Saturday, May 30, 2009

Good question, Mr. President

Still no Native senior policy advisor. I know, I know. Patience, right?

From New America Media: Native appointees Take High Profiles in D.C.

It's pretty self-explanatory from the headlines what that article is about, but it also discusses the campaign promise Obama made to appoint a Native senior policy advisor.

Sharon Clahchischilliage, director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office, has taken note of the Native Americans being nominated to high governmental positions, a change from the Bush administration.

"We've had Natives in different positions (in government) but it hasn't been as vocal as now," Clahchischilliage said. "The White House is doing a good job of advertising the picks for all the positions."

She added that the next step is for those confirmed to advocate on behalf of Native Americans...

...But despite these high-profile Native appointments, a key advisory position Obama promised during his campaign is still unfilled. Obama promised to appoint a Native American as a senior policy advisor, who would consult with him on Native issues. It was a key component of his Native American platform during his campaign.

"We were hoping that position would have been filled by now," Clahchischilliage said. "I'm sure there is a lot of politics to navigate through before they make a pick for that position."

I know I have zero idea of the politics involved in this, but I do hope this gets remedied fairly quickly. So far, there have been some great decisions from Obama regarding Native issues, and some that I think could have been handled better had there been someone who not only knew the issues, but really, REALLY had the ear of the President.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Palin's letter to Obama over rural emergency

From Kyle Hopkins over at the ADN rural blog, The Village, on Palin's letter to Obama over rural flooding:

One other passage in Palin's letter caught my attention. On the third page, as she's making the state's case for why the feds should declare a disaster, it says:

"Western Alaska communities have the highest average heating fuel ($7/gallon) and gasoline prices ($6.75/gallon). Most rely on limited seasonal employment ... Residents were choosing between food and fuel even before the floods and several communities affected by the floods had requested state economic disaster declarations."

What it doesn't say is that the state denied those requests.

Emphasis mine. It is a bit frustrating to hear an argument using something long wanted - over a year ago! - by rural Alaska by Palin, when she so long ignored it. Palin came late to the game indeed, to the rural economic emergency, and still has nothing to show for what little she did get involved in. Except, of course, she brought some homemade cookies.


On Canadian government seal-eating

From ADN's Alaska Politics:
Canada's gov. general eats slaughtered seal's raw heart in show of support to the country's seal hunters.

Governor General Michaelle Jean, the representative of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as Canada's head of state, gutted the seal and swallowed a slice of the mammal's organ late Monday after an EU vote earlier this month to impose a ban on seal products on grounds that the seal hunt is cruel.

I have never eaten RAW seal, but seal stew=delicious! Seal oil, even more so!

This is kind of a funny answer to some friends' questions about why Native people and environmentalists don't work more closely together on seemingly similar interests. A "for instance":

A group I (traditional) danced with was asked by an environmental group to dance at a big conference. As we walked into the event, we walked by huge posters of seals, caribou, etc... and our deer skin drums and fur-lined headdresses became a bit more conspicous. Our dance leader: "Hmm... wonder what they're going to think about our (seal skin) moccasins..?.."

I'm not familiar with Canada's seal hunting struggle, but I'm sure it's not too dissimilar from our own subsistence struggles. To be honest, I've had seal meat, or even seal oil, much more rarely as I grow older. It is, understandably, much harder to get here in Anchorage, but even in Southeast Alaska it is being hunted less and less. I can imagine this might also be true around the rest of Alaska. It is one of those practices that I wonder, when I am an old woman, will it still be around?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day for the ancestors

Although I've talked about it before, I want to add a little reiteration of the role of Alaska Native men and women in the armed forces while there's all of 50 minutes left on the Memorial Day clock. No matter - it's not a subject that should be limited to one day anyways.

Alaska Native and American Indian have contributed an incredible amount to this country in the centuries it has been around, and before that, a few millenia of "true patriots" - a phrase I recently heard to describe the warriors that defended this country even as English, French, and eventually American troops ensured it would be a hopeless cause.

