Archive for the ‘alaska statehood’ Tag

An Interesting Alaska Fact   1 comment

The square acreage of the United States east of the Mississippi River roughly equals the square acreage of Alaska.

There are 26 states, 244 Representatives, and 52 Senators representing that east-of-the-Mississippi area. That is 296 total voices in Congress to shout down our two Senators and one Congressman.

And, people wonder why Alaska feels like it’s not treated equally to the other States?

296 to 3.

Does that seem like a fair fight when the conversation is something like ANWR?

Consider this — if you live east of the Mississippi — would you like Alaskans to be able to decide how you should live?

Posted February 5, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Example of American Colonial Attitude   1 comment

This article in the GovBeat section of the Washington Post is a perfect example of the United States’ colonial attitude toward Alaska (and Hawaii).

How states spend their cash, in 5 maps by Niraj Chokshi

What’s missing in these maps?

Alaska and Hawaii.

For the record, we are (officially) states and have been for more than 50 years.

I guess that’s a news flash.

Posted January 24, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Alaska Question   Leave a comment

The United States government was forced to convert Alaska’s status from territory (colony) to state by the United Nations Charter that the United States Department of State authored. Observers have suggested that the US never expected the international community to hold it responsible for treating its own non-self-governed territories the same as it was expecting other countries to treat theirs. That sounds about right to me. On the spot, the US had no choice, but to transition Alaska from a colony to a state.

In that transition, however, the United States and the corporate interests that had controlled Alaska as a territory were determined not to relinquish control of Alaska’s lands and resources to the people of Alaska. Rather than convert our actual status, they swapped titles. The bondage remains. In order to hide what they were doing, the federal government promised Alaska a 90% share of resource development on federal lands in Alaska. Yah!

Sounds good … except that ANILCA eliminated development on almost all federal land in Alaska. Ninety percent of nothing is …. Oops! 

The promises the US government made to Alaska were as good as any treaty made to the American Indians, I guess.

You can argue whether the evidence provides proof of fraud. Was the fraud of statehood deliberate or just the result of clumsy latter-day handling?  Evidence is not proof. It’s unlikely the question will ever be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, so the debate will continue.

To be fair, there are Alaskans who rejoice at federal control. If you own an ecotourism business and spend your winters in Guatamala instead of making a home in Alaska, non-development is money in your pocket, so what’s the problem? 

For those of us who want to live here with more dignity than zoo animals, it matters. These land issues affect us every day in negative ways and if we are truly American citizens, we believe we are owed the same respect on conservation issues as would be given to a citizen living in New Jersey or California. Sadly, we are not treated like we are truly American citizens.

So do we go on fighting for legitimacy, knowing that if nothing has changed in 150 years it is unlikely to change any time soon, or do we cease striving to remain American citizens?

That is the question.

Subsistence Priority = Racism   Leave a comment

Alaskans are caught between the history that we’ve been taught and the actual events that occurred. Ted Stevens is one of our cultural heroes, but as I’ve been showing, that image may be more propaganda than reality.

I’m not saying he was a bad man. Alaska has plenty of carpet-baggers and con men to add color to our history. Ted Stevens was not one of those. But, the actual history makes you wonder if he really had Alaska’s best interests at heart or if he was dancing to a tune played by a piper we weren’t meant to know about.

Although I find his involvement in writing the Alaska Statehood Compact and his inaction on ANILCA highly suspicious, I admit his “this is how sausage is made” argument could be viewed as politically savvy. We might be left guessing about Ted Stevens’ real feelings about ANILCA if not for the subsistence controversy.

According to Stevens (and I heard the man speak in person many times), he meant to protect subsistence Native hunting and fishing rights when he inserted into ANILCA a mandate that the state legislature grant priority to rural subsistence hunting and fishing in times of natural scarcity. The rural designation was critical, for in the new era of civil rights, race could never be permitted as a determining factor in preferential treatment.

Rural was not defined, either in the mandate or in the state statute. I live in the second largest community in Alaska, but I can be in real wilderness by driving less than an hour. What exactly is “rural”?

