There are few people I have ever known that I think "everyone" should meet. Father Oleksa is one of them. He is a great speaker - storyteller really - able to make you laugh at your prejudices and silliness, and at the same time want to change them. He has a great passion and love for Alaska Native cultures and people.
I was happy to see his commentary in the Anchorage Daily News, and hope that many others heed his warning. It is not a baseless warning - we have gone down the route of Native removal before, and it is simply astounding it is still considered a valid approach. I understand the troubles, the money, the "inconvenience" of Rural schools, but the solution is not to go back to a time when We Know Better Now.
I cannot word it better than he does:
Now we hear that removal is being considered again as a "solution." That, I would submit, is a step backward, toward the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Uproot a Native village and you destroy it. All the social and spiritual bonds that have provided meaning, the very fabric of that community, will be disrupted and destroyed. It is time to learn from our mistakes. It is time to reform our schools. It is time we stopped killing our kids.
We are lucky in Alaska to be able to run into him now and then, but if you are on the other side of Canada, check out this book he wrote, Another Culture/Another World. It is a short but brilliant book that may open a few eyes to some cross-cultural issues we all have (it certainly did mine.)
Village life has been in the news quite a bit lately, a few of the items because of the money going into the VPSO programs, and the focus the new "top cop" Palin appointed has. I'm happy to hear he plans on honing in on the problems Monegan was attempting when Palin fired him... you know. To go in a "new direction."
I wonder if maybe people in the Lower 48 are tired of hearing things like, "It's different in Alaska" or if urban Alaskans are tired of hearing "Things are different out in the Bush." I KNOW, things are tough everywhere, but if you can, check out the "Arctic Trooper" episode from the series "Tougher in Alaska." It's on iTunes. You want to see some truly unique policing conditions? Check out the Alaska State Troopers! When one guy has a patrol area he doesn't drive around - he has to fly around to - it makes these VPSOs - Village Public Safety Officers - very valuable.
Legislature awards monies to VPSO program.
VPSOs, who report to troopers and receive much of the same training, serve as the highest level of front-line law enforcement in the villages. They carry tasers instead of guns, and they can stabilize dangerous situations until troopers arrive by plane from a post in hub communities such as Kotzebue or Bethel.
New Public Safety Commissioner "gets" the village.
I can't overstate how pleased I am about the new Alaska "top cop." He is someone who really sees the importance of and who will go after the issues facing Rural Alaska. This article recounts a pretty harrowing experience for Joe Masters right out of high school.
They left him with no illusions about the rigors of being a village public
safety officer, a job some people might mistake as easy because villages are
And of course, the oh so controversial Chavez oil. I don't know how big of a nationwide story this is, but Citgo has a program that gets oil to high risk communities - including many in Alaska. My view is certainly that if the state government (thanks Palin) and the federal government (thanks Bush) can't help out, are we really going to judge people for taking oil in a time such as this?
The interesting thing about this article is it points out that last year, villages were not participating out of principle. This year, the (even worse) economy and lack of solutions have changed things.
Chavez offers up oil to Alaska villages.
"Last time I checked, (Citgo is) paying corporate taxes to the U.S.
Treasury," she said. "And we figure until such time that the U.S. government is
so offended by Venezuela and Citgo that they're not accepting any more funding,
then we're not being unpatriotic by accepting the same."
Although I am not as familiar with the situation, down in the Lower 48, Pine Ridge isn't faring so well this winter - and it's a bit early in the winter.
suzyishere blogged on it awhile ago, and there have been ongoing efforts to relieve some of the strain poverty and the weather have pulled on Pine Ridge. A snowstorm in November seems to be the straw that broke the camels back, and they are having a hard time recovering. From the HeraldNet:
Those who live there are hardy people. American Indians on reservations there no doubt have stories about long winters, and traditional ways of coping with the cold. This year, it was different. A severe snowstorm in November dumped 45 inches in areas of the state. The worst of it fell on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Sioux reservations, where tribal members, left without heat and power for days, resorted to burning their furniture to keep warm.