Sarah Palin’s Record on Alaska Native and Tribal Issues

By Sue Taylor, Special to the Post sarahpalin.jpgThe silence surrounding Sarah Palin’s “real” views is about to be broken on her record with Alaska’s Native tribes. “Almost half the nation’s Native tribes are located in Alaska – most of them using subsistence fishing and hunting to have any food to eat.  Most are poor – way below poverty level. About 20% of all tribes are in California,” says a local Native-American attorney, who asked not to be identified. “With Alaska and California having almost 70% of all Native tribes, it’s important to know how they are treated by current political leaders.” Just as African Americans did, many Native-Americans did not vote until tribes fought for the right to vote and to have polling places on the tribal lands, not somewhere hundreds of miles away. “Yes, these are recent fights,” says the local Berkeley attorney.  Sarah Palin has an abysmal record of actions against Native tribes as revealed in a piece sent to this reporter, written by Attorney Lloyd Miller and his wife, of the Law Firm Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller & Munson, LLP, in Anchorage, Alaska. “We’ve worked on these cases. Palin’s record is horrible and we just want people to know, “ Mrs. Miller said when reached by telephone. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Fishing and Hunting Perhaps no issue of greater importance to Alaska Native peoples is the right to hunt and fish according to ancient traditional practices in order to carry on their way of life for future generations. Governor Palin has consistently opposed these rights, specifically taking hunting and fishing opportunities away from tribes to enhance sport and commercial activities. After being elected, she continued litigation to overturn every subsistence fishing determination the federal government has ever made in Alaska.  (State of Alaska v. Norton, 3:05-cv-0158-HRH (D.Ak.) In May 2007, the federal court rejected the State’s lawsuit against Native tribes, holding that Congress in 1980 had expressly granted the U.S. Interior and Agriculture Departments – not state government –  the authority to regulate and protect Native and rural subsistence fishing activities in Alaska. Palin continues to argue that the federal subsistence protections are too broad, and should be narrowed to exclude vast areas and even opposes protections on lands specifically given to Native tribes in land claim settlements. These issues are now pending before the federal district court. Palin has attacked Alaska Tribal Sovereignty So extreme is Palin on tribal sovereignty issues that she sought to block tribes from authority even over the welfare of Native children. Both state and federal courts have struck down Palin’s policy of refusing to recognize sovereign authority of Alaska Tribes, in recent judgments she has appealed, such as a judgment entered as recently as August 26, 2008 in Native Village of Tanana v. State of Alaska. In spite of the rulings, Palin’s policy of refusing to recognize Alaska tribal sovereignty remains unchanged. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Languages Perhaps most insidious, striking at the core of freedom in this country are Palin’s efforts to inhibit voting rights of Alaska Native voters. On July 30, 2008, Governor Palin was ordered by a special panel of three federal judges to provide various forms of voter assistance after she refused to do so for Yup’ik-speaking Alaska Native voters who reside in southwest Alaska. “In sum, measured against some of the rights that are most fundamental to Alaska Native Tribes – the subsistence way of life, tribal sovereignty and voting rights – Palin’s record is a failure,” writes Attorney Lloyd Miller.
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