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Alaska Natives and LBGTQ Communities Resoundingly Reject Palin’s AG Pick

WARWayne Anthony Ross – Alaska Gov. Palin’s pick to replace discredited ex-Attorney General Talis Colberg as her attorney general, has a long history of confrontation. His siding with mostly white urban hunters against rural, mostly Alaska Native residents, over subsistence hunting and fishing, has left much bitterness in the Alaska bush.

And statements Ross made regarding Alaska gays in correspondence with the Alaska Bar Association have resurfaced since Palin’s nomination of Ross was announced.

Wednesday morning, Alaska’s prestigious and politically important Alaska Federation of Natives took action. Their legislative committee voted unanimously to reject Palin’s choice. Today they are working on a letter to send to the Governor. This is the first time AFN has taken such bold action against an attorney general pick.

And Alaska’s most important web presence from the LBGTQ community, Bent Alaska, is pursuing research into correspondence Ross had back in the 1980s to the Alaska Bar Association. A reference to the letter was published back in an Anchorage Daily News article in 1995:


During a fight several years ago over gay rights, Mendel helped organize Anchorage lawyers in support of an anti- discrimination ordinance. Ross wrote a nasty letter to the Bar Association newsletter, using words like ”immoral, ” ”perversion” and ”degenerates.” The language went way beyond reasonable disagreement, Mendel and others said.

E. Ross (no relation to the AG pick) from the blog Bent Alaska, is pursuing the entire letter referenced.

The Alaska Native community has been upset about the nomination since its announcement, but the AFN’s bold move is an indicator of rising unrest in rural Alaska over Palin’s policies there. The perception of neglect to some seriously pressing bush Alaska issues by her administration has gained national traction, as have the racist subtext aspects of it.

This week in Anchorage, the North Pacific Advisory Council is meeting to, among other issues, seriously revisit the subject of Bering Sea by-catch of Chinook salmon by the Seattle-based trawler fleet. Yukon River salmon fishers, both subsistence and commercial, are almost all Alaska Natives. The Bering Sea fishers, subject of "The Dealiest Catch" episodes, are almost exclusively white and non-Native. The owners of the Bering Sea vessels are multimillionaires. Their crews dine on lobster and filet mignon in their galleys, and take home huge "crew shares" from their voyages. The Yukon River residents reside in the Wade Hampton census district, Alaska’s, and one of the USA’s, most impoverished. Thursday afternoon will mark the beginning of evidence on whether or not the council will seriously reduce the by-catch level, allowing for more Chinook into the Yukon for the subsistence and low-scale commercial endeavors by Natives there.

Regarding the political committee from the AFN’s condemnation this morning of the WAR nomination, AFN co-chairman, Tim Towarak said, "“The agreement was to focus it on his past work and statements regarding subsistence and tribal sovereignty."

Other Native leaders have voiced concerns – along with Alaska mayors, school board chairs and other public officials – over Palin’s decision to refuse almost $300 million of the Obama stimulus package earmarked for Alaska projects:

AFN called the morning meeting to talk about Ross, but the board tackled another Palin-related issue: Whether the state will reject any of the federal stimulus money offered to Alaska. Palin has only asked for a portion of the money. It’s up to the Legislature to debate whether to ask for the rest — as much as $288 million.

Towarak said that if the state rejects any of the federal money, Alaska’s tribal governments should be able to apply for and administer the cash themselves. "We’d love to improve the energy situation in rural Aalska with some of those funds."

Also this week: The Association of Village Council Presidents, which provides social services to Western Alaska villages, voted at a Wednesday meeting in Bethel to pass a resolution of its own rejecting Ross.

"It seems that governor is becoming more extreme by appointing those who share her views – as a Native person, we cannot understand this. It is becoming more clear that she is working to split the state between urban and rural, and it is all reflected by her actions," wrote AVCP President Myron Naneng in an e-mail this morning:

AFN called the morning meeting to talk about Ross, but the board tackled another Palin-related issue: Whether the state will reject any of the federal stimulus money offered to Alaska. Palin has only asked for a portion of the money. It’s up to the Legislature to debate whether to ask for the rest — as much as $288 million.

Towarak said that if the state rejects any of the federal money, Alaska’s tribal governments should be able to apply for and administer the cash themselves. "We’d love to improve the energy situation in rural Aalska with some of those funds."

Also this week: The Association of Village Council Presidents, which provides social services to Western Alaska villages, voted at a Wednesday meeting in Bethel to pass a resolution of its own rejecting Ross.

"It seems that governor is becoming more extreme by appointing those who share her views – as a Native person, we cannot understand this. It is becoming more clear that she is working to split the state between urban and rural, and it is all reflected by her actions," wrote AVCP President Myron Naneng in an e-mail this morning.

In a discussion on Ross’s nomination with Tlingit activist and potential 2010 candidate for three statewide races, (including the Democratic nomination for Governor) Diane Benson, the latter told me, "Surely the governor could do better than Ross. She’s not thinking of Alaskans, Native or non-Native, by doing this. She’s thinking of herself and her national aspirations."

Another Alaska Native leader, Democratic Senator Albert Kookesh from Angoon, said yesterday:

"Rural Alaskans will remember her appointment of Wayne Anthony Ross. Natives will remember her appointment of Wayne Anthony Ross. That’s where this is going."

Palin, was fairly flip, commenting recently in an email, "Obviously I am not anti-Native and would never appoint anyone who is. It’s unfortunate that a few vocal critics view anyone who may have a different opinion as they do as being unfit for public service for all Alaskans."

Early this afternoon, Kookesh took part with the other eight Alaska state senators in rejecting Palin’s choice of Tim Grussendorf, a staunch pro-mining and development spokesman, for the recently vacated state senate seat that had been held by Kim Elton. Elton took a job as Pres. Obama’s Alaska Interior Department coordintator. The Governor is supposed to select from a list of members of the party that vacated the seat.

Instead of a list of three possibilities, the Juneau Democrats (the district Elton represented) named State House minority leader Beth Kerttula. Palin has let it be known that she strongly resented remarks Kerttula made last September that described Palin as unready to be "a heartbeat away from the presidency."

But Kerttula was and is the most qualified legislator for Elton’s seat. Palin knew she would be in for a battle when she picked Grussendorf, as he only re-registered as a Democrat after word got out of Elton’s Obama appointment. He had been a Republican since 2006, because, as he claimed, somebody at the Department of Elections had made a clerical error. But here’s an image of his voter registration change request. You be the judge.

The Alaska senate Democrats solidly rejected Grussendorf this afternoon. Now the Juneau Democrats will re-select Kerttula. And on and on it will go.

Maybe Palin should talk to Ted Stevens about moving to Juneau and registering as a Democrat, eh?

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EdwardTeller

EdwardTeller

Alaska progressive activist, notorious composer and firedoglake devotee.

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