August 9: Alaska Newspapers Inc. on the subsistence summit

Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2001

In convening a leadership summit to help resolve the subsistence dilemma, Gov. Tony Knowles has set three lofty goals. One already seems destined for failure.

At a press conference, Knowles said he alone would decide whether to appeal the Katie John case to the U.S. Supreme Court -- a case the state has lost six times in lower courts.

But he is hoping the summit, comprising 40 prominent figures from the Native business, educational and religious communities, will set Alaska on a course to protect state sovereignty and subsistence rights.

He also hopes the summit will close the urban-rural divide and prevent the ''troubling'' consequences it could have for Alaska's economic and social well-being.

''The urban-rural divide is stronger than it's ever been,'' he said at the press conference. ''If we're not united at our core values, then we're in trouble.''

None of Knowles' three goals will be easy to meet. The summit is being asked to accomplish what three governors and five special legislative sessions could not.

But closing the urban-rural divide will prove especially challenging -- Knowles board includes only a few rural residents.

Robin Samuelson, a commercial and subsistence fisherman from Dillingham, Mike Williams of Akiak and Loretta Bullard, president of Kawerak Inc. in Nome, and former Sen. Al Adams of Kotzebue are the only residents who live in Western or Arctic Alaska, where subsistence is most common.

Samuelson, a Yup'ik commercial fishermen, said he's representing all subsistence users, not just those in Southwest Alaska.

''Hopefully we'll develop resolutions and the Legislature will take care of this problem and allow the public to vote on a rural preference for subsistence,'' Samuelson said.

With only a few rural residents on the summit, drafting such a resolution may prove difficult.

''It's gonna be an uphill battle,'' Samuelson said.

Solving the urban-rural divide, on the other hand, could well be impossible.

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