Better ways to spend the state's money

Posted: Wednesday, September 05, 2001

The Douglas Indian Association, a federally recognized tribe, supports Gov. Knowles in his decision to conclude the Katie John case in the federal court system. Now, there is an opportunity to get on with the business of uniting Alaskans as well as protecting a vital way of life known to all as subsistence. We call on the Alaska Legislature to do the right thing and support a constitutional amendment needed to protect subsistence rights for rural Alaskans. If the Legislature cannot support an amendment, then we ask the question be placed on the ballot before the voters.

The Katie John litigation has gone long enough. While litigating this case and alienating the rural population, the state of Alaska has lost five times in federal court over the last 10 years. Surely the money expended on pursuing "states rights" could be used more wisely. It appears, at this time, that special interest groups and a few legislators dictate state public policy and are fearful of any popular vote on the issue. Rather than accept the decision, these few people would seek to blame the federal government or Gov. Knowles for the subsistence dilemma. Perhaps, if there is any blame to be assigned, the framers of the state constitution should be considered for this responsibility. In the excited push for statehood, many of the policy-making powers were reserved to the federal government and not to the state. The construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was decided in the U.S. Congress and not in Juneau. At least for now, such is the case with subsistence management.

The avenue to securing the states' right to manage fish and game is simple. The state must comply with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), Title VII. This can be done with a constitutional amendment ensuring rural Alaskans will have subsistence rights to fish and game. If a legislative solution remains unacceptable to the legislators, then rural Alaskans' interests are better served through the federal government.

Dorothy Owen, President

Douglas Indian Association Tribal Government

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