Although more recent brave Native troops are also on my mind, something I read about President Obama made my mind turn to these much more removed ancestors. It seems Obama is getting some flak for honoring a tradition of laying a wreath at a Confederate monument. I get it - I understand the protest... but I also understand honoring those who died for a cause they believed in. I wouldn't, personally, choose to lay a wreath at a monument honoring Andrew Jackson, for instance, one of the most vehement of presidents about racial genocide regarding Native people. But I also wouldn't begrudge the family of Andrew Jackson honoring him in death, either... just don't ask me what I think about putting the guy on a $20 bill.

My point, though I seem to have wandered, is that history is rarely as cut and dry as we'd like it to be. When it comes to American history, we've long been taught about the bad Indians - the ones that murdered and made the West scary and exciting. It was partly because of these Indians that those who "settled" the West are seen as being so brave.

But weren't these not-really-all-that-distant Indians defending the country against invaders? What's more, defending it to the last man, far past the point where hope was lost for a freedom and liberty? I generally oppose touting confederate... well, anything, but I also oppose the idea that because people fought on the side that lost, they don't deserve honor and dignity in death.

History paints historic Native America generally two ways - as true savages, or (more recently) complete victims. But can we remember them as men, who fought with respect, to defend family and freedom? This memorial day, it is these warriors, these soldiers, these brave men and women I am remembering.

A few other Native Memorial Day bits:

Street where Alaska Native Veteran's totem pole (Warrior Pole) in Juneau is renamed "Warrior Street."

Black Hills National Cemetary honors Native Americans

American Indian ceremony at Chatanooga cemetary

Annual Texas pow wow for Memorial Day

Irish and Native cultures at the Montana Veteran's Memorial

Memorial Day pow wow in Columbus, Ohio

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Protecting Sovereignty & Our Way of Life Meeting

I was sent this press release for an event I didn't know was going on, right here, this week. There are some huge issues they're putting on the table, and I will be very interested to see the outcomes of this meeting, who gets involved, and what they say. If you are attending, please let me know! I'd like to post your thoughts, what you see!

Mike Williams, Chairman of the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council announced today the convening of a special meeting of Alaska’s 229 federally recognized tribes on May 26-28, 2009 at Anchorage, Alaska to take up “issues that we can no longer ignore; issues that are undermining our governments, endangering our Way of Life, and putting in jeopardy the very future of our children and grandchildren.”

According to Williams, this gathering of Alaska’s tribes will “begin the necessary task of seeking the restoration of our hunting and fishing rights along with our rights to self-governance which have been compromised and rendered useless by adverse court decisions, hostile “riders” written into federal budgets, and executive orders without the input of Alaska’s federally recognized tribes.”

Williams said that the issues to be taken up include:

1.By Congressional act, the repeal of language in Section 4(b) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act which purports to have “extinguished” Alaska Native hunting and fishing rights.

2.The imposition of a moratorium on Bering Sea trawler fishing until such time the impact of this activity is better understood by the scientific community, or, at the very least, the immediate lowering of the Yukon King Salmon by-catch by the trawler fleet to 20,000 or less of King Salmon.

3.By congressional action, the designation of village corporate lands as “Indian Country” under the jurisdiction of the tribes that created them through PL 92-203, vacating, in affect, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in ALASKA v. NATIVE VILLAGE OF VENETIE

4.By congressional act, the removal of Alaska as a PL-280 state as this designation hamstrings the tribes in their fight against crime, illegal alcohol and drug trafficking in their communities and nullifies their inherent responsibility to protect and care for their members and to enforce and adjudicate laws they may have enacted for the general good.

5.By congressional act, the return of the responsibility of educating Alaska Native children to the tribes and to the US Bureau of Indian Education.

