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Discussing issues...
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 that issue.

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 stronger.

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 apologies)

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.

Randy Williams
Sealaska member
E-mail: r10

Covington, WA - USA


Related Viewpoint:

No logging, No Bridge, No roads on Gravina Island by Don Hoff, Jr. - Hixson, TN - USA


Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.



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