Tag Archives: Global

The Year is 2020: Climate Change is Real and has Changed Alaska Almost Irreversibly

Hello to all of the old blog followers – this blog began in 2009 as an independent and individual project as a venue for opening up critical dialogue on the state of “being” Alaska Native in Alaska.  The title of the blog was deliberately chosen so as to be inclusive of all involved topics incorporated into what it might mean to be Alaska Native.  The early to late 2010s saw a co-author add a new stream of thought, particularly comparing and contrasting life in Alaska and life in Canada as an indigenous person/people in North America.  The 2010s are over and the authors are older and maybe a little wiser.

Hello to all of the new blog followers – the year is 2020, the blog is over a decade old and will be given a new lease of life as content begins to investigate Alaska climate change and Alaska adaptation practices to climate change as a field of knowledge.  Alaska Native peoples are greatly affected by climate change in regards to subsistence harvesting as a millennia-old livelihood.  Alaska Native villages are greatly affected by coastal and river erosion, and permafrost thaw: several villages have been working for decades on relocation to a safer location from the impacts of erosion and permafrost thaw, and new recent erosion and thaw events in countless other Alaska Native villages are beginning to irreversibly change the face of each village.

The politics of climate change is not a factor in these discussions, because the climate has changed in Alaska, precluding local, state, federal and international political disputes over the issue.  If two individuals somewhere in Alaska are standing on a silty river bank, arguing the particulars of climate change politics, while the warming silty river bank is falling into the quickening river current at the tips of the individuals’ feet, what good is the argument to anyone at all?  Welcome to 2020 and welcome to a counter-impact movement addressing climate change impacts in Alaska.


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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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HB 216 Alaska State House Democrat Minority Party Press 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.







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“Can International Law Support Changes to Federal Indian Law?” 1PM-530PM 19 April 2013

1:03PM: Professor S. James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is introduced by Bob Clinton, professor of law, Indian Legal Program Sandra Day O’Connor at ASU.

1:08PM: Professor Anaya speaks to the conference as Keynote.

“There are several [U.S. domestic] doctrinal devices that limit implementation from the courts.”

Concepts within UNDRIP are derived and supported by domestic obligations, e.g. self-determination, consultation, etc.

“[UNDRIP] can be seen to constitute customary international law.”

“I think we need to take that as a given and move forward…I think that question has already been settled.”

1:28PM:  “How can the declaration be implemented?  How can the declaration, abstract concepts, be implemented in reality?”

Visited 13 countries in role as UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the U.S.  Cites U.S. report as given to the UN Human Rights Council in the fall of 2012.

“Perhaps the [domestic] political will isn’t there, but it can be.”

1:41PM:  “I met with 12-15 executives of federal agencies [during U.S. mission], and I was surprised about the level of ignorance of the declaration.”

“There needs to be an executive campaign for recognition of the declaration…and to raise awareness.”

1:44PM:  Only Senator Inouye was present during Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on UNDRIP in summer 2012.  “I think there needs to be another hearing, where congressmen are confronted with problems of the declaration.”

“I think Congress needs to pass a resolution…to cement the declaration as a centerpiece in its future deliberations.”

1:48PM:  Speaking of the federal Judiciary.

“The courts should now discard such colonial era doctrines, and adopt the human rights doctrines which the United States has now adopted…it should now look to international law for the implementation of the declaration.”

“It is high time to bring the law in line with contemporary human rights law.”

1:51PM: The state governors as well as the legislators take stock of the declaration.

The indigenous peoples themselves must take responsibility to educate and to utilize the rights enjoyed.

“I encourage everyone in the room to be optimists.”

1:52PM: Questions posed from audience.

1:59PM: “Can the declaration be used by the traditional leadership to be used to protect themselves from the current tribal government?” – Wide laughter from the audience.

2:01PM: Off the sound-system question, stopping Professor Anaya away from the mic, from the Hopi poet Simon J. Ortiz, concerning the sale of sacred Hopi items in France.

The Special Rapporteur can only monitor issues, and cannot attempt to influence domestic legal instruments and functions.

The Special Rapporteur can receive petitions, which be can used to monitor domestic situations.

2:05PM: Another off the sound-system question, petitioning the Special Rapporteur to address a Native American freedom of religion issue.

