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Testimony

Submitted to the
Alaska Natives Commission
in connection with a hearing at

Fairbanks, Alaska
July 18, 1992

ALASKA NATIVES COMMISSION
JOINT FEDERAL-STATE COMMISSION
ON
POLICIES AND PROGRAMS AFFECTING ALASKA NATIVES
4000 Old Seward Highway, Suite 100
Anchorage, Alaska 99503

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Witness List | Exhibit List | PDF Version

 

Economic Issues: Group A

 

(On record -- Tape log 0 - 55 side conversations not transcribed)

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: All right, we've decided to kind of rotate the chairmanship, such as it is, of the meeting between us; and, actually, this should have been Morrie Thompson's chairmanship, because that's his task force, Economic Issues for Native People, but he's getting tired of it; and, besides, he figures since this is his bailiwick, and I'm an outsider, I can afford to be more dictatorial about the time limits than he was. I'm not losing any votes by doing so. In fairness to the people who are scheduled to make presentations later in the program, we've got to start catching up on time, because at 5 o’clock, they kick us out whether we like it or not; and it would be very unfair for the final panels to be restricted; so I will request two things: number one, try to stay within five minutes and not to exceed eight. If you have a lengthy written statement, and we've had several of those that have excellent content, but they were read to us, it would have been much more efficient to put them in the record -- they would be fully reproduced there -- and then summarize and answer questions. And those of you who are coming now, I would request that you do that. If you have 20 pages, or 50 pages of statement, we certainly want to have it; and it will be read, and it will be taken into account; but please don't read it to us. Give us a five-minute summary, and be prepared to answer questions. Is that okay with everybody? Anybody object to that? Thank you. We'll start cut on the panel on Economic Issues, and the first on the list here appears to be Mr. Ken Johns of Copper River Native Association. Are you with us, or is he not here? Oh, you're here. Thank you. Would you please go ahead, sir.

MR. JOHNS: My name is Ken Johns. I've just recently been hired as Executive Director at Copper River Native Association. I'm here today to give you my perspective of two important issues that faces Alaska Native people: the subsistence and the economy. First of all, Copper River Native Association is a sister nonprofit organization of Ahtna, Incorporated, which is one of the twelve organizations created by Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act. Copper River Native Association provides services which includes old-age programs, natural resources, health and social services, human services, and administers all major contracts with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Indian Health Service, as well as the State of Alaska. Having said that, I will briefly cover concerns we feel needs to be addressed at this crucial period in Alaska Native lives.

Subsistence has put a deep scar in Alaska Native history. The failure of the State to fully address this problem will be with us for years. To be more specific, I will enlighten you about our experience we have had in loss of our hunting and fishing privileges throughout our region. The Ahtna Region is accessible by all major road systems in the state of Alaska. The region is also home of the popular Nelchina caribou herd, of approximately 40,000 caribou. Also, Unit 13, which covers most of the region, is a very popular hunting area for moose hunters from Anchorage and Fairbanks. Each year tens of thousands of urban and sport fishermen venture into our region. Each year approximately 15,000 applicants apply for caribou permits to hunt in Unit 13. Our villages are the most impacted villages in the state of Alaska. Each year our villages files numerous lawsuits, both in federal and state court, just to conserve our hunting privileges. I will not go into great details because throughout the years, there have been numerous testimonies on our need to subsistence hunt and fish on our lands, but I will suggest that this Native Commission pursue changes that would allow Native regions who apply portions of ANILCA wildlife management to their lands, which would allow for rural preference.

I chose to start off my testimony with subsistence mainly because the economy is tied to subsistence. Without major projects; for instance, the Alyeska Pipeline, which runs through our lands and our village, we would still rely totally on subsistence way of life. As I mentioned before, we have major road systems throughout our region; we have access to major cities, such as Anchorage and Fairbanks; we have access to the Lower 48, Canada, and Valdez. Several large state agencies, including the Department of Highways and the Department of Education, but the Native employment in these areas is approximately one percent of the total workforce. With limited State funding, and cutbacks of major companies, the employment picture in our region looks pretty dim.

