ALR Symposium 2018: 60 Years Later | A Native Perspective of Alaska’s Constitution
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ALR Symposium 2018: 60 Years Later | A Native Perspective of Alaska’s Constitution

>>MODERATOR: OK, lets go ahead.We’ll get to our next panel. So our third panel for today addresses a couple issues that a couple of the commentators have mentioned. Alaska native issues were left largely out
of the Constitution and are still not fully addressed today. And so we thought it was important to have
an Alaskan Native perspective on the Alaska Constitution. Partially in the interest of time, I’m not
going to introduce the speakers; I’m going to let them introduce themselves. But also in part because their experience
informs their perspective, so I think its helpful to have them introduce themselves
as they introduce their topics. Have you decided which one of you is going
to go first? Of course the first person to go doesn’t
really need an introduction, but I will turn it over to Willie Hensley.>>WILLIE HENSLEY: Thank you. I would like to thank the organizers of this
event for including this section in the discussion on the Constitution. And I must say that a lot of us are still,
even at this stage, discovering those aspects of our past that have helped shape our present. And I would like to maintain as much control
of our future as possible for the sake of our children.>>MODERATOR: [unintelligible]>>HENSLEY: Okay. Should I repeat what I said? *laughs* I have a natural kind of a quiet
voice. In any case, *speaks in Alaska Native language*. I just wanted you to hear our language. One of our ancient American languages, for
a couple of reasons: one is the fact that I’m proud of the fact that in spite of the
best work of the government, I still managed to maintain something of our traditional language
as it was of course governmental policy to try to eliminate it. As well as their churches that did a lot of
their leg work for them in the early days of our educational system. And also one of the other reasons is that
it helps reflect, I think, the gap of understanding that is the fact that we indigenous people
who occupied this space for over ten thousand years, were essentially in the twilight zone
of the mentality of those who created the Constitution. I have looked at some of the videos where
the participants of the Constitutional Convention were waxing on about that experience and it
was, maybe in their lifetime, a wonderful and a great experience. And it’s true. But in no way did it reflect the total Alaska
population. Of course I know the participants. Many of them. John Cross was representing Kotzebue. John was a wonderful pilot. But in no way could he have been reflecting
the Inuit people of that region when it comes to our thinking and those issues that were
important to us. Anyway, many of us, even to this day, are
just learning about our own histories. Because basically it was the job of the Bureau
of Indian Affairs to make sure we didn’t know who we were. And we did not understand the ferocity of
the first colonial period on the people of Alaska, particularly in the Aleutian Island
region, the sudbeth area of the Kodiak, and the gulf. And the tremendous loss of life that took
place, essentially the destruction of a people through disease, through starvation, through
enslavement. And the people were being utilized essentially
as labor to hunt the low hanging fruit, the sea otter, for the Russians. Literally all the way down to Catalina Island
off the coast of California during that century and a quarter that they were here. In the battles that we had over our space,
between ’66 and ’71, really most of it has virtually no knowledge of not only the
history between 1741 and 1867, but virtually nothing after that of any consequence. Because it wasn’t taught. And so basically, when we got into the battle
over who owned Alaska, we’re really fighting with one hand tied behind our back because
we were literally ignorant of that history that was so key to forming our arguments before
Congress. And we did not know that there were less than
800 Russians in Alaska at any one time. Something as simple as that. So how many Europeans does it take to establish
sovereignty over a subcontinent-sized territory that could stand up to any kind of a legal
system? I mean they just had a thin presence on the
Aleutian coast, the Gulf of Alaska Coast down to Sitka. And even there in 1867 when the doors shut
at night at the fort, the Russians were inside and the Indians were outside with the cannon
pointed at them. It’s not like they had control. And so in any case, that’s history, but nevertheless
it’s not ancient history. Anyway, between 1867 and 1924, we had no rights
as citizens of this country. We could not own land. We could not vote. We could not file for a mining claim in our
own territories. In any case, that’s part of a history that
brought us to the Constitutional Convention. And the reality is that, you know, we lived
