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Native Pathways to Education
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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

 

Governance Issues

 

COMMISSIONER BOYKO:: The next item on the agenda, and we're relentlessly moving along here way behind schedule is -- this was supposed to come after the lunch break at 1:30; and it is now 3 o'clock. The next item is Governance, and I wonder if Father Elliott would come and join us here, and take over. We're told we've got to move faster. (Laughter)

COMMISSIONER BOYKO:: I tried, but you guys have so much good stuff, it seems like a crime to cut you short.

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: I may have to throw it back to you. I have to leave here at quarter to.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO:: Well, why don't you get started, and I'll pitch in when the times comes.

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: I'm going to apologize to all of you in advance is that I'm not officially supposed to be here, but I'm delighted that I can be; but since I wasn't officially supposed to be here, I have to leave in 45 minutes, so if I walk out, it's not because I'm not interested in what you're saying, it's just that I have made this prior commitment which I can't change. Now, if you would introduce yourself, sir, and I believe that you' re the first speaker. Is that the agreed order?

MR. TONY: I'd defer to Jonathan Solomon. He's the eldest here.

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: All right. From Fort Yukon.

MR. SOLOMON: Members of the Commission. My name is Jonathan Solomon. I'm from Fort Yukon. I’m the Second Chief of the tribal council there. I'm supposed to speak on government issues; but it seems to me that everything on this agenda is a government issue, and I'd like to speak a little bit, on all parts of it. You know, we heard all this morning about education and economics and all this kind of things. You know, I can only speak for myself, because this Commissioner meeting is not in rural Alaska or in a village. It should be. I am not an expert, and I'm not authorized to speak for every individual in my tribal member at this point; but if you were in rural Alaska, in the village of Fort Yukon, you would hear from them. I can only speak for myself as a tribal member.

But we didn't even know that this Commission was going to meet here until Friday. It was only by the generosity of Tanana Chiefs that I'm here, because the rest of the tribal members can't make it over here because of low funding. I think that if the commissioners is going to accomplish anything, it's going to accomplish what you guys are after in rural Alaska, at the least, the sub-region level, if not the village level.

When we talk about education, we need to hear from our elders, which are our teachers; and we need to hear from our family parent, which is our teachers. You have heard it all, but it didn't come from rural Alaska, it came from individual members like me. And I totally agree with Pauline and Madros when they say the responsibility is the parent level. I'm a parent. I got 10 kids. My oldest boy is over 40 years old now, and he has a college degree because he wanted one. I didn't want a college degree for him; he wanted one. My oldest girl is back in college, because she wants a degree. My youngest son got a degree from University of Denver, Colorado, because he wanted one.

It's not up to the educators to educate your kids. It's up to you and him or her for what you want. There is not a bad teacher in this whole country. The teacher has got the education. All you have to do is ask for it. This is a teaching of our elders.

When I was brought up, my father and my uncle say:

"Hey, get what you want from the White people, and then leave them alone."

I was brought up by six uncles and a father. Taught me these things. Says you've got to ask if you want something. If you don't ask, you'll get nothing. And he sent me to school for three years, because they were reading in truth in their own Native culture. But they knew char they have to learn the other one, so they sent me to school for three years after they said:

"That's enough."

And then me and them started teaching each other. And they taught me the Native way of life, how to read the Native language, and I taught them how to speak the English language. But it belongs to us. Nobody can blame anybody if you lose your Native language. It's you, the parent; us, the parent, that is losing it for them. And I'll tell you how easy it is, because we got a Native tongue to speak our language. In 1960, a gentleman come back to us from Outside, and he couldn't speak his Native language. Wanted to run for council, and the rules at that time, you have to speak the language on the floor and make a speech before they get elected. He couldn't do that. He lost his Native language, and he went to his aunt for one year, and the year after that, he made a speech in the Gwich'in language at the floor, and he got elected.

You can't blame nobody on these kind of things. It's you the parent. You the grandmother. You the uncle. You the teachers. Not the White man teachers. They can't teach you the Native language, ‘cause they don't know it. It only takes one hour in the day to sit down with your kids. That's all. Sacrifice one hour every evening after supper for your kids to understand your language. My father had 23 kids; they all spoke the language. I've had 10 kids; they all hear me, some do speak to me.

