My Turn: The tide waits for no one

Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2004

I read with interest Ted Wright's last two articles relating to a lot of subjects he tries to explain with little clarity. He struggles to make points using knowledge gained in academia. I am glad after reading his two articles the "tide goes two ways," that folks such as me can in fact disagree with him on some of his views.

Forty years ago a lot of us in the Native community could not go on to get an education past the eighth grade because there were no high schools in our villages. During that period of time, we had a few options which included staying at home or going to high school at Mount Edgecumbe or Sheldon Jackson High School or move to the urban communities to go farther in the school system. I went to Sheldon Jackson and secured a good secondary education. I worked and paid my own tuition.

Following high school, I went to a junior college and then to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. There were no scholarships then and like in high school, we had to make enough money to even enter the fall semester. I was determined to get a quality education and the fishing seasons cooperated with me by being good seasons. Without that cash flow, many of us would never have the money to finish college.

The 1970s saw a huge change in our way of life. Through the advocacy of many people, including myself, we changed the educational delivery system in Alaska by securing schools locally with the decision-making of an elected school board throughout Alaska. PL93-638, the Indian Self-determination and Education Assistance Act, provided scholarships and a policy of self-determination by villages and regions in Alaska. The act also designated "tribes" throughout Alaska as the delivery system. Again, I was part of it. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act passed and made changes to the landscape forever. For more than 20 years I have been on the board of directors of a local village corporation providing policy for the corporation to carry out. Some of our decisions were good; others were poor but time allowed us to make adjustments.

I guess the point I want to make about Wright is some people "wait" for things to happen. Others take opportunities and move ahead with some of our own solutions. The tide doesn't always go with us and results are sometimes negative. But, we try our very best. Wright can do himself a lot of good by not waiting but working within the system for change. Some of his suggestions and solutions are fairly decent. Others, he should take it down the beach and bury them, giving the tide an opportunity to do its work.

One final suggestion: Get involved. Without the contacts within and outside the Native community, your articles known as Southeast Tides will be known only as fish wrap with little substance. I want you to succeed in this paper, but you need to quit waiting. You should know that tide waits for no one, no matter who you are.

• Gordon Jackson is the chairman of Kake Tribal Corp., the Juneau-based Native corporation for the village of Kake.

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