Thursday, February 19, 2009

Finally! Funding for Emmonak through the BIA

From the Alaska Report:

BIA Announces Emergency Funding for Emmonak, Alaska

Traveling to Bethel with U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today, Bureau of Indian Affair’s (BIA) regional director for Alaska, Niles Cesar, announced the BIA will provide emergency financial assistance to help residents in Emmonak struggling with the price of fuel...

"I am extremely pleased that the BIA has answered Senator Lisa Murkowski and my request for assistance to help these residents get through the winter," Sen. Begich said. 'This is not a long-term solution, but it’s a step in the right direction. I am hopeful the State of Alaska will step in and help solve this for the future."

Sen. Begich arranged the meeting in Bethel today and asked BIA officials to go with him. Cesar said the assistance may range from $400 to $1,000 depending on a person’s income.

Wierdly enough,the Anchorage Daily News reported Palin just announced she's heading out to a few villages (finally) with evangelist Franklin Graham:

Rep. Ramras (who has been involved in a little bit of a verbal battle regarding rural assistance lately) commented:

"I applaud her for following in the footsteps of what Alaskans and nonprofits and churches have already been doing over the last four to six weeks," he said Thursday. "I think she's setting a great example for the next wave of giving."

Interesting - the residents of one of the villages she's visiting (Emmonak is not one of them) say they only learned about it today (she's there tomorrow) and aren't sure what she's going to do, except probably hand out food.

The ADN also printed Sen. Murkowski's speech to the state legislature. Some excellent comments regarding Native issues, and even a little shout-out to bloggers!

Every day we hear more tragic stories from communities in the YK Delta that are suffering from a triple whammy. Bad salmon runs, high energy prices, and an early freeze that prevented the second fuel barge from landing. These communities are flying fuel in at prices that force some in their villages to choose between heating oil and feeding their families.

Suffering in silence until someone writes a newspaper article or posts a blog about what life is like this winter. Suffering in silence in the hope that Hugo Chavez and CITGO will donate stove oil to those in need.

It is unconscionable that our Native people would have to depend on the charity of a South American dictator for their heating needs. But it is also unconscionable that they must continue to depend on expensive diesel to power their communities. We need to find a permanent answer to rural Alaska’s energy crisis...

Alaska is also home to more Native people per capita than any other State in the union. The federal government has a special relationship with the first peoples of the United States. It is a trust relationship with Alaska Natives as the beneficiary.
That relationship drives millions of dollars in federal Indian program funds to Alaska Native institutions which have become household names in ourcommunities...

These institutions hire Alaskans and purchase goods and services in the Alaska economy. Along with the Alaska Native Corporations they have emerged as important economic engines in urban Alaska as well as our villages.

Our Alaska Native health system is exemplary in many respects... Yet we still have so many challenges. The rates of suicide in our villages and throughout Alaska are alarming...

The health disparities between our Alaska Native communities and the rest of America are striking in nearly every respect. Consistent with the special relationship between the federal government and our first people, the United States has an obligation to adequately fund federal Indian programs. In this respect they have fallen flat. I have called upon new administration to do better. Much better.

Here, here! Although not explicitly said, I'm hoping much of this reference is about the reauthorizing the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. It has been stalled in D.C. for TWELVE YEARS now. It passed through the Senate last spring, waiting for the house, and Bushie kept threatening to veto. No biggie. It's just Native cancer and AIDS issues at stake.

There was actually TONS of Native/rural references in Murkowski's speech. I always fight against agreeing with Lisa Murkowski, because she can drive me a little nutty, but she has been paying attention to rural Alaska and Native issues since she got in office, including holding meetings in rural communities back when few others oustide the Native community were paying attention to the problem.

She doesn't seem to be following her father's footsteps with some Native issues (and that's a GOOD thing.) If Palin where to challenge her seat, I think I would find myself voting on the republican primary ticket to make sure the one with intelligent ideas and comments about Alaska Natives issues (something besides fluff about treasuring the culture) runs against whomever is on the dem ticket.

What a weird time for rural Alaska news...

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