Tag Archives: Alaska Natives

Sarah Palin’s Latest Rogue Gaffe

Sarah Palin at one of her book signing this past week.

Sarah Palin at one of her book signing this past week.

There have been so many lies and distortions pointed out in Sarah Palin‘s Going Rogue since it was released last week that her memoir has already become something of a gag line.

But perhaps the most embarrassing gaffe so far is her mis-attributed quote to UCLA basketball legend John Wooden.

As the epigram to Chapter Three, “Drill, Baby, Drill,” Palin assigns the following remarks to the Hall of Fame hoops coach:

Our land is everything to us… I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it–with their lives.

Only the quote wasn’t by John Wooden. It was written by a Native American activist named John Wooden Legs in an essay entitled “Back on the War Ponies,” which appeared in a left-wing anthology, We Are the People: Voices from the Other Side of American History, edited by Nathaniel May, Clint Willis, and James W. Loewen.

Here’s the full quote:

Our land is everything to us. It is the only place in the world where Cheyennes talk the Cheyenne language to each other. It is the only place where Cheyennes remember the same things together. I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it–with their life. My people and the Sioux defeated General Custer at the Little Big Horn.

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Gov. Sarah Palin’s Hand Seen in Battle Over Mine in Alaska; Everyone Ticked Off at Sarah (Video)

In an exclusive in-depth article by Michael Powell and Jo Becker for the New York Times, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s involvement and influence in the Bristol Bay / Pebble Mine controversy has left many Alaskans shaking their heads in dismay.

EKWOK, Alaska – Two years ago, Sarah Palin landed near this tiny native village and spoke of her love for the vast and starkly beautiful delta that drains into Bristol Bay.

“I am a commercial fisherman; my daughter’s name is Bristol,” said Ms. Palin, then a candidate for governor. “I could not support a project that risks one resource that we know is a given, and that is the world’s richest spawning grounds, over another resource.”

Many here took her words to heart. But as governor, Ms. Palin has helped ease the way for a proposed copper and gold mine of near-mythic proportions at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the world’s greatest spawning ground for wild salmon.

If state regulators give their approval, mining companies plan to carve an open pit that would rival the world’s largest mines, descending half a mile and taking as much energy to operate daily as the city of Anchorage. That prospect has ignited a war between Alaska’s two historic industries, mining and fishing.

Scientists and former state and federal biologists warn that toxic residue from the project, known as Pebble Mine, would irreparably harm a centuries-old salmon fishing industry that employs 17,000 and hauls in $100 million annually.

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Alaska’s Minorities Feel Ignored by Gov. Palin

Rev. Alonzo Patterson pastor of Shiloh Missionary Church, stands outside of the church in Anchorage, Alaska Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. Patterson is among Alaska's black ministers and business leaders who have urged Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to hire more minorities to senior government positions.

Rev. Alonzo Patterson pastor of Shiloh Missionary Church, stands outside of the church in Anchorage, Alaska Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. Patterson is among Alaska's black ministers and business leaders who have urged Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to hire more minorities to senior government positions.

Rachel D’Oro, writing for the Associated Press, examines the continued tensions between Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s administration and African American community leaders in Alaska.

Alaska’s black leaders say they’re not surprised to see Gov. Sarah Palin at the center of the controversy over injecting the race issue into the presidential campaign.

Palin, Republican John McCain’s running mate, has repeatedly insisted that Barack Obama’s former preacher, the inflammatory Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a legitimate issue even though McCain himself has said it’s out of bounds.

“She has no sensitivity to minorities,” said the Rev. Alonzo Patterson, a Baptist minister and president of the Alaska Black Leadership Conference. “She’s really inciting a lot of African-Americans to get out and vote.”

Since taking office in December 2006, Palin has had a sometimes tense relationship with black leaders, who say they’ve been ignored in their efforts to get more minorities hired in her administration.

In Alaska, blacks chafed when Palin failed to issue a proclamation last year endorsing a festival that marks the freeing of slaves, though she did issue one this year. On the campaign trail, her events sometimes have attracted fringe groups hostile to minorities. At one rally attended by Palin, a supporter told a black cameraman to “sit down, boy.”

This week, in the final debate of the campaign, Obama himself noted the hateful tone of some the McCain-Palin crowds, singling out Palin herself for not doing enough to ease the friction.

Many of Palin’s black constituents say they are disgusted with the campaign’s racial overtones.

“It’s really been like you’re going to a Ku Klux Klan rally,” said Javis Odom, an Anchorage minister. “Gov. Palin is really showing her true colors on the national stage.”

In Alaska, the issue of race relations usually focuses on Alaska Natives, who make up 18 percent of the population. Blacks, in contrast, make up 4 percent.

