Campbell: Gov. Palin supports Alaska Natives
"Recently, two attorneys from Alaska, who coincidentally help lead the Alaskans for Obama ’08 campaign organization, issued a statement charging that Gov. Sarah Palin has “attacked” Native subsistence rights. As the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, where I gained some familiarity with these issues, and a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Montana, I offer these thoughts.

I promise I will not use case citations or even catchy phrases in Latin, but be assured the subsistence issue in the state of Alaska is not as one-dimensional as these lawyers would have us believe.

“Subsistence” is a word that describes a traditional way of life among many Native peoples. In a practical sense, it involves hunting, fishing and gathering of traditional Native foods. Subsistence is also one of the many ways that Native people further their cultures.

In Alaska, subsistence practices have a significant role in Native and non-Native communities. In 1980, Congress enacted the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act to provide subsistence preferences to all “rural residents” of Alaska, Native and non-Native. Since enactment of ANILCA, as some resources have become scarcer, preference for subsistence practices has become a political issue in Alaska, dividing urban and rural residents, regardless of whether they are Republicans or Democrats. It has also divided Alaska Natives, who disagree over how best to balance the protection of their subsistence and commercial interests. Since that time, Democratic and Republican governors have tried to resolve the conflicts, without success. Likewise, a succession of federal secretaries of the Interior, in Democratic and Republican administrations, has also tried to balance the competing interests without success.

Let’s be frank: Much like the issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, many lawyers have built their entire careers on this issue. Additionally, advocacy organizations have raised millions of dollars on both sides of this issue."

Get the Story:
Ben Nighthorse Campbell: Governor Palin supports Native communities (Indian Country Today 9/12)

Another Opinion:
Lloyd Miller and Heather Kendall-Miller: Sarah Palin’s hostile record on Alaska Native subsistence (Indian Country Today 9/12)

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