Suggested areas that the Native Commission can help us with is the development of our own corporate lands for employment and training. I am referring to training programs in the areas of natural resources program chat would include timber and minerals. We need to find ways that Native people can capitalize on tourism. We need assistance in getting our people in these kind of the mom-and-pop business during the high summer peaks. The Ahtna Region has major road systems that are regarded as world-class recreation rafting and boating areas. Also, the sports fishing for king salmon and sockeye on the Klutina River and Gulkana River has been one of the state's most well-kept secrets, and it has very high potential for major recreational spots for sport fishermen.

I'd like to go off and mention that our area is in a stage that, if you look down on the Kenai, I foresee that in ten years from now, our area will probably look like the Kenai. We need programs that fund low-interest loans to Native villages to get in some of these businesses that provide for boats, and provide for rafting businesses, and it's something that we can do in summer months, fully realizing that we are not going to be millionaires, but we will have some type of income during the summer months.

I want to go back where I mentioned about the subsistence portion of the economy. Right now, we have lost a battle within the Supreme Court on this all Alaskan. It's going to be very detrimental to our Native people in our region, mainly of the impact of the urban hunters from both the large cities. We had, in the past two years, 11 days of moose hunting. My village which have over 2 00 people and has only got three moose. There are some villages that didn't get any; and I think we probably got a total of 15 moose last year. When you're talking about eight major villages in our region, that's very little. The Supreme Court has continuously, continuously went against us on a three-to-two vote on these issues.

I firmly believe that we are all equal when it comes to hunting and fishing, but there need to be some standards that protect the minority people in this state. You know, I'm a resident of the state of Alaska; I'm a citizen of the United States. I will protect the flag. I will go to the war for the flag, but when it comes down to a need to survive, we need those extra perks. We need that extra days. We need that extra season. The economy is going to go down in our area. There needs to be a replacement of the subsistence laws within the areas of the state-Without subsistence, you had heard testimony today, you're going to lose your culture; you're going to lose your language, because these are all tied to subsistence. I heard somebody -- I asked this elder before I came up here:

"What should I talk about?"

And she said -- I think everything has been said already. And she said to mention the booklet that was done on the AFN report status that's called "Call for Action." I suggest that this Commission review some of that. Another bock here by Thomas Burger (ph.). Pick that up from the library off the shelves; sit down and read some of that.

A lot of what was being said today is redundant. You know, Native people are frustrated that we have to be coming and testifying every five years to another Commission, another book, another study. We've been stamped; we've been notarized; we've been certified; and I think we're just sick and tired of that. We need what this book says: "Call for Action." And I really hope this Commission can do that, because it's time to act. Testimony of the culture being lost; it's being lost; and one of the things with this battle over subsistence, it's going backwards, and that's all I have to say.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Thank you, sir. Let me just quickly comment that those of us on, this Commission who very passionately share your desire that this will be the last Commission, and the last report, and that we'll start doing something instead of studying it to death. Because it's very frustrating, and I fully share with you, and I'm sure everybody on this panel. The next presenter -- and our co-chairman, Mary Jane Fate asked me to make it clear that these are not panels of the Commission, these are presenters; and the next presenter is Chuck Akers of State Department of Community and Regional Affairs; and would you please give us your presentation, sir?

MR. AKERS: Thank you very much, Commission, who invited our department to present testimony on our views and our agency's efforts to be an advocate and a service organization to rural Alaska. In fact, and in more particular, because rural Alaska is mostly Native people, in fact, we probably are the agency of greatest service, we hope, to Native people. And this morning I heard testimony; and I hope -- when Mike Irwin called me yesterday and said;

"We need somebody from your agency here."

And I said;

"Well, what is my discussion?" And he said:

"Solutions to economic issues."

Well, I don’t think any one agency or any one person has all the solutions, but I will present one solution that we as a department, and as state agencies and federal agencies have been working on some two years; and which shall come to fruition, I hope, this fall.

First of all, you need to listen to Chief Peter John, when this morning he said:

"I want my great, great grandchildren to know who they are."

