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Homer legislator apologizes for suggesting Alaska Native justice advocates exclude white women

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Homer legislator apologizes for suggesting Alaska Native justice advocates exclude white women


JUNEAU — A Homer state legislator apologized Monday on the House floor for suggesting last week that Alaska Native justice advocates exclude white women.

Rep. Sarah Vance, a Republican, made the comments during a House Tribal Affairs Committee hearing last Wednesday about the disproportionate rates of domestic and sexual violence experienced by Alaska Native women in rural Alaska. Advocates flew into Juneau last week to encourage lawmakers to address the state’s crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

“What I hear in this committee is that Alaska Native women feel that it’s exclusive to your experience. Because it sounds exactly what I have heard of white women in my community. It’s the same thing,” Vance said last Wednesday. “But what I continue to hear in this committee over and over again, as if you’re the only one. And I know that’s not your heart.”

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Rep. CJ McCormick, a Bethel Democrat and a member of the GOP-led majority caucus alongside Vance, responded last Wednesday that he was “at a loss for words” after hearing her comments.

On Monday, McCormick said that he and Vance had spoken, and that he better understood where she was coming from. But it was hard to hear those comments after the committee had heard more than an hour of “powerful, and very personal testimony” about the public safety crisis facing Alaska Natives, and the challenges to seek justice in rural Alaska, he said.

Members of the Alaska Native Justice Network told the committee that in 2020, Alaska Native women were 10 times more likely to be killed by men than white women. More than half of Alaska Native women reported having experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.

The Alaska Beacon reported that Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell told lawmakers last Tuesday that it was “shameful” rural Alaska had received disproportionately less law enforcement resources since statehood.

“We’ve closed our eyes and allowed rural Alaska to be seriously victimized,” he said.

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Vance, who has championed for lawmakers to address human and sex trafficking in Alaska, noted in her comments the “incredible gap” Alaska Native women experience in accessing resources for justice. But she encouraged Indigenous advocates to remember that they have “white sisters who are going through the same thing.”

“There’s clearly a mass of Alaskan Native women who have been abused at very high rates. But I can tell you, there are innumerable white women who have the same internal experience of the trauma that Native women have expressed,” she said last Wednesday.

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[Watch the remarks:]

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Fairbanks Democratic Rep. Ashley Carrick said after Vance’s comments, that as a white woman, it hurt her heart to hear about the disparities facing Alaska Native women.

“And while the suffering is the same for victims, the causes of that violence are not the same. And the response to that violence is not the same. And the justice for the victims is not the same,” she said.

Five days after the committee hearing, Vance apologized on the House floor on Monday for comments she said were “less than gracious,” adding, “What I should have said is that evil does not discriminate.”

“When we talk about sexual violence and justice, it’s messy and dirty, and my words created offense,” Vance said. “It is not my heart or my intention to ever create an offense, especially on such a deeply important topic to Alaskans. I in no way want to dishonor the voice of the victims of sexual violence, or the Alaska Native voice, who has been crying out for justice for so long.”

At around the same time as Vance apologized on the House floor, the Democrat-dominated House minority caucus issued a prepared statement to the media, demanding that she apologize for the comments they described as “appalling.”

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Vance said Monday evening that her apology was a sincere attempt to bring healing, but she said the House minority had chosen to politicize her comments, which she said was “disgusting.”

Fairbanks Democratic Rep. Maxine Dibert, the only Alaska Native woman currently serving in the Legislature, said in a brief interview earlier in the day that she had been “very hurt” by Vance’s comments. She said she appreciated Vance’s apology, but she wished it had been made to her in private first.

Dibert said that violence against anyone is horrible, but the disproportional rates of violence experienced by Alaska Natives makes the situation unique.

Carrick said by phone that she appreciated Vance’s humility in apologizing, but she said that “there’s a deep need to acknowledge the continuing disparity around missing and murdered Indigenous persons in Alaska.”

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Alaska

Who Will Benefit From An Alaska/Hawaiian Airlines Merger?

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Who Will Benefit From An Alaska/Hawaiian Airlines Merger?


Alaska Airlines’ acquisition of Hawaiian Airlines is progressing, albeit slowly. We were just advised that it is largely on schedule, which could mean it is still up to a year or more away. Meanwhile, others in high positions have mentioned it could conclude much sooner than that.

Most recently, the shareholders of Hawaii Airlines gave their approval. This is despite an ongoing shareholder lawsuit we were told would likely have no impact. In addition, earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division requested additional information and documentary material as part of its review process.

Hawaii’s four county mayors recently spoke out about the merger.

The mayors have concluded that the merger would enhance airline service for Hawaii’s communities, improve connectivity, and offer more options for residents. We’ll add that it will provide many of the same benefits for Hawaii visitors.

