Opinion: A classic dilemma for Alaska Native villages
"The placement of two letters in the Daily News last Thursday was very interesting. One letter spoke of training Alaska Natives so they can take some of the thousands of jobs available through their corporations and their corporations' subsidiaries. The hitch to shareholders getting those jobs, aside from the training component, was the fact that they are often spread across the entire world, many thousands of miles from the village the shareholder calls home.

The very next letter was about the silence of the Native corporations over the plight of many small villages where residents are simply unable to pay for both food and heat. The letter writer wondered why these groups weren't using their profits to help their shareholders.

I think both letters raise legitimate issues. Unfortunately, if the first letter writer's ideal is realized -- and Alaska Natives get training and jobs with their corporations -- the traditional villages the second letter writer wants to help would become ghost towns.

If you train a village youth to be a plumber, for example, and your village doesn't have plumbing, what's he or she to do? Even if your village does have plumbing, in most cases, one plumber will suffice. What do the others trained as plumbers do?

If we train these young people into jobs that aren't available locally, are we offering them an exercise in frustration? Or do we encourage them to follow their dream, even if that means taking a job with their corporation in Kuwait? And what does that mean to the long-term survival of their village? If the best and brightest leave to make a life for themselves elsewhere, who remains behind to keep the village viable and healthy?"

Get the Story:
Elise Patkotak: It's classic 'Catch-22' for Alaska villages (The Anchorage Daily News 3/25)