Tag Archives: Alaska State

In Response to Fairbanks Daily Newsminer article on Alaska Land Into Trust issue: “Alaska Native lands ruling stirs deep concern”

Link to article here.  ADN op-ed linked here.
The interlocutor for the “con” side of the reporter’s story on the latest land into trust development, stemming from the DC Court of Appeals decision handed down last week in Akiachak v. Salazar, is a non-Native individual who is strongly interested in halting or stalling “federal overreach” on public lands in Alaska through the state instrumentality Citizens’ Advisory Commission on Federal Areas (CACFA). The individual as reported took it upon herself to proscribe “what is best” for Alaska Natives who have proudly resided both within the state and in some cases across international boundaries for millennia.
For the “pro” side of the argument, the reporter sought the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) non-profit advocacy organization Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN). While AFN is technically made up of individually enrolled tribal members who also happen to be shareholders of ANCSA regional and village corporations, the primary concern of AFN is to promote the interests of the for-profit ANCSA regional corporations based in the state. Can the President of AFN speak for the specific interests of each tribal government in Alaska? Much less can the press secretary of AFN speak for the specific interests each tribal government in Alaska? Rightly, no, which is why no statement was forthcoming from AFN officials for the purposes of the reporter’s story.
The tribes themselves can only speak to their own interests, and the three tribal government appellees of Akiachak v. Salazar know their reasons for fighting the federal and state governments for over two decades to apply for small parcels of land to be held in federal trust. Since each tribal government is named in the court reporter summary attached to the case, why did the reporter not attempt to contact their offices, and if the reporter could not reach any tribal officials for comment, why was it not mentioned in the story reaching a state-wide audience?
Already members of the Alaska Outdoor Council and former AFN General Counsel Donald Craig Mitchell have been providing landslide logic and doomsday scenarios knocking on our very doors, ranging from between the “Balkanization” of natural resources and lands management within state boundaries, or that “Indian casinos” are going to pop up in quick order from Barrow to Atka and Ketchikan and everywhere in between, now that tribes in the state at last have a low-impact channel to become land-owners and managers of land, in small parcels that cannot be under threat of willing or hostile sale due to the federal trust status. The Secretary of Interior and the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs will certainly not accept land into trust applications willy nilly regardless of any larger consequences beyond the applicant tribes, per the BIA Land Into Trust handbook, recently pointed out by op-ed contributor and Canadian Métis UAF adjunct professor of federal Indian and ANCSA law Jenny Bell Jones.
There have been instances of ANCSA village corporations transferring all or some of their lands to tribal governments – communities made up of corresponding shareholders and tribal members – which required a super-majority board of directors’ vote and super-majority shareholders’ vote following broad consensus amongst their communities. This should make it clear not every ANCSA regional and village corporation are going to transfer large swaths of their lands to their corresponding tribal governments as part of a land into trust application, which would be two very different and unrelated processes to begin with.
I hope the next land into trust story from the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer will feature due diligence from one or more of their reporters, and not feature a one-sided argument from a non-Native individual on the negative aspects of diverse Alaska Native tribal government applications for land into trust.
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Governor of Alaska and the Tribal Advisory Council

On October 14th, 2015 at the Egan Center in Anchorage, during a National Congress of American Indians and Alaska Federation of Natives co-hosted meeting of tribal leaders and Governor Walker and his Cabinet members, the governor signed Administrative Order No. 277.  AO277 created the Governor’s Tribal Advisory Council, or GTAC, where 11 tribal leaders from around the state will be nominated and selected amongst the sovereign tribal governments to sit for three years and to advise the Governor of Alaska on 11 different but inter-related Alaska Native issues:

1. Education

2. Healthcare

3. Subsistence

4. Energy

5. Public safety and justice

6. Wildlife and fisheries

7. Economic development

8. Housing

9. Transportation

10. Language

11. Culture

Not since Governor Tony Knowles has such high-level acknowledgment been achieved between the State of Alaska and the 266 federally-recognized tribal governments located within the state, and before that not since ANCSA was passed in 1971 has such a high-profile been designated to Alaska Natives by the state.  Governor Knowles made a misstep, however, in the year 2000 with the “Millennium Agreement,” where the agreement stipulating a state-tribal relationship required an “opt-in” clause for tribes to sign the agreement.  The “opt-in” clause waived sovereign immunity in some respects, automatically creating an unequal partnership between the state and any tribe that signed the agreement.  As a result, not more than 50 federally-recognized tribal governments signed the agreement, and the subsequent “state-tribal relationship” spelled out in the agreement halted entirely.