Patterson and Odom say that when they’ve pressed Palin about diversity in hiring, she gets defensive and even testy.

“If you’re going to embrace the entire country, you need to address the issues here,” said Marilyn Stewart, president of the Alaska Black Chamber of Commerce and a volunteer on Palin’s gubernatorial campaign who has served Republican and Democratic governors. “Most certainly there are qualified minorities who would love to be part her administration. People aren’t asking for her selections to be based on color, but because of qualifications.”

Among Palin’s 417 appointments or reappointments to boards and commissions since taking office in December 2006, 240 have voluntarily identified their ethnicity. Eight are black, 49 Alaska Native, six Asian or Pacific Islander and one is Hispanic.

The Palin administration says her appointments and chief advisers reflect the state’s diversity. For example, her communications director, Bill McAllister, is part black. However, her rural affairs coordinator, who is part Japanese, announced her resignation this week, saying an Alaska Native would be a better fit for the position.

McAllister, who was hired in July, said he and others on the governor’s personal staff are evidence that she is committed to diversity.

“She’s just a warm human being who I think communicates on a deep level, both from a mass media perspective and just a one-on-one perspective,” McAllister said. “So it’s shocking to me that anyone would imply that she’s racist or, you know, neglectful of people of color. I think she’s an extraordinary woman and it’s disappointing to me that folks would make these charges.”

In Palin’s only face-to-face meeting with black leaders in 21 months in office, words became terse when the issue of diversity arose, according to several who attended the March 2007 gathering in Anchorage. Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell also attended the 45-minute meeting.

Participants say Palin refused to reconsider her decision not to reappoint two black officials – including Stewart – from her predecessor’s administration.

The implication from Palin was “you can’t tell me how to do my job,” said Anchorage businessman Mayfield Evans. “Her top lip got really tight. You could tell she was upset, that something was not right.”

At one point, Parnell broke in and asked the group if they were accusing Palin of being racist, participants said. Parnell said the group was making “outlandish claims” and added, “I’m not going to let somebody say that about her or me.” He said the meeting ended on a positive note with Palin’s assurances that minorities have an equal shot at appointments and state contracts.

“In my view, the governor has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that all Alaskans are treated with equal opportunity,” Parnell said.

A few weeks after that meeting, Patterson sent a letter to the governor to reiterate the group’s concerns and invite her to attend a town hall meeting with black constituents. Patterson said no one from the governor’s office has responded.

Alaska’s Minorities Feel Ignored by Gov. Palin

Sarah Palin’s Alaskan Wasteland: A Look At Governor Palin’s Environmental Record

Shelia Kaplan and Marilyn Berlin Snell, writing for The New Republic, outline Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s environmental record.

There’s no reason to doubt Sarah Palin’s sincerity when she talks about her commitment to family and–more specifically–special-needs kids. When she introduced her son, who has Down syndrome, to the audience at the Republican convention, the family tableau drew cheers. And she issued a promise. “To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message for you,” she told the crowd. “For years, you’ve sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters, and I pledge to you that, if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.”

Unfortunately, as governor of a state with a birth-defect rate that’s twice the national average, and which has the gloomy status as repository of toxic chemicals from around the world, Palin has pursued environmental policies that seem perfectly crafted to swell the ranks of special-needs kids. It’s true that Alaska’s top leaders have placed industry wishes over environmental protection for years. But, instead of correcting this problem, she’s compounded it. Peer into her environmental record, and Palin ends up looking a lot like George W. Bush.

In the past 20 years, research has shown that exposure to some metals and to chemicals such as pesticides, flame retardants, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can cause birth defects and permanent developmental disorders both prenatally and in the first years of childhood. And Alaska is vulnerable to some of the worst environmental pollutants out there. In a state whose wealth depends on the exploitation of its natural resources, the toxic byproducts of mining and energy development, such as arsenic, mercury, and lead, are particular problems. Alaska Natives, such as the Inuit people, eat a diet that is heavy in fish, seals, and whales–animals that are high on the food chain and therefore more likely to be contaminated with high doses of PCBs and mercury. And the state is vulnerable not only to homegrown pollution, but also to industrial pollution: Trace gases and tiny airborne particles are contaminating the polar regions, carried there on atmospheric and oceanic currents, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The mess of pollutants in Alaska has clearly taken its toll. In general, the state has double the national average of birth defects. While the causes are unknown, environmentalists point to the region that includes the North Slope, an area slightly larger than Minnesota, where most of Alaska’s oil is produced. The byproducts of oil production can cause serious nervous system disorders, and the North Slope and its environs, home to Alaska Natives and itinerant oil workers, has the highest prevalence of birth defects in the state–11 percent–compared with 6 percent statewide and 3 percent nationwide.

