Oppose Gravina bridge

Posted: Friday, December 17, 2004

My philosophy of life being a Alaskan Native. Life is nothing but choices of whom you are and going to be. There are leaders and followers. Real Native leaders are willing to take risks and cross the line on important issues that affect his or her family, clan and tribe.

People in the American brainwashed society are led to believe, "we are all created equal." We are not as Alaskan Natives treated equal. We indigenous peoples of the United States have to carry a card proving we are Indians and belong to a tribe.

I don't mind being criticizing by my opponents of any issue I write about. But I am being criticized by my own people. They don't like my tactics or feel embarrassed by my opinions. My answer to all my critics: I know where my heart is and where my loyalties lie. I am Tlingit/Tsimshian. I am Gaanax adi Clan, Yei l Hit (Raven House) Taan ta Kwaan (Sea-lion People) or known as Tongass Tribe. Indigenous to Ketchikan, and all lands as far as you eyes can see from Ketchikan. To my Native sisters and brothers, "Where is your heart?" and "Where do your loyalties lie?" Your family and tribe should come first always.

Should we go through life as Alaskan Natives and continue to be subservient to the non-Native society? Should we always have to negotiate for everything that all ready belongs to us? Our was of life, subsistence rights, lands and all our natural resources? Should we have to assimilate into the non-Native society?

The proposed bridge to Gravina Island via Pennock Island will cause further desecration to our tribal graves on Pennock Island. Is it not worth protecting? Where is your heart? At the very least, say something. How far are you willing to go to protect your family graves on Pennock Island? Remember, they are not all Tongass tribal members buried there. There are Haida graves, Tsimshian graves and even non-Natives buried there because their families could not afford to be buried at Bay View Cemetery. Greed by a few opulent people are pushing this bridge to Pennock Island.

We as Alaskan Natives have to stop all this inter-tribal fighting amongst ourselves. The enemy is not other Indians. I have learned from my elders. If we are going to fight and argue, we will do it behind closed doors. We vow to not display our differences to outsiders. Indian business is Indian business only. We don't run to the press. Ketchikan Indian Community is a sovereign government. We have our own laws that govern our people. The state of Alaska does not recognize tribes nor Indian Country. Why should we recognize state laws?

Quit worrying about who's going to be the leader. This reminds me of a story I heard about a bunch of crabs in a gunny sack. They all wanted out, so one of the crabs made it to the top and was just ready to crawl out when another crab grabbed it and pulled it back down into the gunny sack. The point is that some Native person wants to be the leader. Don't pull him or her back down into the gunny sack. Support them because they are showing some backbone.

In closing, don't be embarrassed by my thoughts. I don't believe I have to justify my beliefs at every turn. What happens if you do nothing? Say nothing? Nothing happens. I will protect my family and Tribe.

P.S. Sixty percent of subsistence users in Alaska are non-Native.

• Don Hoff Jr., lives in Hixson, Tenn., and belongs to the Aan Kadax Tseen, Gaanax adi Clan, Yei l Hit, Taan ta Kwaan.



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