2:08PM: New panel moderated by Mr. G. William Rice, joined by Leonard Gorman, Chief J. Wilton Littlechild, Philip S. Deloria, and Rebecca Tsosie.

2:12PM: Leonard Gorman speaks to the conference.

Consulted with the Department of Agriculture on the subject of sacred places or sacred sites to the Navajo Nation, to be managed differently from other public lands, over the span of several years.

Petitioned the State of Arizona over redistricting issues and the federal Voting Rights Act, and how international laws and norms can assist the Navajo Nation.

Working with the Department of State, Department of Justice on an MOU for implementation of UNDRIP within the Navajo Nation.

2:28PM: Chief J. Wilton Littlechild of the Canadian Ermineskin Cree Nation speaks to the conference.  Chief Littlechild served in the Canadian Parliament previously.

Summarized several instances where UNDRIP has been implemented domestically in Canada.

Brought forth to the conference: House of Commons of Canada 2012 Bill Proposal C-469 – “An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

2:40PM:  “Treaty rights are human rights.”

2:50PM: Philip S. Deloria speaks to the conference.

“Begging the question.”  Indigenous peoples very much beg the question of the truth of Federal Indian law.

Many concepts making up the declaration are not uniform concepts.

3:01PM: “International law and domestic implementation is not a guarantee.  We have to be careful.”

3:05PM: A lot of humor, lifting the serious atmosphere.

3:10PM: Legally defending human rights cannot be abused if we are to advance UNDRIP.

3:14PM:  Rebecca Tsosie speaks to the conference.

3:23PM: “The U.S. Constitution does not include the human rights we are talking about today,” – based on research of racial discrimination in the past during the formation of the U.S.

3:30PM: Present wave of colonization: “Colonization of Consciousness – issues of identity, self-determination, autonomy, spiritual rights – things that barely anyone can understand.”

3:51PM: After a 20 minute break, Professor Tsosie moderates a panel including Dion Killsback, Senior Counselor to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs and Norther Cheyenne of Montana, Professor Robert Miller, and Professor G. William Rice, and Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee.

3:56PM: Dion Killsback speaks to the conference.

“As the only ‘Fed’ in the room, my remarks reflect the views of the Department of Interior.” – Wide laughter from the audience.

Summarizes specific instances of favorable developments in Indian Country handled in part or in whole by Interior.

4:15PM: MOUs are centerpieces for administrating laws, policies, and regulations on a government-to-government relationship with tribal governments.

4:17PM: Professor Robert Miller, of the Lewis & Clark Law School, speaks to the conference.

Analyzes the consent and consultation principles of UNDRIP.  Historically consent used in treaty and statutory language.  Consultation utilized during self-determination era.

4:20PM: “Tribes have very few substantive rights when it comes to consultations.”

“There is a higher responsibility when it comes to consultation with tribal governments, with a fiduciary responsibility.”

4:31PM: “35 different [federal] agencies have gotten serious about consultation.”

Senior agency officials should be negotiating directly with tribes during consultations.

4:37PM: “Article 19 the primary reason the four countries voted no.” – Free, Prior, and Informed Consent principle.

4:39PM: Professor Bill Rice speaks to the conference.

4:43PM: The most important participants of implementing UNDRIP are the tribal governments and peoples themselves.  The federal government is going to listen to tribal governments and peoples when it does come to implementation.

“If we don’t understand the UNDRIP, if we don’t make the UNDRIP a priority and a way of life and a way of doing things, if we don’t take measures to implement UNDRIP, it won’t ever be implemented.”

4:51PM: “It’s time for another comprehensive review of Federal Indian law.”

4:56PM: Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee speaks to the conference, from a perspective as a member of a non-recognized Indian tribe in Louisiana.

UNDRIP provides opportunities for non-recognized tribal groups to petition governing entities for recognition.

5:06PM: An interesting situation with the BP Oil Spill: Since Professor Ferguson-Bohnee’s tribe is not a recognized tribe, the federal agencies involved with administrating the clean-up and reparations has eventually left out her tribe in the process.  They are however continuing to petition the governing entities to continue involvement after initially consulting with the non-recognized tribe.

5:12PM: Professor Tsosie invites questions from the audience.

Question about a Pueblo suit against the US for Mr. Killsback.

Question from Alan Parker addressed to Mr. Killsback about a statement from Jodi Gillette, Special Assistant to the President on Native American Affairs, that the President would attend a future World Council on Indigenous Peoples gathering.