Under the guise of AO277, there is no waiver or any other reservation requested or required by the state for tribal governments to nominate seats; 11 tribal leaders will have direct access to the Governor’s office and to the various departments under his or her charge, with direction to advise on the 11 topics numbered above.  For too long has the State of Alaska literally fought tooth and nail politically, policy-wise, and in the courts tribal governments around the state.  A few lucky tribal governments have successfully applied for and received “Capital Improvement Project” monies from the legislative Capital budget process, but with the literal drain of funds for FY16 and beyond due to the crash in crude oil prices, options for tribal government participation in the state government apparatus looked minimal.  With GTAC in the opening stages, there is much potential for years of wrongs to be righted in terms of state-tribal relations, and therefore improving tribal governance and increasing governmental capacity in the most remote areas and regions of the state.

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The Politics of Dispossession – Alaska Context

For the past 10 years I have closely read federal Indian law, from the Supreme Court “Marshall Trilogy” cases to the latest amendments made to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.  I have even compared Aboriginal law and policies between Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.  There are many similarities between all of the former British colonies, or the indigenous peoples’ lands occupied by Euro-Americans.  The League of Nations, of which the Covenant was signed and entered into force in 1920, and the modern-day version United Nations, organized in 1945, would not recognize the unique rights of indigenous peoples across the globe until 2007, when the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was agreed to by the UN General Assembly.  Even then, the declaration is not legally-binding, and only provides guidelines or a framework for nation-states to “begin on the right foot” recognizing indigenous peoples’ relations within fluid laws and policies.  I say “fluid,” because the aim of many indigenous peoples – around the globe, not just in Alaska, not just in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and many countries elsewhere – is to further improve upon the accommodation of indigenous peoples within Western legal regimes.  In this modern day and age, should the Marshall Trilogy really be the pillar of US federal Indian law?  Should Native Americans across the US really allow themselves to continue to be characterized by racial and discriminatory stereotypes, like savages, hunter-gatherers, and plain uncivilized?

Simultaneously, the bilateral Treaty of Cession of 1867 between the US and the Russian Crown made a distinction between “civilized” and “uncivilized” Alaska Natives.  According to ourselves, as Alaska Natives, we were never less than civilized.  The Treaty of Cession also included brief mention of “creoles,” as a social and cultural class.  In the fall of 2006 I attended a doctoral dissertation lecture in anthropology by a young Russian lady from St. Petersburg, and her work only included those of “full-blooded” Russians in what is sometimes labelled Russian America.  After she gave her practiced lecture, I raised my hand and asked about Russian creoles or mix-bloods.  She commented it was an interesting question, and replied “I haven’t considered that.”  How can one spend an academic career examining Russian America history and not consider the implications of blood, social, and cultural creoles?  My paternal ancestral line descends from such a lineage.  I had never met nor heard of the young lady prior to her lecture, but how could I not be personally offended by the occlusion of Alaska Natives from such an in-depth, broad historical academic treatment of government and Russian America Company records?  I am still to this day nine years later incredulous and dumbfounded.

All of my grandparents, whom none were non-Native, were born before 1936, the year the Indian Reorganization Act was implemented in Alaska, creating “tribal governments” which the federal government would recognize and treat with on a government-to-government basis.  I imagine all of my grandparents were enrolled into one tribal government or another, even though they all moved from seasonal camp to seasonal camp and did not stay in one place for long.  I also imagine Bureau of Indian Affairs “Indian agents” also pushed on their parents, whom six out of eight were Koyukon Athabascan, to apply for Indian allotments from the 1898 congressional Dawes Act, where individual Native Americans could apply for and receive up to 140 acres of land within their home regions.  From these applications, my four grandparents inherited acreage and so too my parents.  I believe my father inherited a parceled allotment in Galena, and my mother her own parceled allotment in Tanana.  In 2008 I went to Tanana for the first time in twelve years since my grandmother Maudrey’s memorial potlatch in 1996.  I walked around and reminisced and visited with family friends whom were long lost to me, but they knew who I was and never left Tanana for a single day as far as they were concerned.  One of the elders reminded me to look into allotments my grandmother’s family had held and inherited over the years.  Apparently the deeds to several parcels were not accounted for, down the Yukon River from town, as she explained to me.  My cousin and I went for a boat ride down that way to take a look around for animals and stopped at grandma’s old camp to check it out.  Maybe that is where parcels are held in name, I’m not really sure.  I haven’t had the time, nor the expertise, to look into the record, but I imagine from time to time, when I get inheritance papers and identity verification and other such records on my desk, as is temporally required for all of us humans, I will have to look into the record and work with many others to set it straight.  It would only serve our ascendants right.

