From Sen. Donny Olson <[email protected]>
Subject Ulu News
Date March 17, 2021 9:14 PM
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Senator Donald Olson Member: Senate Finance Committee Staff: Ken Truitt Sierra Smyth Contact Information: Toll Free Year Round: 1-800-597-3707 Interim: May-December: P.O. Box 1630 Nome, AK 99762 (907) 465-3707 LEGISLATURE ON THE WEB: WWW.LEGIS.STATE.AK.US LEGISLATURE ON TV: GAVELALASKA.ORG CONTACT OTHER ELECTED OFFICIALS: Senator Dan Sullivan Anchorage Office: 907-271-5915 * Congressman Don Young Anchorage Office: 907-271-5978 * Senator Lisa Murkowski Anchorage Office: 907-271-3735 * Office of the Governor Anchorage Office: 907-269-7450 32nd Alaska Legislature March 17, 2021 COVID-19 in the Capitol Building Session is scheduled to end next month. This year has been unprecedented, a word we have all become familiar with in the past year. Around the time Governor Dunleavy tested positive, a representative also tested positive. The virus traveled as quickly as expected. Despite twice-weekly tests for all staff and legislators in the capitol building, a COVID-19 outbreak in the building has affected 29 people so far, leaving one staffer in the hospital. My prayers are with him, as he battles this deadly virus. COVID-19 in Rural Alaska Speaking of COVID-19, it has now been a year since the pandemic began. Alaska is leading the country in vaccinations per capita, but it is truly the tribes and Native health corporations who deserve all the credit! Rural Alaska is the most difficult to travel to, yet we got out there and we got vaccinated faster than the Iron Dog champs! We remember how the 1918 flu devastated our communities and killed so many of our people; so, thank you, to all our communities for working together to keep our families safe and preserve the languages and culture held by our elders. Time is the greatest gift, and I love to see our communities working so hard to give more time to our elders rather than let COVID-19 ravage their lives. We’ve lost many good people, and my prayers and sincerest condolences go out to those families who have lost loved ones. We have saved so many, I wish that we could save everybody. One light that COVID-19 has shone onto our region is the lack of resources for sanitation, and the fragility of our infrastructure. Too many of our villages are still struggling without running water, and projects are in place to “put the honey bucket in the museum” but the pandemic has certainly made this more difficult for those of us who are still waiting. Recently Selawik declared a disaster after a power outage shut off their water lines, and many of them froze. The State’s Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management is working with Selawik, ANTHC, AVEC, and the NWAB to restore power, thaw and clear frozen water and sewer lines, and get sanitation supplies to residents. Unalakleet has also declared a disaster recently, after wind and extreme cold weather resulted in power outages and their water distribution system has been damaged. They are repairing broken pipes all over the place, and have been overwhelmed. Mayor Kira Eckenweiler was just elected last year, and she has been a valuable advocate for the city and the emergency response coordination. The State’s Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management is working with Mayor Kira, the city manager, DEC’s Remote Maintenance Worker Program, and NSHC to assess the condition of the community’s water system and restore normal water service. Legislation My aide, Ken Truitt, has been working on VPSO legislation; SB 81 would require background investigations of village public safety officer applicants by the Department of Public Safety. Ken is Tlingit, he was raised in Sitka, graduated from Sitka High School, did his undergrad at Oral Roberts University and got his law degree from Arizona State University. He worked for Representative Kopp in the past, and is very familiar with the VPSO legislation and has a wide network of contacts in the tribes and State of Alaska, so I was very pleased when he came to work for my office. I will also introduce a companion bill to HB 47, which Representative Andi Story introduced in the House. The bill is pretty simple, it would rename the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council (ANLPAC) as the Council for Alaska Native Languages (CANL). This council reported key themes in 2020: “Strategic language policy and planning by Alaska Native peoples shaping the future survival of their own languages; decolonization as in integral component of healing inter-generational trauma; and highlighting the best practices to increase the number of speakers of Alaska Native languages.” My staffer, Sierra Smyth, helps keep me informed on a variety of issues, and she is the voice on the phone when you call my office. Recently, she was able to join a talking circle with tribal healers, which Kawerak organized during a Wellness Week in Golovin. Sierra tells me it was a powerful workshop, and she learned much about our culture and history that is otherwise not taught in books or schools. I am glad that the tribal healers are visiting our communities, teaching our people to dance and sing to celebrate our culture, use our traditional medicinal plants, how to heal, and how work together towards a healthier future. Sierra is using her new understandings to work on projects like the language council and helping to pass legislation so that the State of Alaska will recognize federally recognized tribes. While the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act passed in 1971, the United States didn’t even recognize the tribes until 1994! Last year, former Representative Kopp introduced HB 221, which my new staffer, Ken worked on. Representative Tiffany Zulkosky has introduced HB 123 this year, which is the same bill as what passed the House in 2020, but it got interrupted by COVID-19 before we had a chance to pass it in the Senate. Passing this bill is largely ceremonial, and simply changes the standards within the government, creating a culture of acknowledgment on a systemic level. Ashley Johnson-Barr Day Pictured: Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson, Senator Shelley Hughes, and myself. Last, but not least… We at the capitol in Juneau have just celebrated Ashley Day on March 12. Ashley would be 13 this year, and our hearts are heavy with the love she left behind in this world. We just passed the legislation in 2020, officially making March 12 Ashley Johnson-Barr Day in Alaska. Sierra and Eleanor, Representative Patkotak’s staffer, made purple, commemorative ribbons and distributed them to the Representatives and Senators to wear on Ashley Day. I had 20 purple, Golovin Lynx masks, which Sierra gave to Senators. The Senate Floor was filled with purple masks and ribbons, and all the senators sang “Jesus Loves Me” together, in honor of Ashley and her love for Jesus, following my speech under Special Orders. It was truly a powerful moment, and observing a moment of silence didn’t feel right to us, so raising our voices was inspired and uplifting. May God bless her mother’s and father’s hearts, Josie and Scottie have a special place in mine. There is no word to describe what parents go through when they are forced to bury their child, and even less words for the unspeakable circumstances which robbed this precious child from her family, community, and this world. Quyanaq to my friends and neighbors for your continued support. It is my honor to serve you in the Senate. Senator Donald Omilak Olson Toll free: 1.800.597.3707 Email: [email protected] Facebook: Alaska Senate Democrats | Capitol Building, 4th Avenue & Main Street, Juneau, AK 99801 Unsubscribe [email protected] Update Profile | Customer Contact Data Notice Sent by [email protected]
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