So when I testify today, I'm in the arms of the dilemma. I'm a State representative; I'm an official of the State of Alaska, but I'm also an Alaska Native person; and I seem to forget that. As a person working for the State, many times you subliminalize yourself, your own person; and so I'm proud to say that I am a high official in this administration, and I'm attempting to bring my rural experiences to bear on issues that involve rural people, rural Alaskans.

And so I heed the call of Chief Peter John when I announce to the group that I have had over 30 years of life in rural Alaska. And when I am, as an official of the State, attempting to bring programs or issues to bear to serve people in rural Alaska, I'm doing so from that base.

And secondly, I present today, not necessarily the one solution, but at least, I hope, a solution that may help us. And I've heard in testimony today, the words fragmentation, dislocation; and, over the last two years, there's been a movement among state and federal agencies, in particular by the federal government under the President's initiative for rural development, to develop a coordinative approach to state, federal, private, nonprofit, local government, and tribal issues in rural America; and, in particular, for Alaska -- rural Alaska. And so the Department of Community and regional Affairs and other state and federal agencies, along with such people as Ed Rutledge from TCC, people from Bristol Bay, in public meetings over the last two years, have developed what I personally call "The Green Book," because it's got a long name; but it's "Towards a Comprehensive Alaska Rural Economic Development Strategy," and it is to be presented to your Commission as a basis for what has been going on, at least to this level. It has been the basis of an initiation the part of the state and federal government to form a State Rural Development Council in the state of Alaska; and, most recently, two months ago, Walter Hickel and Undersecretary Walt Hill signed a Memorandum of Understanding; and the state of Alaska is to be awarded the status of a state rural development council; and it is forming now.

The strategy envisioned a grassroots approach to forming this council; and rather than go into all of the efforts that came about in developing that strategy, suffice it to say that we wanted to make sure that the people being served had significant seats on that council; because that council's mission is to cut across bureaucratic lines in federal and state agencies, to assist in delivering the services that the clientele need for themselves and their communities. So, rather than go through the whole process, I present the booklet to Mike Irwin for your information. The book itself identified several areas that need to be addressed when you’re looking at economic issues in rural Alaska, and they include barriers to economic development. And those barriers include a lack of financing; a lack of equity, organizations of the system developing equity; a lack of education; people who can actually handle or run business or be involved in the network of operating entrepreneurships. And so, without going into great detail, several barriers were identified in the booklet itself. When the council forms late this fall, the call will 90 out to organizations, and it is fundamental and a requirement by both the federal government and the State that the interests that will be served on that council will be state, federal, private, local government, and, in particular, tribal governments will be invited to sit on this council. That council will be funded -- it' s not a money council. It is a coordinative issue. It's an issue to assist the state and federal governments to cut across our bureaucracies in bringing those services and those programs that we have to bear on our clientele in a more focused and coordinative way. And, with that, I end my presentation.

(TESTIMONY OF CHUCK AKERS ATTACHED AS EXHIBIT #3)

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Thank you, sir. We'll follow the procedure we did before, in giving the presenters the chance to speak and then having questions. However, if my co-panel members will permit me, I would prefer to do this. We have two groups here of presenters. We're hearing right now from Group A, and then there's a Group B that deals with Planning and Development; and I would like to address the questions to the first group when they're finished, and then do the same with the second group, so we don't get too far afield. The last of the three Group A presenters is Robert Coghill; and, if you will identify the organization that you're speaking from, I will not mispronounce it.

(TESTIMONY OF ROBERT COGHILL, JR., ATTACHED AS EXHIBIT #4)

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Thank you. Bob. Morrie you want to go first with questions?

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: Yeah, I -- let me go backwards, if I may, Bob. First of all, I appreciate your observations. How do you, though, wind down this process? I mean, how do -- what's the solution. I mean, it's...

MR. COGHILL: Well, that's the problem. The solution, we can still work it. We can't roll back the clock on RATNET; we can't roll it back on the services that are already there. We can provide opportunities for tourism development that are offered to not-for-profits, and make them available to individuals, or to entities like ANCSA. I don't think there's very much difference between an individual and the ANCSA Corporation; and if we have a government policy that aims towards that, we can have economic development that is owned by the villages.