Next comes the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which dates to my parents’ generation.  In 1971 only my grandmothers survived with their children.  My two younger brothers and I grew up with twenty-one aunts and uncles and countless first cousins.  I have decided I am nothing without my first cousins in the same town, Juneau, where I currently reside.  I tell people, besides law or graduate school, this is the first and only time I will ever live away from my first cousins.  I have decided we are that important to each other, in so many respects, for identity and support as all-too-brief examples.  Rewinding to ANCSA, my grandmothers and my parents and their siblings, in addition to tribal enrollment – my father in Louden Tribal Council and and mother in Tanana Tribal Council, all enrolled into Doyon, Inc, the regional corporation for Interior Athabascan peoples.  My dad and his siblings were enrolled into Gana-A ‘Yoo, Ltd, the village corporation for Galena, and my mother and her siblings enrolled into Tozitna, Ltd, the village corporation for Tanana.  Concurrently, my mother’s maternal uncle Morris Thompson was the Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.  Governor of Alaska and soon-after Department of Interior Secretary Wally Hickel and US Senator Ted Stevens at the time had a hand in appointing him to the national position of working with federally recognized tribal governments.  BIA was the federal agency that organized and footed the bill for public hearings on ANCSA and community referenda held across the State of Alaska and even in some Northwest states like Washington, Oregon, and California for Alaska Natives living out of state.  “Uncle Big” would then go on to lead Doyon, Ltd and sit in various statewide leadership positions like the University of Alaska Board of Regents.  I remember him well from my childhood, and would very much appreciate the benefit of his views and insights to this day on state and Native politics, as do many others around the state I’m sure.  I do not hear the label “tribal shareholders” very often, but it does ring a bell: it denotes the dual-recognition Alaska Natives receive from the federal and state governments, and also a sense of unity between ANCSA corporations and tribal governments, which in reality is not always the case.  Either way, many Alaska Natives are both tribal members and ANCSA corporation shareholders, and we all have the right to vote in either forms of elected leadership of our peoples.

Continuing on to my personal experiences and engagement in federal Indian laws and policies, I have worked for Doyon Drilling, Inc, a subsidiary of Doyon, Ltd, and also for the Tanana Chiefs Conference wildland firefighting crew.  Because I am a shareholder of Doyon, I receive a preference for hire in business enterprise like Doyon Drilling, Inc.  The Tanana Tribal Council is a consortia member of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, and since I am an enrolled member of the Tanana Tribal Council, I receive a “Native preference” for hire under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, where tribal members are preferential ahead of non-Natives for hire in tribal governments and federal government agencies like BIA.  Uncle Big coordinated efforts on behalf of tribal governments around the country during the Congressional push for the ISDEAA, when he was BIA Commissioner.  I have worked for many other businesses around the state, and with many good people Native and non-Native, but the qualities of working for and with my fellow Native peoples is invaluable.  How easy it would have been for me as an impressionable young-twenty-something kid in the City and Municipality of Anchorage to make it in the non-Native world, not at all cognizant of “Native pride” or a sense of family history going back further – millennia – than “Western expansion.”  It sounds beyond cheesy, but if the preferential-hire programs did not exist, I would not be where I am today in my career, and prideful as I am of my family history.  At 21 years old going to work for Doyon Drilling put me next to people who have known my family for generations, and I now know and enjoy friendship with many of those people, even though I had grown up in Anchorage.  My first fire season in 2010 I was a member of an all Native squad of five members.  I never enjoyed working 16 hour days for two weeks straight than that experience with those four guys from a different region than I.  I can go to their villages at any given time and their friends and family would treat me as one of their own.