Follow-up question about the Self-Determination principle of UNDRIP, and the U.S. Self-Determination Act Public Law 93-638.

Question to Professor Ferguson-Bohnee about descendants who have parents as members of federally recognized tribes, but who are not officially registered on membership rolls.  [This is very common in Alaska, with confusion between tribal governments and Alaska Native Corporations].

Professor Wiessner from this morning further addressed the question of descendants who are not registered on membership rolls.

5:29PM: Professor Bill Rice will close out the conference with an impromptu round of last thoughts from panel participants.

5:32PM: The last thoughts are chaotic and are generally not-followable!  I am signing out.

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“Can International Law Support Changes to Federal Indian Policy?” 8AM-12PM, 19 April 2013

8:45AM: I have travelled to Phoenix, Arizona, to attend this conference put on by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.  The planning spans two years and is most unconventional.  I will summarize bits of information as the conference flows along.

http://law.asu.edu/undrip2013 – archived web-feed.

http://conferences.asucollegeoflaw.com/drip/conference-materials/ – materials and documents.

8:53AM: Dr. Julian Burger, based in London is first up to speak to the conference, which is also streamed online, with many people from around the world watching.

In 1992-1993 Indigenous Peoples had “broken through” the United Nations bureaucracy and were able to make contributions and influence the functions of the many apparatus agencies, after 30 or so years of petitioning the center of bureaucracy in Geneva.

The Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples experienced tough negotiations going through the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, with many governments wholly opposing the draft.

There are many people who are outside Indigenous populations who are interested in the content of the declaration.

The concept of “self-determination” seems to be the centerpiece strategy utilized by many Indigenous groups around the world.  The concept could be of global use, not to just Indigenous populations.

9:22AM: Panel moderated by Professor Leo Killsback (Native American Studies at ASU) – ‘UNDRIP: A brief history’.

9:27AM: Kenneth Deer, Secretary of Six Nations, of the community of Kahnawake is first up to speak.

The biggest challenge was delineating the rights of Minorities and the rights of Indigenous Peoples while petitioning the UN WGIP.

Article Three – the Right to Self-Determination was the last article passed in the Draft, and was the most contentious.

The member states of the UN are against the term “peoples” – hence the agencies avoid the use of the term: Working Group on Indigenous Populations, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Decade of Indigenous People.  “Peoples” implies the right to self-determination.

There is a big difference between Geneva and New York.  Geneva is more academic, in New York the atmosphere is political.

9:52AM: Andrea Carmen of the Yaqui Nation next up to speak, also Executive Director of the International Indian Treaty Council.

1996 UN Inter-Sessional Working Group on the UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the first instance and standard established for the complete involvement of Indigenous Peoples within the UN apparatus agencies.

The Collective Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the most important concept of UNDRIP.  As differentiated by individual human rights.

In many countries in the world the right to lands are not given to Indigenous Peoples.

Giving priority to the right of consent, over the right of consultation.

10:09AM: Alan Parker last to speak for the panel, citizen of the Chippewa Cree of Rocky Boy, Montana.

Participant in an International Treaty Agreement – the United League of Indigenous Nations Treaty Agreement of 2007.  Involves Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Rim, and of the four member-states that voted against UNDRIP in 2007.

Representatives at the table of the ULINTA were empowered by their own peoples to negotiate the treaty.


10:19AM: Questions from the attendees moderated by Leo Killsback.

Legally-binding UNDRIP entails a right-to-sue provision.  Member-states of the UN would fight to protect the sovereign immunity and would not allow for UNDRIP to be legally-binding.

NCAI is petitioning the White House for a study on the implementation UNDRIP.

10:48AM: After 15 minute break, a panel moderated by Mr. Aaron Fellmeth, and made up of Professor Siegfried Wiessner, and Dr. Joshua Cooper Director of the Hawai’i Institute of Human Rights, and Walter Echo-Hawk, tribal judge and legal advocate, author of “In the Courts of the Conqueror” (2012).

10:55AM: Professor Wiessner speaks to the conference.

Chair of the International Law Association Sofia Conference (2012) – Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Professor Wiessner and Professor Lorie Graham the only participants from the US amongst others from around the world.

75th Conference of the International Law Association passed Resolution No. 5/2012 – Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

11:17AM: Dr. Joshua Cooper speaks to the conference.

