Opinion: Alaska Natives not mooching off taxpayers

"Our Native villages are one of the United States' most unique cultures, fascinating people all over the world. We are a treasure for the U.S. melting pot. You should be proud of us. Imagine if this whole world was white. Wouldn't that be unbearably boring? Look at your tax dollars as museum membership fees: preserving a culture. If our villages disappear, I guarantee tourism in Alaska will take a big hit.

We are taking a minimal number of your tax dollars. What's the big fuss? You want to know where most of your tax dollars are going? The war in Iraq -- to the murdering of innocent civilians and U.S. soldiers for no viable reason.

We are working here in the village. You think it's easy keeping wood stoves burning and woodpiles stocked in the winters? You think it's easy taking water from the river and hauling it into households? You think it's easy keeping caribou and moose meat on the table?

Subsistence is a job in itself. A businessman in Wasilla gets up, shaves, showers and dresses, files his papers in his briefcase and goes off to work. A Native man in Arctic Village gets up, washes, shaves, sharpens his knife, puts on his canvas boots and goes out all day to look for a moose. Is there any fundamental difference between these two men? No! They are both working daily to provide for themselves and their families.

If you really want to make change in rural Alaska, why don't you tell our congressmen about our Third World villages in the middle of the richest nation in the world? This is unacceptable. How are our young, educated Natives going to come back when we have Third World villages?

It's easy to denounce us as "moochers" off taxpayers, but it's hard to understand our history, culture and ways of friendship. It's hard work to understand and get along with people different than you are. We're willing to do the work. Are you?"

Get the Story:
Matthew Gilbert: Think Alaska Natives mooch? Come live in the Bush (The Anchorage Daily News 8/17)