I don’t consider myself a rural resident, but my husband’s family (who are from New England) consider our community to be a small town, so by Lower 48 standards, I guess we’re “rural”. By the standards applied by the interpretation of ANILCA under US Fish & Wildlife regulations, rural is not Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Wasilla, North Pole, or any of the organized towns in the state. With very few exceptions, “rural” to them is a non-road system village peopled by majority Alaskan Natives.

I’ve had Alaskan Natives tell me that this is straight-up reverse racism. It’s also a violation of the Alaska Constitution. 

Alaska’s constitution has its own mandate that fish and game resources must be managed according to the principle of “common use”. All Alaska residents have a equal share in all of Alaska’s fish and game resources, regardless of the population density of the community in which we live. This was a standard agreed upon by Alaska Native leaders at the constitutional convention, who recognized that if Alaska were ever cut off from resupply through Seattle, “urban” Alaskans would be much more at risk of starvation than the villagers who live amid the resource. Thus, in the 1989 McDowell case, the rural priority was struck down by the Alaska State Supreme Court.

The Alaska Supreme Court was completely right in how they ruled, but ANILCA had already mandated what would occur if the state refused rural subsistence priority. The federal government would take over the management of fish and game on federal lands.

NOTE: No other state had ever been subject to that kind of control. Alaskans were told they could avoid this by amending the constitution, which was attempted in a special session in the summer of 1990, but it failed to acquire the necessary 2/3 majority of the legislature before sending it to the people as a referendum. The voters soundly rejected the referendum, most of us because we felt it was straight up racism. Federal subsistence boards were created in subsequent years, and Alaska became unable to hold final authority of its own fish and game upon the vast majority of its lands.

Are we a state or do we remain a colony?

It would seem ANILCA, when it locked away over 60 percent of our land mass and the resources upon it and under it, returned us to colonial status … unless, of course, we never actually were a state.

Alaska’s Dutch Uncle Re-Evaluated   Leave a comment

The history of how Alaska became a state and how the United States government has proven that we are not the same sort of state as, say, New Jersey or Virginia. It’s a complicated history that is largely unknown by Americans. Even most Alaskans are not aware of this history nor the role that Ted Stevens played in it. We’ve been taught Stevens was a hero, a champion of Alaska’s interests. History isn’t so certain on Stevens’ heroic role as Alaska’s champion. I think the image may be more spin than reality.

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) is part of that history and it’s interesting to review it because it’s not what you might expect.

U.S. Senators Mike Gravel and Ted Stevens were at opposite purposes in this debate, which created a puzzling situation of which only the passage of time can provide a clear view.

Gravel, the liberal Democrat, served two terms as Alaska’s senator before we’d had enough of his stupidity, but in this case, he actually was working on Alaska’s side by fighting against ANILCA. Meanwhile, Ted Stevens, the Republican, took a pass. No, he did not fight ANILCA, contrary to what he put out there in the decades following the passage of the act.

Gravel, despite his many and manifold failings as a senator, was an unpredictable maverick. When senators writing their memoirs get to ANILCA — if they bother to remember that bill that typifies Alaska’s colonial status — they remember how annoying Gravel was with his quorum calls and amendments in an attempt to delay or prevent the passage of ANILCA. He assessed the impact of ANILCA in this way:

“While we in Congress may be reading the provisions one way now, the language ambiguities and regulatory tools are all laid out in the bill … frankly, I am expecting the worst … the use of the massive conservation system designations to block any further exploration or development [including recreational] of these lands, and on non-federal adjacent lands. I see our state throttled down economically over the next decade … this legislation goes for beyond what is appropriate and proper for protection. It is a question of balance. This bill does not achieve that balance … I feel we are doing the State of Alaska a great injustice, and ultimately we are doing the nation a great injustice, by not permitting the resource contributions which Alaska lands could make in meeting the full spectrum of desire and demands of human existence.”

Wow, I’m almost (almost) sorry that I helped vote the man out of office.

