Todd Palin No Poster Boy for Yup’ik Eskimos or Other Native Alaskans

New America Media, Commentary, Earl Ofari Hutchinson Posted: Sep 07, 2008

There was the ever so fleeting moment during her speech at the Republican National Convention when Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin paid tribute to hubby Todd. She lightly mentioned that he’s of Yup’ik Eskimo background. Todd Palin beamed with pride at the acknowledgement in front of the packed convention crowd and in front one of the largest TV audiences to ever watch a candidate’s convention speech. But the cheering convention participants and millions of viewers won’t see the same smiles on scores of other of Palin’s Yup’ik Eskimos and many other Native Alaskans.

They make up nearly 20 percent of Alaska’s population. A devastating report by the Alaska Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 2002, “ Racism’s Frontier: The Untold Story of Discrimination and Division in Alaska” painted a picture of decades long economic misery, discrimination, neglect and alienation for Native Alaskans in Palin’s state.

VP candidate Palin boasted that she squeezed the oil and gas industry for billions that have enriched the state’s businesses, residents, and boosted employment in some communities. That prosperity hasn’t touched many Native Alaskans. Overall one fifth of Native Alaskans are below the poverty line. In some rural villages their jobless rate tops 80 percent. Despite sheaths of anti-discrimination laws, and even an affirmative action plan for special needs military veterans, on the books in Alaska, discrimination against Native Alaskans is rampant.

The Alaska Human Rights Commission notes that discrimination complaints jumped more than fifty percent in a seven year period in the late 1990s. Many of those complaints didn’t come from Native Alaskans. Native Alaskan leaders bluntly told civil a civil rights commission community forum in 2001 that they simply didn’t trust the system.

Native Alaskans are more likely to be sicker and have less access to quality, affordable health care than whites. Their infant mortality is more than double that of whites. Their tuberculosis rate is more than twenty times higher than whites. Civil rights commission studies attributed the appalling health statistics to overcrowded and insufficiently ventilated housing, impure water supplies, inadequate waste disposal systems, and general malnutrition.

The racial disparities between Native Alaskans and whites are even more glaring in public education and the criminal justice system. Native Alaskans are slightly more than 12 percent of the state’s public school students. They make up more than one quarter of school drop-outs, and are at rock bottom in their achievement scores in reading and math. Native Alaskans make up a paltry five percent of the teachers and administrators. Many of the students are taught exclusively by white teachers in grossly under-funded rural public schools. Many of the teachers have little understanding of or sensitivity to Aleut, Yup'ik, and Indian culture and language.

Then there are the soaring prison numbers. Native Alaskan males make up less than ten percent of the state’s population, but are nearly forty percent of those behind bars. Despite the disproportionate jail numbers, the civil rights commission found that Native Alaskans are underrepresented in jobs in the child welfare system, legal system, and juvenile justice system.

The criminal justice system disparities are a double edged sword for Native Alaskans. While they are far more likely to be incarcerated than whites, they are also far more likely than whites to suffer rape, domestic violence and homicide. Native Alaskans bitterly complain of laxity by the police and the courts in finding and punishing those who victimize Native Alaskans. Many homicides of Native Alaskans have remained unsolved.

The violence rate against Native Alaskans is so high that some violence prevention experts say that some of the crimes against Native Alaskans could be tagged as hate crimes. Alaska state legislators for a brief time toyed with the idea of enacting a hate crimes law with greater sentencing enhancements. That went nowhere. Even if the legislature had acted, Governor Palin gave a strong hint what its fate would likely be if it landed on her desk. During the 2006 gubernatorial campaign she told the Eagle Forum that she opposed expanded hate crime legislation. She branded all heinous crimes as hate crimes.

State Equal Rights Commission officials have complained that the legislature gutted the commission’s budget and cut staff. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Despite the well documented widespread discrimination and disparities against Native Alaskans there is no public record that Governor Palin has gone to bat for increased funding for the Commission.

In a report on the plight of Native Alaskans, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission called for massive increases in spending on job and skills training and programs to boost employment, improve education and public services. The commission called for sweeping reforms in the criminal justice and health care systems. The recommendations were made four years before Palin took office. Other than a brief mention of diversity in her gubernatorial campaign speech in 2006, there is no evidence that Palin has said or done anything about the commission’s recommendations. If she had it would have put a beam on the faces of thousands of Yup’ik Eskimos who aren’t named Todd Palin.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is How the GOP Can Keep the White House, How the Democrats Can Take it Back (Middle Passage Press, August 2008).

