The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Native tribe works through growing pains

 


A new policy to safeguard Qutekcak Native Tribe member’s personal information was questioned by recent enrollee Nadene Brown at the regular meeting of the Native tribe’s council on Monday. At issue was the circulation of new enrollees private applications among council members. As council president Arne Hatch explained, the information must be reviewed before submission to the Bureau of Indian Affairs so that the council and administration can verify a new member’s eligibility.

As a new member and candidate for the tribe’s council, Brown brought forward a complaint in October after administrative staff circulated personal information among council members. She recounted receiving the information for review in a packet that council members were free to take home. Hatch pointed out that councilors generally had the confidence of the membership but he said that Brown’s concerns were recognized and a new policy regarding member applications was now in place.

Another member whose personal information was in among the four applications circulated to Brown, contradicted Hatch on the topic of confidence, saying that there had been past council members that she would have preferred not have unsupervised access to her information. However, she said that she was satisfied with the new policy and wanted to see the federal recognition process succeed. “It was unsettling to find out that my information left the building and I came here tonight to see that this is not going to continue, “ she said. “I just want to be sure that there will be changes made so that this won’t happen again.”

Hatch agreed that there may be differences between members and he had seen some pretty dramatic displays of conflict in the past but said that the records were necessary to move forward with federal recognition. Applications will now be reviewed in the QNT offices in committee and will not be allowed out of the building until they are shredded, Hatch explained. Both Hatch and Tribal Administrator Scott Allen emphasized that there was no evidence of illegal activity.

Allen further described the permanent records as accessible by only two QNT staff members. “I have access to the hard files and Kelly has access to hard files and electronic files. The electronic files have just become organized and complete but the paper files have been in order for years. They are all under lock and key,“ he said.

“These are some of the growing pains that we are going though while we work through getting to be a more professional organization. That’s one of the reasons we appreciate Scott’s work, because he’s a stickler for detail,” Hatch added. “Scott is very organized and knew that BIA would be looking at the rolls and wanting all the data on individual members, so there have been several pushes to keep data on members current and accurate.”

In an earlier interview with The LOG, Hatch explained that the BIA would likely be holding a secretarial election soon to formally organize and recognize QNT under the federal system. “It’s been 20 years and longer, so we’re not holding our breath,” he said. “But the approval has been at the secretary’s desk and, until the recent federal shutdown, it was a priority matter.”

“When we organized in 1993, initially we were operating on a shoestring,” Hatch continued. “At the beginning QNT didn’t have a real concerted focus with professionals in D.C. working the hallways. That’s seems to be the only way to make it work, you have to employ consultants and keep up the pressure with delegations to D.C. and a concerted push from elected officials doesn’t hurt either. QNT is very appreciative of Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Begich’s efforts.”

According to Allen and Hatch, in the not too distant past it was sometimes difficult for Natives in the Seward area to come forward and claim their heritage. Racism and denial combined to rob Natives of their family histories and made it hard to piece together the necessary personal histories required for membership. Allen says that members applications are necessarily comprehensive and require quite a bit of disclosure. However the information is required to establish heredity so that QNT can be recognized.

QNT is still accepting new members like Brown and her husband Chad and, according to Allen, there are qualified Natives in the Seward area that are eligible but either choose not to enroll or are unaware. However, he said, all the required information has been provided to BIA and there’s good continuity and momentum with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. Allen and Hatch are hopeful that the final decision will be signed off on before the end of the year.

 
 

Reader Comments
(1)

exchief writes:

hmmm interesting article? wow kind of one sided. I understand that mrs nadene brown was chosen to be a board director by the qnt board, but was then told that they decided not to uphold their decision because she didn't fit what the qnt board was looking for. perhaps the author of the article should interview mr. and mrs. brown also! hmmm that makes three board directors that were removed from the board of directors because of shaky at best reasoning.

 
 
 

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