ANCHORAGE -- Alaska Native activists announced Saturday they have formed a boycott committee to take economic measures that will advance civil and human rights of Alaska Natives.
Group members say they are planning boycotts that will not end until the Legislature passes a hate crimes bill and racism diminishes throughout the state.
John Tetpon of Anchorage, one of six members of the Economic Boycott Committee, said committee members have not yet agreed on action.
''We're going to first focus on the visitor area, tourism probably, patterned after the people in South Carolina who boycotted South Carolina over the use of the flag,'' Tetpon said. That state experienced boycotts over use of the Confederate flag in positions of state sovereignty, including the capitol.
Tetpon said the committee may try to discourage Outside groups from considering Alaska as a host for conventions or other meetings.
Group member Desa Jacobsson of Juneau said committee members are still planning strategy but individual Alaska businesses could be targeted for a boycott.
The action also could take the form of encouraging rural Alaskans to stay out of urban areas for meetings, instead gathering in Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue or Barrow, Jacobsson said.
Tepton, who is a spokesman for the Alaska Federation of Natives, said the committee is not affiliated with any other groups.
Other members of the committee include Robert Willard of Juneau, the state's first Alaska Native state trooper; longtime Anchorage resident Donna Mae Willoya; Diane Benson of Wasilla, who led a protest against portrayal of Alaska Natives in a poem by a University of Alaska Anchorage creative writing professor; and Ole Lake, city manager of Hooper Bay.
In a press release, group members said the formation of the committee comes on the heels of a Jan. 14 drive-by paintball attack on Alaska Natives in Anchorage that the participants videotaped. An Eagle River man has been charged with seven counts of misdemeanor assault in the case. Two underage teen-agers with him were expelled from school for the rest of the school year and may face proceedings in juvenile court, which is not open to the public.
Jacobsson criticized the Anchorage Police Department for not solving the slaying of four Alaska Native women and what she said was lack of attention to rapes of Native women.
But Tetpon said group members are most frustrated with racism that has persisted since they were children and is now affecting their grandchildren.
''I think things have gotten worse than when I was going to school,'' he said. ''There's a lot of racial animosity against Native children. Why do they deserve that? What did they do?''
As an example, he noted a 50 percent dropout rate of Native children in Anchorage schools.
''It's not because they can't do academic work,'' Tetpon said. ''It's because of the atmosphere in schools. It has to change. Why hasn't it changed in 30 or 40 years?''
Ask Anchorage's Native children what problems they face, Tepton said.
''My guess is they would list racism as one of the issues they have to deal with on a daily basis,'' Tetpon said.
Tepton said the problem is not just in Anchorage but throughout Alaska.
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