Tag Archives: Policy

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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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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Filed under Author: alaskaindigenous