The mayors confirmed what we already know: for neighbor island residents, like BOH editors here on Kauai, air travel is much like a bus service. It is vital for accessing essential services like business meetings, medical appointments, seeing family and friends, and even dining out.

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Not only that, but these airlines, on a daily basis, move workers between islands and small towns, including those in construction, medicine, and other fields. That is essential to keeping all business moving forward in Hawaii and in Alaska, including the travel business.

Both Alaska and Hawaii residents share significant similarities. Alaska has provided local and reliable service in that state for close to 100 years, and Hawaiian has done the same here in Hawaii.

What Hawaii’s mayors didn’t say seems clear.

They believe that allowing Hawaiian Airlines to merge with Alaska Airlines is the best path to ensure the continued health and longevity of our state’s largest airline, enabling it to serve local residents for generations to come.

The implication is there is no assurance that Hawaiian Airlines can continue in business without the pending merger. You’ll recall that Hawaiian Airlines has amassed about $1 billion in debt, which at last count, is increasing to the tune of $1 million per day.

Benefits for Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines is #5 on the list of largest airlines in the US. That position isn’t expected to change. Hawaiian’s long-haul aircraft, flights, and experience, including widebody aircraft of two types (A330 and B787), should provide Alaska with a new means for long-distance expansion. That could provide more competition on routes across the Pacific and even help reduce costs.

Timely Hawaiian Airlines Sale As Merger + Aircraft Challenges EscalateTimely Hawaiian Airlines Sale As Merger + Aircraft Challenges Escalate

Benefits for Hawaiian Airlines.

The merger reveals improved operational efficiency and expansion opportunities at the Hawaii bellwether. With a much larger fleet, new technologies, and other resources across the board, Hawaiian will have needed economies of scale that should improve performance while driving down operating costs. It offers them the potential for many new routes.

In addition, Hawaiian has nearly 7,000 employees, most of which are based in Hawaii. The merger would result in most people, especially union ones, retaining their jobs.

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But flight attendants aren’t so sure yet.

Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants are saying that they aren’t ready to give their blessing to the planned merger of the two airlines.

The flight attendants’ unions representing Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines have now halted that merger approval. Their unions want the commitment of both airlines to handle merger concerns to their liking and preserve what they deem essential elements of their respective contracts.

Public opinion on the proposed Hawaiian/Alaska merger.

We’ve already had a range of comments on this topic. Just today, Chris said, “Listen… Alaska wants to eliminate Hawaiian. As in the past they may tacitly promise things then when they can, dump all those promises. Alaska wants Hawaiian to cease to exist along with contracts, aircraft leases, employee bases, international routes, everything. It’s all going to end.

Yet, another comment responded, saying: “The Association of Flight Attendants, the union that represents both Alaska and Hawaiian flight attendants, is powerless to stop this merger. Hawaiian shareholders voted 98% in favor of the merger last week. DOJ Anti-Trust Division is not going to have cause to stop this from happening as it did with the failed Jet Blue and Spirit. Hawaiian is in a terrible financial situation and the future looks even more bleak without this acquisition. Sorry…it’s the hard truth. Get on board with Alaska or go the way of Aloha Airlines.”

Please share your thoughts!

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PFD constitutional amendment waits to be heard on House floor as education bill takes center stage

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PFD constitutional amendment waits to be heard on House floor as education bill takes center stage


JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) – The wide-sweeping education bill from the House Rules Committee has taken center stage on the Alaska House floor this week, but in the background, also waiting to be heard is a constitutional amendment to the Permanent Fund Dividend.

With strong bipartisan support, the House Judiciary Committee moved House Joint Resolution 7 out of committee last month, after listening to public testimony in favor of it.

The constitutional amendment would in part amend Article IX, Section 15, of the Constitution of Alaska to require the state to pay a Permanent Fund dividend according to a formula in law.

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, who is sponsoring it, said the resolution stems from the way the Permanent Fund dividend has been handled, saying it has been subjected to the budget process and “competes with government spending” where it “becomes the deficit reduction solution.”

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He said this proposal requires the state to pay the annual PFD according to a formula in statute, rather than by the annual appropriations process.

Carpenter said because it’s a constitutional amendment, two-thirds of both the state House and Senate would need to approve it before it would go to the voters in the next general election.

Once on the ballot, it would need a simple majority by voters to get it approved, Carpenter said.



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Reparations Made by Quaker Group in Alaska

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By Isaac White

In an unprecedented move towards reconciliation and healing, the Alaskan branch of the Quakers, a religious group historically involved in the forced assimilation of Native youth across the United States, has made a significant gesture of restitution to the Indigenous community of Kake, Southeast Alaska. On January 19, members of this group personally delivered a check for $93,000, accompanied by a heartfelt four-page apology, to the Organized Village of Kake, a community deeply scarred by the legacy of a Quaker-run mission school that operated from 1891 to 1912.