Williams, further states that The Executive Council of AITC has decided that Alaska Natives have “a small window of opportunity made possible by the election of a US President who, more than any other previous President, would understand what it means to be discriminated against, marginalized, disenfranchised and as mired in poverty as Alaska Natives have become.” Williams says that “an opportunity like this may not come our way again to restore the birthright that has been lost to our children.” Williams further states that Alaska Natives “owes it to our nation to assist it in doing the “right thing” by its first citizens, of which we are the last.”

Willams says that the issues determined to be paramount for the continued viability of Alaska Native cultures, communities and governments will be brought to the mid-year convention of the National Congress of American Indians in June to enlist the support of America’s 500+ Indian tribes. He also says that the Inter-Tribal Council, “with the support and assistance of the National Congress of American Indians” will set up meetings with the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, the Alaska Congressional delegation and with President Barack Obama to enlist their support.

Williams says that what the Alaska Native tribes are hoping to achieve “will require unity, and no less an effort than the one that Alaska Natives put forth to secure title to their lands.” The tribal leaders summit, entitled “Protecting Sovereignty & Our Way of Life,” will be held at the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on May 26-28, 2009. All Alaska Native tribes and ANCSA corporations have been invited.

For information: call the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council at 563-9334

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Alaska Native corporation contracts... I just don't know

One of the bigger Alaska Native stories lately has been the congressional investigation of the federal contracts awarded Alaska Native corporations. Essentially, Alaska Native corporations are given contracts as disadvantaged businesses - or able to get the contracts without competition.

I haven't commented on this or the simple reason that I am honestly undecided about the whole thing. Some is that I don't know much about it (nobody... NOBODY wants me truly judging business and money decisions.) Some is that, so far, I can see both sides.

I think some of the publicity problem is that the Alaska Native corporations will, as usual, be portrayed as all the same. I actually really don't believe some of the corporations, the ones doing supremely well (and there are FAR fewer of them than you think!) should be getting the preference. I don't think they meet the spirit of the program.

But some corporations do. They are struggling, of benefit to a disadvantaged public when they succeed, and need the help. I don't know which corporations are all benefitting from this program, but I hope they do this on a case-by-case basis, not a sweeping generalization. My concern is that the decision will be the sort of reactionary thing that happens so much - one incident, or one small group, abuses the program, and the reaction is that everyone who looks a bit like them gets the punishment.

But again, I simply don't know enough about this topic, or the details. I'm hoping the investigation is more of an investigation to DISCOVER, versus an investigation on the premise that everyone is guilty already - and that they release the details in a fair and informative way.

Thoughts? I would love to hear opinions on this.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Native news around the state, country, world


Robert Redford to aid Hispanic, Native American Filmakers

Actor Robert Redford is partnering the state of New Mexico to produce "Sundance in New Mexico," a hands-on filmmaking program that will work with and train aspiring Hispanic and Native American filmmakers.

New competition will award $60,000 to Native writers

I posted a flier on this several days ago, but it's worth reading about! Six Native writers - three Alaska Native and three Native Hawaiian/American Indian - will win $10,000 each! It's an expansion of some great things the Alaska Federation of Natives has been doing for the last few years:

Native Insight: Thoughts on Recession, Recovery & Opportunity is a writing competition crafted to tap the wisdom and ingenuity of Native communities, and to encourage Native thinkers to go public with their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities in the current economic and political landscape.

U.S. may begin new Native policy, including U.N. Declaration of Indigenous Rights

Much needed shifts in U.S. Native policy beginning? There are signs... from Indian Country Today:

Out of 144 nations expressing support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, only three “no” voters remain: the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bloggers on the Bus!

Progressive Alaska mentioned this awhile back, but I've been so busy lately I forgot all about it until I read Mudflats just a few minutes ago. Lots of Alaskan progressive bloggers (including Alaska Real!) are mentioned in the book, "Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet changed Politics and the Press." I haven't seen it yet, but Mudflats has, and posted earlier:

I was at work the other day when the mailman came in and handed me the usual
stack of bills and junk mail, with the addition of a big brown padded envelope. “What’s this?” I thought, raising an eyebrow. It’s been my experience that brown padded envelopes are usually a good thing. And this time proved to be no exception.