On economic development, all the tribal and the village people have set for many years, and they keep escaping, the commissioners, and the board of directors, and all this kind of stuff that are there at these hearings. Economic development for Fort Yukon is hunting, trapping, and fishing. We got a project right now at Fort Yukon -- airport project. The streets of Fort Yukon were flooded, wiped out year. With all kind of work, Monday morning there was eight lobs opening; not one was filled, because the kings happened to show up. When September hunting come around, you’re not going to find anybody to work in Fort Yukon, because this is their economic development you're talking about. Their livelihood. They can't preserve anything in almighty dollars. They quit a construction job to go fire fighting, because that's where they belong, on the land.

A lot of people do a lot of study on this job thing. Sure, they'll do a lot of study in Fort Yukon. Fort Yukon job thing is (indiscernible). One out of every hundred work, because if you take a survey in Fort Yukon, you approach the people and say:

"You'll work for nothing?"

And they will say:

"No."

And that's the statistic they're using. They should ask:

"Do you want to work?"

Then they'll get another statistic.

Our own corporation our own nonprofit the people that are supposed to be representing us are doing these things. We're tribal government; we're sovereignty. We need that. When Alaska became a state if they never asked the tribal people if they wanted to be part of the state of Alaska. But in our Constitution says that. And that's federal Constitution. We need the federal and the state government to get out of our life.

Just like the subsistence issues. It's federal and tribal government problem. It's not their problem. It's the State problem cause the State is the one that wrote that thing. We need to get rid of a 280 law that came with statehood that says that the State will govern the Native people. Bullshit. Let the Native people and sovereignty run their own life.

When I grew up in the village of Fort Yukon, I was under tribal government law. And I can speak here before you with three years of education. That's the kind of law (indiscernible). It’s the kind of law I grew up in. Respect, but in another term ask and demand of your people what you want. Ask for it 'cause if you don’t you’re not going to get anything. And these kind of things that we have to talk over. We don’t wait to have to talk about all this stuff you guys put here. We all know that you got to go out to rural Alaska and ask. You're not going to find it here in Fairbanks. Least of all me. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: Thank you, Jonathan. And who is the next speaker, please?

MR. ISAAC: My name is Jerry Isaac. I'm the Chairman of the Tanacross Village Hiring Council. I share with Jonathan the statement that he made that all of these are tribal government issues -- all the panel discussion issues. But, however, there's a few things that I'd like to expound upon to give credence to why I personally feel the way I do concerning tribal government.

Broken down, tribal government to have three basic elements that's: powers, responsibilities, and its very existence. Under the tribal government powers, there's law and order; there’s more principals; there's authority; there’s an enforcement. Under the responsibilities there’s passages of ordinance, moral teachings, protection of tribe, betterment of tribe, i.e. training, education -- and training is a very ambiguous word -- it could be training in the subsistence way of life and/or training in the Western culture sense -- regulations of resources use such as economic development, business development archeological development, art and crafts development.

Some of the existence factors include sources of power, reasonable use of the powers. The judicial arm of the tribal government is the tribal court, and the tribal governments relationship to other governmental agencies, i.e. the State of Alaska’s Division of Family and Youth Services, one of the most dictatorial, Hitler-type agencies along with EPA and DEC. Some of the things that I really object to and I disagree with is the principal of the right of -- first discovery theory, the Monroe Doctrine, some of the Constitutional provision under the Statehood Act, the potlatches, right to the religion of my choice, potlatch. I do not question the validity or the sanctity of the Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic Church or the Episcopalian Church. Why do they question my taking of fresh game to consecrate the religious practices?

The right of first discovery. Were the Indigenous people of the American continent contacted and consulted with? The framers of the Monroe Doctrine, have they gone to the indigenous people and asked them as to how they feel about the provisions of that doctrine? Some of the problems that I face every day every year within the Village of Tanacross-- I've been on the tribal government there since 1976 -- I'm growing along with Tanacross Village Council. There's several things, limited things. I've broken it down, as there's various things that is very problematic to the tribal council but some of these are just the ones I'd like to expound upon.

