by Randy Williams
October 16, 2004
Don Hoff has the right idea, sometimes he just says it wrong. I
am happy to see he has taken the approach to discuss the issue
and leave all the race B.S. out of his statements, his arguments
are so much more succinct and effective. I couldn't agree with
him more about the subsistence issue. Not too long ago the Native
Peoples and often even non-natives could go out and harvest the
ocean/land food source for their dinner table but that was when
all of our food was regulated for profit. I often wondered when
my cousins, friends and more the Tribes would stand up and be
counted on these important issues.
The Tribes need to exercise
their rights as the leadership in Metlakatla, Saxman and Ketchikan
have done and let the law serve the side of protection as it
does for others who only want to exploit the land. Although ANCSA
gave up many of our aboriginal rights, I don't believe we gave
up our rights to subsist in a similar manner as our ancestors.
Certainly we have modernized our way of gathering but the basic
premise of putting up food and subsisting remains the paramount
premise and concept for all Alaska Native people.
The Tribes in the lower 48 have a say in almost any natural resource
activity that occurs in and around their lands. They do not let
other people or other Tribes represent their interests and the
leadership must be consulted each and every time their natural
resources are involved. This is especially true when the Forest
Service or any other governmental agency is involved. I can't
express how much this means in the lower 48 because the department
of fish and game or the forest service would not even presume
to make this type of decision without full involvement and more
importantly concurrence from and with the Tribes.
I agree with Don and concur that it is time the Tribes stepped
up and took control of these situations so they do not have to
react after the fact. I applaud the efforts of the Tribal leaders
who said "stop we were not consulted with" because
that is a very important process in the Government-to-Government
relationship that is established between the State, Federal and
Tribal Governments here in Washington. If the Tribes' rights
are neglected by any agency the project is usually stopped until
the Tribes' rights are addressed.
Although I didn't agree with Don as much on the bridge because
I am somewhat progress oriented and believe we must all move
forward and let progress occur, and land development is part
of that progress. However, as a side bar, if that area is a true
ancestral burial ground then any project should be stopped under
the repatriation act and I support Don's assertions concerning
I now believe the bridge was
possibly a smoke screen to give the logging industry a way to
have free access to those logging areas and I don't doubt for
one minute it will make financial sense for individuals who support
economic gain over subsistence rights. However, I emphatically
believe now it will be a determinate for the people who hunt,
fish and in general enjoy the natural food sources that are diminishing
every day in the interest of making a profit and it should be
stopped until Don's issues are addressed and the community at
large receives some assurance that the expressed purpose for
the bridge is the only reason it would be built and not so special
interest groups can take advantage of the tax payer and destroy
another natural resource.
Before I bore everyone to death, I would like to make one other
comment, while I was in Ketchikan this weekend I read how the
community of Kake and in particular their corporation has let
them down. I have stated for years that the corporations are
not letting the people down the people who vote in the board
members have only themselves to look at when their corporation
fails. I have always said these corporations should be run and
managed with individuals who have a background in business.
I was at a Sealaska meeting in Craig a few years ago when Sealaska
lost millions of dollars - I believe the number was $90,000,000
- and although Rachel James gave a very fine presentation, her
issues were essentially being ignored. While she was speaking,
I heard comments like "they're doing the best they can".
Well when your corporation loses $90,000,000 they are not doing
the best they can because that is not good enough. When your
corporation goes into bankruptcy like the 13th has done and you
essentially don't have anything left except the pieces of a corporation
then you will wonder and ask what happened - but it will be to
late, let's not let that happen.
To often we vote for members because they are our elders or because
we like them but when these corporations lose more money and
more start to fail maybe, just maybe I hope we will start to
vote members in because of their qualifications to make our corporations
Perhaps Kake wouldn't be in this position if they elected members
that understood and were in business long enough to see that
investing in activities that do not present long term returns
will not allow your corporation to succeed. (This of course is
an assumption on my part and if I am wrong, please accept my
Our rights as Alaska Native People are eroding daily, when our
corporations diminish and/or fail we lose a powerful economic
base that allows us to influence state and federal policies that
affect us as a people. If we let our corporations fail we jeopardize
our position in the Alaskan community and if nothing else Sealaska
should find a way to support these corporations, maybe not financially
but with an ad-hoc board that tells these village Corporations
the true impact of their decision on investment. I understand
the Village Corporations want to invest in their communities
but sometimes that is logistically impossible, it should not
take a well paid CEO very long to understand that transporting
your goods is a major part of any business in Alaska and that
expense will certainly have a huge impact on the bottom line.
Unfortunately, community members with the support of the board
often insist their idea is a good business project without providing
enough general business forecasts to have made these assertions.
Often these assertions are made with an implied threat of job
loss which can force a CEO to support a bad business idea and
turn it into a viable project, subsequently; the board does not
receive an honest analysis of their request. Unfortunately this
preserves the CEO's position while the business is being created
but when it losses money, which any good business person should
have known, you still lose your job and the community and corporation
is detrimentally affected.
I would suggest that Sealaska sit with the other Corporations
and develop a scheme to offer positive and true business support
services that is not tied to political survival. In other words,
develop a committee that can review the business plans of the
other corporations and tell them without fear of job loss what
their investment plan means in terms of a true business model.
If this committee is ever created, do not put people on the committee
that will say and do what people want to hear but instead will
offer positive review of each and every business plan to the
board of the corporation and to the community if that is necessary.
Also, bring in people that have an understanding of the needs
of the corporations to create employment for their members but
also who can see a bigger picture and that is the need to make
a profit. This committee should consist of individuals who understand
the trends of the nation and what may be positive investments
in and outside of the state, which would allow the corporate
boards to address their community needs. If these corporations
don't find positive investments and in turn positive cash flow
and instead erode their economic resource (money) they will not
be able to provide anything to their community because a corporation
without money cannot invest in their community or anywhere else.
Just like Rachel James was trying to say, Isn't it time that
someone stepped forward and told these corporations the truth
about investments before it is too late for them?
I realize Sealaska's hands are somewhat tied but a corporation
failure affects all of us and we should all be concerned.
My final thought for the Village Corporation and Sealaska members,
elect people because they can make your corporation a profitable
entity, not because they are elders and/or just because you like
them, I believe your Village and Sealaska corporate survival
is dependent on you the member making the right decision for
your corporations future, please elect board members that will
give our corporations a better chance to make a profit and survive.
Finally, keep it up Don, I
believe you are having a positive impact, if nothing else you
are taking a position that you feel is positive for the people
and giving everyone a chance to form their own opinions, thanks.
E-mail: r10 email@example.com
Covington, WA - USA
No logging, No Bridge, No roads on
Gravina Island by Don
Hoff, Jr. - Hixson, TN - USA
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