Inside was my very own copy of Bloggers on the Bus with a nice little press release including a description of the book:

In Bloggers on the Bus, Boehlert examines how, at critical junctures during the election, the bloggers, and not the Beltway media, set the agenda. By communicating directly with their audience and involving their readers, bloggers helped democratize the political process by chipping away at the mainstream media’s control over campaign narratives. They infuriated the Republicans along the way by forcing a televised Fox News debate to be cancelled, vetting Sarah Palin better than the GOP had, and using technology to outmaneuver John McCain whose party, still in love with AM talk radio, seemed oblivious to the political revolution unfolding online. Boehlert also reveals the untold stories of the internet activists who have amassed so much power in such a short period of time with so little money or resources behind them.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Raven Tales - Anyone seen this before?

I was e-mailed a link to this Canadian program called "Raven Tales." I've never seen it before - but wow! I would love to have this here! There were a few things I didn't quite agree with - some disrespect to Elders and spirits especially, but what a great idea!

Looks like it was from a few years ago, but I'm going to check out some more...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Moose flu?

I was driving around town today, enjoying the BEAUTIFUL weather we are getting, and paused to watch this little moosie over by Potter Marsh. He was being harrassed by a couple of magpies - I think he was too close to their nest. He ignored them, slowly ambling away, though they crowed about it (all right, bad pun) like they scared him off - standing gaurd and yelling at him every now and then.

What I thought was funny about this moose is he kept sneezing... or ... I don't know if moose sneeze, but it sounded like a "snorf." Not a sneeze, not a snort. Every thirty seconds to a minute he would... whatever... and it was kinda funny.

Then I got to thinking how crazy everyone was for being so swine-flu nuts...

then I slowly rolled my window back up...

Nicholas Galanin - meet your new fan

I seem to be running to the artistic world quite a bit lately, not something I'm exactly regretting. Now I'm not regretting checking out the link Grassroots Science sent me earlier - this man is brilliant.

I am not familiar with the work of Nicholas Galanin - but I plan on becoming something of a groupie after this. I spent forever on his Web site, checking out some of the very cerebral, yet... well, freaking COOL works he's done.
Much of what he does is not simply "pretty art." It is really an examination of Native (specifically, Tlingit) culture in the modern world.
One exhibition, "What Have We Become?" presents something I myself have questioned, debated, pondered, gone after for years - and struggle with as a growing writer. From the artist:
In the past, Tlingit culture was preserved orally through story telling, song and visually through art. In researching my cultural history and heritage I have found myself reading western literature, often written from a foreign perspective in which my culture has been digested and recycled back to me. Although literature is important for the retention of culture it raises issues about identity and authenticity that I must confront as a contemporary Tlingit artist. It also presents a dilemma in which old and new, customary and non-customary overlap and collide. It is at this point of collision that a new dynamic and tension is being negotiated.
This very question - and attitude - is a big motivating factor in answering the question, "Why do I write?" So many of even the leading examples of Tlingit culture in fiction or non-fiction are from an outside perspective, from the "stranger's" eyes. The theme, really just a recurring question, in so many short stories of mine has been a bit of literary wrestling with this. For that matter, much of the reason for this BLOG is because of the questions raised above.
Above piece is The Good Book Vol. 15 by Nocholas Galanin.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Call Senators about Hate Crimes Act

From Bent Alaska -

Sen. Begich targeted by opponents of Hate Crimes Act - Call Our Senators Today
"I just called Senator Begich's office to ask him to "Please SUPPORT THE MATTHEW SHEPARD ACT (S. 909)" which is coming up for a vote in the Senate soon," writes Marsha Buck of Alaskans Together for Equality.

