Monday, February 9, 2009

Obama, Palin, and other Native news

For as much as I probably won't even know who the guy or gal is, I've been biting (proverbial, at least) nails to find out who Barack Obama will appoint as his senior Native American policy advisor.

After a tip from the overworked Dennis Zaki, I was happy to discover Michelle Obama confirming that the appointment will take place soon - in the next few weeks.

From RezNet:

Obama to name top advisor on Indian issues

and from Indian Country Today, the announcement of another historic appointment:

Standing Rock Sioux member gets key White House post

The White House announced Feb. 6 that Jodi Archambault Gillette has been named as one of three deputy associate directors of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. It is a historic appointment, as no other American Indian is believed to have ever held the position.

I was also appalled that I had neglected to read Indian Country Today for some time, my favorite Native news site. I found lots of interesting nuggets, including one bright, shiny one about Palin:

Palin candidacy shone light on Alaska Native issues

I was, at first, ready to take umbrage against the inference here. WTF? Palin didn't shine nuttin' on nobody but herself, especially not Native people! But then I READ the article. It helps sometimes.

It goes over the sort of talking points Palin had, but then gets into the real issue - Palin never addressed "Native issues" in the remotest sense of the phrase, excepting the negative impact she had on subsistence issues. The front the campaign wanted to show about how "forward" they were on Native issues was paper thin:

But soon came the other side of the story. ICT reported in mid-September that Democratic Natives in the state were raising allegations that Palin’s leadership has been harmful to Alaska Native subsistence fishing and hunting, tribal sovereignty and Alaska Native languages.

I wish the article was about ten times longer, to really get into it, but it presented a quick scope of just how much of the talk is... well, talk.

Palin never substantially addressed the issues in the press, and, in the end, even some former American Indian supporters of Palin were not swayed by arguments that she is pro-Alaska Native.

Uh, yeah.

Although I think, no matter the numbers, an executive should pay attention to everyone on their watch, I might remind you of a few numbers. America is roughly 1% Native American/Alaska Native, and Obama is doing pretty good in his first few weeks of office. Alaska is 20% Alaska Native, and in over 2 years its been cold shoulder after cold shoulder.

Another bit about Obama and his inaugural address.

"Words matter"

Let me be clear on this one - I do NOT agree with the arguments raised by the statement Obama made in his inaugural address, that he was somehow referencing Native tribal lines when he was talking about tribal lines coming down. I also do not subscribe to statements such as:

“Indigenous populations should be offended by this, just as we should be offended by the celebration of American patriotism exhibited during the inaugural festivities, and just as we should be offended by his recent denial of America as a colonial empire.”

Bleh. No, don't agree at all. I understand the arguments, but if I could have, I would have been in D.C. on Feb. 20, freezing my butt off, waving my American flag proudly. I was a little disappointed he didn't mention Native Americans again in his address, but (unless I'm wrong?) he didn't really address race. He addressed FAITH when he talked about Christians and Muslims, etc., but I don't know that race or nationality (other than the obvious) was addressed. I was pretty please with his earlier mentions of Native Americans, such as election night. I also think they're reading something into the mention/nonmention that's a little out there.

ICT also had an opinion piece addressing the inclusion of $2.8 billion for tribes. Woohoo! I think the author worded it well:

I have to admit I didn’t believe federal legislators would seriously consider including tribes in the bailout package, but the fact that they have speaks to the sea of change that has occurred in American politics.

This is new territory for Native people, a land of opportunity we had all but given up on as myth.

Like a freshly sober alcoholic who’s lived too long devoid of hope, I’m still waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me. But I’m fighting to suspend my disbelief and have some faith that change is on the horizon.

Go us!

It really does feel like this - anything is possible.

And speaking of all that "hope" and "change" jazz, I hope you're keeping up on the updates about Emmonak and Dennis Zaki's footage that's been looping through CNN, even the CNN front page, where it was the most popular story of the day! I couldn't word it better than Mudflat's post, so I'm just going to direct you there, and leave a little byte of hers (okay, so it's a LONG byte, but it's GOOD!):

But this state has proven that we can rally without the help of our Chief Executive. Alaska is not defined by the person sitting at the helm, alone. Alaska and its people have many friends inside and outside of the state who use the tools they have, to do what they can. Cold hungry children do not care about political parties, or whether it will look like someone is promoting government handouts which might hurt their conservative image on the 2012 campaign trail. They are just cold and hungry. And not all bloggers are sitting in their parents basements in pajamas making up stories. Some of them have done more to help those cold hungry children than their governor.

I am glad that most of the bloggers who have been championing this cause are
. And I’m glad Rep. Jay Ramras is a conservative. I’m glad that churches are getting involved. I’m glad that those without religious affiliation are getting involved. This is what bipartisanship looks like. This is our ‘team of rivals’. This is what happens when people stop thinking about politics and start thinking about people.

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