Thursday, August 27, 2009

Obama Administration in Rural Alaska

I know, I know, this is kinda late. But I was perusing Tundra Drums, and thought this was a pretty good article about the members of Obama's cabinet who visited rural Alaska recently. Interesting to hear their take on local issues. I liked what the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development remarked on:

Toward the end of the day, as the secretaries boarded their plane, a reporter asked Donovan if he thought federal money was being wasted in Alaska.

“I haven’t seen any wasted money today,” he said emphatically. “This is a critical, critical resource for these folks here and we’re going to do everything we can to take care of the needs we’ve seen here today.”

The image above is from this booklet, which does a pretty fair job of spelling out some of the "problems and solutions" in rural Alaska.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Time for another talk on subsistence

From Alaska Indigenous:

Early this morning I picked up a piece of news from the Anchorage Daily Newspaper that Sen. Al Kookesh will fight a fishing citation issued by an Alaska State Trooper wildlife officer, on Admiralty Island, Alaska...

Kookesh stated the citation and fine is beside the point of the issue. If Sen. Kookesh follows through with the fight against the citation, then a possible court case might result in a contemporary judicial interpretation or opinion regarding the “rural preference” for subsistence law in the state of Alaska.

From the Anchorage Daily News article:

Megan Peters, a troopers spokeswoman, told the Juneau Empire the party was in possession of 148 sockeye salmon taken with a beach seine net. Each man had a valid subsistence permit allowing them to collectively take a total of 75 sockeye, she said...

Kookesh has a different take. Nine people were at the fishing site, he said. Only four were cited. A 10th person with a permit for an additional 100 fish was delayed.

The net belonged to him, Kookesh said, but it takes seven or eight people to work it. Thirty-eight fish went to the Angoon senior center, he said, and the rest went to 12 different families.

"Every time it goes out it feeds 10 to 15 families," Kookesh said of his net.

I wish the article had a little bit more detail on what is meant between the state and federal management difference. It is an incredibly complicated issue that got reduced to a paragraph or two - though really this needs to be played out in a statewide discussion. A REAL discussion, not the sort of commercial, flier blitz that tends to happen with big issues like this.

Ironic that the fish was going to the same place whether it was the people getting it in the first place, or the fish cops bringing it to them - the Angoon Senior Center. I know of many subsistence nets like this, and fished on them myself this summer, and most of the fish went to elders first, and then various families.

The most frustrating part of all of it is the lopsided management that prevents fish getting to many, many elders and families, for the sake of...? what? Too many trials and studies in which subsistence rights were given up or taken away because that "must be" a big reason fisheries or environmental problems were happening find that is probably not the case. When subsistence was gone, the fisheries or environmental problems got worse or stayed the same. The beluga whale problem right here in Southcentral is a good example of that.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Healthcare video debate going for Indian Health Services tactics

Every time I think people like Glenn Beck can't tick me off more than they have, they pull it out of somewhere.

Stumbled on this little bit in Indian Country Today about Glenn Beck comparing Indian Health Service to the proposed health care reform. It is a little bit "one plus one equals a barrel of monkeys", but there is some genuine points made if you can weave your way through the commentary. Anyways, the video:

The thing is, it's not like there isn't a basis for argument here. Indian Health Services is not a good model of a government run agency, even a little bit. It sucks.

What they DON'T say is what pisses me off. Because Glenn Beck just discovered their was a problem with IHS, and would like to use the HUGE underfunding of that program to prove public options can't work.

But who are the people that are throwing road blocks in the way of funding the IHS in the first place? How is it that, despite "everyone" knowing how terribly underfunded the system is, politicians haven't been able to get any money to it? Was Glenn Beck speaking out against Bush when he was threatening to veto the (as yet made law) Indian Health Care Improvement Act last year?

You can't be a part of the problem, and then use the problem as an example of what the other guy is doing wrong. Well, apparently Beck can, I suppose.

From a RezNet article:

About one-third more is spent per capita on health care for felons in federal prison, according to 2005 data from the health service.

