Congressman Young addresses Native issues, gun violence at forum

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, speaks at a Native Issues Forum on Wednesday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall in Juneau. The forums are put together by the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. (Still from video by Bob Laurie/360 North)

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, held a forum Wednesday with the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska in Juneau. The congressman fielded questions from tribe members on issues affecting Alaska Natives.

Listen now

Several audience members spoke in support of efforts to expand tribal self-governance. Sealaska Board Member Jackie Pata said inconsistencies in what laws apply to Alaska Natives is a problem.

“We support using the ISDA, the Indian Self Determination Act definition because it doesn’t exclude one group or another, and certainly doesn’t exclude Alaska,” Pata said.

The crowd recognized Young’s previous work to expand Native self-governance and he resolved to continue that effort.

Harriet Brouillette of the Chilkoot Indian Association brought up the issue of transportation funding. Right now, the federal government funds tribes based on road miles. This leaves a funding gap for Southeast Alaska tribal communities that rely on the ferry. Young was supportive of changing that.

Young was also asked about his feelings on the National Rifle Association in the wake of mass shootings across the country. Young is an NRA board member and he said he doesn’t think guns are the problem.

“Is it the parents? Is it the phone? Is it the constant exposure to violence with no repercussions at all? I don’t know. I can’t solve it,” Young said. “To me, the Second Amendment is still the most important amendment of all the amendments.”

Audience members also brought up the issue of drugs in Native communities. Young described how drug addiction has affected his family. He shared an anecdote about his granddaughter, who he said relapsed several times.

“Within two weeks or three weeks she falls back to those that she ran with before. And that just drives me crazy,” Young said. “The dealer is the one I want to eliminate. I can’t do it legally but he’s the one I want to eliminate.”

Young said that personal responsibility as well as support services like halfway houses have a role to play in keeping people clean.