by Alice Crow
March 26, 2021
An open letter to ONC citizens:
I am sending in the written statement I read during our Tribe’s last regular council meeting on March 3, 2021, under the agenda item ONC People to Be Heard. I share it in our trusted Delta Discovery newspaper to help build awareness of the situation and opportunities to make good changes and improvements. I urge each of you to get involved no matter your views. I believe we are stronger, together. Thank you for reading! Alice Rose Crow
I am Alice Crow, ONC enrollment #09XX. I am among the people to be heard.
I want to highlight three time-sensitive issues. For the record my more specific previous inquiries about how current tribal law is being administered have largely gone unanswered. I do still expect my inquiries to be addressed by someone with properly delegated authority to respond accurately and transparently to constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens to ask questions and receive timely answers.
In the meantime,
First, regarding the upcoming April 24 virtual annual meeting: I have requested census details of our current membership to understand where our kinspeople are living, how many have been invited in, and to try to begin to understand ways people are being left out.
For example, I am a base tribal member who lived in Bethel as both a child and woman. I have never once received a notice of an ONC annual meeting, not when I lived at home; not when I’ve lived away. I’m a granny who does not know how ONC annual meetings and voting are conducted.
So my question is what’s ONC’s process to provide a notice of annual meetings to members of record and to provide a standard and trustworthy way for adults to exercise our rights to vote in accordance to the unanimously passed by a 7-0 vote, Ordinance 96-2, attested by and signed into law five years ago by Councilors and President Jim and Secretary Lekander in April 2016.
What is the date of record to determine notices and to establish quorum requirements? Is this published? If not how is it communicated directly to members? Where should we look? How does the secret voting process work? How will secret voting work in a virtual meeting situation? For example how will adult members be offered the opportunity to exercise our rights to (secretly) vote for the three seats available on the Council? When and how will those Bethel candidates be made known to voting members? What is the deadline for candidacy? I ask that you consider these questions. I’m not alone in my wondering.
2. The second pressing issue is regarding the Council’s treatment of minor children wherever they reside and the disparate treatment of tribal member families living in Bethel, in YK villages, in other rural communities, on the road system in Alaska, in other states and countries.
I expect all of our children and grandchildren and indeed all of us to be treated in accordance to the current Constitution and the Ordinance signed into tribal law by Councilors Jim and Lekander in April 2016.
Minor children are to be accepted as members of the tribe and yet there does not seem to be a streamlined regular process to accept minor children automatically until they reach the age of majority and are called on to decide for themselves if they want to continue being members with us.
Further, there does not seem to be a process in place to reach out to grown descendants to invite them in as adult members. This gap is causing people—including our nieces, nephews, cousins and in some families, even our own kids and grandkids—to be unnecessarily left out of their inherent rights to a solid sense of belonging and care, rights to participate in tribal dialogue and decisions, and rights to easily access benefits and services. This needs to be corrected in accordance with current tribal law.
I also remain concerned that there is a pecking order to determine which tribal members receive services and benefits first—instead of equitable treatment that is clearly mandated and reserved in current tribal law.
Instead of showing care irrespective of where we make a good life, it seems like the established pattern is to rush to take care of Bethel and Village residents first while those of us who live in other Alaska places, and outside Alaska wait to be provided services later— if we are even thought about at all, except as nuisances.
I know ONC has made an effort to fix this with dispersal of federal COVID CARES funding.
However, I must point out, for example, my children and grandchildren living outside of Alaska have not yet received their COVID gift cards, first or second round. My Anchorage grandchildren have not yet received second round gift cards. These delays are hard to swallow and cause embarrassment when Bethel relatives are so relieved and confused about why we are still waiting. To recap:a Needs of all citizens are as important as the needs of our kinspeople living at or around home.
3. The third and final—yet equally important—pressing issue is the disregarding of and therefore exclusion of our kinspeople who no longer live in or around Bethel.
Maybe they joined the military and are deployed or left to seek higher education.
Maybe they were misdiagnosed or late diagnosed and contracted serious health issues requiring them to reside near specialists to try stay alive.
Maybe they are housed in assisted living facilities or in other types of protective care.
Maybe they’re warehoused in Juvie Jail or big houses in Seward or Arizona or can’t come home as a condition of their release.
Maybe they left to remove themselves from pain, violence, abuse, sleepless nights.
Maybe they spent all or part of their upbringing in outside foster care and don’t know how to find their way home.
Maybe Bethel doesn’t feel like home to them anymore.
Maybe their talents and expertise cannot be reasonably accommodated in Bethel.
Maybe they don’t have a safe place to live and raise a family.
Maybe they are in political or professional, corporate or bureaucratic, medical or dental, educational or scholarly, curatorial or artistic positions, living elsewhere to work on our behalf and hopefully are keeping us in mind.
Maybe they are shelterless, huddling to stay warm in abandoned structures or in the woods.
Maybe they found someone to love and a good place to live to take care of themselves and their children.
Maybe we ran them off.
Maybe we didn’t say, come home, we need you, we miss you.
Maybe they don’t even know what ONC is.
All of this started way before the establishment of the 1971 snapshot ONC base roll of which I am a part.
Earlier generations were impacted by TB, Chilocco, Chemawa, RCA electronics training, Copper Valley, Holy Cross, Wrangell Institute, Edgecumbe, adoption… The list goes on.
Because of all of this we have kinspeople scattered all over—in all sorts of situations.
How will we draw them back to a strong circle of care?
We are foolish if we think someone else is going to take care of us and them: ours.
We must therefore take care of ourselves and each other.
Please let’s focus on getting organized.
Please let’s try raise our chins to exercise care for our continuance as proud Bethel people. To do anything else is a shame.
If we continue the way this is going we let hurting people stay in harm’s way.
Please think about these things. I do. That is my preach.