Grassroots activist for UNDRIP implementation and wider recognition in the UN system.

11:33AM: Walter Echo-Hawk speaks to the conference.

Federal Indian Law is the old framework.  The new framework is Human Rights.  “We have advanced this as far as we can in this current framework…we need to look to a new framework.  The new lifeline is this Human Rights framework.”

There are many gaps between Federal Indian law and UNDRIP.  If the gaps can be filled, Federal Indian law would be reversed, and would reaffirm the body of law surrounding Federal Indian law.

No national plan in the US for implementation.

“We have to begin a national discourse, a public conversation.  It is up to us to educate ourselves and be prepared to do that.”

11:54AM: Questions moderated by Mr. Aaron Fellmeth.

Question for Dr. Cooper concerning the history and the implementation of UNDRIP in Hawai’i.

Question taken by Walter Echo-Hawk on strategies for implementation.

12:04PM: Recessed for lunch.

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U.N. Special Rapporteur S. James Anaya in Anchorage, Alaska April 28, 2012

Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska Chair Jim Stotts respectfully introduced Professor S. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Professor Anaya arrived from Port Graham in Kachemak Bay, Alaska, and ate salmon for breakfast. Professor Anaya noted the “mission” to the United States in official capacity would last a total of 12 days. Three staff assistants were introduced. I shall paraphrase and occasionally quote the list of speakers from the hearing agenda. Many other people will speak from the open speakers list provided at the hearing.

Aaron Leggett was invited first to speak as Treasurer of the Eklutna Tribal Council, which has co-hosted the hearing along with ICC Alaska. Mr. Leggett noted approximately half of the population of Alaska were in the Eklutna area. The biggest issue Mr. Leggett felt was that fact that only 500 fish could be annually subsisted upon by the members of the Eklutna Tribal Council. Other big issues are natural resources extraction, e.g. Pebble Mine, energy by way of power plants and hydropower, and timber harvesting. Mr. Leggett expressed the opinion all Kenaitze and Dena’ina peoples of Cook Inlet should work together and practice subsistence and more importantly teach subsistence practices to the youth.

Ivan M. Ivan next spoke as a representative of the community of Akiak. Mr. Ivan felt he was speaking on behalf of widows, widowers, orphans, and elders “who could not take care of themselves.” Mr. Ivan felt the state and federal agencies that manage subsistence are antagonistic towards the subsistence priorities. Mr. Ivan feels the rules and regulations, the tribal council constitution and bylaws “restrict what [we] want to do.”

Michael Williams of the Yupiit Nation spoke of ANCSA as a tool of assimilation. The youth born after December 18, 1971 are deprived of their special rights as Alaska Natives, unable to be enrolled as shareholders in the ANCSA regional and village corporations.

George Edwardsen of the community of Barrow spoke of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. Mr. Edwardsen spoke of the Commission as an important voice for the 10,000 people of the North Slope communities of Alaska. Mr. Edwardsen spoke of the importance of the ocean eco-system, such as the dependencies of species on one another. Mr. Edwardsen noted mismanagement of eco-systems have destroyed stocks of harvestable species on a global scale.

Mary Ann Mills of her own behalf of her family and those without tribal representation, also as vice-chair of the Sovereign Nation of Kenaitze. Ms. Mills spoke of the history of indigenous peoples petitioning international organizations, such as the United Nations, for recognizing their inherent rights. Ms. Mills spoke about the government of the United States regularly denying the special rights of indigenous peoples through congress and judicial opinions. Ms. Mills opined ANCSA was passed without the consent of Alaska Natives, an important principle under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Ms. Mills feels the United Nations General Assembly should reconsider the recognizable rights of Alaska Natives, repealing by way of speaking ANCSA and other acts and judicial opinions.

During a short break, Mr. Stotts suggested to Professor Anaya a special inquiry on the subject of subsistence and Alaska Native peoples.

John Ross spoke as a member of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe. Mr. Ross recognized the chair, executive director, and board members of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe present. Mr. Ross spoke of decolonizing and re-learning the traditional ways of Kenaitze peoples to make a better future. “We are in a process of re-learning.”

