JUNEAU, Alaska -- A state senator who co-chairs the Alaska Federation of Natives says it's a moral imperative for Gov. Palin to appoint a native to the state Board of Game.
While some legislators don't necessarily agree with that, most seem to favor at least an appointment from the bush.
Palin has been under fire from both native and non-native legislators for nominating three people to the Board of Game who all live on the road system and none of whom are native.
One of those nominees has withdrawn, requiring the governor to advance a new name. Depending on who she picks, the controversy could defuse soon, or could carry through the legislative session.
Sen. Albert Kookesh of Angoon said that for more than 30 years the Board of Game has included the perspective of Bush Alaska, specifically Natives who live a subsistence lifestyle.
"We're the only people in North America that can live a subsistence lifestyle and survive," said Kookesh, D-Angoon. "And for us to not have a seat at the table is morally wrong."
Kookesh, who co-chairs the Alaska Federation of Natives, is upset because governor palin nominated three people to the board of game who would make that regulatory body completely non-native and comprised of residents of the road system.
Rep. John Coghill said to varying degrees Kookesh's concerns are also concerns throughout the Legislature, important because lawmakers confirm or reject the governor's appointments.
"If those nominees would have come to the floor, they probably would have failed, and I would have probably been right there in with them, saying, 'No, you need a better regional balance,'" Coghill said. "But I think the governor now has got the message and it looks like some other nominees are coming in, so I'm grateful for that."
Palin has an opportunity to nominate someone new for the Board of Game, following the withdrawal of her nominees in the wake of the controversy.
Teresa Sager Albaugh, a former president of the pro-sport hunting group, the Alaska Outdoor Council, withdrew her name from consideration within the last day, reportedly voluntarily.
The Outdoor Council has always vocally opposed rural subsistence rights but Albaugh, in fact, never even applied for the position.
Bethel Democratic Rep. Mary Nelson called the lack of consideration for a Native person an "oversight."
"I think that it very much gets us in the right direction," Nelson said. "I think that it was an oversight that a rural person-Native person wasn't looked at seriously by the administration as an appointee for the Board of Game, and I think that that is now the direction they're going to be going in."
But Palin said Sager-Albaugh does live in a sufficiently rural area, in Mentasta, near the Tok cutoff.
The governor said she's intent on running a color-blind administration.
"I'm going to keep looking for hard-working, conscientious, objective, fair Alaskans who want to serve on these boards and commissions -- those with servants' hearts -- and I'm not necessarily going to look for race, or gender," Palin said.
So Kookesh said the controversy could continue.
"If she doesn't appoint a native again, do we go through this whole process again? And I guess the answer would be yes," Kookesh said.
So Palin's next pick could mean the difference between reconciliation or continuing conflict.
Contact Bill McAllister at firstname.lastname@example.org