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Testimony

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

Nome, Alaska
September 21, 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

ALASKA NATIVES COMMISSION
HEARING
Nome, ALASKA
SEPTEMBER 21, 1992

Deposition Exhibit #2 - Testimony of Loretta Bullard

STATEMENT BEFORE THE FEDERAL STATE COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF ALASKA NATIVES

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Alaska Review Commission. My name is Loretta Bullard. I am President of Kawerak Incorporated, the regional Native non-profit corporation which provides social, economic, employment and other services to the residents of the Bering Straits Region of Alaska.

I would like to thank you for this opportunity to testify on the policies and programs of the United States and the State of Alaska and to explain how I believe these policies and programs should be modified to promote positive change in the lives of Alaska's Native and rural peoples.

Government should be by the people for the people and reflect the values and morals of the people. Unfortunately, in many instances, federal and state policies do not meet the needs or reflect the values of Alaska's Native people.

Three years ago I had the opportunity to attend the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Sisimuit Greenland. This past summer, I attended the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. These two trips were a real eye opener for me in that I had never realized how extensive an impact governmental policies can have on the lives of aboriginal populations.

In Greenland, the Danish Government did not implement termination policies against it's aboriginal populations nor did they force the Danish language upon its people. Instead in 1953, the Inuit residents of Greenland were extended Danish citizenship. According to Conrad Steinpol of Greenland who spoke at the most recent ICC conference, the Danish Government recognized that because Denmark was 4000 kilometers away, it was in their best interest to establish a home rule government. Conrad stated they received a lot of support from the Danish Government, negotiations were friendly, on an equal basis and they achieved home rule government without a drop of blood being shed. In 1980, a Home Rule Government was established in Greenland. Today, the Inuit population (which comprises 75%of the Greenland population) fully participate in the Home Rule Government as equals. The everyday language in Greenland is Inuktituk or a variation of Inupiaq. Children routinely learn Danish as their second language in school and many have picked up English as their third language.

The Canadian Government is in the process of amending the Canadian constitution to recognize tribal government as the third legitimate form of Government in Canada. They are in the process of creating "Nunavut" an Inuit homeland in the Northeast Canadian Arctic.

Contrast the Canadian and Danish Governments policies with those of the United States. The assimilationist policies, the termination era where the United States Government consciously sought to terminate tribal governments throughout the United States.

Even today, when we are in the era of Self-Determination, the United States Government continues to refuse to recognize and support the tribal governing authority of Alaska's Indian Reorganization and Traditional Tribal Governing Bodies. I've looked at the IRA constitutions which were signed off in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50's by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior -which recognized the tribal governing authority of Alaska Tribes and been struck by the similarities between the tribal and state constitutions. It's ironic that one form of federally recognized government is unwilling to recognize an equally legitimate federally recognized form of government.

The State continues to refuse to recognize tribal court authority or tribal jurisdiction. The Federal Government actively supports the State in their undermining efforts by it's unwillingness to clearly recognize the status of Alaska Natives. This situation results in valuable resources being spent trying to resolve this situation -resources which could be better utilized addressing the problems in rural Alaska. Who established the policy of the State of Alaska to actively oppose the recognition of Alaska's tribal governments? The Governor?

The Federal Government is not fulfilling it's trust responsibility to the Alaska Native people. Right now, we're placed in the position of trying enforce federal laws which were designed to promote the well-being of Alaska Natives and other Native Americans, when this responsibility clearly rests with the federal government. A good example is the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Federal Government does not insure that the State of Alaska fulfills its mandated responsibilities under the act.

Another example is the Native Preference Clause (7b) of PL93-638 which mandates Native American preference in employment and contracting opportunities in federally funded projects which benefit Native Americans. As you know, the IHS is now planning the construction of a new Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. Construction will start in the spring of 93. Yet the IHS has been unwilling to contract with an Alaska Native Organization to work with them to ensure adequate language is included in the bid documents, which in turn would ensure the Native Preference Hire provisions are met. Instead, IHS's position is that they cannot fund any of these activities until after the construction bid is awarded, in which case the tribal contractor would spend a great deal of time in enforcement activities which could have been avoided if the appropriate language were included in the first place. It's stances like these which we find incredibly frustrating to deal with.

Alaska's Native and rural people are incredibly over-- regulated in their daily lives. Present state fish and game regulations prohibit sharing and impose a sport hunting mentality on subsistence activities. I think it's only a matter of time before a way of life which has existed for thousands of years will be regulated out of existence.

Actions taken by the urban dominated Alaska Legislature continue to undermine the viability of the subsistence lifestyle. The recent entire special session on subsistence highlights the problem. The net result of the special session was a law allowing the Boards of Fish and Game to declare parts of the state "non-subsistence use” areas. Yet we are supposed to regard this as progress.

