Thursday, September 11, 2008

But what could Palin have done about it?

For about the tenth time this week, I was asked - by a non-Native - well, what should Palin have been doing for Alaska Native people, if you say she wasn't doing anything?

Totally fair question. As I've said before, it is obvious to me, but then I live and breathe it. Native issues are not seen in the general public eye unless someone makes a fuss over them. Alaska Native issues, maybe more so.

I decided to tackle this a bit more comprehensively (and I mean a BIT) this weekend. Meaning, when I've had a few moments away from Palin-mania at work, home, e-mail... my own blog...

For now I will sort of break ground for the post. No, it's not that dramatic. But I will be attempting to tackle about 500 years of history, 100 years of civil rights movements, 40 years of land-rights legislation and about a gabillion studies and government documents (rough estimation) without breaking a longest post ever record.

And unless someone out there much more connected than I grants me a big tip, I will not be breaking "Palin scandals" or "uncovering the dirty truth." But I will show you the facts, as I have experienced them and know them to be, about what Palin has - and hasn't - done for the Native people of this state. It will be a support for why I know she is not the woman for the job of "President in Waiting."

I must preface this by saying I am proud of the Native people of Alaska. We have accomplished much, and have given much. I hate the reports and news bits with the tragic statistics and horrible picture painted of gaunt Eskimos barely scratching out civility in the un-plumbed tundra. The Native people of Alaska - nearly 20% of the Alaskan population:

  • Have fought in the wars of America at the highest rate per capita of any ethnic group. I blogged about Native patriotism here before.
  • Have, despite the mostly negative reports, been entering college and getting degrees more now. The Native student rate of increase in the math and sciences field is much higher than the American average. I also posted about Native education before.
  • Contribute some of the most beautiful artwork I have ever seen. By this, I mean both traditional and contemporary, and I mean art that is both visually appealing and emotionally impacting.
  • Have done an impossible amount in the past decade to preserve languages, educate the youth, develop curriculum, fund studies and participate in the worldwide educational process.
  • (Plus, the Yup'ik and/or Inupiaq people invented the Ulu, which, believe me, is about the best tool ever. Really. Coming from a pizza-lover, this thing is ingenius.
But we also have great challenges, challenges that we are facing, but seem impossible in themselves sometimes:

  • Record sexual abuse, domestic violence, neglect, child abuse - you name the abuse, we have the highest percentage per capita. I mean highest. In the nation.
  • Highest rates of about a dozen different kinds of cancer, including colon cancer.
  • Have the highest rates of accidental deaths, suicides and FASD births in the nation.
  • One of the more chilling statistics from the Alaska Native Commission: ...death from suicide of an Alaska Native occurred once every 10 days, on average, during the 1980s, and preliminary figures from 1990-1993 indicate that the Alaska Native suicide rate is continuing to climb.
  • Since it's an "old" statistic, surely things have improved? Last year's Anchorage Daily News article: Despite two decades of effort by state and community leaders, Alaska Natives continue to kill themselves at alarming rates, a new study reports. In fact, they seem to be committing suicide as often as they did in the late 1980s, when Native leadership, state officials and others acknowledged the crisis and vowed to solve the problem.
The rate is about five times the national average.

These are some of the problems, and these are just some of the social issues facing Alaska Native people. I didn't mention the education, the poverty levels, the health access, the death of cultural and linguistic values.

I encourage you to get something of a fuller picture by at least skimming the Alaska Natives Commission Report. It's a monstrous document, but if you would like to really get a snapshot of what Gov. Palin has not deigned to help, it's all there. Gov. Palin has, in fact, only done what she can to move us backwards in this upward battle.

In this report, the very first recommendation given, under "Meeting Basic Social Needs" addresses exactly the question of "what can Sarah do about it?"

1. The federal and state governments should implement policies — in the form of appropriate legislation, if needed, regulations and operating procedures — that give maximum local powers and jurisdiction to tribes and tribal courts in the areas of alcohol importation and control, community and domestic relations, and law enforcement.

This is just one recommendation of many. And to those who would say that "but that's just Alaska, she's running for VP of the country," I ask you if you would rather she implemented this policy of ignorance on an entire nation of people?

This is not the front-page stuff, the scandals, the "Oh no she didn't!" shockers. It is simply how she runs our state, and why I don't want her a heart attack away from running this country.

I will be posting more this weekend on the issues raised here - please stay tuned.

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