A Need for Healing

Randy Mayo, who has served Stevens Village as both First and Second Chief and is now the Acting Chair of CATG, believes alcohol and drug abuse is a problem the villages must face head on. “How will it impact us all on all these issues our tribes must deal with if we have people so confused and medicated up on drugs and alcohol they can’t come in at 8:00 and sit down and digest facts?” Mayo asks.

“It can be tough to talk to an alcoholic,” says Floris Johnson, former director of the CATG Care Center in Fort Yukon. “They can be hard-headed and stubborn. They don’t like to admit they have a problem, but they do. It only works when they are willing to admit it, willing to stay sober. It affects the whole family.”

“There’s healing taking place in the Yukon Flats,” Johnson adds. “We see it. But this problem has been with us for three generations. It is a big problem. It may take three more generations to heal.”

The best either law managed to come up with was the ANILCA rural subsistence priority, which today is under strong attack by some sport hunters and their legislators who loudly proclaim their “equal rights” to the traditional resources of Native peoples.

Determined to exercise as much management over their traditional lands as possible, the CATG village tribal governments have been organizing Natural Resource Departments. The effort got off the ground when CATG received a $30,000 dollar pilot-project grant from the First Nations Development Institute Eagle Staff Fund in 1995. Prior to ANCSA, Stevens Village had petitioned the Federal Government to protect one million acres traditionally used by them as tribal trust lands. Instead, ANCSA removed title of 80 percent of those lands from Native ownership, and placed all but 600 acres of the remaining 20 percent not in the tribe, but in ANCSA corporations.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline was constructed through the Stevens Village homeland, along with the highway built to service it. As a result, Stevens Village has felt the impacts of increasing numbers of people using their traditional lands and resources, and trespassing even on village corporation lands. In response, village leaders had been consulting the elders, and had already drafted a traditional land management plan.