Recently, I was employed by a village corporation to process share transfers from the deceased to their named or by probate inheritors of stock. In the last decade the board of the village corporation decided on transferring whole shares to inheritors, to keep shares from becoming highly fractionated. Some shareholders hold stock up to three decimals, or essentially irrational amounts of shares, not to be equally divided until the shares return to the corporation itself. I was able to tabulate which classes of shares belonged to different age groups, and the board appreciated the work. We’re hoping the board can draft up new policies like creating a new class of shares for the “afterborns,” or descendants of original shareholders born after December 18th, 1971. Even with new enrollment of afterborns, much like fractionated Indian allotments from the 1898 Dawes Act, ANCSA shares are due to become just as complicated as the generations of shareholders age and new enrollees come into the fold. What is especially difficult is for an aged shareholder naming inheritors of their ANCSA stock, where some descendants might be favored and others left out. These are paradoxes concerning individual property vs. collective property.

This is how deep and important and vital Native identities are.  I carry around with me at all times my tribal enrollment card.  Because of the ID card, I can freely use Southeast Alaska Region Health Consortium healthcare services, an Indian Health Service “638” Self-Determination compacting and contracting consortia of Southeast Alaska tribes.  Despite all of this success, what is still at stake – and this is in closing – is subsistence.  ANCSA “extinguished” the exclusive subsistence, hunting and gathering rights of Alaska Natives.  It is our way of life, is in no way an understatement.  Federal lands, fish, and game management agencies recognize rural residency for subsistence harvesting, unless exclusive rights are explicit like the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Alaska Native rights to hunt seals and waterfowl.  State lands, fish, and game management, however, recognize no exclusive Alaska Native right to hunt and gather.  Some say state agency managers even work to stall and obstruct federal agency management of subsistence harvesting by Alaska Natives.  When Alaska Natives participate in state agency decision-making fora, we are forced to explain our subsistence practices to sport and commercial fisherman, who often view these practices as “poor,” or “wanting.”  Our way of life has never been poor or wanting, nor do we wish to take animals simply for sport.  The best intersection is commercial fishing between Native and non-Native.  The State of Alaska has one of the longest coast-lines in the world, and all of the regions practice commercial fishing in one form or another.  Even so, local fisherman need protections like the state “limited entry” program, where locals receive and enjoy exclusive commercial fishing rights to a region, and the federal Community Development Quota program, much like the state’s limited entry, but for three miles offshore and beyond to 225 miles in the US Exclusive Economic Zone.  The State of Alaska Board of Game, which manages big game hunting like moose, in the past three decades only allowed for exclusive Alaska Native subsistence harvesting for memorial potlatches in the Interior.  The State of Alaska Board of Fish only has one designated “subsistence” expert seat out of seven total.  The same interests carry their weight in the Federal Subsistence Board to integrate as much as possible state management laws and policies for federal lands like National Parks and Wildlife Refuges around the state.  The political, social, and cultural voices and participation of Alaska Natives have almost been reduced to nothing in the modern lands, fish, and wildlife management in the State of Alaska.  I think about this, a lot, just about on a daily basis.  I can go before the boards and state similarities between the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia for subsistence harvesting, but I would only be patted on the head and be sent on my way.  There has to be a core, fundamental shift in how these boards operate and accommodate Alaska Native subsistence harvesting practices.  Maybe, just maybe, the unreachable ideological heights of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can find some form of applicability in the State of Alaska when it comes to Alaska Native subsistence practices.  The guidelines have to come from somewhere.

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Summary: first report of the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council

Background

This post summarizes the first report of the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council in order to give readers an overview of the findings and recommendations made by this newly established body. The Council’s recommendations bulleted below are paraphrased summaries – not the verbatim recommendations made by the Council.

In May 2012, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell signed Senate Bill 130 into law, establishing the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council. The Council’s seven members were appointed by Gov. Parnell five months later. Council members serve three year terms. Council members are as follows:

  • Alaska State Senator Donald Olson (Inupiaq) of Golovin
  • Alaska State Representative Benjamin Nageak (Iñupiaq) of Barrow
  • Annette Evans Smith (Council Chair – Athabaskan, Yup’ik and Alutiiq) of the Alaska Native Heritage Center
  • April Laktonen-Counceller (Vice Chair – Alutiiq) of Kodiak College
  • Delores Churchill (Haida) of the University of Alaska Southeast
  • Yaayuk Alvanna-Stimfle (Inupiaq) of the Kawerak Eskimo Heritage Program
  • Walkie Charles (Yup’ik) of the Alaska Native Language Center at UAF

The purpose of the Council is to “recommend the establishment or reorganization of programs to support the preservation, restoration, and revitalization of Alaska Native languages” by advising the governor and legislature on programs, policies, and projects to provide for the “cost-effective preservation, restoration, and revitalization of Alaska Native languages in the state” (p. 4).