One of it is outside agitation. Being subjected -- tribal governments being subjugated in words and opinionating by conservatism. There are attempts to try to control tribal governments by outside entities. And there’s constant movement and threat of termination. There's also the constant questioning of the tribal government 's authority. We have problems that are forever dogging us due to the size of the tribe and the land jurisdiction, which causes lack of funds on a per-capita basis.

We also have a well-intended legislation that goes in the form of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. It’s a document for which diligence and fierce determination are owed to those spearheading that particular drive. However there are several factors that I feel very concerned about concerning Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. One is the very guts of that act plays or basic drives: greed, selfishness, and 100 percent individualism. It necessitates the use of foreign vehicles. Our forefathers do not know anything about the corporate system. I had to learn it. It is a direct contrast to the structure of the Native community, and it caught the Native populace in the state of unpreparedness.

There is many, many questions. Tribal governments are being attacked with questions on its land and jurisdiction, its very cultural identity. Does the U.S. government pay tax to the Royal British government? Why do they have regulations that mandates Tanacross Village Council to pay organizational taxes to the State of Alaska and the federal government? Regulations that govern different types of programs, be it federal or state. Because it works in Anchorage or D.C., it does not necessarily work in Tanacross.

Another feeling that I have towards the present system is the importation of another's government, and that government expecting the Tanacross Village Council to conform to its expectations and to abandon the original system of tribal government.

A word on economic development is many positive that can happen within the realm of economic development. There can be local control, local jobs, local experience, with onsite technical assistance, benefits to people as individuals and then as a community. Local control meaning the local organizations take the lead in the development, and all other carpetbaggers taking the status of technical assistants. Some of the reasons for some of these problems are banks are very unwilling to take risks in rural areas for good reason. Because of this -- there's too much use of subsidized banking system. More often than not, villages are approached with, quote:

"We'll do it for you. Stand aside,"

type of an attitude. Those days are over. I may not have a Master's degree in business administration; but I have the interest and the motivation to truly set a site forward that I can lead my people towards.

There's constant use of the double-standard system as a subterfuge. For example, the Native land you subject to an all-out application of existing law, but cases like the Hazelwood Blythe Reef fiasco was easily let off. A good portion of public programs and policies, the regulations governing these things, basically are almost non-practical in rural Alaska. Tribal court authorities are not fully understood and respected. It seems we have to consult state laws at all times; for example, to do simply little things, like to place a foster child in a foster home within the village. These are some of the concerns that the tribal councils face. I'd like to conclude with the same question: What is going to happen to these valuable testimonies? Many times I've been party to many different types of studies, all designed on how to make the Indian better. It's often put on a shelf, gathering dust. We're going to make something work. We're going to make this Commission work. We also need full Commission member participation. I would ask you not to take these comments lightly. You sit down and ponder upon them. I'm hearing the jurisdiction of the Fairbanks City Council. I subject myself to their governing powers, and I abide by their rules. I do not bring four-wheel trucks, or four-wheelers, or boats, and go swashbuckling all over their community unchecked. I ask for the same respect. That is all I ask. Thank you.
(Applause)

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: Thank you, Mr. Isaac, and I think I can assure you, and I think I can speak on behalf of all 14 members that none of your remarks we're hearing today are going to be taken, lightly. None of us would have accepted appointment to this Commission had we not had a sincere desire to faithfully serve the Native people of Alaska. Thank you for your testimony. Please -- and let me say, I may have to interrupt; but if I walk out, again remember, it's not being disrespectful to you; and I hope you'll understand.

MS. LEE: Oh' I was just going to say, I'm going to keep my testimony short, 'cause I need to make sure my kids haven't hogtied my husband at home -- (laughter) -- so I'm going to keep this short. I have -- my name is Shirley Lee; I'm Director of Village Government Services for Tanana Chiefs Conference.

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: I have read your written report, while I was waiting for you to speak. Thank you.