In Washington, a few lawmakers have tried to bring attention to the broken system as Congress attempts to improve health care for millions of other Americans. But tightening budgets and the relatively small size of the American Indian population have worked against them.

"It is heartbreaking to imagine that our leaders in Washington do not care, so I must believe that they do not know," Joe Garcia, president of the National Congress of American Indians, said in his annual state of Indian nations' address in February.

The White House sent out its own video response to some of these allegations, and makes good points as well:

Of course, there is some of the "glossing" as well. I think they are right to say that the two are very different things... VERY. Yet, right away she admonishes those critics who say that Indian health care is not "stable" as just passing on scare tactics. Uh... right. That it is not stable is a FACT. Anyone who went to the old, entirely IHS run, Native hospital downtown can attest to that. Waiting all day to be seen in emergency was not an exception, but a rule.

Alaska is not a great example for her to use as something in which IHS "works," and it is a pretty fine line she tries to weave. It can only work better than down south because the VERY different system we have (not reservation systems, for instance) allows the IHS to be supplemented by Native corps, grants, insurance, etc. MORE than supplementing - the majority of the money in the Alaska Native health system is NOT provided by IHS. And oh- by the way - it is NOT administered by IHS anymore. It's Native run. Soo...NOT so much an example of an IHS system that works.

Obama made a huge increase to the IHS budget this year, and has already made roads to try and make it a better, or at least better funded, system. What ticks me off is that opponents of the one are trying to use a problem they've ignored or spoken out against for years, and hold it up as the other guys problem.

I would love to hear actual debate going on about health care reform, but all I keep hearing is these outrageous, hypocrtical, off-point claims and examples that play on emotion rather than fact. Can't we all agree, at least, that health care is not working in this country? And can't we all agree that changes are definitely needed? And I KNOW we can all agree that the health insurance system needs an overhaul, or I'd like to meet the person who believes THAT system is sound!

Maybe there is a plus side to all this - now that so many media faces and lawmakers have "discovered" there is a problem with IHS funding, and are telling the world about it, all IHS's funding problems will be solved!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Crow chief receives Medal of Freedom from Obama: Video

Follow up to a previous post about Joe Medicine Crow, a war hero, war chief, and historian. He received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama last week. Video from Indan Country Today:

Crow chief receives Medal of Freedom

Another video,an interview with Medicine Crow. I liked what he was saying about "enjoying" life in a "blend" between old and new. You don't often hearit put that way, "enjoying the bicultural."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hope for REAL energy solutions in rural Alaska?

I was visiting Southeast Alaska this summer, and had a few discussions about the impact of something like a small wind farm in some of the small communities I was in. Kodiak has a few now, and CIRI is developing some over on Fire Island - I've heard of other either in development, being researched, or already up.

This, of course, led to a discussion on other alternative energy solutions for rural Alaska, and why they almost never happen (prohibitive cost to start up that smal communities can't shoulder, intervention by large companies, too much beauracracy to navigate, etc.) I really believe rural Alaska could lead the way in developing energy solutions for the country, even the world - but there are blockades in the way.

I hope this is a small, maybe bigger, chip in the barrier. From the Juneau Empire, Murkowski "welcoming" (I don't really know what that means, as far as her involvement) two grants totalling over $3 million for hydro-electric projects.

Not huge in the grand scheme, maybe, but huge for those communities. I imagine Juneau residents can tell you what it's like having to curtail their power or face steep bills not so long ago after a power shortage, though I imagine most rural Alaska residents would probably welcome their "steep" bills in leiu of their own. I'm no scientist, or energy expert, so it is easy for me to say "other people" should develop innovative solutions in rural Alaska, but there are hundreds of communities out there prime to be energy alternative guinea pigs!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Native man wants to forgive attackers in hate crime against him

Reporters interviewed Eddie Barr, the victim of the hate crime captured on video and posted on YouTube. What is amazing about this guy is his total willingness to forgive, despite the fear he has now, and the fact that even during the attack, he was only trying to be a nice guy, and then trying to ask them to stop.