The Council published its first report (which you can find here) to the governor and legislature last week, which it is required to do every two years. The report provides a general overview of Alaska Native language status and revitalization efforts, and includes five policy recommendations to the governor and legislature. A summary of the report’s recommendations and findings are bulleted below.

The Council has met 11 times since members were appointed in October 2012. Council members developed a strategic plan in early 2014 that focuses on: 1) funded educational opportunities, 2) research, 3) planning to implement recommendations, 4) work with partners, and 5) ensure sustainability of the Council.

Council members have begun forming partnerships across the state, including with the Alaska Native Language Center and Alaska Native Heritage Center. It has carried out education and outreach at the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention and First Alaskans Institute Elders and Youth Conference. The Council has also met with other language stakeholder organizations such as the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

The Council carried out a 33 question online survey between 2013 and 2014, completed by 131 participants representing 65 communities. 90 percent of respondents said they want to learn an Alaska Native language, 80 percent of parents would enroll their kids in a language program and 97 percent of parents would participate in a language program with their children. 85 percent of survey participants know someone who wants to learn to speak, read and/or write an Alaska Native language. Only 50 percent indicated that there is a language program in their community.

Recommendations

  • The Council found research data on Alaska Native language status lacking or outdated, hindering “the formation of innovative solutions to Alaska Native language loss” (p. 10). Policy makers and leaders in Alaska need up-to-date data on language status, speaker numbers, and effective policies and programs. Alaska Native community members also need more information about learning opportunities in their own and other regions of the state.

    Recommendation 1: The Council wants a legislative grant it can use to conduct a comprehensive update of speaker numbers and language status around the state, citing the fact that the Council is working with outdated fluent speaker counts. Council members also want to use this grant to expand and continue research on existing and effective language programs in Alaska which along with Alaska Native Language Center research will be added to an online, comprehensive database.

  • Many Alaska Natives who wish to learn or teach their languages are not aware of learning opportunities or resources through which to do so. These communication and information gaps should be addressed through a concerted statewide effort.

    Recommendation 2: the Council recommends a two-year, public information awareness campaign modeled on Gov. Parnell’s controversial “Choose Respect,” anti-domestic violence campaign. The purpose of the public information awareness campaign would be to “utilize paid and no-cost efforts to share information with the public about the importance of Alaska Native language learning and revitalization” (p. 11). Phase 1 of the campaign would involve Council staff researching, surveying and determining public perceptions and information needs regarding Native language revitalization, restoration and preservation. Phase 2 would identify the campaign’s target audiences in order to “increase awareness of the Council and Alaska Native language programs, increase the desire to learn an Alaska Native language, build partnerships, and facilitate information sharing for the community online database” (p. 12). The Council would later “determine if the information campaign was successful in reaching the intended target audience, key messages understood and feedback provided.”

  • The Council observed that there is no central clearinghouse of information for policy makers, leaders, organizations, or learners to access information about language learning programs, hindering information-sharing and collaboration throughout the state. The Council found vast program differences between regions and few opportunities for inter-Alaska Native collaboration on language issues.

    Recommendation 3: The Council recommends funding for sponsorship of a statewide language summit at the Alaska Native Heritage Center; it also recommends funding to expand the Division of Community and Regional Affairs’ Community Database Online to include information about Alaska Native language statistical information and programs. The purpose of the summit would be to “allow individual regions a greater level of agency to enact region-specific language planning efforts” through information sharing about success stories (p. 15). The Council believes that such collaboration “will encourage communities to take a  leadership role in the activities and initiatives that work best for their location” (p. 15). The purpose of the Community Database would be to “serve as an information clearinghouse for information on regional language statistics, speakers, programs, learning materials, and funding” (p. 16). The website would allow users to submit additional information about their own programs and community efforts as well as to access language learning resources.

