October 10, 2006, - 9:04 am
By Debbie Schlussel
**** SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATES ****
**** UPDATE: Please Click Here to Donate to these Brave, Patriotic Native Alaskan Americans, so they can have heat this winter from us, NOT Chavez (Thanks to reader Miira.) ****
They’re desperately poor. And desperately cold. And they’re Aleuts a/k/a Eskimos.
Yet, the Native Alaskans of Nelson Lagoon, St. Paul, and St. George, Alaska rejected free oil they desperately need for heat because the oil was offered by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez’s Citgo.
More from AP:
Scores of Alaska’s Eskimo and Indian villages say they have no choice but to accept Chavez’s offer, but others would rather suffer.
“As a citizen of this country, you can have your own opinion of our president and our country. But I don’t want a foreigner coming in here and bashing us,” said Justine Gunderson, administrator for the tribal council in the Aleut village of Nelson Lagoon. “Even though we’re in economically dire straits, it was the right choice to make.”
Nelson Lagoon residents pay more than $5 a gallon for oil – or at least $300 a month per household – to heat their homes along the wind-swept coast of the Bering Sea. About one-quarter of the 70 villagers are unemployed.
The donations to Alaska’s native villages have focused attention on the rampant poverty and high fuel prices in a state that is otherwise awash in oil – and oil profits. In 2005, 86 percent of Alaska’s general fund, or $2.8 billion, came from oil from the North Slope.
The Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, a native nonprofit organization that would have handled the heating–oil donation on behalf of 291 households in Nelson Lagoon, Atka, St. Paul and St. George, rejected the offer because of insults Chavez has hurled at Bush.
Dimitri Philemonof, president and chief executive of the association, said accepting the aid would be “compromising ourselves.”
“I think we have some duty to our country, and I think it’s loyalty,” he said.
While many Native Alaskan villages did accept the free Citgo oil, these three villages have guts and moral fortitude. They know the oil was offered to them as a PR tool against America. But it takes tremendous principle to reject it, since they are poor and in dire need of heat.
A spokesman for Gov. Frank Murkowski, John Manly, said the governor thinks Chavez’s donations are a ploy to undermine Americans’ faith in their government.
Meanwhile, today’s Wall Street Journal reports that Chavez’s Venezuela has a huge, growing deficit because his spending on social programs is fast outpacing gains from oil sales. And he continues to give “soft loans” to favored industries and cronies. Some populist.
**** UPDATE: Reader Kevin of Alaska writes to say that AP is wrong and that the Alaskan Aleuts are NOT “Eskimos”:
Debbie, long time fan and faithful reader -uncritically a fan.
Slight info correction in recent post. Aleuts are very different than Eskimos. So Aleuts a/k/a Eskimos isn’t a solid statement. The three main groups of Indigenous Peoples here are:
The Aleuts from the Pacific Western South & Aleutian Islands- a coastal people spread around somewhat by Russia’s tenure as landlord;
Athabascan much taller folks from the interior and southern Canadian coastal areas;
and the Eskimos usually from the North west coast and Arctic regions.
Apaches and Cherokees and Mohawks all from different areas and they’d all have cultural and family allegiance to their individual historic roots. So do the various Alaskan groups.
Thanks for your constant vigilance, honesty and unbending stand for real values.
As always, my regards as a loyal reader and fan,
Tags: administrator, Alaska, Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, America, Bering Sea, Bush, Dimitri Philemonof, Frank Murkowski, Governor, Hugo Chavez, John Manly, Justine Gunderson, Kevin Kenai, leader, Nelson Lagoon, oil, oil donation, oil profits, oil sales, President, president and chief executive, Russia, spokesman for Gov. Frank Murkowski, St. George, USD, Venezuela, Wall Street Journal