I was watching the Joint Floor Session from Utqiaġvik Wednesday morning, as the breeze filled my office with fresh ocean air. There were hundreds of tuttu (caribou) just east of the community that people were catching as we always have, exercising values such as sharing, cooperation, and love and respect for elders and one another. These are the values of the land many have now settled on and call home and are thusly not just Alaska Native values, but Alaskan values — values many of us share.
And 1,100 miles away, hundreds of Alaskans watched the impassioned speeches by legislators courageously asserting the nonsensical nature of these cuts, showing real leadership in a time where parties are focusing on purity, to the detriment of our state.
If upon watching the nearly two hours of speeches you are feeling renewed respect for our relatives across the political spectrum, you are not alone. If this provides fresh agency to commit to continue working together for what is best for Alaska, others are with you.
Alaska has always had an independent streak — this is the hope of our state. In this, we are also the hope for our country.
Our collective lives are different enough from the rest of America that we know what it means to take care of each other first, to be Alaskan first, and to place party second. A popular analogy is when your car breaks down, people don’t ask what party you are before helping you on the side of the road. Being 740,000 strong necessitates that we work together; we know it is hard to hate up close.
Holding fast to a party when unified Alaskans across the political spectrum — Democrats, Republicans, Independents — are voicing opposition is not party politics, but something else. Something insidious. It is not too late to assert the Alaska we want and the Alaska we know is possible. The root of what is affecting American politics must be pruned here in Alaska while it is still a root.
In 2018, 59% of Alaskans moved here from another place. In the hundreds if not thousands of conversations I’ve had with Alaskans of all ages from across the state, asking how they came to make Alaska their home, I’ve yet to meet anyone who has come here for a large annual check.
As young people, I think of our teachers, of which there are many. People like Governor Walker, who in his own words became Governor not to keep the job, but to do the job.
To my peers, I ask: if you can stay, stay. Push back. Connect to the fabric of the Alaska-wide community who will be working in concert to assert the Alaska we know is still possible, to elect legislators who fear more for the lives of real people over the fear of losing campaigns.
We will forge the Alaska we want as if by covenant because we know the consequences of this budget veto are laced with blood.
There are leaders who show you how you want to be and others show you not to be. We will remember. There is a growing generation of Alaskans who are looking at the empty seats on the floor, each representing a failure in leadership and the negligence to real lives, and wanting none of that.