in a colonial world and its not a word that I even thought about that much as I turned
24 and got elected to the legislature and began to deal with the system. We just didn’t have any sense of history. We did not understand the nature of what was
taking place in our past starting with Sheldon Jackson who was both paid as an agent of the
Presbyterian church and as a government official. The power of church and state that began to
impinge on our lives. They began to determine what was right and
what was wrong. What was sinful or what was legal. And of course his philosophy was we were to
be learning English, so that we could be fit for the social and industrial life of the
white population and to promote their not too distant assimilation. There is a question being debated these days
about genocide; that’s not a word that we use. But in reality, that sort of idea smacks of
eliminating differences, eliminating languages, eliminating institutions, also art and music
and other things that are meaningful to our civilization. In any case, we tried to make our adjustments
because that’s just the way life is. You know when there is an invasive species
come around like a bird or a plant, the indigenous species have to make their adjustments the
best they can. And so in our world, our predecessors decided,
well maybe they ought to start learning how to use the political system, how to vote,
how to take some responsibility for what was taking place in their environment. But at the same time, the very bases of our
existence were being ruthlessly destroyed. I mean the whaling world directly went at
the livelihood of thousands and thousands of people up north who depended on the 30,000
bowhead whales and the tens of thousands of walruses that were later reduced to 10% of
what they were before in the 1800s. And they began to hunt the walruses for the
ivory by the tens of thousands, for the ivory. And then they began to sell the alcohol because
it was so profitable. It had gigantic impacts on our people. And also in southeast Alaska, thousands of
years, indigenous people there had managed to figure out ways to control the streams. Certain people had rights to streams and certain
people had rights to utilize those streams. But they were productive. But after 1867, you know, the canned salmon
industry literally built canneries all the way from southeast Alaska to my hometown all
the way above the Arctic Circle, and they basically began to privatize salmon through
the use of fish traps. Causing great distress among those people
who had a dependence upon that sort of livelihood. And on top of that, of course, the migratory
bird treaties turned us virtually into instant criminals because we needed to hunt migratory
birds in the spring as a change of diet and yet it was illegal. And we had, of course, no consultation on
issues like that. But nevertheless we tried to be good citizens. We fought in world war two; we fought in the
Korean War. My own parents joined the Alaskan territorial
guard when Muktuk Marston came out to organize the scouts. We wanted to protect our country. However, as time moved on we began to lose
our population majority. By 1950 there was about 128,000 Alaska; by
1960, 226,000. That was the year after statehood that we
were now in the minority. And of course, this is normal, that is, the
formation of states out west took place as soon as the Indians were put into the reservations
and under control. And enough of the non-native population came,
you know, to form a government. That’s the American process. It was not our idea, but did anybody take
the time to go out to our villages to be able to talk in our languages to try to explain
what was happening and what was going to happen? I doubt it. And the truth of the matter is that we weren’t
there at the constitutional convention. I’m sad to say it was before my time. I have no idea why our people didn’t see
the significance of the importance of the work that was being done with the constitution. Because we had native politicians. The first senate president was an Eskimo guy
from Hickok. I knew his family. Nevertheless, the issues that plague us today
sort of have their roots in that document. The absence of concerns about land, about
languages, about participation in our educational system, the importance of fish and game to
our lives. I mean if there just would have been a few
phrases that would have given the jurist some direction on these issues that would’ve
been great. I mean there’s no recognition whatsoever
of the tribal governments that existed at the time. None. And let me give you an example of how the
constitution affected my hometown. Before statehood we had a tribal government
there. As soon as the fourth class city, title 29,
came into effect, the non-natives organized a city government, quickly took control, invited
the BLM in to survey, didn’t give us a real choice about whether it should be a general
