This letter is to inform the public that the Chilkoot Indian Association of Haines is ardently opposed to the most recent lawsuit filed by the Southeast Conservation Council against the U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers, regarding the permitting process with the Kensington Mine. It is our position that the permits were issued according to the law and that construction and operation of the mine should continue.
Upon detailed review of the environmental impact statement, the tribe is fully satisfied that the mine's construction and operator are in accord with the spirit of stewardship of the land. On the other hand, SEACC and co-plaintiffs seem to be intent on halting any form of significant economic vitality in the region. It appears that SEACC is far more concerned about being a political force rather than a steward of the land. The mine is the bargaining chip that allows SEACC to play the game of politics.
On the other hand, the Chilkat and Chilkoot valleys have year-round unemployment rates in the 15 to 20 percent range. More than 50 percent of the adult population of the Chilkoot Tribe is unemployed. What is needed most is good jobs for those who reside in the upper Lynn Canal region. Good jobs are occupations that provide decent and stable employment. Good jobs have the durability to extend into the lives of the children so that an annual PFD check and welfare checks are not the sole sources of revenue that keep kids "one step ahead" of dire poverty. We need jobs with the prerequisite of providing basic comforts such as home ownership and security to our permanent residents, now and into the future. If the children cannot afford to live here when they reach adulthood, we will vanish.
We cherish the thought of good jobs in our area. In fact, it was our area long before SEACC came to be. We as a tribe, who are part of and one with the land, do not object to the Kensington Mine. It is thought that SEACC should act accordingly and find better things to do with themselves than to keep us in poverty while satisfying their egos and desires for power.
Bill Thomas, Chilkoot Indian Association