Tuesday, February 8, 2011

EPA to review Pebble Mine (highlights from Mudflats)

Mudflats had an excellent post about the EPA's involvement in Pebble Mine, and the federal government's involvement with Alaska in general.

It's always amazed me how much Alaskans (and especially Alaskan politicians) can rail against the federal government, yet many, MANY times the involvement of the federal government was neccessary to stop the overreaching of the state and state politicians. In any case, Ms. Muckraker says it much better than I:

In towns with no indoor plumbing, fuel at more than $10 a gallon, and communities where schools can be hundreds of miles apart, it’s understandable that Alaskans find it difficult sometimes to “go with the flow” and let those bureaucrats in DC legislate what we do on the tundra from an office in a white marble building thousands of miles away... What would make us frontier-minded, libertarian, get off my lawn Alaskans actually thank a federal agency?
If the relationship between Alaska and the federal government can be described as misunderstood, the relationship between Alaska Native people and the federal government can only be summed up as, "It's complicated."

Where federal intervention in Native issues was the Big Bad Wolf only a few decades ago, federal intervention is coming to the point of being the best option for some Native issues - like subsistence.

As Muckraker says, we can only wait on what happens with the science, but here's hoping...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Making a difference for Alaska Native suicide prevention

Saw this story in the Frontiersman, pretty cool.

Palmer man leads fight against depression

There's a very powerful message here, and it's still amazng to me when I hear this kind of thing:

Pagaran admits that, “I myself was ashamed to say I was Alaska Native until I was 25 years old, and I grew up in Alaska,” he said. “I would tell people I was oriental, Mexican — anything but Native. I believed these lies like so many other people do. Our message is not only hope, but also (bringing) that identity to help people realize that when God created us, he didn’t create any mistakes.”

I can't say I've ever felt ashamed to be Native - I only ever remember being proud. But I've heard it from many people, and it hits really hard.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Ugly" Native prayers?

I must admit, I'm still not used to the amount of ignorance people can come up with when talking about Native people and issues.

I read this excellent article from Indian Country Today about a blessing Dr. Carlos Gonzales, Pascua Yaqui, gave for Rep. Giffords.

At first I was wondering if there was really such a wide negative reaction to a simple Native prayer given. But even Googling the blessing and the video above, I came across some truly ignorant and hateful people talking about his pagan, wierd, ugly prayer (namely conservative bloggers and Fox.)

Hearing Fox News analyst Brit Hume dismiss the blessing as, “most peculiar” was disturbing, but not surprising for anyone who monitors how Indians have been treated in mainstream media coverage. Syndicated columnist and ever-present TV commentator Michelle Malkin live-blogging, “Mercy,” and complaining that Gonzales was “[babbling] about two-legged and four-legged creatures” was rude, but it was far from unfamiliar. Several conservative websites, including Power Line, which described the prayer as “ugly,” were outraged. CNSNews.com, another right-wing news site, interviewed Gonzales, and in its write-up, offered a snide report that listed the word “blessing” in quotes and made mention of the fact that Gonzales had used the word “creator” but not God—an apparently unforgivable offense.

Seriously? Yeah... Listen to the prayer. I gaurantee it's nothing shocking.

I was honored to spend the last week in the company of a variety of Native people from all over the country. Daily, usually two or three times daily, the groups would offer prayers, smudging, and traditional ceremony. I participated in most, not totally understanding most ceremonies. They weren't my tradition. There were others who opted out entirely of participating in the ceremonies, as they didn't believe in them, or didn't want to participate in a spiritual activity they didn't understand.

But guess what? They were able to do it respectfully. They didn't believe those who had different beliefs, and different customs, were inferior, or ignorant.

It's amazing to me that in 2011, this issue of respecting beliefs still comes up. I have a faith that no one can take from me, and I'm not threatened by those who don't share it. Learning about others' beliefs and traditions doesn't threaten or take away from my own - it enriches it.

I know I should be immune to the many, many times I've heard Native ways and traditions, even art, described as crude or backwards. But I'm not. I don't believe the Catholic across from me, though I don't share most traditions, is of a rudimentary mind. I don't believe the Muslim beside me has a lower I.Q. I'm not sure why it's so acceptable to think the same of my culture's traditions, but it is.

In the meantime, I'm encouraged by the time I spent with so many of my Native brothers and sisters down south. Learning about them changed me, spending time with them was a humbling experience.

Haa Shagéinyaa x’atuwóos' haa shagóoni has du latséeni haa too yei anga.oo.