Story Published: Sep 26, 2008
Story Updated: Sep 25, 2008
Unlike Mr. [Ben Nighthorse] Campbell, who remarks that he is Northern Cheyenne, a former senator, and a leader in the McCain campaign, I am an Athabascan Indian, I have lived in Alaska all my life, and I actually know firsthand what Gov. Sarah Palin has done.
Contrary to the former senator’s remarks, Alaska subsistence hunting and fishing issues are not complicated. As the former senator concedes, however, they are deeply “political.” My point exactly: consistently, Sarah Palin has politicized subsistence and sought to advantage urban hunters and fishers over the rural people who actually live a subsistence way of life. It is a stunning hostility, given that subsistence fishing, as one example, consumes a mere 2 percent of all consumptive uses of fish in our state.
Nor are Alaska Native people “divided” on this issue. To the contrary, in the late 1990s Alaska Natives held a special statewide convention in Alaska and overwhelmingly reaffirmed their support for rural subsistence.
Palin cannot dodge her responsibility for continuing lawsuits that her predecessor began. She is against federal agency protection for subsistence. She is against subsistence fishing in many navigable waters that are critical to Native people. She is against subsistence hunting in many areas our Native people depend upon for their survival. She is against subsistence rights that prefer rural users as the federal law favored by Alaska Natives demands over urban users.
It is true that Alaska is disabled by its own constitution from extending rural subsistence rights to state lands and waters. But a governor committed to Alaska Native people would press the federal government to do everything in its power to protect those subsistence rights as broadly as possible on federal lands and waters. Instead, Palin has chosen to attack those rights with lawsuits – and “attack” is indeed the fair word here. How else to characterize Palin’s lawsuit brought to defeat subsistence? And how else to explain Alaska Natives’ overwhelming support for the Obama/Biden ticket?
Sarah Palin has built a solid record opposing subsistence and tribal sovereignty in Alaska. That truth may be inconvenient to the former senator, but that does not change it.