From the KTUU interview:

"I smile a lot you know," Barr said. "People I see, even people I don't know. I smile you know, but when they started throwing things at me for no reason that gets scary. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know what's going to happen to me."

..."You know I pray for them, though," Barr said. "I'm hoping they'll change their attitudes. I'm hoping when they get older you know they'll forgive me. Maybe I'll forgive them. I already forgive them already."

The Anchorage Daily News has more of a specific play-by-play of what happened. I don't mind telling you that just reading it, I was struggling between disgust, sorrow, and fear.

According to charging documents, Gum and Powers, both white, spewed venom at their victim as they pelted him with bottles and eggs, mocking a Native accent and saying "I want my Monarch (vodka)," while the target of their fury meekly tried to walk away, according to charges filed in court Friday...

The victim stood there, extended a handshake and said, "Please don't bother me."

Gum replied, "If you touch my sister, I will cut you," the charges say. Powers pushed the man again, and, at Gum's direction, kicked the man in the behind. After Gum threatened to kick him in the head, the man protested that he wasn't dumb.

"You are dumb," Powers said, according to the charges. "You're a f-----g Native."

I was eating dinner with a couple of friends last night, and neither had heard about this incident yet. One was Native, one non-Native, and the reactions were interesting when I was telling them about it. The non-Native friend was shocked, and disgusted. The Native friend made a face, gave a sigh, and ate her food in silence.

Not that this is indicative of everyone, but I don't think there's any Native person I've talked to yet that's been shocked. Most seem to think it's disgusting, but inevitable. Although the stories report the "past incidents" of this as being in 2001 and before, I know these are only the "incidents" that have been caught. What the reports don't mention is that most of those attacks, this one included, were only caught because the idiots committing the crime videotaped the attacks. I gaurantee that for every incident on tape, there are hundreds of incidents committed with the victims remaining silent.

I've had racially charged hate spewed at me in this city, without provocation, more than once (I think this is the only incident I've talked about on the blog), and downtown is probably the most unsafe place to be Native in Anchorage, at least in regards to outspoken, public racism. And no - not in a single case was I drunk, homeless or even speaking my mind, three states in which, many times, people seem to think that a Native person must have been "asking for it," and the crime, while regrettable, is understandable.

Anecdotally, I know this kind of thing happens much, much more than is reported. I am not speaking of racially charged crimes in which there is provocation - groups revenging on groups, or people abusing each other. I'm speaking of people who are literally walking down the street, shopping at a mall, sitting down to eat that are attacked, both verbally and physically because of their race. Although I'm sure this happens to many races, the dozens of examples I have are from Native friends and acquaintances in this city, and my own experiences. The things these people were yelling at Barr are disgusting - but I can't tell you a single one I haven't heard myself.

I went on a walk today, and I've got to tell you this was on my mind. This is the first long walk I've gone on alone in quite a while, and I hated the fact that when a car slowed down near me, I turned my face, so maybe they wouldn't see I was Native. I am normally pretty proud of my heritage, and family might be able to tell you I can adventure in strange cities alone with great (probably reckless) abandon, and not think about my own safety (yes, I am VERY unwise this way). So why is it when I walk down a street alone in Anchorage, I don't want people to see my heritage because I don't want a paintball shot at me?

I feel discouraged today, because this seems to be the same old thing, and so many don't even see it as a widespread problem.

Video of interview with the victim, Eddie Barr:

Friday, August 14, 2009

APD arrests two in hate crime against Native man

From the Anchorage Daily News:

With their video camera rolling, a young white couple threw eggs at an Alaska Native man and kicked him, slinging slurs in what appears to have been a racially motivated assault, police said Thursday. During the attack, the victim held his hand out trying to shake the hands of his aggressors, police said...

The pair threatened the man, threw things at him and used racial slurs, police said. They pushed and kicked the man, police said. He didn't fight back, just asked to be left alone.

I honestly don't understand that level of hate.

And, "He... just asked to be left alone."

I'm having a problem grappling with the mindset of people who approach a man who has his handout in friendship, and then treat him so sub-humanly.