townsite or a native townsite, and before you know it they bought up literally the entire
spit on which Kotzebue is located for 50 dollars, 75 dollars, 100 dollars a lot. Those lots are not 40 or 50,000 a lot. So today we have become squatters and renters
because of what they did. I mean I’ll never forget challenging a BLM
and next thing I know there was a plane load, Burton Silcock, the state director came to
Kotzebue. I was literally the only one standing there. Because our people didn’t understand what
had transpired. When I ask Edith Bullock, who used to be a
board regent, and I used to work for her, she said “Oh, well we decided that we’re
not gonna charge the people who sit on the lot for a cost of that lot.” Big deal. Anyway, that’s just an example. So, I’m kind of going on and on. But the reality was that in those days, in
’55 there were still elements of racism I’m sad to say. It was only ten years before that they had
passed the Indian civil rights law that eliminated like the “no dogs or natives allowed”
or “natives only” or “natives need not apply” signs around this state. And I’ve seen covenants in Rogers Park and
Turnigan where we were not allowed to buy a lot unless you were a servant. And so when I got to Juneau, the only thing
we had for elders was a pioneer home. Well the pioneer home was, sadly, was not
for us. But I did fight to get some facility for our
elders in Kotzebue, and I had to do it under the pioneer home law because that’s the
only thing we had going on for elderly people. But the law said “applicability to natives
– any Alaska native receiving aid from the US government is hereby ineligible.” We couldn’t get in the pioneer home. In any case, that was one example. And then I discovered that what kept the organizations
that discriminated on the basis of race in business was a state liquor license. And so I thought, “Well we shouldn’t condone
that.” So I crafted a bill that would prevent the
issuance of a liquor license that discriminated on the basis of race. It became a humongous issue. They called it the “no booze for bigots”
bill. And created just great consternation, you
know. In the end, they basically gutted it by saying,
“when the supreme court rules against it, we’ll comply.” But nevertheless, this was the kind of environment
that we lived in. And sad to say, when it came to the unorganized
borough that is rural Alaska, I mean the boroughs were basically for the urbanites. And the unorganized borough is all those two
hundred villages out there and the legislature was to sit as the borough assembly for the
unorganized borough. Well, the reality is we did not even have
in there any kind of mechanism for regional planning that could have been very useful
for us. So that’s just some of the history. I won’t go into other details. But the good news is that this is America. And thank God that Seward decided that this
part of the world should become part of the United States empire. Because had we stayed with the czar, we would
have literally no rights whatsoever. Our land rights would be about as deep as
a reindeer could chew. There would be nothing like we have today
insofar as our land summit is concerned that Richard Nixon, bless his soul, helped us get. But the reality was that we had to fight the
miners and the business men and the forest people, almost everybody, who didn’t believe
we had the ability and the sense to manage our own affairs. Bob Atwood fought us tooth and tong starting
way back in the ‘40s over reservations and never believed that we would be able to help
develop Alaska. But now, with almost two hundred million acres
of our land tied up in some federal park or refuge, maybe they would have supported us
for another twenty million acres. That would help us all because our land is
about the only land that is now private that can help us with our future resource development. And so those are just some of my observations
and involvement and I do think it’s a great constitution. It would’ve been greater had it recognized
the fact that we were here and had been here. But, like I said, we weren’t participating
with one out of fifty-five. Our thoughts, our values, our history, our
issues, many were simply not reflected in that document, thank you.>>JOHN SKY STARKEY: Good morning, my name
is Sky Starkey. My father is Lakota; my mother is German. I’ve been in Alaska for about forty years
and practicing Alaskan Native law for about thirty of those. My primary practice is subsistence hunting
and fishing tribal rights. I really wanna thank Willie for expressing
so eloquently what I’ve heard from many Alaska native leaders about their exclusion
from the Alaska Constitution. I’m gonna focus my comments mostly around
article eight of the Constitution because I feel like that’s probably the most significant
part of the Constitution, or at least part of the Constitution that would have had significant
revisions if there would’ve been Alaska native representation. While I’m talking I would just like you
