by Alice Crow
March 16, 2021
An open letter to ONC citizens:
I am sending in the written statement I read during our Tribe’s regular council meeting on February 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
ONC People to be Heard / Enrollment
February 3, 2021
For the record I am listed as item 4G on the agenda.
My name is Alice Rose Crow, Maar’aq. I am also named for Ikuraq, Girly, Ass’aq, Alic’aq, and called Alley and Ali, Girth, Momma and Granny, Sister and Auntie, Ilung and Nuliacungaq, Maurluq and Olt Woman. And we’re sure, other choice names.
Chairman Hunter and council members, I represent myself and our youngest granddaughter/great granddaughter, namesake of our mother, granny, and granny granny Lucy Crow. Thank you for the opportunity and for allocating time to do so.
Like my mother I was conceived in a much smaller village of Bethel. Like my three brothers, and my eldest child Jamie, and three of her four brothers, I was conceived, born, raised, and made a life from Bethel. My youngest son—born at the old ANS hospital in Anchorage as I completed an undergraduate degree—is part of us too.
We are deeply disturbed by the sloppy manner in which our youngest granddaughter, ma’s youngest great granddaughter and namesake, was callously denied membership in our tribe. We find we are not alone among old Bethel families. The gross misinterpretation and misapplication of philosophies on which our tribal constitution and enrollment and membership ordinance are based is causing a too-familiar worrying and wearying pain to Bethel families we have known and been a part of across five generations and counting.
Please indulge this obligation to say tough things, plainly.
I wish we didn’t feel compelled to state: blood quantum is a genocidal exclusionary policy akin to practices like involuntary sterilization of women by ANS. As examples, ma, born in 1941, was mis-enumerated as 1/2 Eskimo blood quantum with no known supporting birth certificate or basis. Twenty some years later, I was born in Dr. Harriet Jackson’s private clinic on Mission Road, not at ANS. Fast forward across generations to this mess which reflects the continued need for constant vigilance to protect ourselves and each other, our children, our grandchildren, and ma’s great grandchildren from undue harm.
We request that you resist becoming wrong-headed instruments from your elected seats on our tribal council. Our collective futures are in your hands. Please resist taking up faulty practices intended to be enemies of our futures. Do good for people today instead. Resist. Even when stung.
We have four additional requests of the council:
1. Take appropriate steps to correct errors involving our four year old granddaughter and great granddaughter Lucy Jones Herring ~ Nayamin and all other applicants inappropriately reviewed and then summarily denied membership. Act in carefully prepared and well-noticed meetings with agenda topics that include consideration of written legal opinions of record by well-qualified outside independent counsel. Then take follow-up actions to clearly define and communicate processes put in place to achieve defensible approval and denial decisions and timely, dignified notifications, including appeal rights and standardized and consistent ways to participate in the review and proper adjudication of application receipt, review, recommendation, determination, and properly delegated, or reserved authority to approve or deny.
2. As individual council members and as a council as a whole, publicly recommit to upholding our constitution and take steps to—at a minimum—review, admonish, sanction, and/or remove council members who act outside properly delegated authority and/or fail to act in the council’s best interest and in the best interest of all tribal members, irrespective of where our descendants are born, where we live, and without the prioritization and perpetuation of imported blood quantum as native nomenclature.
3. Reassess the designation and mandate of ONC council members and officers to represent and report out on progress and challenges towards addressing agreed upon priorities of the ONC council acting on behalf of all tribal members. Assert and apply mandates to each and every elective capacity, including the work of ONC elected representatives on AVCP, YKHC, ANTHC and other allied tribal boards within our homeland, state, nation, and world. Please wrap this effort with assurance of timely corrective actions to replace representatives whose reported assertions and activities are outside their properly delegated authority and/or demonstrated to be not in service of, and indeed detrimental to tribal members and ONC as a whole, with a firm caveat of steady special spotlights on effects of our actions, our inattention, and our failures to act on behalf of our children, their children, their children, and the generations who brought them here.
4. Direct and empower staff to consistently and promptly, thoughtfully and in good faith reply to tribal member inquiries rather than ignoring, willy nilly sidestepping, and excusing; and remove barriers and blocking behaviors that keep staff from openly doing the good jobs they are hired and funded to do thoroughly and with good conscience on the behalf of all tribal members.
Each ONC family shares intertwined and complex stories of determination and resolve. We are grateful for each and every example that offers a guide for our lives, including dis-examples.
I reflect on what ancestors like our granny endured and chose to focus on to bring us to this time and places where I am now myself among the grannies. Born to Qissunaq, Granny made it through the flu epidemic as a young girl in the early 1900s. She was separated from her surviving sister when adopted to Nunacuaq. She birthed our mother in spring camp with her brother’s help eighty years ago. Around sixty years ago she made it past the TB epidemic with one lung and after walking away from the ANS Sanitarium. Granny made it past gasping when ma chose our then-exiting-Kasigluk-BIA-teacher pa for her husband and our father. Granny remained close in our lives and moved across the slough with us after Uyuraq died nearing fifty years ago. I was with her as she succumbed 34 years ago after we thankfully shared the gift of witness: bearing children. Us—her grandchildren. My first two kids—her great grandchildren. She was strong; a hard working and talented perfectionist; a plain spoken scolder and a stern warner with tooth worn grinning high expectations for right living and care. A watchful harbinger. A steady compass.
Our Granny predicted we’d live to see a time when people forgot their own relatives. I took it to heart not to be part of it. On her memory eternal and against what we still see too much of, even here, we ask that ONC exercise diligence in keeping us from wrong-headed separating, splintering, and scattering as we grow beyond not being worn down by small-minded, half-cocked, back room blips of mis-enumeration attempts as we move past earlier, current, and future pandemics, together.
Please offer steadying governance for the sake of our kids, grandkids, and great grandchildren. They are watching us. What do they see? Please let them believe they truly belong to us by strengthening—not weakening—our genuine ties and connections toward belonging. Release this burden. Show care. Let’s please begin to heal it over. Pinariuq.
Full written comments will be submitted for embedding together with this excerpted verbal statement in the meeting minutes.
We support Mike and Jill, our daughter/granddaughter Jamie and granddaughter/great granddaughter Lucy; Margie and her kids, the grandchildren of Poppa Charlie and Momma Nora Venes Guinn; and all others who are affected and are watching too.
Quyana from Spenard.
I will stay online as the meeting progresses and look forward to additional opportunities to listen and weigh in.