Sunday, September 07, 2008


Sarah Palin's Record from the Native American Point of View

In light of the fact that supposedly Sarah Palin's husband is of Eskimo descent, I find this article put together by Alaskan Natives and brought to my attention by writer Suzan Harjo rather intriguing with regard to how Palin conducts business in Alaska.

Sarah Palin's Record on

Alaska Native and Tribal Issues

1. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Fishing

Perhaps no issue is of greater importance to Alaska
Native peoples as the right to hunt and fish according to
ancient customary and traditional practices, and to carry on
the subsistence way of life for future generations.

Governor Sarah Palin has consistently opposed those

Once in office, Governor Palin decided to continue
litigation that seeks 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 pressing this case, Palin decided against using the
Attorney General (which usually handles State litigation)
and instead continued contracting with Senator Ted
Stevens' brother-in-law's law firm (Birch, Horton,
Bittner & Cherot).

The goal of Palin's law suit is to invalidate all the
subsistence fishing regulations the federal government has
issued to date to protect Native fishing, and to force the
courts instead to take over the roll of setting subsistence
regulations. Palin's law suit seeks to diminish
subsistence fishing rights in order to expand sport and
commercial fishing.

In May 2007, the federal court rejected the State's
main challenge, holding that Congress in 1980 had expressly
granted the U.S. Interior and Agriculture Departments the
authority to regulate and protect Native and rural
subsistence fishing activities in Alaska. (Decision entered
May 15, 2007 (Dkt. No. 110).)

Notwithstanding this ruling, Palin continues to argue in
the litigation that the federal subsistence protections are
too broad, and should be narrowed to exclude vast areas from
subsistence fishing, in favor of sport and commercial
fishing. Palin opposes subsistence protections in marine
waters, on many of the lands that Natives selected under
their 1971 land claims settlement with the state and federal
governments, and in many of the rivers where Alaska Natives
customarily fish. (Alaska Complaint at 15-18.) Palin also
opposes subsistence fishing protections on Alaska Native
federal allotments that were deeded to individuals purposely
to foster Native subsistence activities. All these issues
are now pending before the federal district court.

2. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Hunting

Palin has also sought to invalidate critical
determinations the Federal Subsistence Board has made
regarding customary and traditional uses of game,
specifically to take hunting opportunities away from Native
subsistence villagers and thereby enhance sport hunting.

Palin's attack here on subsistence has focused on the
Ahtna Indian people in Chistochina. Although the federal
district court has rejected Palin's challenge, she has
carried on an appeal that was argued in August 2008. (State
of Alaska v. Fleagle, No. 07-35723 (9th Cir.).)

In both hunting and fishing matters, Palin has continued
uninterrupted the policies initiated by the former Governor
Frank Murkowski Administration, challenging hunting and
fishing protections that Native people depend upon for their
subsistence way of life in order to enhance sport fishing
and hunting opportunities. Palin's lawsuits are a direct
attack on the core way of life of Native Tribes in rural

3. Palin has attacked Alaska Tribal Sovereignty

Governor Palin opposes Alaska tribal sovereignty.

Given past court rulings affirming the federally
recognized tribal status of Alaska Native villages, Palin
does not technically challenge that status. But Palin argues
that Alaska Tribes have no authority to act as sovereigns,
despite their recognition.

So extreme is Palin on tribal sovereignty issues that she
has sought to block tribes from exercising any authority
whatsoever even over the welfare of Native children,
adhering to a 2004 legal opinion issued by the former
Murkowski Administration that no such jurisdiction exists
(except when a state court transfers a matter to a tribal

Both the state courts and the federal courts have struck
down Palin's policy of refusing to recognize the
sovereign authority of Alaska Tribes to address issues
involving Alaska Native children. Native Village of Tanana
v. State of Alaska, 3AN-04-12194 CI (judgment entered Aug.
26, 2008) (Ak. Super. Ct.); Native Kaltag Tribal Council v.
DHHS, No. 3:06-cv-00211-TMB (D. Ak.), pending on appeal No
08-35343 (9th Cir.)). Nonetheless, Palin's policy of
refusing to recognize Alaska tribal sovereignty remains

4. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Languages

Palin has refused to accord proper respect to Alaska
Native languages and voters by refusing to provide language
assistance to Yup'ik speaking Alaska Native voters. As a
result, Palin was just ordered by a special three-judge
panel of federal judges to provide various forms of voter
assistance to Yup'ik voters residing in southwest
Alaska. Nick v. Bethel, No. 3:07-cv-0098-TMB (D. Ak.) (Order
entered July 30, 2008). Citing years of State neglect, Palin
was ordered to provide trained poll workers who are
bilingual in English and Yup'ik; sample ballots in
written Yup'ik; a written Yup'ik glossary of
election terms; consultation with local Tribes to ensure the
accuracy of Yup'ik translations; a Yup'ik language
coordinator; and pre-election and post-election reports to
the court to track the State's efforts.

In sum, measured against some 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.

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