Hearing unfair to Natives

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, September 28, 2003

It's 3 a.m., the stars above are shining and I'm wondering, why am I still awake? Following the conclusion of Saturday morning's public meeting concerning the Berners Bay land exchange, I fled the ANB Hall as if I had some place to be. Strange thing though, as fast as I fled I'm still there, but here, in the wee hours ... wondering.

Where was Mr. Stevens - his name is on the bill, yet no mention of the elected senator? His cohort came to Juneau all alone to hold the bag of public discontent. How honorable. I appreciate Ms. Murkowski's attempt at democratic process by holding this meeting and traveling all the way to Juneau to see us, although I was appalled once again by the quashing of citizens voices by the process.

It is my opinion that when a senator of the Great Land calls a meeting to hear the voice of its people we should not discriminate against the state's Native people by including their personal, traditional introduction in their allotted time for testimony. Anyone cognizant at the meeting must have recognized the length of time it took for these elders to rightfully identify themselves in a traditional manner, in Tlingit tongue, also referring to their cultural and historical roots which was of important relevance to the testimony they were about to give.

I observed repeatedly citizens concluding their personal introduction only a minute later to have a neon green placard waived in their peripheral vision indicating they had a mere 30 seconds to contemplate this absurd banishment of expression and to finish their statements as the quick neon pink card would read, "Time Expired." I watched as some citizens testimony was cut unjustifiably short. It seems ironic that those same elders were the most respectful of the two-minute time limits set by Ms. Murkowski.

Two minutes is enough time to order lunch over the phone at work. It's not enough time to explain your review on a critical issue and identify your cultural and historical roots in regard to an area such as Berners Bay.

It is an act of discrimination against Native people to request those testifying to identify themselves knowing that their personal introduction will significantly impact the amount of time they have to deliver the actual testimony of concern. I hope that in future Public Forums our Senator(s) will treat all people equally regardless of the number of syllables it requires to pronounce ones name and cultural distinction.

Enough has been taken from the Alaska Natives. Let their voices be heard and give them the same two minutes of testimony that those of us with four syllable names are entitled to.

I call on the leaders of the Great Land to recognize the voices of all citizens and to grant all citizens equal time to speak absent of discriminatory public practices.

Brian Patrick Delay


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