Monday, September 12, 2011

Palin Yup'k connection

Palin has talked positively of her husband and children's heritage in the past. When running for governor in October 2006, she wrote a letter addressed to rural voters, saying she ''so very much appreciates Alaska's First People, their proud heritage and diverse cultures so abundant in the communities throughout our state.''

''I personally feel the language, stories, and traditions of Alaska Native cultures are a national treasure to be nourished and held close to our hearts,'' Palin added. ''It is our rural lifestyle and diverse cultural heritage that distinguishes Alaska from the rest of the world and makes it our wonderful home.''

She wrote, too, that her family has been ''blessed'' by learning Yup'ik traditions and stories from Helena Andree, her children's great-grandmother and a one-time Bristol Bay Native Corporation Elder of the Year. The Palins named their oldest daughter Bristol in honor of the region many of their family members still call home.

Palin also promised to support tribal economic development and fishing subsistence issues, noting that her family has fished commercially in Bristol Bay for decades.

In terms of education policy, Palin said she supports teaching traditional culture and languages in schools. ''A strong sense of identity will keep kids in school until they become strong adults equipped to thrive in today's world,'' she wrote.

Also of note, the governor proclaimed June 10-13, 2007 as ''National Congress of American Indians Days'' in recognition of a conference held by NCAI in Anchorage.

Since the governor's campaign letter focused on Natives, Shepro said the governor has offered relatively little public comment on tribes. Some Indians and tribal advocates have been critical of her silence, especially given her Native family ties. They also noted that in her two years in office, the governor has not appointed any Native people to high-ranking positions within her administration.

But former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Northern Cheyenne Tribe, thinks that Palin could never have become governor of Alaska without the support of tribal constituencies, which, he said, shows her popularity among Alaska Natives.

''There's no question in my mind that she will be a great Indian country advocate,'' said Nighthorse Campbell, honorary co-chair of the American Indians for McCain Coalition.