Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sarah shows us her hand again on Native issues

The Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Convention begins today, the biggest annual gathering of Native people in Alaska.

Any hope of Palin treating the convention seriously this time around was dashed by this weekend's SNL performance. The Eskimo stereotypes that Alaska Native people have tried to get away from for so many years were struck a bit of a blow with the Eskimo rap, enthusiastically cheered on by our illustrious governor - herself the mother of Alaska Native children.

I can generally forgive Lower 48 people, who are fed only images of Alaska Native people as igloo-living, dog-mushing people who have yet to come out of the 18th century. If you haven't been here, there is little to counteract the images propagated by Hollywood.

But Alaskans should know better. Alaskans married to "Eskimos" should know even better. Our governor should know most of all the price to be paid for the stereotypical PR move that move was. I asked myself why I bothered trying to develop children's curriculum that fights the stereotype, when Alaska's most prominent leader will go on a comedy show and promote it.

But never mind. It may have set things back a bit, but at least she acknowledged at least some version of Native people in this state, albeit rapping Eskimos.

The real tragedy of the SNL skits was that Palin feels completely comfortable making fun of the fact that she won't answer any questions. McCain, Clinton and Obama all appeared on SNL, and were funny in their own rights. Obama - brief but the surprise factor for initially coming on with the mask and then the "witch" comment sold it. Hillary and Obama both had shameless plugging of their qualities, and Hillary had a great moment by making fun of her laugh. McCain's play that we should elect a "really, really, really, really" old guy is classic.

Palin seems to have missed the point. It's about making fun of things that everybody else can find funny too - Obama's "perfect" image, Hillary's laugh, McCain's age. But I don't find the FACT that she won't answer questions funny. I don't find it funny that she refuses to show herself to America. I have been able to laugh at Obama, McCain and Clinton on SNL this election, but I wasn't able to laugh at Palin. It was too seriously tragic.

One of the other "most watched" media events in the election in the last week was McCain appearing on Letterman on Thursday. For the few that don't know, it was his first appearance since lying to Letterman about canceling his appearance because he was "rushing" to the airport to save the economy - not quite the truth. He made a point of being quite exuberant about Todd Palin and his Native heritage (sometime during Letterman asking the questions so many media have been unable to get out of him.)

There have been a few more articles on Palin and Native issues, one in the Anchorage Daily News that seems to have been timed to come out for the AFN convention.

From the article:
"She's just sort of absent on issues. It's like an indifference," said Kookesh, the co-chairman of the Alaska Federation of Natives, which has its annual convention in Anchorage this week. He said Palin's much-touted ties to Native culture through her husband's family have resulted in "no measurable impact on the Native community."

There was also one by Indian Country Today on Palin's silence on Alaska Native issues.
Palin also promised to support tribal economic development and fishing subsistence issues, while noting personal fondness for Native culture. However, when she was ultimately elected governor, she ended up becoming the de facto head of several state lawsuits that some Natives believe have been detrimental to fishing and hunting subsistence issues, as well as tribal sovereignty and language preservation.

Yet it is still brought out about Todd's heritage at every stop, as if the very fact that he has Native blood will bode well for Native issues. It hasn't been so far - no evidence that it will be in the future. Sarah's given us just one more example of what she thinks of Native issues - maybe we should take solace in that Eskimos rapping with her is at least a step towards being noticed...


Becky Blitch said...

At a rally here in Tampa today, SP described her MIL as "Yup'ik Eskimo, Native American, Native Alaskan." Out of curiosity, are all of those descriptors accurate? (I thought I remembered reading that "Native American" is more for folks in the lower 48?)

Just wondering what this says about her cultural fluency.

Writing Raven said...

Ugh! I don't even want to hear that!

Yup'ik Eskimo - well, not the greatest descriptor, but it's a personal choice. And a saavy Alaskan knows that it should be "Alaska Native" not "Native Alaskan" (trust me on this.)

But NEVER Native American. I mean... honestly, every once in a long while I get asked, and I am at least from an "Indian" people group. I would never describe myself as Native American, the Yup'ik people much less so. I am actually surprised that she would say that. I think we're getting into PC terminology here, but really, if she tried that at the recent Alaska Federation of Natives convention, she would not be well received.

Do you know if that's anywhere online?