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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number Two  -  Page 11
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Tom Richards: During the break I was thinking about the time when Emil was President of the AFN and John Borbridge was Vice President of AFN. I was going back through the old Tundra Times issues. I was wondering why John Borbridge was often the spokesman for AFN. Then I remembered that Emil, had a engineering background. He worked maintenance for TWA -- he maintained the airplanes but he didn’t like fly on them. I think the reason that John was so often the spokesperson for AFN is that whenever Emil went to Washington, D.C., he would drive for a week to get to D.C. rather than get on an airplane. Have you been on an airplane since? That’s not one of the questions.

John Borbridge: I would like to point out on our behalf you were asking about why we were spokesmen at different times. As I recall, we were elected.

Tom Richards: This is a question for Emil. You stated that not enough is being done to have the Native hire percentage raised. What do you suggest be done?

Emil Notti: You really can’t force anybody to hire, but it has to be a concerted effort on the part of the people doing the hiring. They just have to make up their minds that they’re going to hire more people. I think it’s going to take somebody like the governor to put the word out that he wants it done to solve some of the social problems in the state. If the state doesn’t do well, then the federal government doesn’t do well. Even back as far as when Senator Bartlett was in office, it was one of his concerns. I think you and Bob Arnold worked on it, making calls to the generals and heads of the federal agencies, trying to get them to raise their percentage of hire. Alyeska is making a big effort and it’s working. They’re having a hard time raising the percentage because for the first 20 years, it stayed at about four percent. So with a concerted effort in the last five years they’ve gotten it up. The last I heard was about 13, and I assume it’s still there and maybe climbing.

Tom Richards: I work for a federal agency, but we’re located in a state building which is now the Robert Atwood Building and I wonder what Howard Rock would think if he knew that I was working in the Robert Atwood Building. For those who might not recall, Mr. Atwood was publisher of the Anchorage Times for many, many years. He was a wonderful gentleman but he was often on the opposite side. Who’s the lady that’s the executive dean for the College of Rural Alaska? Bernice Joseph. She was the only Native on the floor. I felt good when she got her job, but I felt badly when she left because I don’t see any of my people when I go to work anymore. The state claims a good percentage of Native hires, but I sure don’t see them.

Tom Richards: This is a question for Esther. It sounded like an attorney should address this since we’re not having to pay them here, that’s pretty decent. What’s the difference between discrimination and racism? Is the term discrimination a nice way to say racism is happening?

Esther Wunnicke: Well, remember that I’m a woman. Discrimination is just a bigger term than racism. It encompasses other kinds of discrimination on other grounds than the race you belong to. It just really means making a decision, whether you serve someone. Whether you rent a house to someone or whether you hire someone, whether or not you make that decision on the merits of the case, on the abilities and talents and ability of people to fill those roles or whether you make that decision on some exterior thing like sex, or race, or maybe even culture. I have always felt very akin to the kind of discrimination that was so often practiced against Alaska Natives and I think that paternalism, where you pat someone on the back and say, “There, there, let me help you,” is what people have often done to women. This is the most debilitating kind of discrimination because you can’t fight back against someone who is being good to you, who is doing something for you because they think you need help. In terms of discrimination that has been practiced against other people in the United States, you can hate back and that’s strengthening. But to be discriminated against in a paternal matter I think is fairly debilitating.

Tom Richards: I have a question for John here in a minute, but talking about the issue of race and talking about the Anchorage Times, later they became pretty good. I sure miss the Times now, because it’s always nice to have competition. It seemed like prior to late 1969 or 1970, the Times often talked about “the Native problem,” when they were talking about land claims. It was always “the Native problem.” It seemed like after the state oil lease sale in September 1969 that brought in over $900 million, they ceased to call it “the Native problem.” Oil and money might have had something to do with this.

A question for Mr. John Borbridge. How was it that the language was included to forever extinguish aboriginal fishing and hunting rights of Alaska Natives? Why were five southeast communities left landless? What is the solution?

John Borbridge: Firstly, ANCSA consists of provisions that we sought as Alaska Native representatives. Many of those provisions were inserted by members of the House and Senate in developing the original House and Senate bills that went to Congress. When the bills were being considered there was a mind set in Congress that I disagreed with, that considered on the one hand that they were giving us this land and money as a settlement, and we can take subsistence rights. They inserted, contrary to our expressed opposition, a provision that would extinguish hunting and fishing rights based on aboriginal title. I think part of it was tied into the Congress thinking that, “We’re extinguishing your aboriginal title to lands, so we might as well complete the process and extinguish rights to aboriginally-based hunting and fishing.”

I will point out, however, that later, when AFN hired former Secretary of Interior Udall, he pointed out that Congress took action on the one hand and conferred title to 40-plus million acres to the Native people. On the other hand, Congress extinguished title to the remainder of the land for which they awarded compensation. There wasn’t a total balance, but there was action taken on each side. Congress took action and extinguished aboriginally-based hunting and fishing rights, but later, at the request of the Native people, Congress passed Title VIII on subsistence as a part of ANILCA.

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