to consider and keep in mind, and for those of you who have a copy of the Constitution
you can read it, the preamble, which I had not really focused on before. But, the preamble says, “We the people of
Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land in
order to secure and transmit to succeeding generations our heritage of political, civil,
and religious liberty, do ordain and establish this Constitution.” The words pioneer were actually raised in
the context in that preamble of the constitutional convention by Muktuk Marston. And this dialogue is covered very thoroughly
in Vic Fisher’s book. Where Muktuk Marston pointed out the preamble
and the pioneers and also pointed out how Alaska Natives were excluded from that preamble. And out of fairness and justice, he argued
that there should be a provision in the Constitution that acknowledged, particularly the issue
was fishing sites for Alaska natives and how they deserved control and title and to be
secure in those because they weren’t. People were walking in and taking those without
regard for their rights and they were losing their fishing opportunities. That was defeated. Never even came to a vote. Instead the constitutional delegates casted
aside and declared it would be a federal issue. Ignoring, in my view, the fact that there
were 100 million acres of state land that were going to be under state control regardless. And everybody at that convention either knew
or should have known that the subsistence way of life was essential to one quarter of
the population that was not represented. In contrast, if you look at the Hawaii constitution,
the preamble states, “We the people of Hawaii, grateful for divine guidance, and mindful
of our Hawaiian heritage and uniqueness dedicated in our efforts to fulfill the philosophy decreed
in the Hawaii state motto, “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono.” What a difference in preambles, what a difference
a few delegates made in their Constitution. Article 8 is the part of the constitution
that defines use of natural resources for the state. It was, again, Vic Fischer’s book does an
excellent job of laying out the debate, but honestly, as I look at Article 8 in the constitution,
one of the prime motivations of the people that wanted statehood was the development
of natural resources and to be in control of that without the federal government doing
so, including fishing, but mining was also huge. And if you look at Article 8, there are specific
provisions about mining. Again, if you look at Article 8, you’ll
see there are the policy–in Article 8, is basically, has to do with the development
of resources consistent with beneficial uses. There’s the common use clause, which has
been interpreted for public trust doctrine, but there’s nothing about subsistence hunting
and fishing in there. To the contrary, what is in Article 8 are
the “enshrinement of equal protection” to ensure that natural resources–there’s
no special privilege for natural resources. Again, if one looks at the Hawaii constitution,
in contrast, they have a Section 7 in their constitution, which says, “The State reaffirms
and shall protect all rights customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, culture,
and religious purposes, and possessed, by the native Hawaiian tenants. So, again, Article 8, I suggest you would
have been significantly different with Alaskan native participation, and it was intentionally
not included and left to the federal government in the Statehood Act through the disclaimer,
which has actually not ever been in used, in my knowledge, by the Alaska state courts
to protect any kind of subsistence or native hunting, fishing rights that have to do with
state jurisdiction, state lands. This becomes even more important in Alaska
than other places. Lower 48 tribes, as we know, have reservations. They have Indian country, they have self-determination,
they have places where they can protect their culture and their hunting and fishing and
their resources. In Alaska, as we know, the prevailing thought
is that the State of Alaska gets to manage even native lands. I disagree with that–I think there’s another
theory behind that–but that’s for another day. But the prevailing thought in the current
practices, even on those ANCSA 40 million acres, the State of Alaska, the Board of Game,
the Board of Fish–dominated by commercial and sport interests–regulates those lands. So Article 8 becomes even more important than
in other states that actually have…where Native Americans have some control over their
lives. Just in terms of a question, so what would
happen now if the Alaska Supreme Court took into consideration, when it looks at these
issues, the fact that the Alaska natives were excluded, a quarter of the population. The Alaska Supreme Court does look at historical
factors–the context, the historical context of the constitution when it was enacted. But to my knowledge–and I have read nearly