One of the first posts I did on Alaska Real was my own experience with hatred while walking downtown, and why I hate going downtown, being fairly obviously Native. My experiences were certainly nothing compared to this man, but I avoid downtown because I have a very reasonable fear something exactly like this could happen, for no other reason than I look the way I look.

I often wonder just how much of this is going on - the physical attacks anyways - and not getting reported. This man certainly didn't, and it sounds like police have reason to believe there is more from this couple. This isn't the first attack on Native people downtown caught on video, nor is it the most heinous.

The irony is when I keep hearing the refrain that "racism isn't a problem in this town."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Native economy essay reminder - $10,000 for six winners!

(click on image to make bigger)

Just a reminder that this contest put on by the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN), partnered with the National Congress of American Indians and Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, has a deadline of Sept. 15 - just a month away!

SIX Native winners - three Alaska Native and three American Indian/Native Hawaiian, from what I understand - will win $10,000! From the Web site:

We invite all Native individuals or collaborative teams to submit their 500-1,600 word original written work addressing one or more of the following questions:

1. How can the Native community best participate in the process of economic renewal? What unique contributions can we make to help jumpstart the US and international economies?

2. Are you confident that economic growth will be restarted in 2009/2010? Describe your views on how the economic recovery will take place.

3. How must our economy change to fully recover from this economic crisis? What additional steps do President Obama and the Congress need to take to make these changes happen? How can Native Americans step up to help make these necessary changes and build sustainable economies?

A chance at $10,000 for 500-1,600 words? Seriously, folks, pass the word! I've done about half a dozen versions of an essay, myself. Not a strong writer, but have some good ideas? Partner with someone who is a good writer, but just needs the idea, or research!

I'm starting to sound like an ad, I know, but I think this is a great thing AFN is doing. They've been doing some interesting things with business idea prizes and things in the last few years, and this kind of sounds like an extension of the spirit of that - Native ideas on business, economy and the future.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Obama Administration supports Native Hawaiian self-governance

I'm a little surprised this isn't getting more play in the news, but it would mean huge changes for the Native people of Hawaii if it were to pass. From RezNet:

Sam Hirsch, deputy associate attorney general for the Justice Department, told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Thursday that the department "strongly supports the core policy goals" of a bill allowing for self-governance by Native Hawaiians. Once established, the new government would negotiate with the state and the federal government over which assets the new government would own.

Though in none of the 200+ years of U.S. dealings with indigenous people is there a shining example of how it can be done right, I must confess I've never quite understood how, legally, morally, logically the Native people of Hawaii cannot be considered similar to Alaska Native and American Indian "tribes" (I use the term loosely, because up here, at least, "tribe" is only ever a government classification and never something used to describe any of the people groups outside of federal/state government terms.)

Of course it is complicated, but also silly to me the argument that Native Hawaiians have a "different" history from "Indian tribes" of the mainland. Of course they have - but it's only a statement made by someone who groups all Native people on the mainland of North America the same.

Although I belong to a federally classified "tribe," I can gaurantee you my people's history, with the U.S. government or otherwise, doesn't look a thing like that of the Crow tribe's history. Outside of being treated pretty poorly, there are little similarities, and the differences are at least as great as the difference in the Native Hawaiian history and any other federally recognized tribe.

The articles (one also from the Honolulu Advertiser) don't mention any real possibilities for passage of the bill from the Senate, but it is good to hear that it has support from the White House all the same. I would love to hear where each of the senators stands on it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Native achievement gap closing.. work to be done

From the Juneau Empire:

The trend statewide is positive for Native students, said Eric Fry, spokesman for the state Department of Education and Early Development. Eighty-four schools statewide failed to meet requirements among the Alaska Native population during the 2007-2008 school year. That number fell to 79 last school year.

And then compare:

Statewide test results show significantly lower scores for Alaska Natives. Only 57 percent of Native children read at grade level compared with 89 percent of Caucasian students. In math, 50 percent of Native children are at grade level, compared with 78 percent of Caucasian kids.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Native American Supreme Court Justice up next?