The Alaska Friends Conference (AFC), a small but dedicated group within the Friends General Conference, is predominantly composed of White members who are keenly aware of their organization’s historical role in the assimilation policies. Their ongoing efforts to atone for past injustices are part of a broader movement towards reconciliation and healing.

The Quakers, formally known as the Religious Society of Friends, were instrumental in the federal government’s efforts from 1819 through 1970 to eradicate Native culture, language, and traditions through a nationwide network of over 500 boarding schools. In Alaska those institutions existed, with the Quakers directly managing schools across the country. The school in Kake is a stark reminder of this painful chapter in American history, where the goal was to ‘civilize’ Native children by stripping away their identity and heritage.

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Joel Jackson, the tribal president of the roughly 500-person village of Kake highlighted the profound impact of the reparations. The funds are earmarked for the creation of a tribal healing center, a beacon of hope intended to mend the deep-seated trauma inflicted on Alaska Native people. The legacy of these schools, as Jackson poignantly recalled, has manifested in devastating social issues within the community, including alcoholism, substance abuse, and a suicide crisis that peaked in the late 1980s with 15 suicides.

The group acknowledged that the treatment on the Native people affected by the Quakers of past years was varied:

“We apologize that Friends also banned dancing, teaching that it was evil and creating repercussions across generations. To lose dancing is to lose an important way to celebrate, communicate, share stories, and a deeply spiritual way of life. For the dances and traditions lost, we sincerely apologize.”

Acknowledging the “direct harms” and the “personal, cumulative, and ongoing” impact of colonization, the Quaker’s apology resonates with a community in dire need of healing. The proposed tribal healing center, which will occupy a leased abandoned U.S. Forest Service building, symbolizes a critical step towards addressing the intergenerational trauma. With plans to open by late summer, the center will provide programs rooted in Native values and traditions, catering to 16 individuals at a time.

The group also took time in the apology to let people know their faith and conduct in the past isn’t a true representation of who they intend to be:

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“At the core of our Quaker faith is non-violence, founded on a recognition of that of God in every human being. The forcible separation of families, broken bonds of language, and attacks which undermined culture and traditions, endorsed and pursued by people identifying as Quakers, means that Friends actively denied and failed to see your full humanity.

We are aware that the direct harms caused by our failure remain personal, cumulative, and ongoing.

We will do more than simply acknowledge the harm we have caused. We pledge to teach ourselves and our children about this wrong. We will formally and collectively ask ourselves what wrongs we may still be perpetrating in ignorance or bigotry, and hold ourselves accountable. We believe there should be reparations and restitution for the harms from the Boarding School system. We will actively identify reparations we can make while also advocating for them in broader society. Alaska Friends Conference endorses the formation of a federal Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies and will continue to support Alaska Native rights, self-determination, and sovereignty.”

The Alaska Friends, the state’s Quaker group, remains committed to supporting the healing process, not only through financial reparations but also by fostering understanding and collaboration. They have pledged to sponsor five young adults to lobby in Washington D.C. for the establishment of a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools Policy Act. This legislative effort aims to hold the federal government accountable for its role in the boarding school policies, with recommendations for protecting unmarked graves, supporting repatriation, and addressing modern-day child removal policies.

The commission, if established, would mark a significant advancement in uncovering the truth and facilitating healing, endowed with the power to subpoena records from private entities and government agencies. This capability is critical for tracing the fates of children who attended these schools, identifying their tribal affiliations, and locating unmarked graves.

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As the community of Kake looks towards the future, the prospect of a healing center offers a tangible means of confronting and healing from the scars of the past. The reparations and apology from the Quakers serve as a significant, albeit initial, step in acknowledging the injustices perpetrated against Alaska Native communities. The path towards healing is long and complex, but with initiatives like these, there is hope for restoring lost identities and rebuilding stronger, more resilient communities.

The Friends also made clear the responsibility for their transformation is theirs and that none of their personal journey falls upon the Native people to fix it for them:

“It is not the responsibility of Alaska Native people to help us to transform our behavior. At the same time, we see that our acting without first listening has contributed to great harm. We seek your guidance and input to ensure reparations are done on your terms that will help your communities heal. We ask for forgiveness and pledge to walk beside you as we work together for healing and transformation.”

The story of Kake, and the gesture of the Quakers, underscores the importance of confronting our collective history to move forward. It serves as a poignant reminder of the power of apology, the necessity of reparations, and the enduring strength of communities in the face of adversity. As we reflect on this chapter of American history, the efforts in Kake illuminate the potential for healing, reconciliation, and ultimately, a more just and equitable society.



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