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Support sought for a Native way of life

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2001

I have spent 30 years on this planet and the majority of that in Southeast Alaska. I have experienced many facets of prejudice; many times coming from people who purported to be my friends or from individuals who just didn't care for Alaska Natives. I have seen positive changes and I have seen setbacks to our Native way of life. As I read tonight's Empire (Aug. 28) and the letters to the editor I was amazed to see the Alaska Natives discussed in such a deplorable manner.

If I were to gauge the attitude toward Alaska Natives, I would have to say that our state has not made one progressive step to heal and unite the different nations. The animosity toward Alaska Natives is so immensely misplaced that it beggars description. I cannot imagine how 15 percent of the population of Alaska can so deplete the natural resources as to put all of Alaska in jeopardy, especially when those who participate in subsistence as a lifestyle make up less than 1 percent of usage. It surprises me that Andy Massey and Steve Bradford would assert that Alaska Natives would have "superior rights" to the non-Natives.

Of course they are probably not including the right to equal employment or the right to be treated fairly. Of course they are probably not factoring into this whole picture that Alaska Natives only comprise around 7 percent of the state work force and of that percentage the majority of that is unskilled labor whether we Alaska Natives have an education or not.

Subsistence is not about our food, it is about our culture and our right to practice and enjoy our cultural heritage.

Finally, I cannot believe that Alaska Natives could be counted as "those enemies of the state ..." such as LeRoy Davis did in his letter. After reading "Knowles: No appeal of lawsuit," I have come to the conclusion that only those who have experienced and witnessed the struggle to live a "subsistence" lifestyle see that it is beyond "the gathering of food," but rather a lifestyle that has been practiced for hundreds of years.

I applaud Gov. Knowles' admission and stance on the Katie John case. I ask you the public to write and assure us Alaska Natives that we are not alone in our struggles and that we have some support for our cause.

August Martin

Juneau



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