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User Comments

critical thinker-too on Sep 29, 2008 at 09:03:31 said:

Critical Thinker: My critical thinking leads me to believe you are "closely related" to the Palin's. On the defense, huh? You are so obvious. You know what the victory is in this? No matter how much you defend or justify yourself...God is still in control! Over you, over the government, over the world, over everything! You idiots have no control whatsoever. In the end you will have to answer to God for your wrongdoings, and trust me it will be soon. And those who are left behind will burn in eternal hell. You have absolutely no control over that! You can get by, but you can't get away! Nothing will prosper withough God's blessing.

Deennaa on Sep 27, 2008 at 00:25:53 said:

I'll give you stupid assed white people a whine or two but it would fall on your unseeing dumbed down eyes and unhearing ears. It is my observation and EXPERIENCE, living a lifetime among your kind(american, that only a handful of you will get it - UNDERSTAND - that it is your own RABID RACISM that engenders a hate for your unfounded and stinking arrogance of imagined superiority over us and then anyone who is not like your damned dumb selves. What this article states is FACT. Oh, you know a few natives - friends, and of course the usual "drunks" among us do you? You must be talking about those sell-outs if they are agreeing with your ugly statements. For 50 years in - JUST MY GENERATION - I have lived with your innate and inborn violences against my people(as well as your own)& we allowed you to water down our blood with your miscreant taint of wild west ignorances and vile and despicable racism. YOU ALWAYS LOBBED THE FIRST SHOT! Every bad statistic we have has its root in your coming here and usurping ALL THAT WE HAD and ALL THAT WE WERE. You haven't a CLUE ONE what that means. You are not able to abstract think of the layers upon layers of consequences you wrought upon our bodies and our lives and our spirits. YOU HAVE NO IOTA OF UNDERSTANDING OF THIS. Every damnable word against this article of TRUTH that you attempt to negate as false shows your supreme and I mean SUPREME IGNORANCE!

EN'ZAH'GHAH'KEH EN'DEEH'EE'ZAHQ! YOU came to MY LAND. Now you show me your respect right now by KNOWING WHAT I JUST SAID IN MY LANGUAGE! I demand it! Just let me interject that I have already mastered your language. Show me the same!

We do not get anything for free. Some of our Native peoples corporations get next to nothing & some of us get dividends times 4 a year. NOTHING YOU COULD LIVE ON FOR THAT YEAR as they are paltry amounts for sustaining a viable financial living within that yearly time. WE HAVE TO WORK THE SAME AS YOU DO. Our corporations were the equivalent of lower 48 Treaties only with a modern twist. THEY GOT OUR LANDS AND ALL ITS RESOURCES FOR THOSE TRANSITORY CORPORATIONS YOU DUMB ASSES! And what heavenly things have you done to our lands? Your psychopathic military dumped its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction WASTE on our lands for starters. Like the lower 48 from east to west, our lands are being polluted the same - you know - trash of all manner because you whites - NON-NATIVES - are not comfortable in nature : to you its just a garbage dump without thought to how you hurt our lands - ALL OUR NEST - Yes, you feel arrogant and totally unthinking mindlessness to foul nature as you please. Your lower 48 rivers, streams and creeks so polluted you couldn't take a thirsty little drink from what was once pure and pristine. Here in the "Last Frontier", you have done, are doing and will DO the same until there is no place on this planet that will be clean, healthy and sustainable for human life, let alone our precious creatures. You are really a filthy cretinous lot. What more can be said of you collectively.

