Evon Peter: Colonization of Alaska NativesFriday, October 3, 2008
"There is a powerful and well-informed movement building among Alaska Native peoples to address root causes of the cultural, spiritual, social, political and economic challenges people are facing. It is a movement of healing, awareness, truth and action.
We must look within history to uncover the solutions. In 1867, the United States paid Russia pennies on the acre for Alaska through the Treaty of Cession. Russia did not have dominion over Alaska. At best, Russia had claim to a few trading posts and some land on the Aleutian Islands. In the Treaty of Cession, Alaska Native peoples were referred to as the “uncivilized tribes,” a title given to those excluded from decisions regarding their lands, lives and resources.
In addition to deeming Natives “uncivilized,” the United States sent military convoys throughout Alaska and determined that Native peoples “posed no military threat.” These determinations furthered the U.S. agenda of resource exploitation and cultural genocide. My wise grandfather, who helped raise me as a child in northern Alaska, was born in 1904 into an “uncivilized” status. He was not a U.S. citizen, he could not vote, and he had to endure business signs that read “no dogs, no Natives.” This diminishment of Alaska Native status enabled the United States’ unjust and illegitimate claim to control Alaska’s land and vast resources.
In 1924, my grandfather became a U.S. citizen. In 1943, my tribe became one of the few federally recognized American Indian reservations in Alaska through the Indian Reorganization Act. The government quickly disallowed other Alaska Native peoples from following suit, realizing they would lose claim to most of Alaska if the process were allowed to continue."
Get the Story:Evon Peter: Alaska 101 for presidential candidates
(Indian Country Today 10/2)