executive committee to oppose Ross' nomination, primarily because of his views on subsistence. The move was made after both the Alaska Federation of Natives and the Association of Village Council Presidents came out against Ross last week, ANB Camp No. 70 President Bradley Fluetsch said.

"We've been fighting long and hard for subsistence and this is one of the attorneys of the people that we've been fighting," he said. "So we know him and we don't trust him."

Ross said on Tuesday that none of the groups that have been speaking out against him have bothered to get in touch with him to find out what his positions are. He said he believes they are reaching conclusions that may be erroneous.

"I think subsistence is one of the things that makes Alaska great, makes Alaska interesting and makes Alaska unique," Ross said. "Certainly we have people in outlying areas that don't have access to grocery stores and have to live on the resources of the state to sustain themselves and I'm certainly in favor of that."

Ross said he believes it is the duty of the attorney general to uphold the Alaska Constitution, which stipulates that the state's resources belong to all Alaskans.

"When my mother used to have company for dinner and she had a pie to serve, she didn't say some people can have pie and some people can't, and she didn't say we're going to make the pieces smaller," he said. "She baked another pie."

Ross said he believes wise management of the state's resources can ensure there is sufficient game and fish to take care of all user groups in Alaska.

"But in times of shortage, we may have to have a preference for subsistence to take care of the people in the state of Alaska who rely on that," he said.

Ross did say the groups are correct in that he is against Native sovereignty. He said he believes Alaskans should be working together and not breaking the state into separate entities.

"However, I do believe that tribal government could be utilized under the auspices of the state of Alaska to provide more local control," he said. "So I think they have a mistaken impression of what my position is."

Fluetsch said the state has a record of litigating against Native Americans' federal rights, not realizing there is a special relationship defined in the U.S. Constitution.

"We need to get the state to be more unified, moving together, and it would be a whole lot simpler if we had an attorney general who understood and respected 150 years of federal law regarding Native Americans and Alaska Natives," he said.

Although Ross was appointed by Palin late last month and is presently on the job, he must still receive a majority vote of the Alaska Legislature to retain the position. The vote is scheduled for April 16. Ross replaced former Attorney General Talis Colberg, who resigned in February.

Fluetsch, who also is president of ANB Grand Camp, said there are enough members of the executive committee against the confirmation of Ross to pass a similar resolution. Fluetsch said he plans to testify as the president of both Grand Camp and Camp 70 against Ross during today's Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.

"Not only do we want Grand Camp to do it, but we also would like to see all the other camps in Southeast and around the state pass similar resolutions," he said.

"I'm sorry they feel that way," Ross said. "I could give them names of some good friends who are Natives who speak highly of me, I think. And I hope to get the job and prove that they have an erroneous impression of me in some areas."

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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