Officials with the Alaska Federation of Natives gathered today in Anchorage, Juneau and Bethel on a teleconference to denounce the state’s lawsuit.
Newly elected AFN co-chair Tara Sweeney said subsistence defines Alaska Native people and she said, no one has the right to take that away.
“The latest action by the state of Alaska is an assault on the people of Alaska who depend upon hunting, fishing and gathering to feed their families,” Sweeney said.
AFN President Julie Kitka gave a brief history of the complicated case. Kitka said for decades, AFN has attempted to work with state administrations, congress and in court. She said Native leaders expected the first Katie John case to resolve the federal lands and waters management issue.
“Unfortunately the state has continued to fight implementation of that decision,” Kitka said.
Kitka said AFN has been involved in the litigation for more than 18 years and will continue to intervene on the side of the federal government while working toward a Congressional fix.
Rosita Worl is the chairwoman of AFN’s subsistence committee. She said she wanted to be clear about three main things: That AFN will continue the fight to protect subsistence in this case and any others that compromise those rights that although they have tried for two decades to work on a legislative or congressional fix, the state has refused to participate in a viable solution.
“The state of Alaska attempted overreach is a reckless attempt to unravel the precedents set by the lower courts and through administrative procedures,” Worls said. “This should enrage not only the Native community but all Alaskans.”
“Too much time, energy and precious funding has been wasted in the state’s ongoing attacks on subsistence. Enough is enough.”
Kitka and Worl both reiterated that the state could regain subsistence management of federal lands if it came into compliance with ANILCA.