Tlingit-Haida resolutions address economics, racism, ferries

Posted: Thursday, April 22, 2004

Tlingit-Haida Central Council President Ed Thomas said last week's general meeting was a success, but he would like to get his message out to a broader forum.

Delegates, from as far away as Anchorage and San Francisco, met Wednesday through Saturday in Juneau. They elected Thomas to his 11th two-year term as president, seated six vice presidents and addressed more than 50 resolutions.

Thomas said he will look in the upcoming days and weeks to make the appropriate people and agencies aware of the concerns of the membership expressed in the resolutions. Many concerned funding, an issue he spoke to while addressing people at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

Federal money that goes to Natives is dwindling, he said Wednesday.

"The old myth that Indians get everything for free is dispelled," he said.

A major problem is with the inner workings of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is losing funding because of its poor management.

"We're all being held hostage by poor government administration," he said.

There was a time when the government paid for everything from health care to housing, but now it is more complicated, often involving special contracts and third party billing. "And not everyone is eligible," he said.

At the same time, the perception that Natives have everything handed to them isn't helping their image, Thomas said.

Several resolutions at the meeting dealt with racism.

A resolution from Juneau to support and encourage Native students in the community in a year where reports of racist incidents have been on the increase was merged with a resolution from Hoonah to fight against racism. The meeting also supported proposed hate-crime legislation.

It is needed to stress to people that doing violence against people because of their race is wrong, he said. He believes the problem involves "a few radical people. They hide behind the cloak of night."

Unfortunately, he added, the racist acts make it appear there are more serious problems.

He doesn't believe the legislation will be passed, at least not with the teeth it needs. Its sponsor, Sen. Georgiana Lincoln, was recognized for her outstanding service in another resolution.

The meeting also addressed the Alaska Marine Highway System, Thomas said. The resolution opposed cutbacks in ferry service.

Thomas said that when the state is looking to save money on transportation, more Alaska politicians are more willing to spend money on "roads to nowhere" in the Anchorage and Fairbanks areas than they are to support needed ferry service to smaller communities in the Southeast.

Six vice presidents were elected to serve as the executive council that meet five or six times a year, Thomas explained. Each was elected to a two-year term.

Delegates elected Judy George, of Juneau, first vice president; Fred Lauth, of Seattle, second vice president; Thomas Farquhar, of Anchorage, third vice president; Eli Hanlon Jr., of Yakutat, fourth vice president; Millie Stevens, of Craig, fifth vice president; and Liv Gray, of Hoonah, sixth vice president.

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