It is becoming evident that mining for gold or other metals anywhere on this earth is bringing more destruction to the lands, water, people and nature. This is all coming out into the open and the people that live on lands are openly opposing these large mining companies that are bringing destruction to the lands all because of a few ounces of gold.

These companies and their cronies appease the people of these lands with opportunities of better living and work. Once they are done extracting the earth with great destruction and contamination to the environment they just leave.

There is no regard for the destruction of the environment they cause and the people dying from cancer and other illnesses associated from contamination.

After these companies leave they will not come back and see how much destruction was caused, they will just go to another place where more destruction will be repeated.

These companies talk about operating in a manner that would not damage the environment or bring sickness to the people and animals. Even though they try to give every reason as they always have the end is always the same at any large scale mining; the environment and the people are greatly affected.

We all hear of the mining in Alaska and the controversies they are causing. The mining companies in our own backyard are no different; they will do the very same thing when they run out of gold or other mined minerals.

The process the mining companies practice in disposing the contaminated water and mine waste is called tailings. Tailings are disposed of in large areas that have either been dug up or are natural bodies of water like ponds or lakes that are landlocked. These are lined with a material that can prevent leaks, or so they say.

There is evidence from the people that live in these areas around the world that have been affected and the environment contaminated that kill large animals essential for living. The reluctance of these large mining companies to actually safeguard against destruction and disease is prevalent; the people and the environment are secondary to their ultimate goal of extracting minerals.

Going back to our backyard, the backyard is where we get our food and water and are the most important for survival. Anyone who is contentious to the truth has total ignorance in the name of exploitation for their own greed.

Once we lose these precious resources we will be no different than those that have suffered with the loss of lives and the destruction of environments. Tailings ponds leak and if they say otherwise they are wrong.

Billy Lincoln Jr.
Toksook Bay, AK

Senator Murkowski Speaks in Remembrance of September 11, 2001

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski shared her thoughts on the September 11 terrorist attacks on America:

Across our nation, we pause on this day to remember the tragedies of September 11, 2001 — the anniversary of the attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the heroic story of Flight 93. That day we saw a total of 2,996 people dead, including firefighters, paramedics, and police officers trying to help. 9/11 will forever be one of the most tragic days in our nation’s history.

Yet from that tragedy, emerged a renewed sense of unity, patriotism, and reminder that we are all Americans together.

On this day, officially known as the National Day of Service and Remembrance, we honor those we lost and the heroic acts of so many. We remember the courage, heroism, and bravery shown by everyday Americans and first responders. And we promote community service as a tribute to the 9/11 victims and also the survivors.

So let us continue to honor and thank all of those who sacrificed so much — the victims and heroes of 9/11 — by coming together as neighbors, as volunteers, to embody that “spirit of service” and community on this national day of unity. Let us not just remember that sense of unity our nation had after 9/11, let us live it.

Senator Lisa Murkowski
Washington, D.C.

AFN Opposes Kavanaugh Appointment

September 12, 2018: The Alaska Federation of Natives is the oldest and largest Native organization in Alaska. Our membership includes 186 federally recognized Indian tribes, 177 for-profit village corporations, 12 for-profit regional corporations, 12 not-for-profit regional organizations, and a number of tribal consortia that compact and contract to run federal and state programs. For over 50 years, AFN has been the principal forum and voice for Alaska Natives in addressing critical issues of law and policy, including the nomination of U.S. Supreme Court justices.

The federal judicial appointment and confirmation process is designed to thoroughly vet nominees. As such, we did not immediately weigh in on President Trump’s choice to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. However, the questions and colloquies that came out of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary hearings last week have necessitated us taking a position. AFN joins our colleagues and friends across Indian country in strongly opposing Judge Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court because of, among other things, his views on the rights of Native peoples.

•Judge Kavanaugh’s Position on the Indian Commerce Clause is Erroneous. Congress’ plenary power over Indian affairs is grounded in the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clause gives Congress the power to “regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.” Judge Kavanaugh concedes this point. However, like Justice Clarence Thomas—the most senior justice on the Supreme Court—he challenges the clause’s application to affairs beyond trade. This impacts Alaska Native tribes, corporations, organizations and consortia because their dealings with Congress presently extend to a host of federal programs concerning their members, resources and governments.  

In the 2013 Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl decision, Justice Thomas contested Congress’ authority to enact the Indian Child Welfare Act, reasoning the Indian Commerce Clause only provides federal authority over Indian trade. Because most federal laws concerning Indians lack a nexus to Justice Thomas’s narrow definition of trade, they would be unlikely to survive the scrutiny he urges. The result would be a wholesale reshaping of the body of law and policy that has governed Indian affairs for the past century and a half.

Legal observers tracking Judge Kavanaugh believe he is further to the right than Chief Justice John Roberts. Thus, he may agree with Justice Thomas that Congress only has plenary power to regulate direct commerce with Indian tribes, nothing more. Confirming a nominee with this viewpoint would be disastrous for Alaska, and would roll back the gains of self-determination and usher back in the losses of termination.

•Judge Kavanaugh’s View of the Special Trust Responsibility is Misguided. The federal government has a special trust relationship with federally recognized Indian tribes. The relationship commands the highest moral and legal obligations, and is rooted in early federal-tribal treaties, the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, and opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh’s writings demonstrate a limited view of the federal government’s power to deal with Native peoples under this relationship. Specifically, he would only extend the special trust relationship to Indian tribes with his preferred history of federal dealings, including territorial removal and isolation. This, too, impacts Alaska, since Alaska Natives have a unique federal experience and few reservations were established in Alaska.  

During his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Judge Kavanaugh questioned the legitimacy of Native Hawaiian recognition, citing their different treatment by the federal government, and the fact that they do not live on reservations or enclaves. If he remains of the view that the special trust relationship only extends to Indian tribes with his brand of federal history, including territorial removal and isolation, he could very well rule that Congress lacks the authority to deal with Alaska Natives. This thinking could overturn much, if not all, of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, as well as all other federal legislation and regulations addressing Alaska Natives, tribes, corporations and organizations. To confirm a nominee who does not understand or appreciate the position of Native Hawaiians, and who could weaken the special trust relationship Alaska Natives share with the federal government, would be imprudent.

•Judge Kavanaugh’s Assessment of the Political Classification Doctrine is Troubling. The political classification doctrine announced in the 1974 Morton v. Mancari decision, that focuses on an Indian person’s membership in a federally recognized tribe rather than his or her ancestry to avoid strict scrutiny of federal legislation and regulation that benefits Indians, would be extremely vulnerable if Judge Kavanaugh were to ascend to the Court. For the reasons outlined above, he would likely align himself with Justice Thomas on the issue, and the two of them would likely work to persuade their fellow justices that the relationship between an Indian person’s status politically and their race is open for interpretation. Judge Kavanaugh does not accept this well-established legal doctrine. Confirming a nominee who is unable to grasp the necessity of federal programs based on the political classification doctrine, and articulate why they must be protected, would be unwise. 

AFN strongly urges the U.S. Senate to vote against Judge Kavanaugh. The documents that have been released so far in relation to his nomination demonstrate how troubling his confirmation would be for Native peoples, particularly Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. 

Alaska Federation of Natives
Anchorage, Alaska