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3/11/15 - Governor accused of undermining adoption of Native children by tribal members

Alaska Native advocates ask Walker to ensure the Indian Child Welfare Act is properly implemented in Alaska

The Alaska Federation of Natives, and all the regional Native nonprofit organizations in the state are asking Governor Bill Walker to change his position in a case involving the adoption of an Alaska Native child. They say the state’s position in the case Tununuk II vs. the state of Alaska erects barriers between tribal children and tribal homes. The state has said it’s only arguing for compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Under the terms of the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, Alaska Native children must be placed for adoption with their relatives or tribal members unless it’s clearly in the child’s interests to do otherwise.

An Alaska Supreme Court ruling last December allowed the non-Native Smith family to adopt "Baby Dawn" even though her Native grandmother wanted to adopt her. The state had successfully argued the grandmother failed to file a petition to adopt required under a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Lloyd Miller is a partner in the law firm Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller and Munson, which is representing Elise, of Tununuk, the grandmother in the case. He says the state is misinterpreting the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling. Miller says it requires formal action, a standard he says the grandmother met when she told the state’s Office of Children’s Services, and testified in court that she wanted to adopt her grandchild.

The village of Tununuk requested a rehearing in the case. Briefs to the Alaska Supreme Court on that request are due Monday.


House Finance Committee partially restores public broadcasting funds

By Phillip Manning, KTNA

On Tuesday, the Alaska House Finance Committee voted to restore funding to public broadcasting stripped out by a budget subcommittee. The change would leave public broadcasting with about three-fourths of last year’s allocation. In a ten-to-one vote, the House Finance Committee voted to restore $1.5 million to public broadcasting across the state. The vast majority of those funds, more than $1.3 million, are directed toward public radio.

The sole objection in the committee was made by Representative Tammie Wilson of North Pole. She says she believes public broadcasting is beneficial, but that tough budget times dictate heavy cuts in some areas.

"I understand. I heard a lot of the testimony on this, but it is public radio, and I think at some point we just don't have the money. You know, we're billions of dollars in deficit, and we just can't make every program keep going. Some of it has to go back to the community…"

Representative David Guttenberg of Fairbanks said during Tuesday's hearing that communities throughout the state already do give a great deal to public broadcasting.

"The communities weigh in with their dollars. The percentage of people who donate to public broadcasting make our little campaign donation coffers pale. They support this; this is something that they believe in, and for years, and years, and years, they empty their pockets to support public broadcasting."

Representative Bryce Edgmon of Bethel says that public testimony helped emphasize the importance of Alaska's public broadcasting to the legislators.

"I can appreciate the need to cut the budget. I think that's what we're largely doing here today, cutting a lot of items out of the operating budget, but I would counter with the importance of public broadcasting--public radio and public TV. We heard that from virtually every corner of the state."

The reinstating of public broadcasting funds was one of eighty-one amendments heard on Tuesday. Next, the budget will go the House floor, then to the Senate Finance Committee, which could make additional changes. If the current funding levels hold, it represents a cut to public radio of more than 23% from last year. The subcommittee's recommended cut would have been 59%.


Brent Sass disqualified from the Iditarod Sled-dog Race

Iditarod Sled-dog Race veteran Brent Sass of Eurkea Alaska was disqualified from the race Tuesday evening for violating a rule prohibiting mushers from carrying a 2-way communication device. Sass was carrying an IPod touch. Mushers can carry an emergency locator transmitter, satellite tracking devices or GPS. Sass was in Tanana in 5th place when he was disqualified.

Top mushers in the race at this hour are:

1.      Ally Zirkle

2.      Aaron Burmeister

3.      Martin Buser

4.      Dallas Seavey

5.      Joar Leifseth Ulsom

6.      Hugh Nef

7.      Pete Kaiser

8.      Jessie Royer

9.      Ken Anderson

10.  Dee Dee Jenrowe






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