  • The Council found large discrepancies between existing language education policy and actual language learning opportunities in schools, as well as variance in resources allocation and access to learning opportunities across the state. The Council cites AS 14.30.420 as its primary example, a state statute from 2000 that “mandates that school districts with a majority of students who are Alaska Native shall establish a local Native language curriculum advisory board” to direct district language initiatives (p. 20).
  • Of the 54 school districts in Alaska, 28 school districts are majority Alaska Native yet only five are in compliance with this statute.
  • The Council also heard testimony about the lack of sufficient funds to support language education in schools and the corresponding need for families, schools, and communities to collaborate to achieve quality language instruction. Survey respondents expressed concern that parents and schools were not providing enough educational opportunities or tools to teach younger generations to learn Alaska Native languages (p. 18).  The Council also cited challenges related to teacher certification given that the majority of fluent speakers are elders.

    Recommendation 4: The Council recommends expansion of Alaska Statute 14.30.420. It wishes to research the statutory threshold of requiring individual, majority Alaska Native schools to comply with the law because there are often majority Native schools within majority white school districts. This would “increase the number of schools that benefit from having a Native language advisory board, and potentially, a Native language curriculum” as required by AS. 14.30.420. The Council also intends to help bring more school districts into compliance with the statute by working with the Alaska Department of Education and state policy makers to educate districts about the statute.

  • The Council found that language speakers’ traumatic experiences with assimilatory policies and language shaming continue to be a barrier to language revitalization. There is a “need for open dialogue and reconciliation within communities and at all levels of the state” (p. 23). Because of the role that governments and policy makers have played in language erosion, “it is reasonable to expect that policy makers participate in the creation of an environment conducive to reconciliation” (p. 24).

    Recommendation 5: The Council recommends the establishment of an annual state holiday, Alaska Native Languages Day, on April 21 (the anniversary of HB 216, the April 2014 bill that symbolically elevates Alaska Native languages to official languages alongside English). The Council also recommends that communities and regions work with the Alaska Historical Commission to collaborate on increasing the number of official Alaska Native language place names approved by the U.S. Geological Survey. Finally, the Council commits itself to continue to hear and record testimony at public events as a way of spreading awareness about the history of language suppression and to promote healing.

Conclusion

The Council believes that despite rapid, ongoing Alaska Native language shift, “well-planned and well-implemented language programs can reverse the trend” (p. 25). Council members believe that their recommendations, if enacted, “would improve the feasibility of future efforts for language revitalization in our state” and “aid policy makers, regions, communities, and families in their interconnected efforts” by “fostering an environment conducive to language use and revitalization throughout communities” (p. 26).

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HB 216 Alaska State House Democrat Minority Party Press Release

http://www.akdemocrats.org/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 21, 2014

 

Legislature Makes Alaska Native Languages Official State Languages

 

JUNEAU – Just after 3:00 a.m. this morning, the Alaska Legislature approved legislation (HB 216) making each of the Native languages in Alaska an official language of the state. The Alaska Senate voted 18-2 to approve the measure today in front of dozens of supporters. A spontaneous grassroots sit-in involving well over 100 people started at noon in the Capitol and lasted until 3 a.m. The measure has had tremendous public support throughout the process, including rare applause from supporters in both the Senate and House galleries and impromptu celebrations in the Capitol hallways as the bill moved through the committee process.

 

“In this late hour, on the night of Easter, we are excited to bear witness to the Alaska Senate passing this history-making bill to officially recognize our Alaska Native languages in the state they were birthed in,” said Elizabeth Medicine Crow, CEO of First Alaskans Institute.

 

“Today, we recognize Alaska Native languages as Alaska’s languages,” said Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. “This is not my bill or any other legislator’s bill. This belongs to the Alaskans in the Capitol and across the state who gave their Easter Sunday to see HB 216 passed into law. This bill belongs to the people.”

 

“Through this long day, we stood in unity for our dearly departed, our grandchildren that are to come, our elders who give us strength, and one another,” said Lance Twitchell, a Native language professor at the University of Alaska Southeast. “We stood for our languages and equality, and at long last we succeeded.”

 

The bipartisan legislation is prime sponsored by Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka), Representative Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage), Representative Benjamin Nageak (D-Barrow), Representative Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham), and Representative Bob Herron (D-Bethel), and has 18 other cosponsors in the House.

 

“The passage of HB216 by Alaska’s Legislature is a timely victory for language preservation in our state—nineteen of our twenty Alaska Native languages have been identified as critically endangered of becoming extinct in our state, and the remaining one is listed as endangered.  It is critical that all Alaskans take proactive measures now to strengthen our indigenous languages. Through well-planned and implemented programs, we can reverse this declining trend together,” said Annette Evans Smith, President and CEO of the Alaska Native Heritage Center and chair of the Alaska Native Languages Preservation and Advisory Committee.

