ANCHORAGE - U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski said Thursday he's concerned about the Alaska Federation of Natives' plan to take human rights complaints to the United Nations.
At a hearing before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Murkowski said he fears the concerns of Alaska Natives may be used improperly by countries who want to undermine the credibility of the United States.
AFN president Julie Kitka said the reason her group wants to attend the U.N. conference - called The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance - is to network with other groups and to look for practical ways to abate racism in Alaska.
Murkowski said he doesn't disagree with her goal but said the conference may be a sham, an opportunity for anti-American interests to embarrass the United States.
"Be careful you don't get used," he said.
The hearing Thursday was one in a series the committee is holding to hear the legislative priorities of Native American groups.
Most of Thursday's session was given over to practical matters. Leaders of Alaska's Native nonprofit health and social services agencies, Native corporations and tribes listed for the senators what they would like from Congress.
Ed Thomas, president of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes, said that in making requests on behalf of the needy in his tribe, he is no different from the mayors who present their cities' needs to Congress, only tribal needs are often much greater.
Among their requests were more self-governance contracts between the tribes and the federal government so that tribes can provide some services carried out by the Interior and Health and Social Service departments. Natives also asked for a pilot program to establish family resource centers in villages that would be the focal point for Head Start, adult basic education, job training and other programs.
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