Gov. Sarah Palin's grandmother-in-law's subsistence rights are being eroded by state interests infiltrating the Federal Subsistence Board and infecting laws Natives have worked so hard to instill.
The state is not answering our fuel crisis. Instead it's going to let "our" natural gas flow right pass our suffering villages and down to the states. There are no benefits for us in the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. Why are we letting the state walk all over us? Wake up. Do something.
Let me lay down one fundamental fact: Alaska Natives have never been recognized nor strongly assisted by the state of Alaska. In fact, traditional Natives are glad about it, because we never wanted to be a part of the state. Traditional, real Alaska Natives want our sovereignty. The Western world ravaged American Indian communities across the hemisphere, and now they've reached us. The last bit of Indian Country left, and they're choosing to have the same mentality as they always have had with Natives. I hope this last page of Indian/white relations is good. I can only hope and pray.
We want to overturn the Termination Act - the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (an illegal law according to the Organic Act of 1884, and a law signed under duress), and charter the corporations under regional and village tribal governments where they can be directed by a majority vote of the tribal members. I don't disagree with the corporation idea; we need economic development, but the corporations shouldn't control everything, especially if they're headed by urbanized Natives living far away from the lands in their crosshairs where they don't have to answer to their relatives and fellow Natives. Palin can lead an effort to seriously restructure ANCSA to celebrate statehood next year.
Palin never once mentioned Native rights when discussing the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline, veteran rights, subsistence, fuel prices, nor is there a working group for Alaska Natives under the new Climate Cabinet. Kivalina had to be evacuated.
The villages are suffering high fuel prices: One day, I had to decide whether to use gas for cutting wood or getting water. Palin only appointed a Native to the Board of Game because Native leaders protested. A part of me thinks she is compelled to answer to the anti-Native factions within the state; but on the other hand, I wouldn't work any job that forces me to treat my own people like crap.
There's a scene in the TV show "Lost," where the Korean man from the village gets a job as a doorman at a hotel. His fellow villagers came up and ask to use the bathroom. He knew the manager wouldn't permit it, but let them in anyway. The manager soon found out and ran off the villagers. The Korean man looked him in the eyes, took off his hat, threw it to him, and walked off the job. See, that's what I'm talking about. If Palin really cared about her grandmother-in-law's rights, she would confront those anti-Native factions or quit. I'm being a little harsh, but the state is being harsh toward us. Anchorage is a modern day Birmingham for Alaska Natives, and the rest of the state bullies and harasses us for practicing our way of life.
If Palin really cared about her grandmother-in-law's rights, she would fight the ANCSA legislation, crack down on Anchorage's treatment of Alaska Natives, institute a 20 percent required hire and ownership in AGIA, file a state compliance with ANILCA Title VIII, and lobby Congress to exchange the word "rural residence" with "Alaska Native." When I see her do all those things, I'll know she's starting to care about us. As Malcolm X said, "You can't thank someone for giving you what was suppose to be yours in the beginning."
Matt Gilbert is executive director of the Venetie Tribal Governments and community liaison for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. He also is a writer and lives in Arctic Village.
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