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: And an observation, if I might, and I'll follow up with another question. With declining state revenues, we are going to see, though, a lot of the infrastructure that's been built in urban and rural Alaska receiving less support; and a concern I have is our rural communities are going to be impacted more for several reasons. As the State dollars drop across the state as they will here, rural Alaska is going to take a disproportionate tie for several reasons. Number one, we're losing the political power that we had, Number two, we have a higher percentage of our city dollars come from the State. And number three, we don’t have no alternative sources. The urban communities can go to taxation; they can increase the mill level and go to a sales tax. Those options are not open to rural Alaska, so we need to be innovative. So, my basic point, is there going to be less money to support the infrastructure that's out there now -- the laundries, schools, the TV, that might create some opportunity, but...

MR. COGHILL: I think it will create an opportunity. The study that was done that I picked up back there said that they estimated the populations in the regions that they studied were three times greater than the economies can support. I think that might be a false analysis if the economies were truly locally based, It's still three times larger, and I don't think we can develop an economy three times as great; but I think this is part of the tool that can be used.

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: And I'm encouraged from a positive note to see the number; and I know your community is one of them; but to see tourism being viewed as maybe a partial answer for diversifying the economy. And we look forward to working with some of your communities in that regard. I know it's spreading. We see it now in Stevens Village, and Fort Yukon; and, up in your area, the Lower Yukon is beginning to look at it, I think, in a pretty systematic approach, so that's encouraging.

And, if I may, just to comment, I couldn't agree more with Ken on subsistence, and it's an effort that we put forth. You know, when we view these problems, we tend to look at them as problems that were visited on us a "Long time ago; but subsistence is a current issue, and it's an issue today; and in 1990 and 1992, we've been singularly unsuccessful, collectively as Native people, to impress upon the majority, and impress upon the legislature, to impress upon the administration, the importance of subsistence. So history is repeating itself before our very eyes in 1992; and it's a sad commentary in my view. You know, we think that we're enlightened as we grow; we think we get better at understanding multi-culturalism and what it means; and we think we should be more benevolent as our governments gain experience; but that's not the case in this issue, unfortunately. And I, however, am still hopeful that if the State truly wants to regain management of fish and game, that they will recognize that there needs to be a rural subsistence priority that allows the State of Alaska to manage fish and game and protects subsistence lifestyle that's so important.

MR. JOHNS: If I may, on that point, he said:

"Subsistence will always be tied to the economy; always will be tied to economy."

And one of the solutions I was going to mention was to make Anchorage a separate state.

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: Well, let me comment on that, and I was hoping that somebody from the News Miner would be here, but they're not. You know, we've lived in Fairbanks for a. long time, and this is probably the seat of separatism. I mean, they've got the Secession Unit here; they've got -- somebody just published a paper the other day, a paper calling for cessation from the union. It's been going on here in Fairbanks for 20 years, and the News Miner never comments on it. Right? People who are high in the administration now have even sponsored studies about separating the -- what the United States is not doing to Alaska. The very minute that the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the North Slope Borough talks of another state, the editor of the newspaper's editorial is about what a terrible idea that is. It's fine for the non-Native people to secede from the United States; but the minute the Native people think about forming another state, it's a very terrible idea; and that's a double standard; but that's for another day.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: I'm in favor of both -- (Laughter)

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: -- the state seceding from the union, and the North Slope seceding from Alaska, and Southeast going to Canada, and Anchorage being a separate state; and then we'll have Slovania (ph.), and Bosnia, and anyway...

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: My point is that it's fine for the majority to talk about all of this craziness, but the minute that a distinguished worthy Native organization does it, it's heresy. And I'm not blaming you, Ed.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: No. (Laughter)

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: I'm just making a statement.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: No, I'm a maverick, you know that.

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: You probably put the North Slope up to it, but ...

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: I'll never admit to it. Beverly?

COMMISSIONER MASEK: I guess one of the issues that I have directed toward Ken in regard -- or, excuse me -- to Bob in regards to the tourism. What steps are you taking in the tourism area?

