The following is a statement from Sen. Mark Begich, of Alaska, which was posted to his website on November 21, 2014.
In honor of Native American Heritage month, I extend my appreciation and respect for Alaska’s First Peoples. Our great state is home to a remarkable 229 federally recognized tribes, each of which vary in cultural background and traditions. Our Alaska Native community has shaped the history of our state and has contributed to the framework of our vibrant Alaskan culture.
As a lifelong Alaskan and strong advocate of Native rights, I have worked hard to make sure my support for Native issues is clear. Recently, I introduced the Native Voting Rights Act of 2014, which provides the resources and oversight necessary to ensure that every citizen, regardless of language or ethnicity, can exercise his or her right to vote.
Another major issue in which I have shown strong support includes subsistence rights for Alaska Native people. Protecting the traditional way of life is crucial to the well-being of Alaska Natives and must be preserved for the nutritional, cultural, social, and economic benefits entailed for generations to come. Along with many other important issues, I’ve also fought to repeal the Alaska tribal exception to the Violence Against Women Act and have defended tribal sovereignty and tribal courts.
The rich history of the Alaska Native population needs to be acknowledged and Native American Heritage Month gives us all the opportunity to do so. The contributions made by the First People of Alaska have profoundly impacted our state and continues to be evident back home. I encourage all of Alaska to join me in celebrating this month of pride, culture and heritage, as we continue to work towards Native American’s rights.