MS. LEE: Okay. I'm here on behalf of Tanana Chiefs, and, in some part, as a tribal member of Evansville, which is a small community up in the Brooks Range. The Village Government Services Program for Tanana Chiefs Conference is charged with providing technical assistance and training to all the villages that we serve under the 638 Contract. And when I was asked to prepare testimony, my mind went in a hundred different directions on what we could discuss concerning tribal government; but I've tried to condense that into my written testimony. I'm not going to go into my written testimony, because I've made enough copies for you to read.

Several days ago, I saw in the paper that a task force on local government made a recommendation to Governor Hickel that a new hybrid government be considered for Alaska, utilizing local and state municipality-type organization. They also recommended to him that by the year 2,000, there be organized governments in each village. When I read that, I had to shake my head like I often do when I read about State actions concerning tribal government, because this is just a prime example of people not looking toward tribal government that exist in each village; and that they're just so easily dismissed.

In Alaska, there are generally two types of tribal governments. They' re either traditional government, or the government is organized under a federal statute under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, which was made applicable to Alaska in 1936. So we have those two types of governments, one or the other, existing in most villages. They are active. They do utilize their powers, and they should be afforded more courtesy and legal comity than they are. Also, in addition to tribal governments in each village, there usually exist in most areas as state municipality or city.

What I just wanted to emphasize is that state municipalities do not reflect the true cultural government of the Native people, and they do not incorporate tribal practices into their infrastructure. Tribal governments, on the other hand, directly utilize the customs and tradition of their ancestors; and things that are passed down generation to generation are employed in their governments. Unfortunately, in Alaska, we have a State administration that has asserted that there are no tribes in Alaska; that there are just merely clubs based on -- membership is based on racial ties. This can be no farther from the truth. When we have that on the -- in addition to the State perception, we also have a general public perception that seems to fear tribal government. When we hear the word sovereignty, many people's hackles go up. When I worked for the Bureau, I was almost afraid to say the "s" word. But now it's -- sovereignty is merely a reference to self-government that does exist in our villages.

In my paper, what I tried to do is I tried to focus on specific issues, not general concepts -- the specific issues that are facing tribal governments today; and very quickly, I'll just go over them.

(TESTIMONY OF SHIRLEY LEE ATTACHED AS EXHIBIT #[7])

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: Miss Lee. I noticed -- or obtained from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, oh, some months ago, a listing they had of what they called the Tribes of Alaska. Is that the listing that you're referring to, which is regarded as tribal entities by the Secretary of the Interior?

MS. LEE: Well, I'm not sure, because I haven’t seen it; but they certainly don't call us tribes.

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: They did -- well, when I asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs, that's what they said:

"This is the listing."

MS. LEE: The Juneau area office has made the 1988 list and made a recommendation back to D.C., and perhaps that's the list you were looking at.

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: I don't know. I received it a few weeks ago from the Bureau of Indian Affairs office when I inquired.

MS. LEE: I'd be happy to provide what we have later on.

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: Thank you very much. And now, sir, I'm going to excuse myself, so I don't interrupt you in your testimony.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO:: Thank you, Father Elliott, for --

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO:: -- coming when you --

COMMISSIONER ELLIOTT: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO:: -- weren't required to. All right, who is our next speaker, please?

MR. TONY: Good afternoon, members of the Commission. My name is Paul Tony; and I serve as Tribal Affairs Planner and General Council for Ahtna/Tananena (ph.), otherwise known as the Copper River Native Association, and frequently referred to as CRHA. I'm also a member of the Subsistence Advisory Commission Committee to the Alaska Federation of Natives. Thank you for the opportunity to testify here today. I hope that through the ears of your Commission members, Congress will hear what we have to say. CRNA is located in the Ahtna Region, and is a tribal organization serving the eight villages of the region. It administers programs which are funded through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Indian Health Service, as well as other federal and state agencies. I offer comments in the area of subsistence and tribal governance, with the hope that the Commission's report will lead to both changes in policies affecting Alaska Natives, as well as legislation to address areas of concern to the Native community at both the federal and state level.