Palin, however, has not addressed these concerns. Her administration irked environmentalists in February 2008, when it opposed legislation that would have given parents at least 48 hours’ notice before schools were to be sprayed with pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Currently, parents get 24 hours, which the bill’s proponents say is not sufficient for parents who want to arrange to keep kids out of school for a few days after the chemicals are applied. Palin’s administration argued that the bill was too restrictive and would force schools to notify parents before cleaning toilets with disinfectant–which, supporters say, is not true. In the same month, members of Palin’s administration testified against language in legislation that would have banned polybrominated diphenyl ethers–a flame retardant that, studies show, harms the developing brain.

Then, in the summer of 2007, Palin allowed oil companies to move forward with a toxic-dumping plan in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, the only coastal fishery in the nation where toxic dumping is permitted. The Bush administration initially OK’d the companies’ request to increase toxic releases, but the permits could not be issued without Alaska’s certification that the discharges met the state’s water-quality standards, says Bob Shavelson, executive director of Cook Inletkeeper, an organization founded to protect the area’s watershed. Palin complied. “Palin’s Department of Environmental Conservation issued that certification [based on] the long-discounted notion that ‘dilution is the solution to pollution’–turning the federal Clean Water Act on its head and actually increasing toxic pollution,” Shavelson says.

Palin next took on the Clean Water Initiative, also known as Proposition 4, which appeared on the Alaska ballot on August 26. The measure would have limited the runoff of toxic metals–known to cause developmental and birth defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–from all mining operations, but it was aimed at stopping the proposed Pebble Mine, a huge mining proposal that was controversial for its potential impact on Bristol Bay, the world’s largest commercial wild salmon fishery (for which Palin’s oldest daughter was named). The project had been in the works for years, and, when she ran for governor in 2006, Palin told the Alaska Journal of Commerce that, if the mine was green-lighted, “there will be remediation from now to eternity.” Once in office, though, environmental concerns took a backseat. In a TV interview six days before the vote, Palin said, “Let me take my governor’s hat off for just a minute, and tell you personally, Prop 4–I vote no on that.” Alaska’s mining industry parlayed Palin’s face and words into an advertising blitz–and came from behind to defeat it.

Palin’s latest anti-environmental effort also came in August, when she attempted to block California’s plan to curb its air pollution. The Golden State is trying to reduce its toxic emissions with a port fee that would pay for pollution-reduction projects around the state. Arguing that it would hurt Alaska’s economy, Palin asked California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto the proposed legislation.

Finally, Palin was pushed by environmental activists and Alaska Natives to pressure the military in its cleanup of one of the most contaminated sites in Alaska–but the state didn’t act. This was on the old Northeast Cape Air Force base on remote St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea–one of the state’s closest spots to Russia. When the military closed its operations in the 1970s, it left thousands of barrels of toxic waste, containing solvents, fuels, heavy metals, pesticides, and PCBs, a group of toxic organic chemicals that have persisted in the environment. For the past few years, the Army Corps of Engineers has been slowly cleaning up parts of the site and claims it will leave it safe. (One federally funded study still in progress by the state’s premier watchdog on chemical pollutants, Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), tested the local water and got a reading that was more than one thousand times the level that the EPA considers safe. “If the Corps of Engineers want to fill up their canteens in there, they are welcome to it,” says Kathrine Springman, the toxicologist who did that study. “Actually, I wouldn’t want them to drink it … anymore than I would ask them to drink Drano.”)

But critics say the Army is taking too long, and that its plan will leave too many untreated chemicals, PCBs in particular, at the site. According to Pamela Miller, ACAT’s executive director, Palin should have used her powers as governor to forge a better cleanup plan. “Certainly this was also a pattern in the Murkowski administration, but, under Palin, it’s gotten worse,” she said. “Her administration has done nothing to work with the military to avoid possible contamination.” Scientists have also opposed the Army’s plan, saying it will leave the area dangerous.

Supporters note that Palin did boost school spending for children with the most severe disabilities, but, in general, the Alaskan government under Palin has done nothing to protect those children and future generations from the toxic stew that the state has become. “She doesn’t have a good understanding of the science,” says Ruth Etzel, who until recently was research director at the Alaska Native Medical Program in Anchorage. “What she tends to do is talk about personal responsibility as the key to good health.”

Andrea Doll, a Democratic state representative from Juneau, says she tried to get Palin interested in her bill on flame retardants early on: “I told her about the bill. She totally was not interested in any way, shape, or form. It was that look on her face–that ‘don’t even go there’ look.