MR. COGHILL: The City of Huslia is developing a tourism project that they're trying to define themselves differently from the other tourism projects that have been established in the state, take advantage of that isolation, the fact that the culture is very strong in Huslia; and also because Huslia just has a lot of great storytellers that we feel like we have the ability to share that.

COMMISSIONER MASEK: And is the corporation helping --

MR. COGHILL: No, the corporation --

COMMISSIONER MASEK: -- to promote it, or is it just the villagers that are.....

MR. COGHILL: This is part of my complaint, that the corporation is not doing it, partly because funds for doing the marketing research are available to not-for-profits, villages, perhaps not exclusively, but they're much easier available to not-for-profits and governments than they are to a profit-making corporation. There are programs for individuals in profit-making corporations, but they're not as user friendly.

COMMISSIONER MASEK: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Did you have more?

COMMISSIONER MASEK: No, I think that's all.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Oh, okay. I want to address this also to Bob Coghill. There are a couple things that your comments triggered in my mind. Number one, you said, in effect, that local enterprise, whether it be village corporations or individuals, can't compete in certain areas with government, because they can't do it as cheaply. I'm thinking that that's a fallacy, because government can only do it so cheaply because it is subsidized by revenue money. I mean, it isn't that they're so much more efficient; it's just they got more money to spend, and they can do it without regard to having to make a profit.

MR. COGHILL: I definitely didn't mean to say they could do it more cheaply. In fact, I think they do it much more expensively.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Exactly, so my next step is why wouldn't it make more sense, instead of using government funds to run utilities networks, or other enterprises like that, why wouldn't it make more sense to take that same revenue money and make it available to local entities or the private sector as low-interest loans, which if that's low enough -- and we know this from the three-and four-percent money that used to be available years ago, how that was a real stimulus -- why wouldn't that start something that would keep on going, and the government eventually would get it back. Wouldn't that make more sense than having the -- pardon the expression -- Owner State, own it all?

MR. COGHILL: Well, I hope that's something that can be worked out. Well, I know it can be. It's done in the urban settings everywhere, but we have to --

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Seems to me if one of your village corporations could borrow money, for instance, for a tourism capital investment facility, you have to provide something for the tourists. You can't just tell them stories. They have to be able to sleep somewhere overnight. If the government could give you a three percent loan that you could pay back over 50 years or 30 years, that should do wonders, shouldn't it?

MR. COGHILL: Well, that's the secret to the riches of our corporation is that so far no government will provide the capital, and that's what we will probably do -- giving away a trade secret, what we will probably do is build out of our funds, the capital resources that the village Huslia needs --

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: And I have another question.

MR. COGHILL: -- to run this program.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: You talked about ANCSA corporation, and I was one of the midwives who brought into this world the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and its progeny; and one of the things that I'm wondering about, whether the Division of Resources between regional corporations and village corporations was equitable and fair, or whether it shortchanged the villages? Do you have a comment?

MR. COGHILL: I can't comment to that.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Why is that? Is that a taboo subject?

MR. COGHILL: Well, no, I'm not a shareholder. I'm what they refer to at Tanana Chiefs as one of the rednecks, especially at this time of year; and I really have never given that any consideration.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Anybody else on this panel have any thoughts on that? It's something that's been troubling me, because we created regional corporations in the image -- and I know Morrie is going to throw a dagger at me in a minute -- in the image of the Western-style profit corporation, and so they are very effectively and efficiently run in that image; but most Western-style White man's corporations that we know are primarily interested in providing for their managers in the style to which they would like to become accustomed; and then if something incidentally is available for the shareholders, hooray, but not always. Sometimes they lose money, and the managers get raises; and I don't know whether that's the best way to provide for the economic development of rural Alaska, and I'd like some input on that. Maybe I'm totally off base.

MR. JOHNS: I think you're talking about two separate issues here.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: All right.

MR. JOHNS: You' re talking about what ANCSA was regional corporations, and the ideas about how to operate those. The descendants who do not like how these were created are more thinking in line of retaining a lot of the Native rights, rather than looking at it as a business entity. I worked for 7% years for our regional corporation as one of the senior management, and no matter which structure you put in place, you'll always have differences of opinion how to operate. But --

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: But my question is why should village corporations have to go to government for money when, for instance, the subsurface rights to their resources are vested in their regional corporation? If they had those, maybe they wouldn't need to go to government for money.