Subsistence is not a Native word, rather it is the non-- Native word used to describe Native sustenance from the land. As a Native person, I know that subsistence is not merely physical or nutritional, as the name implies; but is inherently tied to cultural and spiritual aspects of the Alaska Native way of life, or as it is call in the Ahtna Region, Indian Way.

Subsistence for the Ahtna Region is a very serious issue, because our region is very heavily impacted by thousands of residents of Anchorage and Fairbanks who come to the region to participate in fisheries, such as the fishnet fishery; personal-use fishery at Chitina, the sport fisheries at Gulkana and Klutina Rivers, as well as hunting for the Nelchina caribou herd, and moose, and sheep.

We are affected also by the dual system of management which exists, and which leads to confusion, and by State administration by subsistence, and management: of fish and wildlife resources on Native-owned lands, due to the steadily diminishing protections which this state government and state law have afforded to subsistence.

State administration -- or management of fish and wildlife resources on Native-owned lands is essentially a breach of an implied promise, which was made at the time that the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act land selections were made. Many of the selections were made relying on the implied promise that subsistence, and the hunting and fishing practices of the Alaska Native people, would be protected. Through that process, many of the land selections made under ANCSA were of traditional hunting and fishing lands.

For the Ahtna Region, the net result of these policies has been the absence of moose, where once there was moose to feed the people in the Ahtna villages; the absence of fish, caribou, ducks, and sheep, where once there was plenty. This absence leaves in its place a deep, unabiding hunger, which is tantamount to suffering.

I don't expect -- although it would be nice -- for those who have been raised on domesticated beef, pork, and chicken to understand that these foods will not satisfy the hunger that the Ahtna people have. But please take our word for it.

What solutions are there to these complex problems? One solution that I would propose that the Commission seriously look at is a review of ANILCA and the findings which Congress made under ANILCA that the subsistence priority was essential to Native well-being, health, and that Native preference on Native-owned lands was essential to Native well-being and health. Please ask Congress to make ANILCA consistent with the findings that Congress has already made, and extend the priority or protection for subsistence management to Native-owned lands which were primarily selected in reliance on the idea that they would be protected.

This Commission could also recommend changes in the structure of laws and policies concerning both state and federal government to lead more towards a cooperative management, which exists in other states with respect to tribal entities.

I was at the Federal Bar Association's Indian Law Conference in Albuquerque this year, and there was a presentation given there on a cooperative management system that exists up in the Great Lakes Region, which has as one of its elements, a lot of tribal control over the resource, as well as tribal biologists and managers.

The law could be clarified to strengthen the relationship between Native governments and wildlife management in Alaska. In addition, out of respect for knowledge which has been passed down for generations, the scientific management can also be valuably supplemented by knowledge of the elders.

Another issue where there is room for improvement is management of fisheries in Alaska. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act is clearly broad enough to give the Secretary of Interior authority over the management of fish stocks in Alaska. However, in the implementation of regulations, the federal subsistence board defined very narrowly the definition of public lands. This should be reviewed and broadened in the regulations to allow for the subsistence priority of ANILCA to extend to fisheries and to allow for federal and tribal cooperative management over fisheries.

Perhaps the strongest suggestion that could be made to Congress in your report is that Congress exercise its authority under the United States Constitution over the management of Indian affairs to make federal policy consistent in the area of wildlife management; and I'm speaking of the Marine Mammal Protection Act exception which applies to Alaska Natives. There should be consistent protection of the traditional hunting and fishing practices of Alaska Native people, based not on their racial characteristics, but rather on their unique and distinct political status as members of a culture and a sovereign group of people that exist only in Alaska; and, if wiped out, or if their cultural practices are threatened, will exist nowhere else on earth.

And I don't know what background some of the non-Native members of the Commission have; but, for example, if you are of Irish descent, you can go back to Ireland and find your culture still intact there; but if Alaska Native culture does not exist here in Alaska, it will not exist anywhere on this earth. And that is a very strong reason to support policies -- federal government policies especially, which affect Alaska Native culture.