My mother's and grandmother's generation told of your nasty selves in many stories when we were young. Ugly brutal stories. "NO INDIANS, NO PHILIPINO'S AND NO DOG'S ALLOWED" WERE YOUR SIGNS UPON THE LITTLE BOXES YOU CALLED CAFE'S IN THEIR GENERATION - just for starters. My stories - if my beloved elders were still alive and we could tell them - would be that it only got worse in our generation. I am still alive to SEE, FEEL & EXPERIENCE that its gotten worse for MY CHILD'S GENERATION. This little box cannot contain my stories of your white "american" brand of hatreds, grand ignorances and violences towards me and my Native peoples of this ONCE beautiful homeland of ours. Your very presence has tarnished it forever. Don't you DARE call us racist when we are ATTEMPTING to RECOVER from the great GRIEF you have brought upon us JUST by being forced to live among you who are without conscience, awareness, empathy, sympathy, guilt or SHAME FOR WHAT YOU HAVE WROUGHT. Don't you know what you have done!!! NO. NO. NO. It is the painful echo that pierces my ears and sears my eyes with great anger and rage for WHAT YOU HAVE DONE and by your continuing dumbed down-ness and stupidity - will CONTINUE to inflict upon my peoples. You, oh white american are the most dangerous creatures on two legs. YOU ALWAYS LOB THE FIRST SHOT and SCREAM THE LOUDEST AT WHAT RETURNS BACK FROM THAT. You will apparently not rise above the level of juvenile in all your endeavors to create the image of yourselves as "better", superior, etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Your footprint upon the planet is death for everything and everyone who is in your stomping way. You are truly the "ugly american". You are not loved. You are not at all what can be called human anymore. You've lost what it means to be a "real human being"....just as we called ourselves, from time immemorial - from the east to the west of this large continent - "the real human beings".

Don't come in MY LAND, kill my father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, TRIBE and call ME the racist. Don't steal my children, crush my religion to force upon me YOUR religion, beat my body to force away my language, trash my eons of ages way of cultural beauties of clan leaderships, tribal governances you HAVE NO CLUE OF to be forced into your BACK-STABBING WAYS of governances, steal and attempt to destroy my traditional ways of feeding myself and my family - don't you dare tell me I am racist for these CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY YOU COMMIT AGAINST ME. YOU COMMIT!

I am here to tell you that you show me CLEARLY that you cannot decipher the layers upon layers upon layers of moments of moments of minutes, hours, days, months, and years upon years of your genocidal policies, cretinous stupidities, and dangerous violences you commit in all your time among us UPON US! And your stupid little blabs of words will forever show your innate witch-burning selves as you truly are: the most arrogant and pompous racists on planet earth. OUR holocaust is monumental you fools and progeny of fools. You will not change.

I know who the enemy is. I waste my words as well, here, among you fools. That's the pity of you all.

Writing from Alaska on Sep 24, 2008 at 19:41:42 said:

To read more on this topic - check the blog -
Writing from Alaska
Article - Sarah Palin puts Native speaker last, Todd Palin and the Native connection
Thanks -

Helen Keet on Sep 13, 2008 at 01:02:22 said:

Health Care for Alaska Natives is NOT free. Natives with health care insurance see a doctor. The rest of us might get to see a RN or PA. Over 41,000 Naitves live in Anchorage, the hospital has 6 dentists, whose priority is children, which means adults can not even get our teeth cleaned or a filling.
Our village, Haines or Deishu, has no land, no Federal recognition as a community that has lasted over 10,000 years, no Village Corporation and all that goes with that status.
Violence against Native women in Anchorage is the worst per capita, in the state. My nephew was attacked by four white men, on the way home from work. He was left for dead.

No one in the world is doing things the way it was 1000 years ago. Living cultures adapt or die. We adapted.

June Collins on Sep 10, 2008 at 23:25:14 said:

Wow - I agree with many of the mentioned issues of the problems affronting Alaskan Natives. I have lived in Bush Alaska for ten years. I would like to mention that in Bethel, AK I was not allowed access to the major hospital there because it was Indian Health Service, and I am not native, unless I was having a major medical emergency. I had to fly to Anchorage for any general access. I was definitely denied dental, or any specialty clinics there and here in Nome, Alaska I am still denied these services at the hospital which is run on public funding as well as over charged services for office visits. As far as poorly ventilated housing, Housing is highly ventilated due to age and dilapidation,I have lived in many a drafty house, however the problem is small size and close proximity for most the year due to climate - no real concern about global warming for the average Alaskan. The hospital, and many corporations here in Nome have a Native preference hiring system. And most of the violence that occurs in our communities are domestic.

