Hiring policy is political, not racist

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Shane Wirtz, in his letter of Oct. 4, seeks to paint the Sealaska Native hire preference, and indeed any Native hiring preference, as racist.

All things being equal, I might well agree with him, but to do so would ignore some very important facts which should never be glossed over or dismissed. The judicially and congressionally supported preference rights of Native tribes and, in Alaska, Native corporations is a result of the federal government's recognition of its obligations to Native tribes and their peoples. A trust relationship has been established between the government as the guardian and the tribes, as their wards which has resulted in the current situation. This is not tribal arrogance; it is the law, as hammered out over many years by many hard working people across the political and judicial spectrum.

Equally important is the notion that this is not a racial action; it is political. The established relationships and behaviors are the result of a settled definition of the relationship that exists between the federal government and the Native tribes. While the shorthand is commonly used when we say "Native hiring preference," this preference only exists for you if you are a member of a federally recognized tribal organization. In Alaska, that can mean a "shareholder," because some tribal organizations now exist only as Native corporations.

I can tell Mr. Wirtz that most folks who have lived here for more than a few years are at least somewhat familiar with these facts. Some are new to Alaska and unaware, and others choose to ignore them for their own purposes.

Lawrence E. Wright


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