During the Federal EIS process on subsistence, we had recommended that subsistence users be appointed to the Federal Subsistence Commission. Instead, somewhere, someone made the decision to appoint the heads of federal agencies in Alaska to serve as the Federal Subsistence Commission for federal lands in Alaska. These same federal management agencies in many instances seek to actively curtail and undermine the rights of Alaska's Native and rural people. A good example is the USF&WS attempt to curtail use of sea otter pelts in arts and crafts. Another example is the recent sting operation conducted by the USF&WS which received national press. Thanks to the publicity activities, we now face an uphill battle in the re-authorization of the marine mammal protection act. No doubt the entire nation thinks Alaska Natives wantonly slaughter walrus and trade tusks for drugs. At no point in watching the publicity issued by the USF&WS, did I ever hear the USF&WS acknowledge the many, many Alaska Natives who prudently hunt and utilize our marine mammal resources.

Yet, these are the agencies which are now making decision regarding the subsistence use of resources. The individuals serving on the Commission, with the exception of one individual, have never lived a subsistence lifestyle. What this management action tells me is that the Federal Government does not trust Alaska’s Native and rural people to make the right decision when it comes to subsistence, or perhaps they feel we're not capable. Either way, the federal government has again imposed another management structure on us, one which effectively excludes the equal and meaningful participation of Alaska's Native people. One which turns the federal government into an enforcement agency. This when they had the opportunity to join in partnership with Alaska's Native and rural people, to safeguard the animal and other resources which we are so dependent on.

We're tired of fighting to protect our subsistence lifestyle. We're not going away, our subsistence lifestyle is not going to cease. I think the Governor and the state legislature needs to recognize this and get on with setting in place protections which we need now and will continue to need in the future.

Present state policies or lack thereof effectively deny Alaska's rural and Native people equal access to common resources. A good example is the False Pass situation and the lack of an effective and enforceable mixed stock fisheries policy. I know the federal government has really clamped down on high seas interception of Alaska bound salmon - but when the policies of the State of Alaska allow for massive interception of salmon stocks bound for our area, the result is the same -the salmon are not returning. Subsistence fishing for chum salmon was greatly restricted again this past summer here in the Nome area - and we haven't had a commercial fishery for years.

There seems to be an increasing levels of racial intolerance. Rather than promoting that we're all in this world together, that we need to recognize, appreciate and support the diversity of our many ethic and cultural groups, the federal and state governments seem to continually adopt policies hostile toward it's ethnic and minority citizens. Even in Nome, it's surprising how many non-Native parents are opposed to having their children exposed to Native culture and language in the school curriculum. This in a school district which is 71% Alaska Native.

A lot of time and resources has been spent studying Alaska Natives to determine "what’s wrong with them, why do they have such high levels of alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, homicide, all these social problems?"

My personal opinion is that the well-being of Alaska's Native people is directly tied to their ability to control what happens in their life . . . which right now is minimal and getting smaller. Because we're such a minority, we're powerless, even in the political process. We're regularly outvoted and short changed. Urban needs always take priority over rural needs. Powerlessness as a people translates into massive social problems.

In exchange for taking away our rights as aboriginal people, we have been given the; opportunity to compete in a larger society which does not respect or value us as human beings, except perhaps as ethnic oddities. Our rights are continually compromised or regulated away. We have lost the majority of our lands, our religion, our language, our culture, and if the State and Federal Governments have their way, the right to govern ourselves. It’s only natural we want to continue our culture, language and lifestyle.

I propose that this commission seek a response from the federal and state government as to why they feel the need to suppress and remove all authority from Alaska's Native people -except that granted by themselves? Why won't the state government recognize and support our tribal councils and tribal courts? Why are many non-Natives so reluctant to incorporate our language and culture into the school curriculum? Why is the Governor unwilling to set in place long term protections for the subsistence lifestyle? Why won't the federal and state governments deal with Alaska Natives as equals? As an Alaska Native, I would be very interested in their responses.

In discussing this, we thought the answer was probably related to fear. For some reason, Alaska Native autonomy is threatening to western society. I think it's time to quit operating from a platform of fear and move on to a platform of partnership and the policies of the State and Federal Governments should reflect that partnership.

There are some bright spots. I don't want to sound completely negative, Kawerak as an organization has been contracting with the federal and state governments for years to provide services to region residents and I think we do an excellent job.

Several years ago the Congress initiated what is called the Tribal Self Governance Project. Two years ago, Kawerak was one of ten tribes/tribal organizations selected nationally to participate in the Tribal Self Governance Demonstration Project. This demonstration project is a big step towards true self determination. Through this project, Kawerak and the region's Indian Reorganization Act and Traditional Councils have the authority to redesign BIA funded programs and services and direct resources to more fully meet the needs of tribal members. This is one step toward Self-Determination where we were authorized to contract to provide Bureau services and programs. In this project, the region's Tribal Governing Councils truly have the authority to make decisions.

In closing, I believe that on policy could truly make a difference in the status of Alaska's Native people. All of the problems and issues previously mentioned could have been avoided had this policy been in place. That is, I believe the federal and state governments, when developing policies, programs, and regulations affecting Alaska Natives, needs to consciously implement a policy of empowering and supporting it's Native peoples. Federal and State programs which do not empower Native people but which purport to solve our problems for us, have not and will not work. By empowering us, you lay the responsibility back in our hands, where it rightfully belongs.


 

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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