My turn: Integrity lost in tribal politics

Posted: Sunday, October 18, 2009

Did anyone notice who was in the background of the picture that was sprawled across the front page of the Oct. 11 Empire? Andy Ebona, the same guy who was featured on the front of the previous Sunday newspaper, featuring a story about a bankrupt ANB Camp 2, which is facing foreclosure because it hasn't paid its taxes in quite some time. Ironic that he stands in the foreground, as we have two Alaska Native politicians in the photo who are struggling to clean up the mess they have put themselves in.

I read the comments to that article, which very quickly transformed into an issue of race and rights for our "first Alaskans." Comments flew back and forth about Native rights and fighting for what is best for Native people. And again, as in recent years, we continue to see the fingers pointing away from our self-interest leaders and back to the "enemies" that keep our people from realizing their potential.

To make it clear up front, I am an enrolled tribal member who grew up in Southeast Alaska, and I am appalled at our Native leadership and their absence of ethics and fairness in every aspect of politics and tribal government. I am not a disgruntled TANF recipient or ex-employee of a tribal organization, and I hold no ulterior motives in my actions. I just cannot stand this anymore and feel the need to voice my disgust.

These past few weeks, and previous months referencing back to Sealaska term limits and the question of nepotism and unfair hiring practice at Tlingit and Haida, has left me both angry and puzzled. Who are these people and what are their motives? How can they continue to accommodate their own interests and push ethics aside so that certain individuals benefit? Where is the accountability in our tribal governments and programs? And what gives them the right as individuals to claim that they speak for all Native people and hold our best interest at heart?

How could a senior senator claim that the state of Alaska is "not our friend," and then adequately represent the state? Again, the irony rears its ugly head in the fact that the torch exploding in his hand is only ignited following his own efforts to avoid a slap on the wrist for knowingly violating the laws, the same laws which he has had influence on during his years of service afforded by the enemy.

As we continue to segregate as a tribe and point fingers as we spit back in the faces of our perceived "enemies," we must be mindful that those people are the allies of tomorrow. It saddens me to think that our grandchildren will have to suffer the consequences of the shortsighted and ill-informed leadership of today.

Please stop claiming that you speak for all of us. Some of us tribal members have ethics and intellectual abilities to be appreciated by the state of Alaska. Or at least leave us something to salvage when your days of glory and self-serving politics are finally over.

• P.J. Smith is a tribal citizen who lives in Juneau.



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