In the area of tribal governance, the failure of state and federal government policies is clear from the statistics that exist, and I saw a column done by Mike Doogan that said that Alaska Natives have an abundance of everything bad and not very much of the good things, like State jobs, economic opportunity, as well as a number of other things. But we rate high in the number of prison inmates. In fact, I believe the latest statistic that I've heard is over 35 percent of the inmates in the State Prison System are Alaska Native.

The answer? Support and empower Native governments to address their own problems. On the State level, stop opposing through litigation and try to work cooperatively with Native governments.

Another area of concern is the area of tribal status; and, right now, there's some potential for tribes having to go through costly litigation and have what, amounts to possibly 200 trials on the issue of tribal status, and proving tribal status among the 200 tribes in Alaska. Rather than this costly and burdensome process of litigation, it makes a lot more sense for the federal government and federal policymakers again to address this and to recognize the tribal status of Alaska Native governments.

In the area of land status and tribal governmental control over land, it would be advantageous to create a mechanism to allow for the easy transfer of ANCSA land into trust for village council ownership for regions which are wanting to do that. Both the federal and state government could provide some of the money that is presently going to basically band-aid fixes to social problems that are being caused by the federal and state government, or administration of Native matters to support tribal self-government. It's more cost effective, and it makes better sense from a policy standpoint.

In addition, there should be a consistent policy both on the state and the federal level with respect to tribal organizations that contract under the Indian Self-Determination Act; and that contract for the provision of State services on the issue of indirect costs, or otherwise known as contract support costs.

From a policy standpoint, there are many reasons to support Indian self-government; reasons such as cultural understanding, cost effectiveness, and the basic results of government programs. On the other hand, there are no good reasons for non-Native administration over affairs which only affect Native people. The failure of this approach is evidenced by the many statistics and reports which have been done; and in the case of this Commission, the report that was done by the Alaska Federation of Natives, which brought about the existence of this very Commission.

From a philosophical standpoint, there are several principles which could be applied in this area, and I would like to ask you to think about two statements which have a lot to do with the history of this government. One is:

"No taxation without representation,"

which could be translated into:

"Don't give us the negative consequences of government without the benefits of having our interests represented."

And another statement which comes from the Declaration of Independence; and that is that:

"The consent of the government legitimizes government."

A government which does not employ, understand, protect the rights of, benefit, or respond in a meaningful way to Alaskan Native interests does not represent Alaska Native interests, does not govern with the consent of Native people; and, consequently, is not legitimate.

Thank you; again, for the opportunity to testify here; and since I'm participating on the task force on Governance, I will be further comments in the future, I hope.
(Applause)

COMMISSIONER BOYKO:: Thank you, Mr. Tony. Is there anyone not on our printed list that wishes to be heard on the Governance Issue that has signed up since? If not, what is the pleasure of the panel here? Pretty soon we're going to take a five-minute seventh-inning stretch. I'm going to try to see what we're going to try to do about the rest of the program. We have an hour to cover what was scheduled to take three hours, so there's going to be some major surgery, unfortunately; and there's nothing much we can do. Did you wish to ask questions of this particular group of presenters now, or take the stretch and then decide?

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: I think we ought to take the…

COMMISSIONER MASEK:: Take the stretch and (indiscernible).

COMMISSIONER BOYKO:: All right, we'll take a five-minute. I mean five minutes, folks. I realize that we're all operating on Indian time. (Laughter) Forgive me for making what would appear to be a racist remark. If's not; I operate on Indian time myself, by virtue of my own predilections. But we must for once -- five minutes is five minutes.

(Off record)

(On record)

