Letter to Representative David Eastman from Wayne Westlake, NANA President/CEO

May 12, 2017

Representative David Eastman
State Capitol, Room 114
Juneau, AK 99801

Dear Representative Eastman:

NANA's mission is to improve the quality of life for our more than 14,300 Iñupiat shareholders. In addition to maximizing economic growth, and protecting and enhancing our lands, we also work to promote healthy communities with decisions and behaviors guided by our Iñupiat Illitqusiat, which is our traditional value system.

These values include: Respect for Others, Love of Children, and Family Roles, each of which you assault in your disparaging remarks about Alaska Native and rural Alaskan women.

To assert that rural residents desire so greatly to travel to Anchorage that they become pregnant on purpose is ignorant, off-base and contradicts the values of Alaska Native people as a whole. We choose to live in our traditional communities because of the richness of culture, identity and belonging they provide. In fact, travel to Anchorage is often seen as an inconvenience, which interrupts day-to-day duties such as raising our children, going to work, and subsistence hunting and gathering.

Your statements have insulted our mothers, aunts, sisters and nieces and you have attempted to erode the dignity of women who are the foundation of our families, communities and businesses.

We also remind you that Alaska Native women and children live among your own constituency in House District 10. In fact, the Mat-Su valley is the fastest-growing area in the state, and many residents are Alaska Native, or have ties to rural communities.

Your comments and assertions are unwarranted and your blatant refusal to acknowledge your mistakes is extremely disappointing to Alaskans. At a minimum the women of our rural communities deserve an apology from you, but if you truly care about the health and wellness of the people of Alaska, and respect the unique geography, diversity and cultures that make it so unique, we suggest you do even more.

As you are aware, there are programs in this State dedicated to bridging the urban-rural divide, and educating residents about rural cultures and ways we choose to live as Alaska Native people; ways of life that have sustained Alaska for thousands of years. We suggest that you educate yourself through these programs, and take time to visit rural Alaska and get to know Alaska Native women, where you will find women of all ages and experiences who epitomize hard work, strength, grace and intelligence.

Sincerely,

Wayne Westlake President/CEO