MR. JOHNS: You're going to have to ask every single village corporation about that.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: All right. Just thought I'd throw that question out. On subsistence, I have a question. Let me preface it by saying I've never hunted in my life; I couldn't hit a moose at five paces with a bazooka, because I'm industrially blind; I've fished occasionally, but not lately, so I have no personal interest in one way or the other; but the argument goes that we have a finite resource, we have so much wildlife, we have so much game, so much fish, and there are competing interests. There are the true subsistence needs for people who live traditionally off the land and who at least, even in our modern economy, have to supplement their income and their sustenance by hunting and fishing. Then there are the people who basically do it for commercial reasons, and particularly the fisheries; and then there are the sports hunters who do it because they love to hunt, or they go for trophies or whatever.

And we have a State Constitution that says, and the Supreme Court, you like what they say or not, they did interpret it the way it's written; and if you don't like it, you need to change it. The Constitution says that every Alaskan has a right, the same right, to those limited resources. And if you give preference to one group, that takes away from the other; and maybe that's what should be done, but I'm talking about legally now, you need to do something to be able to do that.

So what is the answer to that? Should subsistence be based on need? In other words, should you have to prove that you need the meat and need the fish to support your family? Should it be based on residence, rural versus urban? Should it be based on race or ethnicity? How would you define subsistence for the purpose of preference?

MR. JOHNS: You know, God blessed this lady's heart before I came here, because it was just -- she incited me about something here, about a need to explain why we need to do certain things. Her nephew went out on a plane the other day, and he was missing for almost 30-some hours, and she told me that:

"I never know what it's like until I experience it to have lost somebody. Now I can tell other people what it feels like."

It's just like an alcoholic. You can't really know what an alcoholic is until you are one, or you've been through it. Abused child. You' ll never know. You' ll never know. And I can't sit here and tell you exactly how I feel that my need to subsistence hunt until you've actually done it yourself. And that's hard to explain.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Unfortunately -- and I know where you're coming from, and I feel that you're right -- unfortunately, a majority of the people who have the power to make that decision are in the same class of people who have never done it; and, therefore, don't understand it. So how do you reach them? How do you explain to them why certain things should be done? See, we are going to have to make recommendations, and to put them into a book isn't going to do any good, just like you pulling it out very effectively. It'll be just another book. We've got to come up with arguments that will convince reasonable people of good will that they should go in a certain direction, whether by legislation, or policy, or whatever.

And I have followed with a lot of interest the subsistence debate; and, as far as I'm concerned, it wouldn't affect me one way or another to give the classical rural preference to rural Alaskans. It wouldn't hurt my feelings a bit. But there are people who are just as passionate on the other side of this, and they have a certain amount of political clout. And I would like to hear some effective arguments, why, for instance, it would be right to amend the Constitution of the state to allow a preference for rural residents.

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: Okay, you're talking about economy, you're talking about education, you're talking about culture. You take away subsistence, you can throw all the rest out the window for Native people; because all of that is tied to subsistence. And to understand that, I cannot sit here -- I don' t have enough days to sit here to explain what it all entails.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: I know where you're coming from, and you don't need to do that; but what I'm saying is how do you explain to the White resident of rural Alaska, or the Native resident of urban Alaska, a system of rural preference, or a system of preference based on race or ethnicity.

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: Ed, if I may, that needs to be a subject maybe for a complete hearing by itself.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: You're right. You're right, but the subject was brought up as a key point; and it's one that I'm deeply interested in and that I want to do the right thing. And of course I'm also, as you probably know, an advocate of a Constitutional Convention; and that's the only way, I think, you'll ever going to gee a Constitutional amendment, if that's what s appropriate, to deal with the subsistence issue.

