Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Real Native Myths and Legends - Revisited

I'm going to be out of Internet access for a few days. I'd like to start revisiting somethig I paused when the Palin stuff came out last fall - "Real Native Myths and Legends." I started it because there's so much stereotyping, misundestandngs and common beliefs about the Native people of Alaska, and America in general. I meant the posts to shed some light, as well as start some conversations, or even some questions. I'm going to do some new posts about this, but first, since it's been so long, I'm going to be reposting the old ones to revisit.

Real Native Myths and Legends #2 - Native Corporation Dividends - July 27, 2008

The first of this series is a pretty easy one to answer. Do all Alaska Native people receive big checks from Native corporations?

In a word - no.

And I'd like to add, if this were true, the college loan office wouldn't be calling quite so much.

All the background about why these corporations exist in the first place is incredibly rich and complicated, and most Native people my age don't know half of the history, much less the general public. I took a semester long class on the subject, and we barely scratched the surface. But here's an attempt at boiling a huge, generations-long battle into a few sentences:

The 12 original regional corporations were created in 1971, under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA.) The act is what it sounds like, the settlement of Alaska Native Land Claims, although that's a much tighter package to wrap it in than what it encompasses.

Every Alaska Native person born before the act was passed in 1971, and met the qualifying amount of Native blood, was eligible to apply as a corporation shareholder. All those born after the date (like yours truly) can not be original shareholders, and (until last year) could only receive shares through inheritance or gifts. The original funds were a legal exchange between Alaska Native people and the government, payment for land. The corporations invested in many different ways. Now, all the regional corporations - there are now 13 - as well as the dozens of village corporations, have different ways of distributing dividends, if they get one at all.

But I can gaurantee one thing - very, very few corporations are distributing big checks. And ALL of what any shareholder may receive is dependant on how the corporation operated during the year. If they invest well, the shareholders do well. If they do poorly, you see my point...

This is not an attempt to rehash what you might know, but it is an extremely common question, or assumption, about Native people and corporation checks.

Did I leave anything out?

Real Native Myths and Legends #1 - July 26, 2008

Some conversations lately have led me to begin a series on "real Native myths and legends." I don't mean the kind of "myths" that are actually historical and spiritual stories. I mean the common misunderstandings, fictions, or just plain ignorance about Native people and culture. Some of the misunderstandings Native people believe.

For instance, what is the real situation of the "Native alcoholism problem?" Do Natives really get free health care? What makes a Native person "traditional?" Why is subsistence such a big deal? Does every Native person get a bunch of money from the corporations? For that matter, do they all get a bunch from the government?

Some of them are really just questions of cross-cultural communication. I was speaking with a friend recently, about a coworker of hers that was upset over something a Native man had said, she felt it was extremely rude. When we heard about it, it was easy for us to see he was actually being very formally polite, it was a total cultural difference.

In any case, beginning tommorrow, I would like to begin addressing many of these issues. Now, I don't mean all of what I say is what "all Native people think" - that's an unrealistic spot to put anyone in. But many of these issues just aren't addressed in print, and many times they can make it uncomfortable to ask about.All that being said, I hope people will post or e-mail their questions, comments and opinions.

4 comments:

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victor
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