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Native Currents: Alaska Senator Ted Stevens' hunt of Indian wealth

To read what Ted Stevens recently said in an Anchorage Daily News front-page article, I wonder if he believes what he's saying. He makes himself sound like Mister Goodbar bestowing many gifts onto Alaska Natives, when in fact he has an over 30-year legacy of systematically taking away our rights and natural resources through the very same legislation that he brags about passing on the Natives' behalf.

For example, Stevens claims to have passed the Native Land Claims Act on behalf of and for the benefit of the Natives. But the Act was passed through an improper voting process: Natives were not fully informed about the impact that the act would have, and the Act was not voted upon by all of the adult Natives, which is a requirement of the Indian Civil Rights Act. The "mandate" that Stevens used in order to pass the Native Claims Act was a set of votes cast by certain Native individuals who, according to Harold Hines, then head of ARCO, were wined and dined by oil company executives.

The Native Land Claims Act was supposed to be an experimental alternative to the reservation system. Yet, after numerous amendments to this act, we Natives are still, as a whole, the most impoverished peoples on our own lands. According to Dr. Albert, the social ailments of substance abuse and suicides are a result of peoples being prisoners in their own lands. When are they going to admit that the experiment has gone awry instead of continuing to force it upon the Native peoples?

The reality of the Land Claims Act is that the 44 million acres and the millions of dollars that were given to the Native corporations were taken from the tribes, as were the other millions of acres and billions of dollars and other resources that were given to the state and kept by the federal government.

Another example occurred approximately eight years ago, when Stevens passed a bill in Congress that eliminated funding for tribal schools and education systems. Also, through a legislative rider, Stevens took away tribes' right to control our health concerns and created the illusion that the non-profit arm of the Native corporations control health issues when in fact the Indian Health Service - in collaboration with the Public Health Service and the Center for Disease Control - is in control.

In the news article, Stevens goes on to admit that he is on a crusade to expand regionalization, a process that is already destroying our Native peoples. And what do you call destroying a people in whole or in part?

Recently, Stevens developed riders to take away the tribal courts and COPS money. These are the two main planks that would allow Alaska Natives to uphold and implement the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was put into place because our Native children were being taken away from us at an unprecedented rate. This removal of our children is a form of genocide, as outlined in the International Treaty on Genocide and the United States Genocide Act.

Stevens claims that the population increase among Natives is endangering Alaska statehood, when what really endangers statehood are the improprieties in the passage of statehood and the breaking of the sacred trust to the peoples of Alaska, as outlined in Article 73 of the United Nations Charter: the obligation to bring about self-government and ensure our own "political, economic, social and educational advancement;" and "to develop self government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions"? not the institutions imposed by a paternalistic senator.

And what about all the resources that have been ripped out of the land? Where did all the billions of dollars go? Who owned that oil? Ted? English royalty? If Stevens had such fairness of mind, he would have worked toward sharing the money from all those extracted resources to help not only Natives, but all Alaskans. If he were really concerned about what would happen to Alaskans, he wouldn't have allowed and perpetuated the plunder of natural resources by multi-national oil companies and others who exploit our wealth.

Instead, when he finally steps out of his politician-for-life role, he would have set in motion a plan for Alaskan people to share in what has been stolen from the land of Alaska's original inhabitants.

Patricia Wade is editor of The Chickaloon News.