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: Just let me add a comment, if I might though. The problem hasn't been just a political one. I mean, a majority -- I mean we've had the entire Congressional Delegation; we've had a big majority in the Senate before; we had 24 votes in the House, which is clearly a majority, supporting a Constitutional amendment. We came one vote shy in the House. We had a majority of the Senate with us; we had the Governor with us. So, it's not that the political will hasn't been lacking. This time around, in the special session, I think it was called too early. It was very narrow call. Subsistence Constitutional amendment was never really given a chance in this special session, because the Constitutional issue was not put on the table; and, therefore, could not be properly debated. So the issue was never given a fair hearing in the special session; but go back to the last time, we did have all of those entities supporting a Constitutional amendment. We've polled that issue. The public is with us. Very clearly they want to decide; and very clearly they support a rural subsistence parting. I only mention these things, 'cause you may not know that.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: I do know it. I'm aware of them, and also I'm aware that you'll never -- don't say never, but it's very unlikely that you'll ever get a constitutional amendment that is so controversial through the legislature; because you need two-thirds, and it's almost impossible. What you need is a change in the Constitution which will permit a popular initiative to amend the Constitution, which we do not now have.

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: But now, just a suggestion while we're sitting up here figuring out how to resolve it, time is ticking away for us.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Yep, you're right, and I apologize; but it is a key issue. I did have a question though of Mr. Akers. This council that's being created, is this just going to be another layer of bureaucracy, or is it really going to cut across bureaucratic turf boundaries? And how? What powers will it have, other than to try to persuade?

MR. AKERS: I think, you're correct. The danger is there to be another layer of bureaucracy. There have been eight pilot states in the system that have already adopted the council program. There's been measures of success in the process, in that the council itself, obviously, is not going to run out and say:

"Department of Commerce and Department of so and so, you get together. You make one agency and go down your trail."

What it's job is to do is that if an area like the Middle Yukon wants to do tourism, and it's been a major part of the strategy, it is up -- and there are some inhibiting factors in federal or state regulations that keep something from happening, then that council and its director can cut across bureaucratic lines by going straight to the Monday morning management group in Washington, D.C., and getting it on the table at the Department of Interior, or the Corps of Engineers, or wherever it's occurring. And they've been successful in getting waivers for allowing states such as Alaska, who when they make regulations and laws in Washington, they make them for all; and; typically, they don't fit Alaska's needs. And, therefore, that council's job is basically to deal with those issues.

Now, in it's a form of commitment. The federal government is committed to it, to the extent that their federal agencies are bound to participate on the council. The state agencies are being invited, too; and, hopefully, we can convince them that it will be an assist. And, secondly, I think it will be the core of the people, the grassroots organizations, that will assist in making it work; and those are the people invited, and those will be Native corporations, both regional, nonprofit. The other organizations that should sit on this council are regional development organizations, state, and local governments. So, if they're not committed to making it work, it won't work. But if the village of Emmonak or Unalakleet feel strongly about, something, and they participate in the council, and they force it to work, then it shall. But it's a matter of education, commitment, and there's not a lot of money in this thing; but they have had successes.

And I want to put on another cap on subsistence; I want to take off my State hat; I want to put on my -- on the issue of -- this is an economic panel -- economics or -- and as a past General Manager of Unalakleet Native Corporation for three years, and having managed and operated a general store in that community, I can tell you that while we did $1 million of business in selling groceries in that community of 800 people, it was not because they had cash that they could survive; it was because they had subsistence opportunities in their community to get seals, whales, fish, trout, ducks, geese, moose, that they were able to survive at least at a standard level, or a level better than what they were used to. It was not because the groceries could get in on Mark Air every night, and if that was all that was available to them, they would not have been able to survive in that community. Me, as a General Manager, recognized that over 60 percent of that economy was probably subsistence.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Thank you. Anybody else wishing to address economic issues that are not in this group of presenters? If not, we'll close this particular segment. I want to take this opportunity --

MR. JOHNS: I would like to --

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: We've got Group B, right?

COMMISSIONER BOYKO: Oh, that' s right, we've got Group B.

MR. JOHNS: I would like to introduce a respected elder from our region, Ben Neely (ph.) and his wife, Hazel, sitting over here.
(Applause)


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Last modified May 11, 2011