Tlingit-Haida president: Don't blame BIA

Posted: Sunday, April 18, 2004

After winning election Friday to an 11th two-year term as president of the Tlingit-Haida Central Committee, Ed Thomas told other tribal members to take their politics seriously.

Natives shouldn't be squabbling with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs about budget cuts, he told delegates attending the general meeting at Juneau's Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. He later said the disagreement should be with the presidential administration and Congress - the people directing the policies.

The central council is the tribal government representing more than 24,000 Tlingit and Haida worldwide. At a general meeting that ran Wednesday through Saturday, people had a chance to voice their concerns about their place in the world.

From the floor of the meeting Friday, David Katzeek of Juneau was among those who expressed their concerns about federal budget cuts. He questioned how the U.S. government can give so much in aid to Israel while ignoring nations with victims of a holocaust within their own borders.

"Our lands, our culture, our traditions have been taken from us," he said. "We are just as important as any other people on Earth."

"It's going to take you to get out and vote," Thomas said in response.

"I really think this one issue is so fragile," he continued. "We cannot use the methods of yesterday to address the issues for tomorrow. We can't go on beating up on the BIA."

It isn't that Natives don't vote, he later said. But too often they vote for people based on party affiliation, following the voting traditions of their families.

The people who work for the BIA are only "soldiers," he said, carrying orders of the people voters put in office.

Federal budget cuts affecting Natives was a major concern that came up during the meeting, Thomas said.

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