Alaska's senior U.S. senator undeserving of most recent attack

What others say

Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2003

It is unconscionable that some in the Native community who find themselves at odds with Sen. Ted Stevens would actually stoop to slander by calling Alaska's senior senator a racist.

Their rancor stems from a disagreement over how federal money is spent in rural Alaska.

Tribal sovereignty advocates want the money handed directly to Alaska's more than 220 federally recognized Native tribes. Stevens, in the name of efficiency and effectiveness, wants it disbursed through a regional organization. That would ensure the tribes with the most need do not lose out to those with the best grant writers. At last year's Alaska Federation of Natives convention, Stevens even asked the Native community to come up with such a plan.

That does not interest tribal advocates, who would like to increase the power of federally recognized tribes even though the scope of those powers is far from settled.

Stevens, of course, is absolutely right when he reminds his chronically umbrageous critics those who spare no effort in finding reason to take offense that there simply would not be enough money to go around if the sovereignty advocates had their way.

He even had the audacity to suggest the obvious; that the Native sovereignty movement that is pressing for the money is dangerous to statehood and could be bad for Alaska. More than 220 sovereign tribes in Alaska can have no other effect but to erode state power. He pointed out that with an increasing Native population will come demands for more governments, more courts. Right again.

He logically wants to avoid spreading tribal governments to every nook and cranny in Alaska. To do otherwise would be monumentally wasteful and duplicative. Of the 227 federally recognized tribes in Alaska, 65 are in villages with fewer than 100 residents; 39 of the villages have fewer than 50; 16 have no year-round population at all; six have fewer than 10; and three have only three residents. Scores of the tribal villages have only 200 to 300 residents.

Stevens' way is just common sense. Anyone without an ax to grind would see it that way.

Folks can disagree, and in Alaska there always will be more arguments than people. There is nothing wrong with that, but what is disquieting about this latest rhubarb is not the disagreement itself, but the cheap, unfortunate rhetoric aimed at Stevens. And they want an apology?

Sen. Ted Stevens, in his 35 years of service to this state, has done nothing to warrant such a base attack. Every single Alaskan, no matter their race or creed, has been touched in one way or another by the hard work and long hours Stevens puts in for his state.

In our view, and likely in the view of most Alaskans, if there is an apology in order it should come from those who embarrass themselves by turning civil discourse into a mud fight.

The Voice of the (Anchorage) Times - Oct. 11

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