Thursday, December 13, 2012

Alaska's Militia Community Divided Over The Pebble Mine Issue

Alaskans opposed to the development of the Pebble Mine would pick up an important new ally, if Alaska Citizens Militia leader Norm Olson had his way. Olson sees an opportunity for militia people to establish closer ties with the Alaska Native community in the quest to resist growing federal tyranny, and so on December 2nd, 2012, he floated this trial balloon on the Militia's Google Group:

Is it too early to declare the Alaska Militia's solidarity with the native people's effort to preserve and protect their native way of life? The big corporations are at war against our native brothers and sisters. Should we declare our alliance with them, standing against the foreign mining corporations that want to rape and rob the Bristol Bay and destroy the salmon by raping the land for gold, copper, and other minerals?

I believe we need to declare that we are in full support of our native friends. What say you??

Initial reaction was favorable, but then Mark Chryson, the chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party from 1995-2002, expressed sharp opposition to the idea:


Actually you do this and you will in fact be splintering up your group. You have not been here long enough to understand that the "way of life" you are declaring solidarity with is nothing more than wealth for the leadership and abject poverty for those who are the common share holders.

You don't understand on how racist these leaders of the group actually are. When was the last time you even went to Tyonek?

When was the last time an alaskan mining company or even an american mining company was allowed to even exist thanks to the federal laws that make this industry unprofitable for them to even exist let alone develop a decent size prospect let alone a huge one?

Do i have reservations about pebble, of course i do. do i want to see you commit suicide for all your efforts over it, no way

Do you really want to do this?

Perhaps one of the examples of Native racism Chryson was thinking about was this story about Jimmy Boan, who was formally banished from the village of Tyonek in the 1990s even though he had a Native girlfriend. Boan maintained that he was targeted because he refused to comply with an unconstitutional search of his baggage at Kipnuk's airport, and added that they were after his girlfriend because she dared to criticize tribal leaders. This incident pre-dates Norm Olson's arrival in Alaska, although there's another resource that states tribal members are also subject to banishment if they don't obey village rules. Later on, Chryson reminded Olson who one of the real movers and shakers behind the anti-Pebble movement is:

The only person fighting in alaska with any type of money is one person, this is Bill Gilliam, a RICH lodge owner in bristol bay area. check APOC. The native corps don't even want a road going across their land so ALASKANS can have access to OUR STATE OWNED land or access to FEDERALLY owned land. they want control period.

Protecting resources is not the issue it is about the economy and the bristol bay region wanting to make sure that there area never is developed nor their people will ever have hope to have a brighter economic future unless they approve it.

Call [it] socialism, communism, oligarchy or whatever you want to call it what it is, another means of the few to enslave the masses.

Bill Gilliam's opposition to the Pebble Mine is widely believed to be fueled more by his personal desire to maintain a pristine local environment and to maximize his property value rather than out of any genuine concern about salmon. Furthermore, Gilliam's hand has been caught in the proverbial cookie jar twice; in December 2011, an aviation firm owned by Bob Gilliam was fined $25,500 by the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) for violating campaign finance laws, and before that, in spring 2010, Gillam and entities associated with him -- Alaskans for Clean Water and the Renewable Resources Coalition -- agreed to pay APOC $100,000 in a settlement related to a citizens' initiative and alleged violations involving an advertising campaign targeting Pebble.

But although a majority of respondents in the thread were sympathetic to Olson's idea, it's obvious that Mark Chryson's counsel carries significant weight, because Olson subsequently backed off his idea -- for now:

Thanks for the heads up and for providing aspects of this issue that were not aforementioned. I'd do something like this ONLY if would be beneficial. Knowing that there are serious reservations and reasons for acknowledging support, I would therefore just drop the matter. I certainly wouldn't want to poke a sharp stick in anyone's eye.

It was just a thought to stir things up a bit. Thought it might be something others would support.

Perhaps you can elaborate more on what you've written about below. Tell me about Tyonek and the problems within the tribal corporations. Do you think that the tribal leaders can be bought by the Pebble moguls? Will the native people sit back and allow the project to develop?

To me, the ignorant newbie, it seems that the destruction of the Bristol watershed is a calamity waiting to happen. I haven't seen or heard of any in-fighting within the native corporations, but if there is, I'd sure like to know about it.

Can you recommend any source material?

Let's see if I can help Norm Olson out. On March 19th, 2012, the Juneau Empire reported that two different Native corporations showed up at a meeting with two different opinions on the Pebble Mine. Bristol Bay Native Corporation opposes the mine, claiming that 81 percent of their shareholders and 54 percent of Alaskans overall oppose the mine. In contrast, the Iliamna Village Native Corporation supports allowing the Pebble Partnership to continue their work towards establishing the mine, and pointed out that Outsiders were extensively involved in the opposition, noting that only 15 percent of Bristol Bay fishing permits are owned by local residents. And Martha Anelon, a Pebble employee from Iliamna, said her village had no representation on the regional corporation’s board.

Another website adds that additional Native groups supporting the mine include the Alaska Peninsula and Twin Hills Native Corporations, and the tribes of South Naknek and King Salmon. While it might be overkill to say there's "infighting", this does show that there is a diversity of opinion about the Pebble Mine among affected Native groups. It could almost be viewed as two groups of plutocrats fighting over Alaska resources, with Bristol Bay residents the pawns.

Perhaps Norm Olson ought to take Mark Chryson's advice -- for now.


  1. Try reading 50 Miles from Tomorrow: A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People
    This was written by my husband’s uncle who now lives in Anchorage he was instrumental in getting the native Alaskans the concessions they got. It will open your eyes to their point of view.

  2. Thanks for the info. I'll check it out when I get some spare time this weekend.

  3. To save you some time here are chapters to focus on.
    50 Miles from Tomorrow Hard Back
    Ch. 8 We go to school.
    Ch.10 I go outside especially p. 94 to end of chapter.
    Ch. 11 Shifting Gears p.103 beginning with, “I arrived in Washington…” at bottom of page to end of chapter.
    Ch. 12 Hold on to the land! Through Ch. 16 Battling with the Great White Father
    Most of the rest of the book.

  4. There are a number of reviews of this book available online at this link.