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: May I have your attention for a moment. When we go to the Health Panel, we're going to have Group A and Group B-Group A is going to be Melinda Peter, and second is going to be Cindy Adams. They both have planes to catch. Donna Galbreath is going to speak next, Lorraine Jackson, and then Andy Jimmie. Group B is going to be Rose Ambrose, Mim Dixon, and Margaret Wilson. Okay? We did have a request , and we' re trying to work on the room to see if we can extend a little bit. We would ask, and I appreciate that this is a bit maybe unfair, 'cause some of those of you who haven't testified, if you could by -- Ed made the request, and I would second it that if you could summarize your statement, we would appreciate it. If you could keep your statements to five minutes; and maybe what we could do is I'll try to be the timekeeper and wave you when you're coming close to five minutes. We would appreciate it. The only reason we have to do this is to be fair to everybody to make sure that they're heard. You've all come a long way; you all have something to say; and it's all important; and we all want to hear it. And we want to be as subjective as we can, and fair to you; and we will go as long, physically, as we can in this room to make sure that everybody fa heard. So that will be the Native panel. I guess, is that fair? We don't want to be unfair; but, yet, we don't want to not listen to people either; and I think that is the most discourteous thing we can do is not listen to you. And to do that, requires you working with us, as well as we with you. Doctor Soboleff?

COMMISSIONER SOBOLEFF: (Indiscernible - away from microphone) the good things about is that panel -- I mean, the Commission people are your friends. We are not here proposing anything whatsoever. We are your friends; and if you haven't had a chance to speak; and if you've already spoken and forgot something, you really should write it down and send it in. Just write down what you think should be done, or ought to be changed; some problems that you are facing. Write it down and send it in.

COMMISSIONER BOYKO:: For those who don't know this, Dr. Soboleff is a member of the Commission and who has been modestly sitting in the back of the room. There were two folks who wanted to be heard on Governance. Would you please come forward, and state your name, and keep your remarks to five minutes. And if you don't, I'll sick Morrie Thompson on 'em.

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: As Dr. Soboleff said, we're your friends. We think we're not from the government.
(Laughter)

COMMISSIONER BOYKO:: Yeah, right.

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: Gideon James from Arctic Village.

MR. JAMES: Thank you for letting me testify here. My name is Gideon James. I'm from Arctic Village. Arctic Village is one of the two villages located on a former Indian reserve -- (indiscernible) Indian reserve. And we have an IRA-charter government. Shortly after passage of ANCSA, our corporations -- both corporations have transferred all of its land back to (indiscernible) tribal government IRA. This is something like 1.8 million acres of land. The IRA government was ratified in 1940. Presently, (indiscernible) IRA is pursuing to implement certain programs for our tribal members. The provision in the IRA documents qualified or tried to exercise its tribal jurisdiction over our tribal land and members. The existing federal programs for Native Americans are directed to tribes to administer and have; and (indiscernible) local governing body to have priority and also have ability to contract under the Self-Determination Act. In working with our tribes and IRA traditional government, I am convinced the direction the state of Alaska has taken is that many times tribes in Alaska have been ignored when appropriating funds for Alaska Natives.

Federal government, through its regulation and tribal regulation, recognition make it clear that tribes in Alaska will be treated equal with the rest of the Native Americans across the nation. When we talk about tribal government, we are not only talking tribe that owns the land, the interpretation in the ANCSA seems to be in question; but that is not so. The aboriginal title, aboriginal rights, is two different things. Aboriginal title to a land that we lost and that then Native people got paid for is the one that is real. But aboriginal rights is not lost. That's why the traditional government and IRA charter are in place today. And each tribe in Alaska should pursue to exercise those powers that’s still in place. And it seems like state of Alaska does not look at it that way. They'd rather take us to court and spend many, many hours; many, many years, just litigation, litigation, after litigation. And we have experienced that. We at IRA government experience that, and we know what we' re talking about. We're not going to compromise over any specific interest decision or recommendation. We will stand by the promise and the law that was written for Native tribes and IRA documents that's in place today.

So that's why I want you to know that each tribe, or each Native people in Alaska are eligible to exercise these things.

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: Thank you, Gideon. Any questions of Gideon James?

COMMISSIONER BOYKO:: Did Mr. Tony leave?

COMMISSIONER MASEK:: He did, I'm afraid so.
(Side conversation not transcribed)

COMMISSIONER BOYKO:: Was there one other person chat wanted to speak on Governance?

COMMISSIONER MASEK:: She changed her mind.

COMMISSIONER THOMPSON: No, no, she changed her mind.


This document was ocr scanned. We have made every attempt to keep the online document the same as the original, including the recorder's original misspellings or typos.

 

 
 

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Last modified May 11, 2011