Stevens, meanwhile, maintained that the votes in Alaska’s interest just were not possible. Most of the American western states were as up in arms about federal abuse of authority and the lock up of land. They called it the “sagebrush rebellion”. You would think Stevens, a savvy politician well up in the ranks of the Senate by then, could have garnered at least some sympathy and quid pro quo, but he settled for playing a losing hand in order to mitigate the effects of ANILCA. As the years passed and we’ve watched ANILCA’s effects, it became obvious that even Stevens’ hopes regarding the “mitigation” of ANILCA had, as Gravel predicted, failed. Stevens admitted that in the preface of a book edited by J.P. Tangen, entitled A Report to the People of Alaska on the Land Promises Made in ANILCA – Twenty Years Later, where he wrote:

“Alaskans have continued to fight for what was agreed to in the act. From ANWR to Kantishna to Glacier Bay, wave after wave of assaults on the act’s protections [for development] have challenged the agreement.”

Sometimes you can’t see something clearly until you step back from it a bit and the whole Stevens career really boils down to this. Ted Stevens, author (or co-author) of much of the Alaska Statehood Act, refused to battle ANILCA, then came to “rescue” Alaska with titanic influxes of federal monies in order to prop up the economy, bringing Alaska under the dependency and control of the federal government, which is precisely what Gruening wanted to free the new state from in his historic American Colonialism speech.

Maybe we should rethink that whole “Man of the Century” pose.

Now, I did not like Mike Gravel. He ran my very first time at bat as a voter and I am proud to say I showed him the door, even if it meant getting the idiot Frank Murkowski to replace him. However, Gravel’s antics were able to delay the legislation, which forced Carter’s hand, causing him to unilaterally invoked the Antiquities Act in a way it was never intended, expanding executive power, and locking up Alaska’s resources for the sake of the environmental lobby. Had Gravel had some help from Stevens, playing on the sagebrush rebellion, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Congress might have voted differently in the subsequent Congress. Instead ANILCA confirmed Carter’s withdrawals and added to them, while Gravel was defeated in the Alaska open primary.

Stevens’ purported reasons for approving ANILCA seemed reasonable to a Congressional observer, but would Stevens have tried to undo federal land ownership which he himself had created when writing the Alaska Statehood Bill as an employee of the Interior Department?

Was Uncle Teddy assuaging his conscience or merely distracting us when he aimed federal largesse toward us to prop up Alaska’s economy when we could no longer sustain ourselves after the development plans of the oil boom dried up under the chilling effect of ANILCA?

Was it an attempt to help us or steer us toward federal dependency and control?

Alaskans need to answer those questions for ourselves because we need to learn from our history instead of repeating it.

Drunk on Power   Leave a comment

Alaska came into the union as a possession just after the Civil War when the federal government was drunk on newly realized power. For the first time in American history, the federal government no longer was answerable to the states. Only the Southern states lost the Civil War, but all states learned that states that argued with the federal government stood a good chance of being sorry for their impudence. As the federal government began carving out large portions of the western states for the new concept of “federal land”, the affected states were left to silently, impotently fume.

Alaska and Hawaii went nearly a century each as territories, subject to federal control over local issues that was often exercised in arbitrary and capricious ways. Alaska entered the union as the poorest state in the union. Of course, we were cowed and uncertain of our rights!

It’s important to realize that Alaska wrote its constitution during the Progressive Era, which explains (but shouldn’t excuse) a remarkable segment found in Article 12, Section 12, where the state and its people, as a condition of joining the union, acquiesce in relinquishing to the federal government the usurpation of Article I, Section 8, clause 17, thus:

The State of Alaska and its people forever disclaim all right and title in or to any property belonging to the United States or subject to its disposition, and not granted or confirmed to the State or its political subdivisions, by or under the act admitting Alaska to the Union. The State and its people further disclaim all right or title in or to any property, including fishing rights, the right or title to which may be held by or for any Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut, or community thereof, as that right or title is defined in the act of admission. The State and its people agree that, unless otherwise provided by Congress, the property, as described in this section, shall remain subject to the absolute disposition of the United States. They further agree that no taxes will be imposed upon any such property, until otherwise provided by the Congress. This tax exemption shall not apply to property held by individuals in fee without restrictions on alienation. (State of Alaska, Constitution of the State of Alaska, Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, 2009)

And further, in Section 13 of the same article:

All provisions of the act admitting Alaska to the Union which reserve rights or powers to the United States, as well as those prescribing the terms or conditions of the grants of lands or other property, are consented to fully by the State and its people. (State of Alaska, Constitution of the State of Alaska, Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, 2009)

Twenty five years later, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) finally got around to letting Alaska know which properties and rights, besides “forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards and other needful buildings” would be reserved to the federal government. I honestly don’t think my dad, who attended the constitutional convention as an assistant to one of the framers, thought that was what was going to happen. Had he lived to see ANILCA, I’m sure he would have been as angry as Mom and I were at the betrayal by our own government.

