Alaska is home to more than 220 federally recognized tribes. Gov. Sarah Palin does not have a policy for working with Alaska’s tribes, nor does she have a policy for working with Alaska Native villages where the economy and rising cost of energy must be addressed soon.
Subsistence hunting and fishing are critical to the lives of Alaska Native people, and Palin claims to support subsistence. Today we face one of the biggest threats to an area of critical importance, [the exploration of] Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest salmon fishery. A foreign mining company is in the planning stages to operate Pebble Mine, a large open-pit metallic mining operation that will be located at the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushugak rivers, both major salmon producers.
This is an ecologically sensitive area. Tribes in other parts of the country know the impacts of such mining operations. Alaskans had a chance to protect Bristol Bay by passing a ballot measure Aug. 26, a first step to protect our waters from the threat posed by Pebble Mine. Days before the election, Palin inappropriately took the side of this large foreign mining company over the people who have historically fished the waters of Bristol Bay to earn a living and feed their families. We lost that vote thanks in large part to Palin.
Global warming is an ongoing concern voiced at Alaska’s tribal environmental conferences, and Palin does not believe global warming is caused by man. Such a belief implies that nothing can be done to lessen the impacts Arctic people are facing today.
Palin’s record on Native hiring in key positions (one cabinet member) is dismal. As previous governors have done, she finally hired a staff assistant to advise her on rural/Alaska Native issues, a position traditionally filled by Alaska Natives. Palin is the only governor to fill this position with a non-Native. [She told the] Juneau Empire on Feb. 7, 2008, “Race is not going to be a factor in my hiring or appointing practices.” She made this comment when she was under fire for not appointing an Alaska Native to the Board of Game.
The one area where Sarah Palin does focus on Alaska Natives is in her campaign when she reminds people that her husband has a Native heritage. That’s fine, I’m glad she is proud of Todd’s Native ancestry, but that’s as far as it goes. We need a stronger commitment when it comes to elevating the concerns of tribes to a meaningful level.
– Sandra A.J. Borbridge