Democrat Mary Peltola (Yup’ik) learned Wednesday that she’s won Alaska’s special election for U.S. House and will become the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress.
“Yeah, I will have that distinction but I think what’s most important is that I’m an Alaskan and sent to represent all Alaskans. And yes, being Alaska Native is part of my ethnicity, but I’m much more than my ethnicity.”
The Bethel resident is a former state House representative from rural western Alaska. She is the former director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
Her region is heavily dependent on salmon, but is suffering another year of abysmal returns.
With 51.5% of the vote in the state’s first ranked choice election, she defeated former Gov. Sarah Palin who was three percentage points behind.
The term she’s won ends in January.
Peltola will have to beat Palin again in November for the next House term.
University of North Dakota President Andrew Armacost has apologized to Native communities and expressed regret that the university has the remains of ancestors and sacred objects.
In March, faculty and staff approached him with information that they found hundreds of containers of sacred items during the course of their work on campus.
They also found human remains believed to be partial skeletal remains from dozens of individuals.
After the discovery, the university reached out to tribal nation.
The university has now been collaborating with more than a dozen tribes for more than four months to make sure repatriation efforts are handled properly.
During a press conference Wednesday, Armacost took responsibility for the university’s mistakes and committed to tribes that they’ll work diligently until all ancestors and sacred items are returned home.
He says they also want to make sure Native Americans on campus have support.
“The awareness of this work will allow us to have open conversations with the students, faculty and staff at UND about the importance of repatriation and our commitment to see it through. Yesterday, we held two open sessions for our American Indian campus members. The first was with faculty and staff the second was with students. Please know this is a traumatic time for them.”
Counseling services are available on campus.
Laine Lyons, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, is a member of the repatriation committee.
“We are so grateful for the help, guidance and trust we have been given by so many. At the start of this process we felt anger, hurt, sadness, however we can now feel a sense of relief and hope because our ancestors will be returned to their rightful place and that’s home.”
The university plans to hire cultural resource consultants to help with the process and is working with government agencies to make sure they follow federal law. The repatriation work could take years.
Chickasaw citizen Shiloh Butts is competing in the Rinehart World Archery 3D Championships.
Shooting in the bi-annual event has been a goal he’s pursued for the last four years.
He’ll be one of 24 Americans representing the United States. The event kicks off September 4.
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