Letter of Transmittal
Alaska Advisory Committee to
the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Members of the
Mary Frances Berry, Chairperson
Cruz Reynoso, Vice Chairperson
Jennifer C. Braceras
Christopher Edley, Jr.
Elsie M. Meeks
Les Jin, Staff Director
Attached is a report from the Alaska Advisory Committee based on fact-finding and community forums held August 23–24, 2001, and October 25, 2001, to collect information on education, employment, and administration of justice concerns of particular relevance to Alaskan Natives in the state. Both meetings were held in Anchorage, the largest urban center. Commission Vice Chairperson Cruz Reynoso and Commission members Yvonne Y. Lee and Elsie Meeks joined the Alaska Advisory Committee in the August forum, and Commission member Yvonne Y. Lee (whose term as commissioner ended December 2001) joined the Alaska Advisory Committee in the October forum. Discrimination against Alaska Natives and other minorities in the state has long been a concern of the Alaska Advisory Committee. At its meetings since 1998, members alleged that a climate of tolerance for bigotry had been developing for a number of years. Beginning in May 1999, the Advisory Committee encouraged the state’s governor to convene a statewide conference on race.
At its April 26, 2001, meeting, the Advisory Committee was briefed by a representative of the Alaska Federation of Natives on discrimination that he alleged had been ongoing since the Native population had been met by early explorers. A recent and overt example, he said, had been a January 2001 incident involving three youths who had videotaped themselves shooting frozen paintballs at Alaska Native victims on the streets of Anchorage.
The Advisory Committee determined that it should conduct community forums to collect data on the allegations of discrimination facing Alaska Natives and, to the extent there is overlap, other minorities. Members of the Advisory Committee believed their effort should focus on education, employment, and the administration of justice, and formed a subcommittee to define the parameters of the study. The Advisory Committee believed strongly that it should involve the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in this endeavor. The Commission decided that it would assist the Advisory Committee in obtaining information at the forums through the participation of members of the Commission.
Many forum participants suggested that an urban/rural divide had worked to the detriment of Native Alaskans, who for the most part reside in the state’s rural villages. They alleged a lack of law enforcement, scarcity of employment opportunities, and limited educational opportunities for these rural residents. Native Alaskans who reside in the state’s urban areas suggested that the situation in education, employment, and in the administration of justice also paints a picture of discrimination.
While the Advisory Committee is encouraged by the efforts of the governor and of the mayor of Anchorage to deal with the issues raised since the paintball incident, it seeks to ensure that action is implemented to finally deal with the concerns of the state’s Native population and discrimination in general.
The Advisory Committee appreciates the support of Vice Chairperson Cruz Reynoso and Commissioners Yvonne Y. Lee and Elsie Meeks, who participated, and the voluntary contribution of the people of Alaska, both Native and non-Native, who appeared before the Advisory Committee panel.
The Advisory Committee approved submission of this report to the Commission without objection. It is hoped that the report will encourage constructive change and equitable solutions. The time for action on longstanding recommendations is now, and Alaska’s efforts could prove to be a model for solutions in other parts of the nation.
Gilbert F. Gutierrez, Chairperson
Alaska Advisory Committee