Ignorance of cultural relations

Posted: Sunday, October 09, 2005

Shane Wirtz's Oct. 4 letter and some of the recent replies have reminded me of much hopelessness surrounding the way people view Alaska Native issues. One writer called the corporations racist, then lumped all Natives together, saying "they get their own street." To me, that sounds ignorant and has hints of the racism it pretends to decry.

The problem here is that "Native hiring preference" has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with culture and political relationships. One person waved the Declaration of Independence in a letter; well, look up the Constitution and see what it says about Indian Rights. The problem with saying, "what if whites said 'white hiring preference'," is that "white" isn't a culture, or really anything definable, while Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian is. It's a world view, a way of living, thinking and interacting with the world, and the people have had a relationship to Southeast Alaska land for millennia. And to forget thousands of years of land ownership, before the 200 or so years of Southeast Alaska Russian and American contact, is to deny history. In fact, that's what the Manifest Destiny American psyche has done, and is doing, as seen in some of the letters to the Juneau Empire.

Ishmael Hope


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