By Albert K. White
May 15, 2005
Most Native Tribes buried their deceased on a neighboring island this tradition is still going on in Hydaburg. Hydaburg and Metlakatla are fortunate they don't receive the criticism or influence to disregard their cultural identity by people that haven't taken the time to learn their culture or don't care. This lack of respect starts a chain reaction of one party pitted against the other, in today's world it's just a lack of communication between cultures. Unfortunately it was the influence of western society that stopped a lot of our traditions and caused a huge disadvantage striping native people of their identity. Our ancestors were beaten for speaking their own language as well as the extreme discrimination that was taking place at this time.
Respect for others, and other people's property is what I was taught when I was growing up. That was the way of the Tlingit People as well as other tribes. This is not how our ancestors were treated in the early days of society. We eventually gave it a name we called it racism. Unfortunately racism still occurs on a subconscious level for those who come from a long line of a raciest culture. It hurt me to lean that a bunch of high school students who weren't taught respect of other's property went and destroyed the grave sites on Pennock Island.
The people who are involved in the ultimate decision as to if the bridge is going to be placed on Pennock Island should at least listen to the elders or the last of the historians; otherwise it's the continuing process of paving over our culture with their's. Put yourself in their shoes; how would you feel if the bridge was going to be in the back yard of where your loved ones are buried? It not so much about distance from the grave site, as it is going in our back yard. Remember Cape Fox People as well as the Tongass Tribe had landed in Ketchikan first that should count for something. Subconscious Discrimination is holding us down and it still occurs today.
Take the six mile radius Ketchikan imposed on Cape Fox Corporation the only City in all cities that was affiliated with Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to impose such a radius all other municipalities imposed a two mile radius. Ketchikan was afraid of sharing power with the Native People who would have shared back if given the chance. Ketchikan used Louisiana Pacific very skilled lawyers to once again hold Cape Fox and Saxman down; because of this radius Cape Fox Corp. was forced to select most of its lands on mountain tops, and as we all know there is not much value in mountain top timber. Ketchikan and L.P. claimed in their suit that the timber within the radius wasn't worth logging, and what do you think happened after Ketchikan won the six mile? They logged the land. I have a whole list of things that have been done to hold down the original inhabitants of Saxman and Ketchikan but I will only give a few more examples.
How about Mahoney Lake hydro power this was a win-win situation. An opportunity to bridge the gap of the discriminating world we were forced to live in. Separate cultures working together. It would have saved Ketchikan $30,000,000 over the course of the contract which could have been used to finish the inter-tie; as well as lower the high cost of burning diesel fuel K.P.U burns now. Look for the increase in your bill, if it not there it will be soon. The citizens of Ketchikan are now paying for the city council's decision in not allowing a private enterprise team up with the city to achieve the goal the city owed to its citizens. Well if this isn't enough burning information on how we continually are held back, how about how our governor who is originally from Ketchikan - he reversed F.E.R.C regulations. Basically Cape Fox was going to build it anyway and according to F.E.R.C regulations the city would have been required to buy power from Cape Fox Corp. F.E.R.C basically would allow a private enterprise to complement the municipally and share power, rather than the city forcing its customers to pay high rates because it doesn't want to work with a private enterprise. I know in most cities governments aren't suppose to compete just complement. Why is it different here?
How about the water tie-in in Saxman? Saxman is not in compliance with water safety standards due to the lack of water source. Now I have to give credit to Mayor Weinstein for trying to work with the city of Saxman on this problem, but some were caught between the fighting with the city and the borough. The borough took the rights to the pipe line and locked Saxman out of the meetings claiming we weren't within the water service area. The pipe would only have to travel a half a mile more, and not only would it provide economic opportunities for Saxman, but most importantly, provide sanitary drinking water for our community.
How about consolidation? Basically the community is boxing Saxman in, not allowing for future growth. The selfishness of a few people to retain all the power will eventually wipe out a community. Communities are made to grow. Look at the bridge - over 90% of the land the bridge will access will belong to the community how much land does this community really need? Is it right to make a community and a group of people suffer for Ketchikan's own gain. Most would consider this unethical. As if this wasn't enough, because of the six mile radius imposed by Ketchikan that kept Saxman from selecting 14(c)3 lands which would have allowed Saxman to extend its limits all the way out to Mountain Point, then along comes Mental Health Trust taking half of Saxman's land. Saxman is currently a half square mile with no opportunities to grow or no support to help growth. Those of you that have read all the disadvantages up into this point, have you ever wondered why Saxman hasn't grown, or why? The negative comments are made about management out there, well there is no need to wonder anymore. Not having a water supply has held us back from allowing new houses to be built leading to the brain drain of the educated youth moving out. I'm a prime example. I have lived in Saxman My whole life and recently moved to Ketchikan. I can no longer contribute politically to the community I grew up in. Also a lack of water has kept Saxman from economic development.
Finally the bridge - there was all kinds of economic surveys done for Ketchikan but none for Saxman. When I asked why, The Borough Mayor Mike Salazar said to me, why, does it matter.
The reason I wrote such along letter is some people forget what our people have gone through and continue to go through. Why can't we respect each other and use our resources to benefit all rather than one? Don's letters may be getting old, but he just wants to be heard and not discriminated against. Just because we are a minority who have been held down and continue to be held down doesn't mean we don't have a voice. Had the people who were responsible for the survey had done the economic impact survey for Saxman and listened to our concerns to begin with rather than act like we don't exist, the respect for another, one's culture, and community would have been established. Instead it's what's best for Ketchikan. Once again ignoring the voice of their neighbor and holding Saxman in check, not allowing a move.
All I ask is please respect your neighbor; he has a right not to be criticized by a person who isn't familiar with our history of existence, and next time before you criticize another person's culture do your homework. You may find the answer within the history, culture, and facts. Which in the end would give you the ultimate understanding as to why Don is continuing to raise this subject? The Native community is running out of time, before we get stomped on again.
Why can't we all respect each other and work together? We would get a lot more done and we would all benefit rather than just one community; ultimately giving the illusion discrimination still exists, at least subconsciously.
Rather then criticize Don, in the future try praising him in being one of the few who are struggling to keep our rights as a Tlingit race intact. After all what was once taken away hasn't been fully reestablished. If we don't fight for who we are, and what we stand for, it will just be a matter of time before our cultures and traditions and language will be replaced for what was best for the majority.
See what an opinion can spark, If I offended you in anyway Mr. McRoberts it wasn't my intention and I apologize; as well as to the Community of Ketchikan. I just want to bridge this gap and in order to start that process you have to know what has transpired. It starts with the community and politicians realizing Saxman is not a threat and could compliment Ketchikan, let's share the wealth, opportunities, and cultures. As a community team you can meet all the concerns of the community as a whole as well as your constituents, would it hurt to share the benefits others that were disadvantaged from birth, isn't that what life is all about, meeting community needs and helping your neighbor. At least that's the Ketchikan I want to live in; one that cares for all.
Albert K. White
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