Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205
04/13/2017 03:30 PM Senate STATE AFFAIRS
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HB 78-INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY 4:01:30 PM CHAIR MEYER called the committee back to order and announced the consideration of HB 78. 4:02:49 PM REPRESENTATIVE DEAN WESTLAKE, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, sponsor of HB 78, announced that his staff member, Elizabeth Rexford, will provide the committee with a bill overview. 4:03:22 PM ELIZABETH REXFORD, Staff, Representative Westlake, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, explained that quite a few municipalities and school districts have established their own Indigenous Peoples Day and the thought was for the state to adopt the designation as well to instill a positive move forward. MS. REXFORD detailed that HB 78 would establish a recognition day on the second Monday of October, which is also Columbus Day. She disclosed that the only negative feedback received was the recognition of was indigenous people on a holiday that was perceived as negative. She opined that recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day on Columbus Day would invoke a positive response of inclusivity, educate Alaskans, and provide a reason for everyone to celebrate indigenous peoples' positive history. 4:06:19 PM REPRESENTATIVE WESTLAKE emphasized that native communities have always been inclusive. He asserted that there is nothing exclusive about celebrating both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday in October. He said the intent is to move forward as the governor has been doing every year and to make permanent the recognition of how rich and vibrant Alaskans are together as the great melting pot in America. SENATOR COGHILL stated that he appreciated Representative Westlake's approach. He remarked that some of the bill's support letters have caused him some concern regarding the replacement of Columbus Day due to its negative perception by some, but positive by others, including himself. He asserted that the Legislature is the place where different focuses in life get to work together, but the letters of support quite often were divisive. He said the bill addresses culturally sensitive issues where sometimes the cultures clash. He reiterated that he appreciated the sponsor's approach with the idea to celebrate. MS. REXFORD noted that letters of support from previous years did have somewhat of a negative undertone, but asserted that after reaching out to different organizations that they all had a positive view of the day. She asserted that her explanation of inclusivity changed the tone a little bit and letters have been positive. 4:08:43 PM SENATOR COGHILL asserted that what Ms. Rexford has done is allow the conversation to take on a new look in a celebration of both rather than become a culture clash. MS. REXFORD shared with the committee her native studies background in addressing rhetoric and negative events; HB 78 is a very positive movement forward in that area. CHAIR MEYER asked if other states have passed similar legislation. REPRESENTATIVE WESTLAKE answered that several states have passed legislation that recognizes and includes indigenous peoples. He noted that half of the nation's tribes are in Alaska. 4:10:34 PM CHAIR MEYER opened public testimony. 4:11:10 PM ALBERT NINGEULOOK, representing self, Shishmaref, Alaska, testified in support of HB 78. He explained that the bill positively recognizes the original inhabitants as well as people who have settled in the state from other cultures. He asserted that the bill is a very positive step in recognizing all the people and cultures that have settled in the United States. 4:13:52 PM MARILYN RUSSELL, representing self, Fairbanks, Alaska, testified in support of HB 78. She said so many wrongs have occurred in the state that need to be righted and to let the legislation be one of them. She referenced Elizabeth Peratrovich and demanded that changes be made to recognize indigenous peoples. She remarked that indigenous people and their culture make Alaska culturally rich and diversified. She asked that the second Monday in October be renamed "Indigenous Peoples Day." 4:15:03 PM CHAIR MEYER closed public testimony. SENATOR COGHILL remarked that the previous testimony was an explanation of why the approach must clearly explain the difference between joining and replacing. He said "joining" is great, but "replacing" not so great. He opined that his remark is the kind of question that will have to be continually dealt with. He said, "I'm not going to object because what it does is it begs the question and then we just got to give an answer to it." CHAIR MEYER detailed that HB 78 has a zero-fiscal note and was assigned next to the Senate Rules Committee. He entertained a motion for HB 78. 4:16:41 PM SENATOR GIESSEL moved to report HB 78, version: 30-LS0368\A from committee with attached zero-fiscal note and individual recommendations. 4:16:50 PM CHAIR MEYER announced that being no objection, the motion carried.