on Aboriginal Rights -
Katie John Case
Alaska Federation of Natives
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
ALASKA NATIVES SHIFT SUBSISTENCE FIGHT
ANCHORAGE - Alaska Natives frustrated by thirty years of state inaction denying them their federally-protected subsistence rights announced that they will shift their efforts to secure permanent subsistence protections from Congress and federal officials. The decision came after hours of debate at a special convention called by the Alaska Federation of Natives in response to Governor Tony Knowles' recent appeal of the Katie John decision.
A successful appeal of the Katie John decision would render the federal protections for rural subsistence fishing unenforceable, and for Alaska Native communities across the state, a successful appeal means the end of traditional subsistence village life.
"We have worked in good faith with the state for thirty years, but the Governoro's appeal of Katie John represents a significant threat and assault on our way of life," said AFN President Julie Kitka at a press briefing after the daylong convention. "Our people want some permanence, and they are ready to forge a new political course, to urge Congress to reassert its authority to protect subsistence."
The move represents a significant shift from earlier efforts by Alaska Natives to work with the State to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow a public vote on the contentious subsistence issue. A resolution passed by the convention specifically asserts that the group will "actively oppose adoption of any constitutional amendment unless it is assured that the State of Alaska will strictly comply with ANILCA and court decisions that have favorably construed Alaska Native subsistence," among other conditions.
Delegates also directed AFN's President to explore potential "economic sanctions that will advance Alaska Native subsistence." Other specific initiatives adopted through resolution include:
- A request that the Governor withdraw his appeal of theKatie John decision and begin developing new state plans to provide for co-management of subsistence fishing that includes tribes
- A directive to AFN's leadership to use all available political, economic, and legal resources to oppose and defeat the State's appeal of the Katie John decision
- A request that Congress implement a major restructuring of the relationship between the Alaska Native people, including the reclassification of ANCSA lands to Indian Country and the development of a Native and rural priority in the management of federal lands and waterways, among other statutory and regulatory remedies
The Alaska Federation of Natives also pledged to continue its ongoing efforts to secure national and international media attention and to generate support from national and international civil rights, indigenous human rights, environmental, minority communities, faith and tribal organizations.
Meanwhile, AFN has begun to receive support from federal officials involved in subsistence management issues. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt sent a strongly-worded letter to AFN yesterday stating, "I assure you in the strongest possible terms that I am committed to supporting the subsistence priority's application to all federal reserved waters in the State... and it is my intention to continue to support Katie John and the subsistence priority for all reserved waters in the State of Alaska."
A similar letter supportive of subsistence hunting and fishing was sent by U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lois Schiffer. The position taken on this case by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno's office will carry significant weight before the U.S. Supreme Court and its determination about whether or not to accept the appeal.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
NATIVE LAW - KEY COURT DECISIONS