FRANK: We are not your pawns

Republican Mike Dunleavy gives his opening remarks during the AFN candidate debate on Oct. 19, 2018.

Amanda Frank lives in Fairbanks. You can submit letters, op-eds and cartoons for consideration to The Midnight Sun editor, Matt Buxton at [email protected].

By Amanda Frank

At the Alaska Federation of Natives gubernatorial debate, Mike Dunleavy began by introducing his wife who is from Noorvik. This is normal, politicians always introduce their families, it makes them relatable and helps them connect with voters. What soon became apparent while listening to Dunleavy though, was he talked about his wife when asked about policy questions that had nothing to do with his family. It’s great to have a supportive spouse, it’s another thing to use that spouse as an example of your support of the Alaska Native community—this is not a policy argument.

This is not a new trend in Alaska. We’ve seen it with Congressmen Young whose late first wife was from Fort Yukon. We’ve seen it with Senator Sullivan whose wife has family from Rampart and frequently talks about his experiences at fish camp. This election cycle, we see it with gubernatorial candidate Dunleavy.

Yet, what I fail to see from these men is any advocacy on behalf of Alaska Natives.

Alaska Native women face the highest rates of sexual violence in the country. Senator Sullivan voted in favor of Kavanaugh, despite the numerous constituents who contacted his office to ask him vote against Kavanaugh’s appointment, amidst credible claims of sexual assault. Congressman Young supports opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge which places an important food source in danger and is in opposition with the tribal members he claims to have close ties to in Fort Yukon. All of these men support President Trump who is open about sexually assaulting women, and support policies within Trump’s administration that place our indigenous ways of danger.

Sullivan, Young, and Dunleavy love to point out their native wives when it benefits them politically. I have rarely, if ever, seen any of them in a community unless it was for some political purpose. Senator Sullivan’s wife is from the Interior, yet, I have never seen them at a potlatch, a fundraiser, a funeral or gathering in Fairbanks. In the interior, our communities are close. We celebrate, we organize, we grieve and we gather together for various reasons. Alaska Native culture is not a monolith, there is no right way to be native. We are just as nuanced as any other culture or community and I am not asserting we have to be a certain way to fit in. What I fail to see, is any participation in our community despite using their marriage to an Alaska Native as political talking point. These politicians do not deserve recognition or praise for marrying a native woman.

Being married to a native person is fine, but it does not mean that you are an ally or advocate for Native people. It is insulting to imply that marrying into the native community somehow gives you any credibility. What makes a good ally and advocate is someone who partners with us with good ideas to help us address the issues in our communities. We want real policy discussions from our leaders, not hyperbole about how you went to fish camp.

I have never seen Dunleavy take any action to advocate or best serve the Native community. On the contrary, he suggested cutting funds to rural schools in favor of regional boarding schools, ignoring the generations of trauma that boarding schools have caused Native people. He has stood at rallies to shut down planned parenthood and advocated to keep sexual education out of schools, in a state where sexually transmitted diseases are some of the highest in the country. In a recent article from NPR, it states that Dunleavy is “the only Alaska state senator of a majority party who in the past 30 years never was the primary sponsor of a law.” The Alaska Outdoor council has endorsed Dunleavy, which is the same organization that actively advocates against subsistence rights. So not only is he an ineffective leader, he associates with groups that would set Native people back.

Dunleavy does not care about the Alaska Native community that he claims to be married into. He is not a friend of our community and he does not have the skills and knowledge to best serve Alaska.  To all the candidates running statewide or local, stop using Alaska Native women as your political pawns and talking points. Instead give us real policy arguments about how you will support our community. As Alaskan citizens and voters, we demand this and expect it.

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8 Comments on "FRANK: We are not your pawns"

  1. Great post, Amanda Frank, thank you. I hope this op-ed of yours gets re-posted in other publications through out the state.

    • Elstun Lauesen | March 31, 2019 at 10:24 am | Reply

      This is such a welcome and brave commentary, Amanda. I am grateful to you and to Midnight Sun for publishing. Truth and Courage!

  2. It does get old, annoying and flat out disrespectful to hear and see a politician use his marriage as a public policy talking point. I don’t vote for them it they cant stand on their own two feet.

  3. Frank Gwartney | November 4, 2018 at 8:42 pm | Reply

    Not Credible? Dr. Ford
    passed the polygraph and asked the FBI to investigate. Kavanaugh refused both..pretty easy to see who the lier is.

  4. @Lance Roberts; Even if you didn’t believe the extremely truthful sounding account of Dr. Ford, there’s no disputing that Kavanaugh’s yearbook page showed a young man who did not respect females at all. In fact, he seemed to have totally embraced the idea that girls/women were objects for male sexual amusement and humiliation. Think about how your own daughter, sister, or mother would have felt if, at the tender age of 17, they had discovered that at least 9 boys had not only publicly bragged that they’d casually “banged” you, but that they had even had it published in a book for an entire school and it’s staff to see. That kind of group bullying is exactly the type of thing that could cause a young person to commit suicide, and I for one am glad that the girl in question found out about it only long after she had matured into a grown woman. I won’t even go into the meaning of “Devil’s Triangle” and “the FFFFFFourth of July”, because I don’t want to get that graphic, however, I assure you that those terms further illustrate Kavanaugh’s lack of respect for the opposite sex. The Supreme Court is supposed to be the best of THE BEST, and Kavanaugh’s character, both as a young man, and now (e.g. his vengeful partisan tirade) showed many of us that he should never have been in contention for the position in the first place, without even touching upon the Blasey Ford allegations.

    To the author, I totally agree with you…..I see no reason for Alaska Natives, and especially Alaska Native women, to vote for anyone who has recently been affiliated with the Republican Party. Add the fact that it’s Republicans who have a history of proposing tough voter photo id laws (Republican Bob Lynn’s 2013 House Bill 3, of late), that are a blatant attempt to suppress the elderly, poor, and village votes, which gives even less incentive for Native Alaskans to vote for members of the current (I have hope that they will change for the better at some point) Republican Party. Also, you forgot one……Sarah Palin liked to throw out that she was married to an Alaska Native as well.

  5. Donna Braendel | March 31, 2019 at 3:03 pm | Reply

    Thank you. That was beautifully written. When people do this I feel they are using their family members, not appreciating where they came from or who they are. Actions are the things that determine what you care about. His actions are so disastrous, and especially for indigenous communities.

  6. Janna Stewart | April 1, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Reply

    A strong, truthful commentary. Dunleavy is a friend no one but the Kochs and their ilk, including Dan “Ohio Dan” Sullivan.

  7. James Kameroff | April 1, 2019 at 10:16 pm | Reply

    It appears that he would support native communities by being married to a native women, it appears he will not support any, which is a same.

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