September 05, 2008

The power behind Palin?

Native 'first dude' holds power

Is Todd Palin the next LaDonna Harris?Some of Gov. Palin's critics have questioned why Todd Palin is involved in the governor's official correspondence. After all, he's not a politician, nor does he have government credentials of any sort. Rather, he's an award-winning snowmobiler, fisherman and an oil-field production operator on Alaska's North Slope.

Of special note to Indian country, Alaska's first gentleman is also of Yup'ik Eskimo descent, and Gov. Palin has cited her husband's and children's Alaska Native heritage as signs that she is committed to and well-versed on Native issues. The governor commonly refers to her husband as Alaska's "first dude."

Given his closeness to the governor, not all Indians view Todd Palin's fingerprints in the governor's dealings as such a bad thing. Some said it would be especially helpful if he could help the general public understand more about tribal issues, especially those surrounding Alaska Native Corporations.

The corporations were established in 1971 after Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which settled land and financial claims made by Alaska Natives and provided for the establishment of 13 regional corporations to administer those claims. Many non-Indians have had grievances about the corporations and some have argued that economic benefits have not been widely dispersed throughout the state, although studies have found otherwise.

"There's always a need to spread more knowledge about our issues, and Todd Palin is an excellent resource--I'm sure he will be involved in some way in her campaign for vice president," said Jana McKeag, a co-chair of American Indians for McCain Coalition.

"It's all about access, whether it's through a spouse, or not--the more important fact is that [McCain and Palin] care and have proactive records on Indian issues."

There is precedent for positive developments happening for Indian country at times when powerful federal officials have had Native spouses.

It's well-known that non-Indian former Democratic Sen. Fred Harris from Oklahoma placed strong emphasis on issues affecting American Indians during his terms in office. His wife is LaDonna Harris, of Comanche descent; she and her daughter, Laura Harris, continue to have strong voices in the Democratic Party.

"There's no doubt Frank made Indian issues a priority because he had a tough Comanche wife," said former Republican Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a leader with the Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribe.

Nighthorse Campbell expects that Todd Palin, too, would have an influence on his wife's policies and beliefs involving Indian country issues, especially if she were elected to higher office.

"If you're not listening to your spouse, you're not being a very good spouse yourself," said Nighthorse Campbell.
Below:  Palin and his children, including pregnant 17-year-old Bristol. For some reason, the party of hypocrisy has dropped its adamant opposition to teenage and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know LaDonna and I live along the Kuskokwim. Any comparison between Todd Palin and LaDonna insults LaDonna.

Todd's grandmother is Yup'ik and Todd fishes commercially in the Bristol Bay area. Todd was raised in Wasilla, a small town on the road system about 400 miles from Bristol Bay.

If Todd is expressing any Native issues, it is news to the rest of us. Given Palin's record on environmental change and cultural disruption; natural resources sustainability; workforce development and brain drain; university leadership; resources for elders and disabled ("special needs"); sanitation; emergency preparedness; libraries, Internet, public broadcasting and museums etc., he isn't paying much attention anywhere except to snowmachines.

LaDonna Harris is thoughtful and earned her way into political significance.

If Sarah Palin was interested in an Alaska Native perspective and involvement, she should'nt have fired her public safety commissioner and dumped the rural sub-cabinet idea.

See also, Writing Raven's perspective on Palin's Alaska Native efforts