By Jeremy Hsieh
“It hurts that they won’t act on it,” said Tlingit elder Selina Everson, a former grand president of the Alaska Native Sisterhood. “Our people need something to lift them up sometimes, spiritually, emotionally. ... It really hurts our Native community that they wouldn’t honor something like this.”
The song bill died on Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom’s desk when the two-year legislative cycle ended in April. She was responsible for scheduling it for final vote but never did. It was not a priority and there were more pressing issues, said Laura Pierre, Dahlstrom’s chief of staff. Final votes on the animal bills were scheduled under the watch of other legislators.
For some older Alaskans, recognizing malamutes as a state symbol before Natives sparks memories of storefront signs that said, “No Natives or Dogs Allowed,” which were common before World War II.
It's okay to "honor" Natives as long as they're dead and gone. But to honor today's Natives? That's politically risky. To many people, it's tantamount to admitting Americans made mistakes...destroyed Native cultures and lives...and are still threatening them. Recognizing them might mean recognizing their rights and our obligations to them.
Therefore, we're more inclined to honor a dog or a rodent. In other words, Natives are no better than animals--and perhaps worse. Natives are better seen--like colorful bits of history--than heard. We don't want to know about their problems and concerns.
For more on the subject, see Native Origin of Alaska's Flag and Adding a Native Verse to Alaska's Song.