all the cases that have to do with Article 8–there’s never been any kind of explicit,
or even implicit, recognition about this exclusion, about the failure to look at Native American
hunting and fishing rights in the constitution. If you look at the way Article 8’s been
interpreted–or the constitution in general–there are a couple of places–and I’m only speaking
about constitutional cases–where the Alaska Supreme Court has actually acknowledged the
historical and continuing context of the importance of subsistence hunting and fishing, not only
as to nutritional and economic values, but culturally. And one of those was in the Frank v. State
case, which enshrined, under the 1st Amendment religious freedoms, the right to take moose
for potlatches. And there, they very much relied on the cultural
practice and the need to do that as a religious freedom, but again, that wasn’t an Article
8 case. And then in the Alvarado case, which secured
the right for Alaskan natives to be, to have, native people, village people, to be on juries,
they again looked at the cultural differences between native villages and urban areas and
hunting and fishing practices, but again, this was a due process sort of claim. But in the Article 8 context, and in hunting
and fishing in general, it’s very interesting–to me, anyway–to look at the early cases that
came out in the 70s, when I think the jurists were a little bit closer to the constitution
and the delegates. In those 70s cases, Tanana Valley Sportsmen[’s
Ass’n] v. State, for example, in 7’78, the supreme court recognized very explicitly
in a footnote the continued importance for the culture and the well-being of native villages
to have opportunities to hunt and fish on their lands and use their resources. But then in the 80s, particularly in the mid-
and late-80s and early 90s, through the 90s, out the 90s, the court started to look at
Article 8, and the tension between the rights of Alaska natives to continue their way of
life and equal protection as viewed by those courts started to really surface. And then you saw the McDowell case throughout
the rural priority, and equal protection became the drive. It was no longer the court recognizing how
important subsistence uses were necessarily and needing to make accommodations for that–the
drive became equal protection, and a really great concern for actually urban residents’
access to subsistence. The worst case in my opinion is really not
McDowell. The worse case is I think, the worst case
on the record, is the Kenaitze case in 1995. In this case, the court not only found that
not being rural was not good, but even when the resources become incredibly short and
nobody but subsistence users can use them, the priority, that you couldn’t weigh the
proximity to the resource, how close the resource was to the user–you couldn’t even weigh
that. That would be a “violation of equal protection.” Very, in my view, a very superficial analysis
that followed straight along McDowell that it was residency-based, and it was an equal
protection analysis, and there was very little weighing of how compelling the subsistence
interest was and the fit. Also in the Kenaitze decision–and probably
even worse in my view–the court found that it was not a violation of equal protection
to deny the Kenaitze Indian tribe, whose, you know, the Kenai River, the Peninsula,
everybody’s named after them–it’s been their homeland, was their homeland forever,
it wasn’t their fault that a lot of people moved around them, didn’t mean that they
necessarily changed their way of life–but the court found that it was not a violation
of equal protection to deny them the right to hunt in their traditional territory even
though other tribes everywhere else in the state had that right because they were not
declared “non-subsistence users” by the legislature. Absolutely no analysis about the cultural
importance of it, the historical context of the constitution, just simply that there is
no right to have a “convenient” access to subsistence resources–failing to acknowledge
that subsistence uses by Alaskan natives is very closely tied to their traditional territory. But on the bright side of things, this current
supreme court and the recent decisions–one by Judge Tan that was from the Manning case–starts
to now roll back this equal protection analysis, starts to narrow it a bit, starts to recognize
the importance of subsistence uses. The supreme court in its most recent, I think
significant, decision, actually started to recognize that the subsistence statute protects
a culture and a way of life, so it’s starting to evolve that way. But to this day, and even in those cases,
there’s no acknowledgment about the failure of the constitution to look at this–there’s
no historical “context”–and I think that might be the fault of perhaps lawyers not
making these arguments to the supreme court and raising them in this context, and this
has been the “enlightenment” for me in looking at how to make this presentation,
