September 02, 2008

Palin appreciates Natives

Palin pick adds new Indian dimension to presidential racePalin, the first female Republican vice presidential candidate, is married to Todd Palin, who is of Yup'ik Eskimo descent. He works for an oil field and is a fisherman and champion snowmobiler. Their five children are also of Alaska Native heritage.

When Palin was running for governor in October 2006, she wrote a letter addressed to rural voters, saying she "so very much appreciates Alaska's First People, their proud heritage and diverse cultures so abundant in the communities throughout our state."

Alaska contains more than 225 of the 560-plus federally-recognized tribes in the U.S.

"I personally feel the language, stories, and traditions of Alaska Native cultures are a national treasure to be nourished and held close to our hearts," Palin added. "It is our rural lifestyle and diverse cultural heritage that distinguishes Alaska from the rest of the world and makes it our wonderful home."
Except the one she fired. Here's the flip side of her appreciation:Since the governor's initial campaign letter focused on Natives, Shepro said the governor has offered relatively little public comment on tribes. Some Indians and tribal advocates have been critical of her silence, especially given her Native family ties.

Also drawing criticism, Palin opposed an initiative to stop development of the Pebble Mine adjacent to the Bristol Bay fishing grounds, which is a prime area for both commercial and subsistence salmon fishing.

"Her public position on that issue undoubtedly had an effect on the defeat of that initiative, an initiative supported by many of the region's Inupiat and Yup'ik Alaska Natives," Shepro said.

Palin also concerned some Indians in July when she abruptly fired Walt Monegan, the first Alaska Native public safety commissioner in the state. The governor said she wanted to take the Department of Public Safety in a different direction, but a Republican rival said Monegan was fired because he refused to take action against state trooper Mike Wooten, who was recently divorced from Palin's younger sister.

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