Nancy Wainwright representing Trustees for Alaska, a firm legally representing for 35 years the interests of Alaska Native peoples and entities. Ms. Wainwright spoke of the gravity of the future Pebble Mine and its possible effect on subsistence practices of the communities of the surrounding area in Southwest Alaska. Ms. Wainwright spoke of the U.S. and Alaska State violation of numerous articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that deny the voice so to speak of Alaska Native peoples. Ms. Wainwright noted exploration for Pebble Mine began in 1988 and violations of various rules and regulations and especially non-consultation with the local communities have regularly taken place. Ms. Wainwright requests the Special Rapporteur intervene and review state rules and regulations that include the local communities.

Elizabeth Hensley as a representative of the NANA Region, Northwest Alaska spoke of subsistence as the highest priority of the core principles of NANA. Ms. Hensley opined the United States should use and support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and begin reversing chronic violations and so to speak de facto non-support and non-recognition. Ms. Hensley spoke of the example of ANILCA, Title XIII, which prioritizes subsistence over commercial and sport harvesting on federal lands in Alaska is not working and not protecting the subsistence rights and practices of the Alaska Native peoples. Ms. Hensley spoke of the dire situation of energy in rural Alaska. Alaska Native people in rural Alaska are inordinately challenged by providing heat and energy, compared to spending time practicing subsistence and other culturally-important practices. Ms. Hensley also spoke of the right of indigenous peoples to speak their own languages. Only 14% of the population of the NANA region speak the Inupiat language. The Alaska Native Languages Commission just created by the Alaska Legislature is an important first step in developing educational programs so to speak for revitalizing the indigenous languages of Alaska.

Maria Williams spoke as a representative of the Alaska Native Studies Council of the University of Alaska Anchorage, a faculty-run organization. Ms. Williams spoke of the importance of indigenous world-view, and the continuing education of the Alaska Native indigenous world-views. The Council has been working state-wide to improve the higher education programs available through the University of Alaska system which focus on the Alaska Native world-views.

Karen Linell spoke as a representative of the Ahtna Corporation and its shareholders. Ms. Linell noted there are 8 federally-recognized tribes in the Ahtna region. Ms. Linell spoke of the difficulties in finalizing land titles under ANCSA, such as for the regional corporation and the village corporations. There are strong differences with the State of Alaska in lands settlement. “We live in the court. That’s the way it goes with our hunting,” as quoted from an Ahtna elder. Difficulties of subsistence rules and regulations are prevalent, especially with the Alaska Highway system dissecting the Ahtna region. The highway system provides ease of use for non-subsistence harvest, e.g. sport hunting. Ms. Linell spoke of the State of Alaska not recognizing the special rights of the people in the Ahtna region, such as through rights-of-way, land resources, land title, local management, and various rules and regulations from the departments of the State of Alaska. Ms. Linell requests the State of Alaska to respect the rights of the peoples of the Ahtna region.

Mr. Stotts in a short break noted the ICC Alaska recently gathered together in Washington, D.C. the federal and state agencies, congressional legislators for a meeting on the betterment of subsistence management in Alaska. Mr. Stotts noted the United States cuts a fine line between the principles of “consent” and “consolation”. The U.S. deliberately avoids the use of the “consent” principle and utilizes the less-powerful as Mr. Stotts opines the principle of “consultation”. The U.S. uses “consultation” only as a token effort to reach out to the indigenous peoples of North America.

Nathan McGowan of the Sealaska Corporation spoke several pending Congressional bills on finalizing land claims by the Sealaska Corporation under ANCSA.

Harold Napoleon of Hooper Bay in Southwest Alaska recognized the statements of everyone before him, and spoke of the importance of statistics. “Numbers speak their own story.” Languages, Christian churches of various doctrines, suicides, subsistence practices, health problems, dependancies on social welfare, “64% of Athabascan women have been exposed to violence”, “62% of children in state custody are Alaska Natives”, “37-40% of state inmates are Alaska Native men”, “approximately 80% unemployment” in many villages. Mr. Napoleon has requested the federal policies must change to better the lives of Alaska Native peoples.

George Pletnikoff of St. Paul Island spoke of the mismanagement of the eco-systems of the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, and the Arctic Sea. “2 million metric tons of fish are taken out of the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea annually…by the United States government…by approximately 100 fishing boats.” This industrial-level annual fish harvest is depriving the local communities of many food sources. “The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council work for the fishing industry.” Mr. Pletnikoff has requested Mr. Anaya to solicit the United States government to have a dedicated seat on the NPFMC for Alaska Native subsistence interests so to speak.

