President's Activities Update: March 2012
NCAI Executive Board Meeting
The NCAI Executive Board traditionally meets just before the NCAI Executive Committee Winter Session held each year at this time. This month’s Executive Board meeting was special in that every one of the 12 Regional Vice-Presidents attended. Along with reports from President Jefferson Keel and Executive Director Jackie Pata, we heard reports from FCC Director Julius Genachowski, and the National Indian Child Welfare Association Director Terry Cross. We were given an update on Supreme Court activities as they impact Native Americans; discussed NCAI Mid-Year issues in Lincoln, NE, and the NCAI Constitution amendment process; and heard a thorough report on NCAI’s audit and finances. It is important that we keep tribal participation in NCAI up and increasing.
NCAI Winter Session
The NCAI Executive Committee Winter Session was impressive in that we had presentations from 7 of the 12 Cabinet Secretaries! We also had excellent presentations from our friends in Congress on a variety of issues such as the Carcieri Fix legislation, Law & Order, Indian Healthcare, indirect costs, and budgets. We were honored with a final presentation to an NCAI gathering from Senator Daniel Akaka since he is to retire after this session of Congress. He has been such a strong supporter of Native American issues, it is sad to see him go.
It was my honor to chair the afternoon session on the final day of the Winter Session.
AFN Leadership Visit to Washington, DC
A delegation of AFN Board members, their support staff, and AFN officers were in Washington, DC at the same time as the NCAI Winter Session. Because I am an officer of NCAI, I was not able to attend meetings that were set up to discuss Alaska issues and concerns, but First Vice-President Will Micklin was present to provide representation for Tlingit Haida Central Council in a number of these meetings. The Alaska Native Corporations sponsored a lunch for NCAI Executive Board members to discuss the pros and cons of ANCSA Corporations and Alaska Regional Non-Profits being full voting members of NCAI. There was a good, healthy dialog, but I do not feel we really got to a meeting of the minds on this sensitive issue.
Congressman Young Reception
Under the leadership of the Alaska Federation of Natives, Alaska Native organizations sponsored a reception for Alaska’s Congressman Don Young. The reception was held in a hearing room of the Rayburn Building and was very well attended. The food was excellent and it was a good place to meet with old friends and important political people. I was a bit surprised to see so many people from Alaska in attendance. This reception was important because of the positions Congressman Young holds in Congress that are critical to Native Americans. Alaskans want to let him and other members of Congress know we appreciate him and we want tribal leaders from across the country to know him as well.
Meeting with U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Regional Director Beth Pendleton
Carrie Sykes and I met with USFS Regional Director Beth Pendleton and Tribal Government Relations Specialist Lillian Petershoare, to see if we can find a spot on our Tribal Assembly agenda to include the presentation of a video on the USFS Acknowledgement Ceremony. It appears that the most appropriate spots on the agenda where the USFS could be present are taken and so we are working with SueAnn Lindoff, coordinator of the Russian Orthodox Church Fundraiser lunch on Saturday, April 21st, and she is agreeable to the video being viewed during their fundraiser. Ruth Monahan, Deputy Regional Forester, will provide a brief introduction of the video at the luncheon and provide us with a copy of the DVD. Last year the USFS presented us with a Raven and an Eagle staff that we will be using in our opening ceremony this year.
Seattle Subsistence Workshop
Carrie Sykes, Rob Sanderson Jr., and I were invited to participate in a subsistence workshop sponsored by the Seattle Tlingit Haida Community Council. Our Seattle brothers and sisters want to be supportive of our subsistence battles and they felt more knowledge was in order to be better supporters. I began by giving a historical overview that began in the early 1980s and touched on a number of our current concerns. Rob gave an update on major concerns regarding mining in Canada and the negative impact on fishery resources traditionally utilized for subsistence purposes. These mines do not only threaten subsistence resources but potentially all fishery resources on our side of the border. Carrie provided informative handout materials and gave an update on current subsistence challenges and issues.
Honoring Joe Tompkins
Years ago, when Joe Tompkins was a teenager he was injured in a car accident and lost the use of his legs. He didn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself; he took up mono-skiing and began competing nationally and internationally. He has since won many gold and silver medals worldwide and has dedicated his life to encouraging young people to become active in sports instead of getting involved with alcohol or drugs. He has set up a foundation for that purpose. The Juneau Lions Club allowed time at the Gold Medal Tournament opening ceremony to recognize Joe for his accomplishments, which was well received. Tlingit Haida Central Council donated $1,000 to his foundation in recognition of his accomplishments and dedication to youth activities.
Regional Advisory Council on Subsistence
The Southeast Alaska Regional Advisory Council (RAC) on Subsistence held its spring meeting in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall and I was honored to give a welcome address. I took that opportunity to commend them for their work and expressed some of the concerns of our people. Specifically, the need for the federal government to adequately protect subsistence rights on federal lands in Southeast Alaska. RAC members expressed appreciation on meeting in Juneau and welcomed comments from the public.
Federal Subsistence Board
Tlingit Haida Central Council was honored to have the Federal Subsistence Board (FSB) meet in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall in concurrence with the Southeast RAC meeting. I was invited to welcome the FSB, and again I took the opportunity to express the importance of subsistence to our people since the beginning of time. I also gave testimony in favor of the Saxman rural status for subsistence and a petition put forth by Kootznoowoo, Inc. to increase restrictive management on commercial fishing in Chatham Straits to better protect returning sockeye runs in streams around Angoon.
Brotherhood Bridge Medallions
The City and Borough of Juneau is planning to replace the current Brotherhood Bridge that crosses the Mendenhall River just past Safeway and before Don Abel Building Supplies next year with a newer and wider bridge. They have decided to keep the name “Brotherhood Bridge” and asked for public input on proper protocol in using the bronze plaques on the bridge that refer to the Raven and Eagle clans of the Tlingit people. The bridge was built in 1965 and is too narrow for the current amount of traffic utilizing it. I am very pleased that the name will remain the Brotherhood Bridge and they will have a proper ceremony at the reopening of the bridge that will include our people.
House Budget Hearing
I was honored with an invitation to testify to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies on behalf of Tlingit Haida Central Council. I was one of a five-member panel from Alaska; the only tribal government witness on the panel. In my testimony, I expressed my concern that Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) budgets are always formulated in comparison to previous years’ funding as opposed to the needs in Indian Country. The needs of our people are going up, largely due to rising energy costs, and there have been virtually no increases in funding to our people. I also asked the committee to include a requirement that all federal agencies pay 100% of required indirect costs to tribes in their appropriations bill. The Committee Chair stated that he was committed to seeing tribes get 100% funding of indirect costs. Great statement!
Executive Council Meeting
Our Executive Council meeting was held in Ketchikan. Besides getting updates on operations from Corrine Garza, tribal finances from Steve Malin and Tribal Assembly activities from Melissa Kookesh, the Executive Council also discussed the University of Alaska Native language program, staff members applying for and receiving services, the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, and dual membership with other tribes. We also authorized donations to SEARHC and the Prince of Wales’ Veterans Association. A resolution authorizing the restoration of the Tlingit Haida Central Council’s 401(K) plan to its previous state was also passed.
In Honorable & Loving Memory of Mabel Pike
I traveled to Anchorage to attend the funeral services of former delegate and dear friend, Mabel Pike. She will be missed very much!
In Honorable Memory of Niles Cesar
I traveled to Anchorage to attend the funeral services for my dear friend and colleague, Niles Cesar. Niles was the former Alaska BIA Regional Director and a past President of SEARHC. We will miss Niles very much!
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