Interesting poll from US News and World Report - 50% surveyed would like to see the next Supreme be a Native American. As we (hopefully) have our first Hispanic Supreme shortly, this would be great to see.

Respondents chose racial diversity over religious diversity or difference in sexual orientation. A whopping 50 percent of those surveyed said they would like to see President Obama choose a Native American for the Supreme Court if the president got a second selection. Nineteen percent said they would like to see Obama appoint an Asian and 16 percent an African-American justice. Only 13 percent hoped to see a gay or lesbian justice as Obama's next pick. And coming in last, with 2 percent, was a Muslim justice.

Don't know how scientific this survey was, but sounds good to me!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Begich gives maiden speech, introduces Inuvikput bills. Love it.

I was really expecting a sort of typical, "Let's drill!" sort of focus, not because that's what Begich tends to do, but when an Alaskan politician gets in front of the U.S. Senate, that's kind of what I expect. Okay... not really fair, but it was a pretty long time, with a pretty big spotlight, to have the floor, and I think it's awesome that it was about the Arctic - preservaton, responsiblity, focus on those most affected in the regions. He mentions drilling, but in the light of needing more responsibility, including ensuring safe drilling in the first place, and ensuring those in the region aren't affected, and protection if they are.

He uses an Inupiaq word to describe the package of bills - Inuvikput - and really gives an awful lot of attention and focus on Native and rural issues and impact. Worth a listen to:

There's more details on some of the bills on Shannyn Moore's page, including:

Arctic OCS Revenue Sharing Act – Alaska Natives who have subsisted on marine mammals and other arctic resources for thousands of years would bear the direct risks of increased commercial activity in their waters. This bill directs a portion of federal revenues from offshore oil and gas development – the same share Louisiana receives from drilling in the adjacent Gulf of Mexico – to the State of Alaska with a percentage of those funds directed to those most affected.

Arctic Health Research Act – People of the Arctic suffer from increased rates of alcohol abuse, diabetes, high blood pressure, and death from injury and suicide. This act would initiate a study into the mental, behavioral and physical health problems in the Arctic, institute an Arctic health assessment program at the Centers for Disease Control and create an “Arctic desk” at the National Institute of Health that was called for in 1984 but has never been established.

Yes - this is EXACTLY why I voted for Begich!!

He also mentioned something about a bill he is still considering giving - something that got tabled - on an Arctic advisory council:

Begich said he is considering introducing an additional piece of legislation focused on providing the people of Alaska's Arctic with more of a voice in the decisions affecting their lives. The bill would establish an Arctic Regional and Citizens Advisory Council, modeled after similar councils which successfully operate in the Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet regions of Alaska. At the request of the North Slope Borough mayor, Begich said he held off introducing the bill pending further discussions with the people of Alaska's North Slope, as well and industry and regulatory stakeholders.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Native war chief to be honored with Presidential Medal of Freedom

I was really intrigued with this man's story, after reading the article on Reznet. Joe Medicine Crow will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in America, from Obama on Aug. 12.

A 95-year-old Crow Indian who wore war paint into battle beneath his World War II uniform and later became an acclaimed Native American historian will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom next month...

In 1939, Medicine Crow became the first of his tribe to receive a master's degree, in anthropology. He is the Crow's sole surviving war chief, an honor bestowed for a series of accomplishments during World War II including hand-to-hand combat with a German solider, whose life Medicine Crow spared.

There's very few people I read about in the news, even celebrities, politicians, etc. I admire that as soon as I hear about them, I think, "Man, I hope there's a book about him." But even just reading his Wikipedia page and a other things on the Web makes me want to know more about Medicine Crow. I don't know much about him or his culture (Crow,) but he sounds like he's tried to live his life bravely, honorably, and with a most difficult mix of tradition and adaptation. At the very least, it sounds like a very intriguing story. Thank goodness he's also an author!

He's receiving the medal along with a prestigous, mixed group, including Ted Kennedy, Stephen Hawking, Desmond Tutu, Sidney Poitier, Sandra Day O'Connor and Harvey Milk.