This is NOT what Alaskans signed up for when they chose statehood!

The ANILCA controversy of 1978-80 was often referred to by Alaskans as “D-2” at the time, in reference to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Section 17 (d) 2, authorizing the federal government to select its lands. Like with much of the Alaska lands issues controversy, there’s a history that is mostly unknown by those outside of Alaska.

President Jimmy Carter failed to obtain sought-after legislation at the end of the Congressional session in 1978, so he utilized the Antiquities Act of 1906 to withdraw 56 million acres of Alaska on executive authority, igniting a raging controversy within the state and, from some quarters, cries for Alaska’s secession. This would propel Joe Vogler and the Alaska Independence Party to national and even international attention. It would also fan the flames of the “sagebrush” rebellion, but that’s another topic.

I’ve dealt with some of that and there are more posts coming because (d)2 was Alaska starting to recognize that we are not second-class American citizens, though we’re still working our way toward what to do about it.

Avalanches Start Small   2 comments

The federal government is a perfect example of piling mistakes upon errors. Like two parallel lines which diverge only slightly, the passage of time demonstrates that a jog of only a half-degree will, over time, create a yawning gap.

To see this, we need to investigate a fundamental constitutional error that affects Alaska, creating its own tradition and momentum lasting well over a century, to the point where few even bother to investigate the merits of the controversy: federal property.

Article I, Section 8, clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution gives very lmited license to the federal government’s possession of real property:

To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and acceptance of Congress, become the seat of government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings.

Many constitutional scholars maintain that the federal government can only own the District of Columbia, post offices, federal buildings, military docks, factories and storage warehouses. The debate over “loose” versus “strict” construction of the Constitution often comes into play here. The 9th Amendment to the federal constitution interprets this clause “loosely” in regards to individual liberty while the 10th Amendment interprets it “strictly” in regards to federal power. For clarity in such constitutional balancing acts, we usually look at the Federalist Papers to assist us. James Madison, known as “The Father of the Constitution,” confirmed this in Federalist #45 when he stated that federal powers were to be “few and defined”.

Then how did the federal government come to own the millions of acres in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, battlefields, wild and scenic rivers, and the like? That certainly doesn’t sound “few or defined”.

History – we should know it, so we can learn from it.

In 1872, Yellowstone was created as the world’s first national park. Yes, the world’s FIRST national park! It was the middle of Reconstruction, just seven years after the end of the American Civil War, which subjugated not only states rights, but also much of the Constitution. Prior to the war, the government never would have attempted such a blatant violation of Article 1, Sec. 8, Cl. 17 of the US Constitution. The people would have been up in arms. The fact that national parks became and remain popular is beside the point that they are and always were unconstitutional.

Having established this beachhead while the states and the people were thoroughly cowed by the outcome of the Civil War and a large percentage of the country remained under martial law, the Progressive Era commenced to build new parks, the National Forest system, and then wildlife refuges and monuments. Western states were delivered increasingly into federal control, making the development of resources a matter of corporate influence in Congress. Individual citizens had no voice whatsoever against such power and the states had been muzzled. It took time, of course, to change the system, to do away with the gold and silver standards, the Homestead Act, ranching and the industrialization of America. During that transition time, prospectors, merchants, settlers and entrepreneurs were able to gain property in the West in a meaningful way, temporarily obscuring the long-term effects of the policy.

We didn’t see it coming and because we don’t study history, we don’t understand what we’ve lost … unless you live some place like Alaska where the industrialization of American never came about — then you see the long-term effects and wonder …

Whatever happened to America?

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