AFN to hold another forum in Washington

Posted: Friday, September 08, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Alaska Federation of Natives plans to hold a forum and reception in Washington, D.C., later this month to again rally support for new federal funding and legislation to protect Native interests and lifestyles.

The event will be held in conjunction with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a nationwide coalition of 180 ethnic organizations, unions and civil liberties defense groups.

The Leadership Conference, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, also helped with an AFN-led rally a year ago.

President Clinton offered a videotaped statement at that event, urging the Alaska Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment permitting a hunting and fishing priority for rural residents.

Without it, the subsistence lifestyle of Alaska Natives would be threatened, the president said.

Last year's rally was part of an AFN campaign to bring subsistence and other issues to national attention.

Events planned for Sept. 20 appear to be following a similar theme.

''The main goal is to continue to build on partnerships they were developing last year,'' said Pete Spivey, newly hired by the AFN in Anchorage.

Representatives for Rep. Don Young and Sens. Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens said their bosses had been invited to meet with the Alaska visitors.

Mike Williams, chairman of the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, said he also will be traveling to Washington.

Williams, from the Kuskokwim River village of Akiak but currently living in Anchorage, said he wants to deliver a message of support for Alaska's 227 federally recognized tribes.

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 may have settled land claims, but it didn't diminish tribal authority, Williams told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The federal government must deal with these tribes on a government-to-government basis, he said.

That message, however, will find some resistance from Stevens.

Stevens said Thursday he has no quarrel with the existence of tribal authority in Alaska but believes the Clinton administration's 1993 recognition of 227 tribes -- basically one for each village -- was unwise and historically unjustified.

Supporting so many tribes, some of which have just a few dozen members, will use too much of the federal money that should go to services, he said.

''They'll use all the money for administrative costs,'' the senator said.

Stevens has introduced an amendment that would cut basic funding to tribes with fewer than 25 members living in their home villages. He said Thursday he was investigating how to limit housing funds the same way.

Alaska has 88 tribal housing organizations, he said.

Stevens spoke at the Native issues forum in Washington last year, receiving a standing ovation in recognition of his efforts to convince the Alaska Legislature to offer a constitutional amendment to voters.

A minority in the Legislature stopped the question from going to the ballot.

The U.S. Department of the Interior subsequently extended its fish and wildlife management authority to include not just federal lands but also some of Alaska's navigable waters. It also asserted its authority to limit hunting on state and private land in some cases.

The AFN's agenda is broader than subsistence and the status of tribal organizations.

In January, the organization delivered to Congress an updated version of the congressionally chartered Alaska Natives Commission report from 1994.

The updated report asks for more than $100 million in annual federal spending to benefit Alaska's Native families and communities.

The report requests $50 million each year for family resource centers in Native villages to promote healthy lifestyles. Authors of that report said such centers are the best way they can see to break harmful cycles within villages and give children a healthy start.

The report also recommends renewed efforts to fight fetal alcohol syndrome. Stevens last year obtained money for what he hopes will be a five-year, $30 million program to combat the ailment.

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