 

In current state law, English is Alaska’s only official language. This bill expands the list to include Iñupiaq, Siberian Yupik, Central Alaskan Yup’ik, Alutiiq, Unangax̂, Dena’ina, Deg Xinag, Holikachuk, Koyukon, Upper Kuskokwim, Gwich’in, Tanana, Upper Tanana, Tanacross, Hän, Ahtna, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. Passage of the bill will not require public signs and documents to be printed in multiple languages, and it will create no additional costs to the state.

 

“Native culture enriches the lives of Alaskans in so many ways,” said Millett. “Naming Alaska’s twenty indigenous languages as official languages of the state of Alaska demonstrates our respect and admiration for their past, current, and future contributions to our state.”

 

“This legislation will highlight the importance of revitalizing the rich cultural legacy inherent in Alaska Native languages,” said Edgmon, chair of the Bush Caucus. “We recently celebrated our 50th year of statehood. In another 50 years I would like to see the many languages of our first Alaskans playing a vibrant role in the lives of people all over the state.”

 

“This vote recognizes the past, encourages the present, and secures the future of our earliest Alaska languages, said Herron.

 

“Uum alerquutem ikayurciqaakut tamanritlerkaaun yugtun qaneryararput [This law will help our future through the preservation of our languages], said Alaska Federation of Natives Co-Chair Ana Hoffman, first in Central Yup’ik.

 

“We are thrilled that this bill passed. Alaska Native languages are cornerstones of our cultures, and this bill recognizes their importance. Many thanks to the legislators who voted for this recognition, and also to the educators and culture bearers who championed the legislation,” said Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives.

“We applaud Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins and the State Legislature in acting to reverse historical assimilation policies that have sought to suppress Native languages.  The legislation is further significant in that it is a clear statement of the state’s recognition of cultural and linguistic diversity that represent one of our state’s greatest resources and is a major boost to ongoing language revitalization efforts,” said Rosita Kaaháni Worl Ph.D., president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

“I want to thank Representative Kreiss-Tomkins for starting the process of the passage of this bill. We, the co-sponsors, feel this bill will be a positive and long overdue formal legislative recognition of all the Native languages still spoken in this great state of ours and the people who still speak their own language,” said Nageak.

 

“Aarigaa, uvluluataq uvlupak. Una Pitquraq aquqtugumaaqtaqput piqpagnaqtuq Alaskam Inuqqaanginnun. Iluqaisa ataullugit Inuqqaangisa Alaskam uqausingat  atugaisuli. Uvagut Atanauruagut Alaskam Govamangata tavra taamna pitquraq inilakkipput. [Very good, this is a good day. This bill we are considering is highly regarded to the First People of Alaska. All of the languages of the First People of Alaska used in our long history are still in use today.  We want to preserve that.  We in the House of Representatives will collaboratively pass this bill.], said Nageak, first in Inupiaq, of which he is a fluent speaker.

 

“It’s a great day for Alaska when our legislature makes this gesture of respect and appreciation for Alaska’s Native people and their languages, which are in need of our encouragement and support, since numbers of speakers are on the decline,” said Lawrence D. Kaplan, director, Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “Our Native languages originated in Alaska and developed here along with the cultures that they represent.  These languages are truly, uniquely Alaskan, and we at the Alaska Native Language Center are happy to hear that they have been honored in this way.  It’s another first for Alaska, since with the exception of Hawaii, no state has seen fit to recognize their indigenous languages in this way.  A big vote of thanks goes to our legislature that gave up Easter Sunday to serve our state.”

 

The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.

 

 

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HB 216: Official Languages of the State Has Passed Into Alaska State Law April 21st 2014

Every Alaska Native language will now be recognized as official languages of the State of Alaska in addition to English.  The lone precedent is Hawai’i, which recognizes Hawai’ian as official in addition to English via constitutional convention in 1987.  Many, many people worked very hard to get this bill through the 28th Alaska State Legislature, which will adjourn today or very early tomorrow morning.

Hezoonh.  It is good.

