731 W 8th Ave., Anchorage, AK 99503

(907) 279-2511 voice (907) 222-1834 fax email: tdowney@ruralcap.com



July 30, 2002


Larry Merculieff Patti Saunders Vernita Herdman

Co-Chair, Planning Co-Chair, Planning Advocacy Coordinator

907-279-2511, Ext. 416 907-777-0101 907-351-4057

lmerculieff@ruralcap.com psaunders@arc-anchorage.org vernitah@ruralcap.com


Thousands Will March in Fifth Annual We The People Event


Organizers of the fifth annual "We The People" say they expect this year's event to equal or surpass the four to five thousand people who marched through downtown Anchorage in August 2001. The March will be held on August 22, 2002 and is co-sponsored by the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, National Congress of American Indians [NCAI], Rural Alaska Community Action Program [RurAL CAP] and the Native American Rights Fund [NARF].


On the Anchorage Park Strip flagpole, one highlight of the post-March rally program will be the performance of the Alaska Flag Song by State Lt. Governor Fran Ulmer. In addition, severally nationally known tribal advocates will speak on challenges to the ability of Alaska's 229 federally recognized tribes to exercise the same rights and authorities as other U.S. tribes. Heather Kendall Miller, staff attorney for NARF, will serve as the Rally Emcee.


Confirmed speakers for the rally include NCAI executive director, Jacqueline Johnson, a Juneau-born Tlingit leader; Sarah James of Arctic Village, a spokesperson for the Gwich'in Nation; Jaime Pinkham, a Nez Perce Indian with the Oregon-based Trust for Public Land; and Harold "Buddy" Brown, recently elected President and CEO of the Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks. The rally will also feature a drumming ceremony and a Roll Call of deceased Alaska Native tribal and subsistence advocates.


"The theme of this year's We The People march is Alaska's Tribes: the Next 10,000 Years," reported Larry Merculieff, who in 2001 served as emcee for the rally that traditionally follows the hour-long march. "We chose that theme to emphasize that the indigenous communities of Alaska and their members, whether they are shareholders of Alaska Native corporations, members of Alaska's ancient tribes, or both are here to stay." Merculieff was chosen to co-Chair the 2002 March along with Patti Saunders, who served as co-Chair in 1999 and 2001.


Merculieff pointed to a request from members of the Alaska legislative majority to have the U.S. Department of Interior review the 229 Alaskan villages who are currently listed as "federally recognized tribes." "Our tribes are federally recognized tribes and, as such, possess the same status, rights and authorities of all tribes whose traditional lands lie within the boundaries of the United States. In 1971 the United States Congress recognized and compensated tribes whose aboriginal use and occupancy of their lands pre-dates the existence of not only the State of Alaska, but of the United States itself. We are not about to stand still while our rights are legislated away."


Saunders added, "We also want to show that a majority of non-Native Alaskans support, honor and respect the existence of Alaskan tribes. In the past we have marched side by side with members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; La Raza; the Alaskan Samoan Community; Alaska's large conservation community; the Alaska Conference of Churches; and people of ethnic backgrounds such as Alaska's large Asian community of Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans. They understand and respect us, just as we honor and respect their rights to possess distinct cultural traditions and values that may differ significantly from those of the American mainstream."

A multi-organizational Planning Committee has met regularly throughout the summer to organize the logistics for the 2002 We The People march. Those who wish to contribute financially, volunteer to be parade marshals, or assist otherwise are encouraged to contact the Committee at RurAL CAP's headquarters in Anchorage. # # #