There are many tragedies and challenges facing Alaskan Native peoples. Making people victims is no way to help, "becoming wards of the state" is no way to empower people. It's this way of thinking, whoa is me, what you've done to me, what can you do for me is what has dragged our country down. Pull you head out of your arse and work on a solution and quit whining.

Critical Thinker on Sep 09, 2008 at 16:46:17 said:

What the hell are you talking about? "Less access to quality affordable health care"? What's your source? Did you know that ALL Alaska Natives receive FREE heath care through the Native Health Care System? Even 1/2 1n3 1/4 Natives get absolutely FREE health care.

As for access, are any of the studies including that fact that natives in villages must travel, sometimes hundreds of miles to get to health care?
What would you propose? Building and staffing hospitals in the more than 100 villages of less than 100 people in Alaska?

And WHAT violence against Natives? In 8 years i never saw or hear a single incidence of violence and barely any racism TOWARD natives.

I certainly have been called names, threatened and assaulted BY natives (always drunk males over 40).

Also I love how the AK state law makes it "unlawful to discriminate hiring by race" and yet EVERY job I ever applied for or heard of anyone applying for HAD to use a "Native Hiring Preference", meaning that if a Native applied they were automatically hired, regardless of lack of experience and the NON Native would only get hired if there were NO Natives applying at the time of job openings. Isn't THAT "discriminating hiring by race"?

I love AK Native culture, I still have MANY Native friends, all of whom enjoy these comforts. Many of whom have shaken their heads at the standards applied.

Honestly I don't really even have a problem with the practices. But to then read here that some unnamed Natives are complaining. What's there to complain about?

Rape and abuse are horrible crimes, but remember again that these acts are FAR higher in rural Native villages, than in the cities, which means WHO is committing those atrocities? Yet your article implies (falsely) that they are crimes committed by "whites".

As for the incarceration rate AK has one of the most lax policies on marijuana of ANY state so there is a MUCH smaller population of "victimless" crimes than elsewhere.

That means that more people in AK jails are there under stronger cases than elsewhere. It IS fair to argue that AK Natives may have less access to competent legal aid than other Non Natives, I don't doubt that at all.

Certainly many if not most Natives live very differently now than their families did 1000 years ago, but the beauty of Alaska is that they are still free to live that way if they so desire. Subsistence living is a vital and well supported option. There's even a bounty for wolves of $110 each if they desire to make cash. Not to mention the $ that AK gives to each citizen every year (which promises to be over $3K this year) and the fact that most Natives get even more than that, being members of the Native Corporations which are the direct beneficiaries of the Oil Companies leases

As for Native failure rates in schools, while overall public schools may be only 12% Native but in many (if not MOST) villages they are nearly 100% Native. High dropout rate of Natives? Are we to hold them in school at gunpoint? The truth is that MANY Natives (at least that I've been friends with and at the university level) say that their friends didn't see the point of going to college even though it's free (as long as they make good grades and stay out of trouble) only to return to the village afterwards and hunt, trap and fish.

Not enough Native teachers? Whit teachers don't have a "sensitivity to or understanding of" Native cultures? Whose responsibility is it, when these teachers volunteer to sequester themselves out in tiny bush villages to make them "sensitive to" the Natives they've dedicated their lives to, if only for 5 years? Should we lower the standard of training teachers? I have an idea, FIRE all the white bush teachers. it's sure to be an improvement by your reasoning. I'll be sad to see the literally DOZENS of friends I made out of jobs, but if it's better for the villages, then let's do it.

The worlds of village life and city life are so remarkably different that they should be studied differently.

I'm certainly FOR job and skill training for Natives. But I'm for that for everyone!

This article is racist, ill-informed and revolting.

My favorite part is about how "poorly ventilated housing" is to blame for the spread of tuberculosis. It's a little hard to have very large, well ventilated housing in remote villages where there's no lumber and it has to be brought in at great expense and it's unhealthily cold outside for a large part of the year, so you can't just open the windows and let a breeze through. PLEASE explain to me how that's a Civil-Rights issue.

mac on Sep 09, 2008 at 12:56:45 said:

Rattled, aren\'t you? I guess you didn\'t see southern California on their massive tuberculosis problem coming from illegal aliens?

Nah, you won\'t even mention this at all.




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