and I thank the Duke law review and Ryan and others for allowing us to do this. Finally, before Andy gets up here, I just
want briefly to say that in response to some of the suggestions about constitutional conventions
and commissions, I think maybe many of you know that after the McDowell decision in the
90s, there were actually five special sessions where they tried to get a constitutional amendment
on the ballot that would recognize subsistence as a constitutional right. There were actually, in terms of “commissions,”
there were two special commissions–one commission by Governor Knowles and one by Hickle that
actually did make recommendations for statutory and constitutional changes. We needed two-thirds of the legislature, both
House and Senate; we could not get it. So constitutional change may be possible,
but it’s certainly been an exhausting process so far and unsuccessful. My ultimate goal as a lawyer in representing
Alaska natives would be to convince the supreme court to take a look at the exclusion of Alaska
natives and to read into Article 8 an implicit right, a constitutional right, for subsistence
hunting and fishing by all people in Alaska–Alaska natives and others–who are actually and genuinely
living that way of life. Thank you.>>ANDY ERICKSON: Thank you–my name is Andy
Erickson and I’ve been working with Willie and Sky, and I’m really grateful for their
expertise, and my role in this is trying to figure out how to do that–how to look forward
and make the argument to the Alaska courts to bring back traditional and cultural history
and context to the interpretation of Article 8. And one of the ways that we think that could
be possible is looking at how the federal courts have addressed similar issues. The federal courts, since the early 1800s–the
Marshall court–have implied a method of interpretation called the Indian canon of interpretation. And this looks back to treaties and statutes
that were made with Indian tribes throughout the country, and it says that those treaties
and those statutes should be interpreted with the intent in mind from what the natives perceived
as what was going to happen from the treaty. So looking at the native perspective and giving
all the benefit of the doubt for ambiguities in favor of the native interests. And we think that this is one way to analogize
to a supreme court interpretation in Alaska that says that Article 8 should be interpreted
in light of the context in the traditional and cultural history of Alaska natives and
bringing that in to the interpretation, recognizing that those subsistence uses are what natives
would have believed the constitution was protecting. I think that it can be said that none of the
Alaska natives at the time would have thought or approved of a constitution that takes away
those rights, their way of life. And so putting that back in and having Alaska
courts recognize that, making the argument, is something that I think is going to be very
important going forward. Thank you.>>MODERATOR: Are there any, we’ll take
like maybe about five minutes if there are any questions or comments from the audience
yeah and I do have me unmute it if you have a microphone now this doesn’t amplify if people
have been asking me if this amplifies unfortunately this is just for the recording purposes>>WOMAN 1: I was just curious if any of you
have thoughts about the recent decision out of the 5th Circuit that the Indian Child Welfare
Act is not constitutional.>>MODERATOR: How long do we have?>>STARKEY: Oh boy, yeah, I’ve got thoughts–they’re
more like nightmares, I guess. You know, if . . . Justice Thomas has made
it clear that he does not agree–so, just as a little premise, the way the federal courts
look at equal protection, they do an equal protection analysis, they don’t do an equal
protection analysis if it’s a legislation for the benefit of Indians as tribes. They get around that through the decision
called the Mancari decision, by saying that it’s not a “racial” determination, it’s
a “political” determination that there’s tribes, and that brings us all the way back
to the Indian Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Justice Thomas, years ago, expressed his belief
that it was time for that to be overturned and go away. So the danger of any case coming now before
the Supreme Court, including this possible ICWA case is that they’ll fall back, they’ll
look at the Mancari case and they’ll start to do away with anything that has to do with
legislation for the benefit of Native Americans. And also, with the points Andy made about
the canons, the canons are a completely Supreme Court-structured way of looking at Indian
legislation that has been hugely beneficial to Native Americans. And this court could certainly choose either
not to apply them or completely roll them back. So, you know, we’re concerned.>>MAN 1: Just a question for Willie…were
there in fact any native people who ran for delegate and did not win or was that so foreign
