Subsistence, economy concern Tlingit and Haida Central Council

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2002

Subsistence, the Southeast economy and its own programs are likely to be important topics at the 67th annual General Assembly of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, which has convened in Juneau this week.

The central council is the governing body for about 24,000 tribal citizens, most of whom live in Southeast. The council, which has a government-to-government relationship with the United States, manages programs in employment and training, family and youth services, Native lands and resources, and a tribal court and Head Start, among others.

"The topics relative to subsistence are still going to be an issue," council President Ed Thomas said in an interview.

Also of importance to delegates will be the regional economy, which has been dependent first on fisheries and then on timber, both of which are now declining as sources of revenue, he said.

"So the dependence on the timber industry is now going to somewhere else, and we don't know what it is," Thomas said.

He also expected resolutions expressing concern about glitches in the council's recently begun management of a welfare program, such as delays in sending out payments.

The general assembly began Wednesday afternoon at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall, with 97 of 110 delegates present. The delegates represent communities in Southeast as well as Anchorage, Seattle and San Francisco.

Richard Jackson, grand president of the Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand Camp, told delegates that ongoing issues include the disproportionately large number of incarcerated Natives and the disproportionately small number of Natives who work for the state.

"Those are issues that really concern me," he said.

Jackson also cited paintball attacks against Natives in Anchorage last year and leaflets distributed in Juneau this month by the white supremacist group the National Alliance.

The Alaska Native Brotherhood formed the central council to pursue a Tlingit and Haida settlement for the lands that were taken from them by the United States. The judgment ultimately was for $7.5 million.

Longtime Native leader Dr. Walter Soboleff said delegates at the ANB Grand Camp in Haines at that time were determined to get the claims settled.

"They talked strongly," he told the delegates. "They talked with determination. I can almost hear them saying, 'Have courage and have a strong mind.'

"And I can almost hear them saying 'it is for the young, the generation that is to follow.' And here before my eyes is that generation."

The General Assembly continues today with the introduction of constitutional amendments and statutes for the council government, and nominations for its president, six vice presidents, youth representatives and a tribal court judge.

The assembly will hold its elections Friday and vote on resolutions Saturday before adjourning at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Eric Fry can be reached at

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