By SHANNYN MOORE for the Anchorage Daily News
I read a story in the Daily News last week and felt sick.
A tribe found a non-tribal man unfit to parent a child from the tribe. The man then proved their judgment sound when he kidnapped the child’s mother and almost beat her to death.
The Parnell administration has now swooped in, four years later, to defend the abuser.
Why now? Why this guy? Why are state resources going to defend a convicted wife-beater?
I realize Michael Geraghty, the state’s attorney general, doesn’t want to explain these decisions to “lay people” like you and me. That’s unfortunate because we lay people, in addition to being his employer, don’t get why the state would prosecute a domestic abuser, and then defend him against a tribal ruling that he’s an unfit parent. If the point of joining the court case isn’t to get child custody for a violent father, then what is it?
Tribal sovereignty? This administration can’t stand tribal sovereignty. Parnell has all kinds of whiney complaints about federal overreach but thinks nothing of overreaching into small Alaska communities to tell them how to run their affairs.
On a mission to crush tribal authority, the state is willing to jeopardize the welfare of a child it never had custody of. (Is it time to reserve the Denai’na Center for a “Tribal Overreach Summit?”)
Can we now stop pretending that “Choose Respect” is anything more than a hollow slogan to this governor? There’s a big difference between a campaign and politics. Sadly, as always with Parnell, politics trumps his catchy bumper sticker.
The patience of First Alaskans is remarkable. Seriously, in their place I’d be wearing a hoodie that says, “I was here first” and “Sean go home!”
Here’s the breaking news, folks: This land has been here for a long, long time. We just invented a state of Alaska. The land was purchased from Russia — about the way someone buys a stolen stereo out of the back of a van. The people — these “invented tribes” — and their rules and authority were here when the rest of us Americans showed up.
Here’s a slogan suggestion, governor: Choose Respect for the Resourceful Cultures that were Here Before Auto Starters and Central Heat.
If this were the only case of “Whose side are you on?” I might take a more charitable view. It isn’t.
Parnell has Alaskans siding with Shelby, Ala., in a recent U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned part of the Voting Rights Act. Alaska was included with southern states because of our history of disenfranchising First Alaskans. But complying with the Voting Rights Act was interfering with our Republican redistricting board’s efforts to gerrymander voting districts.
When the Native American Rights Fund in Anchorage did a study for Alaska Natives, they found 180 villages that lacked the capability for early voting. That’s right, all Alaskans have two weeks to vote — except those who live in these 180 communities. How is that equal rights? (I’m talking to you, Gov. Parnell, and you, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.)
The state won’t translate ballots into Native languages. They treat Native speakers like they snuck across the border in the dead of night to try to get something that isn’t theirs.
You may think this affects just a tiny number of people, so what’s the big deal? One area, the Wade Hampton Census area, had 7,460 citizens, 76 percent of whom speak Yup’ik, according to the 2011 Coverage Data Files. Eleven percent of them speak Inupiat.
What if it were fewer people? What if only one citizen of these United States was being impeded in voting? Should anyone in Alaska have to fight to be able to vote?
Here’s another slogan, governor: Choose Respect for the Rights of Voters.
The state of Alaska is paying for a prison cell to hold a man convicted of violent crimes. We paid to prosecute him. Now we’re paying to oppose a tribal court ruling that he’s an unfit parent, even though that’s obviously the case.
Alaska has lawyers paid to fight against equal voting access for tribal members in villages. Translating English into the languages of First Alaskans isn’t a priority for the administration.
It should be.
Seventy one years ago, 881 Aleut Alaskans were put in internment camps. One in 10 died from the deplorable conditions — with almost the same death rate as American soldiers in the POW camps in Europe. And for the record, Aleuts were AMERICANS, living in America.
You might think that the Parnell administration would be willing to help the men and women who endured those conditions and their descendants to cast their ballots.
You’d be wrong.