Opinion: Mission to Native village comes with price
"To bestow its charity, the fundamentalist Christian organization brought in its celebrity evangelist, Franklin Graham, along with Gov. Palin, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell and the Rev. Jerry Prevo, head of the Anchorage Baptist Temple, to create a media event of altruism. The showmanship of the relief flight to Russian Mission and Marshall maximized the social capital of Samaritan's Purse and provided a platform for the faith-based partnership between Franklin Graham and Gov. Palin. The alliance of Graham and Gov. Palin began during her vice presidential bid and will likely continue as Samaritan's Purse ramps up its Alaska operation, buying large tracts on the Kenai Peninsula as an apparent base for further missionary and political lobbying efforts for "Sarah 2012." The publicity also made the people in need feel small.

The reason most Alaskans provided monetary assistance anonymously is because they understand the nature of a gift, particularly in rural Alaska among people living in the subsistence tradition. Subsistence is not just about hunting and fishing for food. Subsistence is about sharing the wild food you got and processed with your own effort, giving the gift of sustenance a value-added quality by investing a part of yourself in it. The desire to repay the gift of a jar of personally caught, home-canned salmon is a willful obligation that becomes the glue that holds a community together and a motivating factor in the timeless dance of the seasons.

So when folks in the Y-K Delta receive a gift, it's a big deal. Giving food aid anonymously was the right thing, because that way there is no obligation to repay and it becomes an act of pure kindness toward a people temporarily in need. But Franklin Graham made a calculated, public display of giving, creating an obligation that must now be repaid by the Yup'ik of the villages. Obviously, Samaritan's Purse does not expect food in return, but they do expect access and influence and that, of course, has been one of several strategies of missionary activity since the advent of colonialism."

Get the Story:
Alan Boraas: Palin mercy mission not without a price (The Anchorage Daily News 3/7)

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