to them that they…if you know?>>HENSLEY: You know, that actually is a mystery
to me, but you have to remember back then we had, our languages were fairly viable back
then so a lot of people didn’t really understand the nature of the significance of statehood
and also of what was drafted in the constitution. Remember we had only the postal service, right? And generally speaking, in English. So I think there may have been maybe a lack
of understanding of the significance of what was taking place…and, like I said, there
were language barriers, our people were spread out over 200 villages across the state. As far as I know, there was no special effort
to really explain…just a simple thing as to whether to mine or not. We spent years in our region talking to our
villages about the impact, potential impact, of mining, the change that mining would–and
yet, when it comes to something as consequential as having to live forever with some document
that we had no participation, you know, there was no such efforts. Of course the state was, the territory was
poor–I mean, there was hardly any money–I understand that, but still–and getting around
was very difficult–so, like I said earlier, I don’t know why the Bill Bellses (?) or
the William Pauls or others who actually had served in the territorial legislature didn’t–maybe
they were out whaling or something, I don’t know what they were doing. They were probably trying to make a living,
you know, and travel was not that easy, so there could be a whole variety of reasons
that I don’t know about. Like, for you scholars out there–I mean you
younger ones–I mean it’s a great area to take a look at because, you know, we got into
the battle from the get-go; we had no chance to try to go back in history. We just had to deal with the issues that were
at hand, you know, starting in the 60s because our land was being stolen by the new state
and…in the one semester I thought as a lawyer, I realized that the moment the Secretary of
Interior signed a[n] interim conveyance under the Statehood Act, that we were never gonna
get that land back. That was an extinguishment of aboriginal title,
and that was my “A-ha,” trying to think like a lawyer. The good news is that the congress did not
outright extinguish our underlying title–that would have solved all the problem because
we would have had no rights. But the reality is under the law, Indian title
had some substance to it, and its extinguishment was compensable. The problem was it was compensable like one
cent, you know, on the dollar, and it took forever to go through the court of claims. So we really did turn around U.S. history–200
year history–all of a sudden, they were conveying land. So when people talk about two cents an acre,
well, not exactly; you have to throw in the value of 44 million acres plus about a billion
dollars to that price.>>VIC FISCHER: Well I can give a direct answer. About ten years ago, I looked up the issue
and, as I remember–I have it written down, but–as I remember now, there were about eight
or nine natives who ran for the constitutional convention. There were four in Southeast running at large
in the whole southeast region…Frank Peratrovich–oh! There were eight natives in the territorial
legislature at the time. And I think seven natives ran for the constitutional
convention–four at large in Southeast. Frank Peratrovich was elected; he was a territorial
senator at the time. He had been elected at large, and the hope
of Sitka was within a limited number of votes from being elected at large. And then there were two others; I can’t
remember their names. There were three natives who ran in the Nome,
western district, and there were local seats as well as a regional seat, and the three
of them ran for the regional seat, and none of them were elected. They got enough votes, couple of them could
have been elected at the local level. That was about it. At the time, to many Alaska natives–and I
had worked in rural Alaska before the constitutional convention–and people were generally not
connected to this ethereal concept of a constitution for a future state. Most natives lived in small, isolated communities. Kotzebue, as you know, was a good example,
and John Cross was a very popular pilot who flew between villages in the Kotzebue area;
he was seen as their representative. He was married to a Iñupiat woman, had a
big family, and they were at the constitutional convention much of the time. But they saw John Cross as their representative
because the convention was not really relevant to most of life in rural Alaska.>>MAN 1: They didn’t think. Sounds like [unintelligible].>>MAN 2: Willie came later.>>MODERATOR: Well and I know that there are
other people who may have comments I do want to give people the opportunity to get lunch
will break for about 10-15 minutes then we’ll come back with our lunch presentations but
first of all thank you very much for our wonderful presenters.


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