Losing faith in Kensington mine

Posted: Friday, July 24, 2009

I have just read the latest news on the Kensington mine and I have been following the story all along.

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally found its voice, many people in Southeast Alaska became more confused and uncertain about whose claims were more valid.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did issue permits for the demise of Slate Lake, and possibly the surrounding areas including Lynn Canal and beyond.

Many people in New Orleans had been assured by the Corps of Engineers that the dikes and earthen embankments would protect New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. It is sad to say today, New Orleans has yet to recover from the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. So much for our confidence in the Army Corps of Engineers.

And secondly, I am a Huna Tlingit who has lived in Hoonah all my life, except for my tour of duty in the U.S. Army. I was also a Hoonah Native Subsistence Commissioner in the past.

I intend no disrespect for the present Tlingit-Haida Central Council of Indian Tribes' President who keeps on going to bat for the Kensington mine at Berners Bay. I respect all public servants for their hard work and dedication to their jobs. However, I would like the Council president to go to bat for our subsistence rights also with equal intensity.

We Hoonah Natives and residences have suffered a great loss of our subsistence deer hunting and fishing in the past few years. The great state of Alaska has been out of compliance with Title 8 of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Since 1980, Title 8 guarantees subsistence priority for Alaska rural residences. And yes, there are no provisions for a federal subsistence board in ANILCA to allow the state to be out of compliance. Management of subsistence hunting and fishing should go back to the 226 tribes who owned the rights in the first place.

In conclusion, it would break our hearts, and damage our subsistence more, if any gold or heavy metals were to be discovered in Icy Strait. Don't forget New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Patrick G. Mills


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