Sarah Palin’s Alaskan Wasteland: A Look At Governor Palin’s Environmental Record

Alaska Natives Question Gov. Palin’s Support – Natives Ignored & Undermined by Palin Administration

Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin

Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin

When American voters hear of the high favorability ratings of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, it would seem that all Alaskans ‘love’ their new governor.  In a September 29, 2008 article by Rachel D’Oro for the Associated Press, the viewpoints of Alaska’s Native population appear to have been largely overlooked.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin routinely notes her husband’s Yup’ik Eskimo roots. But those connections haven’t erased doubts about her in a community long slighted by the white settlers who flocked to Alaska and dominate its government.

Since she took office in 2006, many Alaska Natives say they’ve felt ignored when she made appointments to her administration, sided with sporting interests over Native hunting rights and pursued a lawsuit that Natives say seeks to undermine their ancient traditions.

Alaska’s population today is mostly white but nearly a fifth of its people are Native Americans – primarily Alaska Natives. Blacks and Asians combined make up less than 10 percent of the state’s population.

As a result, race relations in Alaska are different from those in other states. Palin inherited a complex, sometimes strained relationship with Alaska Natives. There is a wide economic disparity between its predominantly white urban areas and the scores of isolated Native villages, and competition between sport hunting rights and tribal sovereignty.

Early in her administration, Palin created a furor by trying to appoint a white woman to a seat, held for more than 25 years by a Native, on the panel that oversees wildlife management. Ultimately, Palin named an Athabascan Indian to the game board, but not before relations were bruised.

When a game board chairman suggested Alaska Natives missed a meeting because they were drinking beer, the remark struck a chord since the Alaska Native community is wracked by alcohol abuse. Palin, a candidate for governor at the time, asked him to resign.

Critics felt the man’s remarks rose to the level of misconduct that would have allowed the governor to fire him and were appalled Palin didn’t do more to get him off the board once she became governor later that year.

“He should have been removed,” said Lloyd Miller, a tribal rights attorney based in Anchorage. “When your conduct fractures the public trust, it’s misconduct.”

When Palin this summer fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, a Native, she replaced him with a non-Native. His successor resigned after 10 days on the job, when a previously undisclosed reprimand that stemmed from a sexual harassment claim against him came to light.

The Monegan firing is the subject of two state investigations. Palin is accused of firing Monegan because he refused to fire her sister’s former husband, a state trooper.

Two weeks after she was tapped as John McCain’s running mate, Palin named a Native to Monegan’s old position.

But Duke University political science professor Paula McClain, who went to high school in Alaska and now specializes in minority relations, said Palin’s actions suggest she has “a political tin ear or that she simply doesn’t care.”

“In a state like Alaska, how can you not be aware of how not reappointing a Native is going to play? At best, she’s naive,” McClain said.

Alaska Natives – the term includes indigenous Eskimo, Aleut and Indian populations – tend to lean Democrat. Many prominent Native leaders have endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president.

But the mother of Palin’s husband, Todd, is a quarter Yup’ik Eskimo. Each summer, he heads to his birthplace in Western Alaska to work in the Bristol Bay commercial salmon fishery.

Palin’s family ties would suggest she would be more sensitive to Native issues, said Stephen Haycox, a University of Alaska Anchorage history professor. But in her 21-month tenure, the governor has used those ties mostly to highlight her experiences in commercial fishing, moose hunting and general outdoorsmanship.

“She has not manifested, so far, any extraordinary measures on behalf of Alaska Natives,” Haycox said.

Alaska Inter-Tribal Council Chairman Mike Williams of Akiak said he’s been seeking an audience with Palin to address tribal concerns ever since she was elected governor, but her staff keeps telling him that her schedule is full.

“She’s so busy that she doesn’t have time for the tribes. There needs to be respect and a dialogue,” said Williams, who is also Yup’ik Eskimo.

This time of year, Williams is busy putting away meat, fish and berries for the winter – supplies that are critical to survival in cash-poor rural villages – and he said he wants to explain to Palin how increased pressures from sport hunting and fishing as well as oil and mining have eroded native hunting lands. 

Alaska Natives question Gov. Palin’s support

Protesters hold signs at a Hold Palin Accountable rally organized by Alaskans For Truth, in Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008. Hundreds of people showed up to demand Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain's GOP running mate, uphold her promise to cooperate with the state Legislature's investigation into her firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.

Protesters hold signs at a Hold Palin Accountable rally organized by Alaskans For Truth, in Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008. Hundreds of people showed up to demand Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain's GOP running mate, uphold her promise to cooperate with the state Legislature's investigation into her firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who is part Alaska Native.