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20140421/passionate-believers-native-heritage-prod-legislators-recognize-languages

http://www.ktoo.org/2014/04/21/alaska-native-languages-bill-passes-15-hour-sit/

http://www.adn.com/2014/04/20/3434157/natives-protest-lack-of-movement.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1

http://www.newsminer.com/news/politics/legislature-passes-bill-honoring-alaska-native-languages/article_e2823124-c95f-11e3-aa4e-001a4bcf6878.html

http://juneauempire.com/local/2014-04-21/waiting-it-out#.U1Vdkl4hGIY

 

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Alaska and Public Law 280 and its Upcoming 60th Anniversary

Background Report on Public Law 280 – Prepared at the request of Henry M. Jackson, Chairman, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs United States Senate.  U.S. Government Printing Office Washington: March 18, 1975.

MEMORANDUM OF THE CHAIRMAN

To: Members of the Senate committee on Interior and Insular Affairs:

“During the 1950’s the national Indian policy sought to end or ‘terminate’ the Federal responsibility for, and special relationship with, Indian tribes.  The ultimate effect of this policy on Indian tribes would mean that all statutes pertaining to Indians would no longer be applicable; that the Federal programs and services provided to Indians solely on the basis of their status as Indians would cease; and that Federal protection would no longer be provided for Indian lands and other natural resources.

“It was during this era that Public Law 280 was adopted by the 83rd Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower on August 15, 1953.  The express purpose of this public law was to grant broad discretionary authority to the States to assume civil and criminal jurisdiction over Indian reservations within their borders.  Prior to passage of Public Law 280, State jurisdiction over Indian reservations was prescribed by specific statutes approved by Congress or judicially recognized because of their involvement of non-Indians.  And jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters between Indians on their reservations was vested in either tribal governments or the Federal Government.

“The Public Law 280 legislation was approved by Congress in the face of strenuous Indian opposition and denied consent of the Indian tribes affected by the Act.  In its final form the statute gave five States civil and criminal jurisdiction over all but three tribes within those States, and gave the United States authority to grant similar jurisdiction to all other States.

“The Indian community viewed the passage of Public Law 280 as an added dimension to the dreaded termination policy.  Since the inception of its passage the statute has been criticized and opposed by tribal leaders throughout the Nation.  The Indians allege that the Act is deficient in that it failed to fund the States who assumed jurisdiction and as a result vacuums of law enforcement protection have occurred in certain Indian reservations and communities.  They contend further that the Act has resulted in complex jurisdictional problems for Federal, State and tribal governments.

“With this background the Committee requested the American Law Division of the Library of Congress to prepare a report on Public Law 280.  The Committee envisioned that the report would serve as an educational and informational document for the Indian community, Members of Congress and other interested individuals and organizations.  The Committee wishes to commend Mr. David M. Ackerman, legislative attorney, American Law Division, for his thorough legal research and preparation of the background paper.

“This report merits the study by all interested parties in this complex issue.  I am hopeful that it will stimulate fresh thinking and new approaches to the resolution of the many problems imposed on the Indian community, the States, and the Federal Government, by Public Law 280.

Henry M. Jackson, Chairman.”

“I have…signed it because its basic purpose represents still another step in granting complete political equality to all Indians in our Nation.

My objection to the bill arises because of the inclusion in it of sections 6 and 7.  These sections permit other States to impose on Indian tribes within their borders, the criminal and civil jurisdiction of the State, removing the Indians from Federal jurisdiction, and , in some instances, effective self-government.  The failure to include in these provisions a requirement of full consultation in order to ascertain the wishes and desires of the Indians and of final Federal approval, was unfortunate.  I recommend, therefore, that at the earliest possible time in the next session of the Congress, the act be amended to require such consultation with the tribes prior to the enactment of legislation subjecting them to State jurisdiction, as well as approval by the Federal Government before such legislation becomes effective.”

– President Dwight Eisenhower on signing Public Law 83-280 into law on August 18, 1953.

Public Law 280 would not be amended with some of President Eisenhower’s recommendations until 1968.  The 1968 amendments provide for retrocession of Public Law 280, which the state of Washington has recently done, allowing for tribes to re-assume civil and criminal jurisdiction after over 50 years of Public Law 280.

Public Law 280 would be amended in 1958 to include the Territory of Alaska, one year before statehood.  In 1970 Public Law 280 would be amended returning criminal jurisdiction to the Metlakatla Indian community, the only Indian Country in Alaska.

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