27 October 2006

Systemic Subsistence Issues

I won't pretend to know much about subsistence issues in this state. As a Caucasian, I don't think I'll ever truly be able to understand just what the lifestyle means to the Alaska natives, though I deeply respect the lifestyle and try on some small level to replicate it in my own life.

That being said, I'm still interested in the political ramifications of the issue. I was surprised when we had Sarah Palin live on air how many of our callers asked her about her position on subsistence issues. Tony Knowles is making the issue the centrepiece of his attacks on Palin.

It shouldn't be any surprise that so many Alaska natives were emotional and irate about the issue at a meeting in Anchorage this week:

More than 200 Natives revived the battle for rural Alaskans' subsistence rights Wednesday, with some blasting what they called a hostile state program and a federal system that increasingly ignores Native voices.
("Revived"? Where has the ADN been this campaign season?)

I don't know enough to comment on most of the issues raised but one that caught my attention is the claim that the regional subsistence advisory boards are not working. I think the question is not that the boards are not working now because of some recent changes but the very structure of the boards makes it difficult for Alaska natives to make their voices heard.

I've written before that Robert's Rules make meetings in this region difficult because they're such an intimidating set of rules that it's easy to do nothing beyond assent to what's put before you. If all the board members are given an opportunity to do is say "yay" or "nay" to what non-native game managers put in front of them, it makes sense that Alaska natives would argue they're being excluded.

But how do you make the system include them if the very system is what is excluding them?

The issue with subsistence management is not the particular nature of the current management system but the system itself.

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