I have a great question to discuss with Alaska callers live on the air on “Talk of Alaska” next Tuesday on the July 4th national holiday of Independence Day – What does Alaskan Independence mean to you?
We have slogans like “the last frontier,” and “north to the future” that seem to reflect dreams of independence, liberty, and opportunity, yet we seem too often to define ourselves in terms of resistance to some superior force – be it the overbearing federal government, the Seattle fishing concerns, the Japanese and Norwegian fishing concerns, the international energy corporations, the international mining interests, the missionaries, the fur traders, the military, genocidal cultural forces, the list of things we think we ought to resist is long, but what if we removed all those things? What would be left to define ourselves by?
I’d like to have a discussion of that. Think of it as a form of science fiction in the utopian or dystopian or ecotopian genre, like “Lost Horizons,” “Fahrenheit 451,” or “Brave New World,” an exercise of the Alaskan imagination, if there is such a thing.
What sort of constitution would an independent Alaska need to have? What would be the best process for drafting and ratifying such a constitution? If half of our state were not National Interest lands, but Alaska Interest lands, how should we manage them, and who? In fact, to whom would this independent Alaska even belong – the colonists or those who were here originally? Could the constitution deal with that somehow? What about federally recognized tribes? Of course an independent Alaska would have to enter into treaties externally, but perhaps internally as well? How would the Native corporations fit into the picture, and what relationships might be developed with energy and resource extraction interests? What sort of development beyond extraction could we agree to encourage, and how?
Turning back to treaties, what would be the relationship of an independent Alaska with the United States? How would we negotiate with the United States about national defense interests, and national claims to the arctic? What sort of allies might we have? And what sort of military? Who would pay the bills? Who would be willing to finance an independent Alaska’s development, in exchange for what?
The questions go on. What do we have to sell, beyond our minerals and fish? And to whom do we wish to sell? Do we really have expertise and intellectual property that is worth something to the rest of the world? How do we identify[ it? Can we produce more of our own food agriculturally as the climate warms? Can we turn the coldness of our environment into some sort of economic asset? How would we deal with people seeking to immigrate to an independent Alaska?
In these tense and difficult times, we are too often confined in our aspirations to the next few political turns ahead. Maybe on this one day celebrating a bold move toward self determination, we can allow at least our imaginations to have a bit more freedom and see what sort of dreams we can catch.