A lesson from Natives

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We have a new governor. She is also our youngest governor. During the election campaign, a common criticism of Sarah Palin was that she doesn't have the experience. Now that she is governor, she will get that experience.

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Meanwhile, she might call upon those with experience for advice. Forty years ago, when I lived in the Interior and Natives were pushing for a land claims settlement, I noticed that many of the leaders were young, inexperienced individuals. They knew the political system and how to make things happen. But following old traditions, they often sought out the advice and counsel of the experienced leaders.

The new governor might do the same. There are many people around the state who have experience and knowledge, but are no longer politically active, nor lobbyists, or working for special interests. Many of them are retired, but are still active, with good memories and sharp minds and experienced. For example, here in Juneau we have people like Tom Stewart, John Borbridge and George Rogers, all of whom have years of experience and a lot of wisdom. Across the State there are others such as Arlis Sturgelewski, Georgiana Lincoln, Oscar Kwagley, Wally Hickel, Jack Coghill and Vic Fisher, who know Alaska and its history. There are a host of other wise elders - both Native and non-Native - who only want the best for the people of Alaska.

Perhaps our new governor, as she travels around Alaska, might invite some of these people to lunch, or an informal council of elders. They would not be part of the official administration, but could share the experience, knowledge and insights they have gained over the years.

Native people survived for many generations in Alaska. They continue to be a major factor in the economic, social, educational and political life of Alaska today.

Listening to the elders has been the Native way of sharing their life experiences with the young leaders and a new generation. It has been a way that has worked for Natives; it can provide the new governor with wisdom from experience.

Wally Olson

Auke Bay

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