John Starky an attorney working almost exclusively on Alaska Native hunting and fishing rights for the past 30 years spoke of the exclusion of Alaska Natives from rule-making and regulation-making for fish and game harvesting. “There is not one law in the State of Alaska that protects tribal rights.” “More and more hunting and fishing rights [of Alaska Natives] are disappearing.” “All the hunting and fishing [management] agencies in the State of Alaska do not have tribal representation.” Mr. Starky requested Professor Anaya to write a Letter of Urgent Appeal on these issues to the U.S. government and the State of Alaska.

Verner Wilson III, Central and Siberian Yup’ik from Dillingham in Southwest Alaska , and also of the World Wildlife Fund, spoke of the gravity of the proposed Pebble Mine. Protecting the salmon fisheries of Bristol Bay are the priority from the possible damage and risks made possible by Pebble. “Pebble Mine is one of the greatest threats…that will basically ruin the habitat of 50 million fish.” Mr. Wilson requested Professor Anaya to request the international mining corporations to respect the traditional life ways of Alaska Native peoples.

Warren Jones a student and researcher from Southwest and the Interior of Alaska spoke of the judicial system and Alaska Native peoples. The judicial system is biased against Alaska Native peoples and to not remediate continuing and future problems and issues. Mr. Jones requested Professor Anaya to review the practicality of tribal courts compared to the state or federal judicial system.

Millie Hawley, president of Kivalina IRA Council brought concerns from her community, such as coastal erosion and subsistence. Coastal erosion threatens the community, which has had to evacuate twice in recent past. Local traditional knowledge is a priority over State of Alaska and federal government representatives when analyzing the erosion and possible relocation and subsistence management. Ms. Hawley requests that traditional ecological knowledge be equal to western science and that local communities have priority over state and federal agencies.

These are the Alaska Native peoples excepting Mr. Starky who sent requests beforehand to speak before the hearing held by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Professor S. James Anaya at the Alaska Native Heritage Center April 28, 2012. This summary has been written as the speakers presented their opinions and is unedited.

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Meeting the Australian of the Year

Mick Dodson, a man of Aboriginal descent, was chosen by the Australian president Kevin Rudd as Australian of the Year for his legal activism in promoting the rights of Aboriginals along with Indigenous Peoples world wide as a sitting member on the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Mr. Dodson gave a guest lecture for a graduate level class and the public was also invited. Mr. Dodson spoke of recent injustices suffered by the Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory in Australia, after the Australian nation-state pledged support of the recently adopted UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Earlier this year the Commonwealth (federal-level) government enacted a state of emergency in the Northern Territory (state-level) Aboriginal town-camps (community-level). The reason being for the state of emergency was high instances of sexual abuse. The Commonwealth administration barred welfare access, appropriated health care records, and acquired Aboriginal land-leases and barred any community-level development of those lands.
Commonwealth police and crime detectives and state police also moved en masse into the 43 Aboriginal communities along with Aboriginal “Agents” of the Commonwealth. Despite these drastic measures, Mr. Dodson says, in the name of the protection of women and children against abuse, not one conviction has been brought forth to court or even made against a single individual.
Mr. Dodson also discussed the fact that the Racial Discrimination Act had been entirely suspended by the legislature of the Commonwealth to remove any “inconvenient” government red tape that might slow the process and procedure of the state of emergency. Mr. Dodson also mentioned that suspending the Racial Discrimination Act in the name of emergency also blocks any appeals the Aboriginal peoples might make to prevent these paternalistic measures.
Mr. Dodson himself did not make many comparisons to other governments disparaging indigenous populations, but what came to my mind during the lecture was the Termination era of U.S. federal Indian policy during the 1950s and 60s, where federal-level protections of Indian rights were abolished for many Indian tribes around the country. Recently the Supreme Court measured Indian Reorganization Act tribes registered after the passing of the Act in 1934-36 could not in fact be considered tribes under the Act.
Mr. Dodson discussed any possible effects the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples might have in future dealings between the Commonwealth and Aboriginals. Mr. Dodson mentioned the atmosphere is slowly coming about under the implicit influence of the Declaration, but since declarations are non-binding, respect for and full recognition of the Declaration will not happen any time soon.
Hard to say if hope or despair won out after Mr. Dodson’s impressive lecture.

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