WE THE PEOPLE
731 W 8th Ave., Anchorage, AK
voice (907) 222-1834 fax email: firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 30, 2002
Merculieff Patti Saunders Vernita Herdman
Co-Chair, Planning Co-Chair, Planning Advocacy
416 907-777-0101 907-351-4057
email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.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
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
"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. # #