"The aide or intern who took my call said she was surprised to hear that I was asking him to *support* the bill, because they are getting lots of calls today from our opponents asking him to vote against the Matthew Shepherd Act."

"This is a time when we need to raise many, many Alaskan voices to give our senators the support they need to vote with us!"

The House of Representatives passed hate crimes legislation on April 29, with a vote of 249-175. The legislation adds protection for actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to existing protected categories such as religion, race, and ethnicity. Most law enforcement and civil rights groups support it.

The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S 909) was introduced in the Senate on April 28 "to provide Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes, and for other purposes." The haters are calling it protection for pedophiles.

Judy Shepard, the mother of murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard, made a video appeal for the bill.

Please call both Senator Begich and Senator Murkowski today and ask them to SUPPORT THE MATTHEW SHEPARD ACT (S. 909):

Senator Begich 202-224-3004
Senator Murkowski 202-224-6665

Senator Begich can be contacted by email on his website, and Senator Murkowski can be reached by email on her website. Or send the same message to both senators at the same time, watch the PSA, and find out more about the Matthew Shepard Act, at the HRC Action Center's Hate Crimes Act page.

Alaskans Together for Equality, Inc. advances civil equality for all Alaskans through grass roots organizing and advocacy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Two worlds

After "recovering" from a nice little vacation, including an awful lot of "light" fair on the blog lately, I came across this beautiful, thoughtful article in the Arctic Sounder. It was written by Yaari Kingeekuk, a woman I've met on several occasions, who now works for the Alaska Native Heritage Center. It is not a pointed article so much as a discussion of being in and of two worlds - rural and urban, traditional and contemporary, Native and non-Native. She ends:

Even though I feel broken in half, I have to make the best of both worlds to survive. My heart is at home living the cultural ways, but my physical being is here in the city. This is me, this is who I am. Living in both worlds and must remember to keep paddling against the wind.

She paints a picture that I think many Native people around my age/generation feel, but don't know how to put into words - or maybe even feel they shouldn't put into words. Is it complaining? Is it not being grateful? Is it focusing on things that can't be fixed?

Even here, though, I don't know if I'm totally where Yaari is. Even those of us from similar culture, and similar generation get lumped into the idea that we all had a similar experience. I don't, like Yaari, feel "broken in half." Yet at the same time, living in a state with ancestral ties going back literally tens of thousands of years - I have never felt as if I belonged anywhere.

If you asked any of my relatives from where I was born, I can lay money on them saying I was a "city girl." Raised in an urban environment - long removed from any rural setting. Yet friends, people I've met here in town, see me as coming from rural stock. A village girl. Even my own father asked me just a few months ago, "When people ask you where you're from, what do you tell them?"

I haven't actually figured that out yet. I graduated from a high school with more people in it than the town I was born in. I didn't grow up in Anchorage, and even if I'm traveling out of state, I never say I'm "from" Anchorage. I love herring eggs on kelp, but like my restaurant options. I love button blankets and learning the formal Tlingit introduction - but see the need to spend as much time honing computer and job skills. I would love to move back to Southeast, even in the near future, but see the possibility of that as slim to none, with little job opportunity and high cost. In Anchorage I have a great job, lots of creature comforts, "stuff to do" every weekend - but I also have limited access to my culture, the kind of "nature" I love, or an awful lot of family.

The real fun stuff is navigating the racial front. I am half Native - why don't I say I am half white? Why don't I identify with the "white" side? Message: Native people need to get educated, get good jobs, build the economy - leave the villages. Simultaneous message: Native people need to learn the cultural ways, remember ancestral ways, be "real" Natives.

One thing I am certain of when I read things like Yaari's article - in the struggle to figure out what is best, how to honor culture, how to honor the gifts you're given, what to compromise, what to fight for... all these things I don't feel I'm any closer to figuring out - I am not alone. There are a couple of generations of Native people that are stumbling along this path with me.