Saturday, June 21, 2008

Native perspective on the 50th Anniversary of Statehood

I read an excellent article in Alaska Magazine today, July/August issue (I couldn't find the same article online, though the print copy is worth picking up if you can find it). It was in their series on the 50th Anniversary of Statehood, called "Left Out?". It looks at the Alaska Native perspective on statehood, and was the first I've heard of a similar outlook to my own.

Ever since all the hubub surrounding the 50th anniversary celebration began, I've been of a few minds. I'm proud to be both American and Alaskan, but this is not without having very mixed emotions to both of those institutions.

The article spells it out in the first few paragraphs. In response to Mary Ann Mills of Kenaitze saying that, for Natives, "Statehood has been terrible":

Plenty of Natives disagree, of course - which is why there's no "there" there when it comes to pinpointing a Native perspective on Alaska's
admission to the union... Alaska Natives remain splintered by regional, political and economic interests. "Most of our people are proud to be Americans, but not proud of the way we were treated," said Mills, coming about as close as anyone to passing judgement on the past 50 years.

Both proud and not proud. Something I can certainly relate to. More than just a political stand the state took that citizens could disagree with, statehood itself was another time in which the Native people were forgotten. Despite efforts at the time, there is virtually no representation of Alaska Native people in the documents, seals, etc. This was still the time of constant discrimination and segregation.

But I also wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I am proud of the way that the Alaska Native people handled so much of civil rights, land rights and the overnight (literal) switch to corporate Native-ness. There is much to bemoan, but, in all, the same people who survived and thrived in this great land for millenia still survive and thrive today.


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