Southwest Alaska Yup’ik man running for U.S. Congressional seat

Joaqlin Estus

‘I feel I found my purpose and meaning in helping people’

Joaqlin Estus
Indian Country Today

Ray Sean Tugatuk, Yup’ik, is running as a Democrat for Alaska’s sole U.S. House seat.

He faces two other candidates in Tuesday’s primary. If he wins, he will go on to face Republican incumbent Don Young. Tugatuk is from Manokotak, a town of 480 people located 350 miles southwest of Anchorage and accessible only by boat or plane.

Reached on his cellphone last week, Tugatuk was about 10 miles outside town.

“I’m actually out here in the wilderness, and it’s a beautiful, windy day to pick berries,” Tugatuk said.

Asked why he’s running for Congress, Tugatuk said, “Living here in Alaska for many years, I kind of met a whole bunch of people, and we have some sort of same issues here, like a lack of housing and job opportunities that I want to bring here back home and especially to Alaska, to this side of America.” He said if elected he would introduce legislation on housing, crime and jurisdiction.

Tugatuk said he became inspired to run for office after attending the statewide Alaska Federation of Natives convention. Listening and talking with people, hearing from representatives of federal, state, tribal and other entities inspired him to try to do more for his people.

“Hearing a bunch of issues, I became interested. I feel I found my purpose and meaning in helping people; I’ve been trying to do it back home.”

Tugatuk’s phone interview was cut short by heavy winds, and he was not available later to discuss his age, education or work experience.

On his “Ray Sean for Alaska” Facebook page, Tugatuk stated his position on a range of issues.

Tugatuk supports term limits for Congress. He would support legislation to prevent domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment for servicewomen in the military, and to create safe shelters for women and children.

He would repeal compulsory union dues, and “oppose ‘Project Labor Agreements,’ which deny non-union contractors and their employees the freedom to bid on government projects.” Tugatuk opposes the “establishment or mandate union bargaining monopoly on state and local police officers and firefighters.”

Tugatuk would oppose abortions except in cases of rape or to save the life of the mother, and would seek to impose mandatory counseling about the risks and consequences of abortion for those seeking an abortion. “I support and would co-sponsor a Life at Conception Act defining that life begins at the moment of conception thereby resolving for all time, as stated by the Supreme Court in Roe vs Wade, ‘the difficult question of when life begins?’ Furthermore, under the Fourteenth Amendment, that would protect unborn children as ‘persons’.”

He spoke in favor of support for law enforcement, and protection of the fishing industry, with fair pay for crews.

“I am a life-long Alaskan born in Anchorage, Alaska and my hometown in Manokotak, Alaska,” Tugatuk posted. “I have found my strong foundation and support for housing development, renewable energy, etc. I would be pleased to expand your voice on what matters to us.”

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Joaqlin Estus, Tlingit, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today, and a long-time Alaska journalist.

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.

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Joaqlin Estus, Tlingit, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today, and a long-time Alaska journalist.

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.

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