October 21, 2008

Palin trots out grandma

Yup'ik ties give Palins unique Alaska connection

NATIVE:  Grandmother on Todd's side calls the governor a 'special gal.'As a candidate for governor two years ago, and more recently on the national stage, Sarah Palin has avidly pointed to her husband's Eskimo heritage. Lena Andree is one-half Yup'ik, and Todd Palin is one-eighth.

The Palin children are Native, too--one-sixteenth, eligible for Indian health benefits under federal law, as lineal descendants of Native enrollees under the 1970 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

During the 2006 governor's race, Palin introduced Andree on stage at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention and described her own family's mixed roots as an example of how whites and Natives can surmount controversies that divide them.

"I look at Alaska as a family, and I want my own family to be used as an example of how it can work," Palin told the state's biggest Native organization that year.

When it came time to debate, however, Palin was often at odds with her Native listeners. On sensitive subsistence hunting and fishing issues, her positions resembled those of urban sportsmen's groups who backed her.

In the election, she finished far behind Democrat Tony Knowles in rural, Native-dominated districts. Urban and small-town votes carried her to victory. As governor, she has come under criticism for not reaching out to Natives, though her efforts to assist rural Alaska economically have been praised.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The 2008 Presidential Campaign.

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