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ANCHORAGE - Gov. Tony Knowles reviewed his accomplishments and called again for subsistence and hate crimes legislation in a speech this morning to the Alaska Federation of Natives.
An estimated 3,000 Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts are attending the 36th annual convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives in Anchorage. The theme of the four-day convention is "Our World, Our Way of Life."
Knowles said there is no matter more important in bringing urban and rural Alaskans together than providing permanent protection for subsistence.
"It is time for Alaska to expand the limited protection of federal law and embody in our own constitution a mandatory, permanent protection for this valued way of life," he said.
The governor said AFN delegates better than anyone know how vital subsistence is to the culture, nutrition and economy of rural Alaska.
"It puts food on the table and builds strong families," he said. "It is a core value, the foundation of a way of life."
He said urban legislators have refused to allow Alaskans the opportunity to vote on a subsistence amendment to the Alaska Constitution and the state has paid a high price.
"We're not protecting subsistence, management of much of our fish and game has been surrendered to the federal government, and the urban-rural divide continues to grow," he said.
Knowles also called for the Legislature to pass hate crime laws that he sponsored. The proposal did not receive a committee hearing.
"They will hear us again loud and clear, the voice of everyone in this room and the voices of the thousands of Alaskans who will not allow hate to terrorize our society," Knowles said.
Knowles said the state has made progress during his administration in paying for new rural schools, including 10 in the last two years. He said he will continue pushing to add new rural Alaska State Troopers, village public safety officers and constables.
He said the state and federal governments have spent $650 million since 1994 on safe sanitation and clean water, hooking up more than 3,700 homes.
Knowles also promised to work with AFN to make progress on the tragedies of alcohol abuse and suicide.
The convention continues through Saturday. Delegates will vote on convention resolutions Saturday morning.