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I am writing in response to a letter titled "Share Burden Equally" that was just published on April 9, 2004. The author argues that "violence against humans is sad and unjust," but "providing extra services (for Alaska Natives) only encourages racism and increases the burden on the taxpayers ... and is, therefore, the dividing line between peoples." This argument is unfortunate to say the least, but in reality, Mr. Lewis' belief system reflects that of many others and is what fuels the cycle of misunderstanding taking place between cultures.
The dividing line between peoples was drawn during the initial interaction between Alaska Natives and Caucasians. There are unspoken privileges granted to Caucasians (visit www.whiteprivilege.hampshire.edu); one of these privileges is that Caucasians came equipped with tools to construct the new world, whereas Natives were stripped of everything and expected to comply with the new world. Our high dropout, unemployment, poverty, and suicide rates make the effects of this privilege on Alaska Natives clear. Recognizing injustice, the federal government attempted to improve the overall Alaskan lifestyle by providing Natives with bare necessities (quality health care and education).
Despite dehumanization, the death of our culture and tradition, and the attacks on our rights as citizens made in letters like "Share Burden Equally," Alaskan Natives prove to be resilient simply by surviving. Correct me if I'm wrong, but providing Alaskans with health care and education should not be seen as a burden ... instead, it should be seen as a duty. It's also our duty as leaders, educators, parents and members in the community to provide all kids with the tools to think critically about who we are: one people living in one world. In time, Alaskan youth will reflect on where we've been and, armed with powerful minds and strong voices, they will become active participants in social change.