Letter: Shame in a place that’s always been



When I was growing up, my mother could not say anything worse to me than, “Shame on you.” It immediately brought on humiliation caused by something I had done or by my foolish behavior. Once reminded, it was something I tried hard never to do again.

Many in our world today seem to have lost any sense of shame.  In the world of politics, it has become a free-for-all in behavior.  Yet, there are still things that cross the line in civility.  Most certainly when it forces others to unwillingly become part of that shame.

At Alaska Federation of Natives convention, in the place that has always been, that line of shame was crossed.  Gov. Michael Dunleavy and his wife were invited to speak at AFN. It was especially honorable to a small quiet Native woman dressed in her usual Kuspuk, who stood beside her husband, a man from another land who came to her village as a teacher many years ago. Together they had three beautiful daughters and showed how those two lands could meet in a loving, caring and respectful manner. She is so proud of this man she calls husband. He knows the Native ways because of her and his life in their land.

One can only imagine the pain Rose Dunleavy must have felt in her heart as she and her husband stood before her people and heard a large group shout, boo and turn their backs as he spoke.  

The heartache was visible on her face as she held her hands tightly in front of her looking sadly at her husband. What would her three daughters think when they heard about such disrespect?  She had taught her daughters respect learned from her elders. How could she explain such behavior from some of her people?

She was there to present the Shirley Demientieff award, which was based on respect. How was she going to be able to walk to the podium after such disrespect? This quiet woman had worked so hard the past year to stand in front of others in such a public manner.

As a woman of her word, she walked to the podium obviously shaken about what had just happened. Oh, the sadness she and others must have felt.

There are so many Rose Dunleavys in Alaska. Many I have met and now call friends. They are strong, independent women who love their Native land but have also learned to love those that once visited and decided to stay.  My heart is sad as I know it was not a proud moment for them in the land that has always been. 

Judy Eledge, Anchorage


    • Yes. Who would have imagined that people would chose a public forum to exercise a basic human right. I hope that Mike Dunleavy the father didn’t use this as a teaching moment. Kids should be shielded from elected officials being held accountable for policies that weren’t well received. And no man should ever have to demonstrate to his children about standing by what he believes is right for the State, whether it’s well received or not. Good governance is only possible from the safety of an echo chamber

      • Not sure of the sincerity of your comment Danny. The shameful behavior of those at the convention was totally inappropriate and should be a “teaching moment” . Kids should not be exposed to this type of behavior. And it was not the appropriate forum for an elected official who was invited to speak to be “ held accountable”.
        Your implied suggestion that it was proper to hold Dunleavy accountable makes it clear that you are an anti Dunleavy person. It seems clear that you do not disapprove of the way our Governor was treated. It was shameful and should be pointed out to everyone, including children, of how NOT to behave.

  1. Inviting someone who decimated our programs should have known that there would have been a reaction such as this

    • Tis, decimated programs? Can you provide any evidence to shore up your claim? The Guv in his oratory described how public safety programs had been strengthened during his short watch. How is providing protection for women and children disagreeable to you?

    • ‘Tis, see my reply to Danny’s comment. There are times when those who feel as you do to express their unhappiness with their elected officials. This occasion was not one of them.

    • Decimated your programs? Well, if those programs were so important perhaps you and your cohorts can pay for them. There is no reason for the rest of us to forever float such welfare.

    • Well golly, Tis, you’ve clearly been terribly wronged but perhaps you could take a moment to edify the rest of us and help us better understand matters:

      Exactly what programs of yours were “decimated”?

      Who are the members of this group you belong to when you make use of the term “our” as in “our programs”??

      Which individual(s) and/or group(s) owe you and the people of your group?

      Exactly how much would you say that you’re owed to extinguish the apparent debt being paid through your now-decimated programs, anyway? Or is it really some kind of eternal debt that can’t be fully paid?

      Thanks much, hon!

    • Decimated your programs the bloated programs that are just entitlements? All I ever hear and have heard in 22 years in this state working all over it, and all you hear is how Natives want to live traditional ways, yet you’re complaining about money. Money is not traditional. Bartering is the old way. This is the best governor in years and yet, you disrespect him like he is nobody, shame on you.

    • Decimated our FEDERAL AND STATE funded programs you should say. Alaska needs to stop being a welfare state. Native, non-native, green, black and red all need to pay their own way. There never should have been such a childish reaction. Only grow less respect for those program users who stood up and turned their back on our Governor. They were wrong.

  2. There were 400 or so people there in the room at AFN, and while just 30 of them made a big shameful stink most let those antics go on without taking a stand for decency. Everyone knew Julie Kitka was behind the protest and the majority in that room are onboard with recalling the governor who tried to get them their full PFD. Julie should have offered an apology from the podium but she sort of handed the governor a gift tie and turned her back on him quickly at the end. No apology. Pretty sad to see the decline of standards at AFN.

    • You are right! If you stand silent and allow it to go on, you are just as guilty. I hope AFN puts on some security for future conferences. It gave to protestors a feel good moment, but everyone else in the room felt sickened. The hate for someone that is trying to help people in Alaska was overwhelming. Hate mongers like the House Majority must have felt giddy when it went down.

  3. Judy,

    I had just 5 minutes earlier spoke from that same podium to address the citizens about their involvement for not just Good Government, or Better Government, but the BEST GOVERNMENT driven by them. I even mentioned that the Governor was there and wanted the BEST for all of us. I was totally embarrassed by the bonging of drums, the rude chanting to override the Governor’s speech, and the SHAMEFUL display of fists shoved up in the air with backs turned to the stage.

    It was a great gesture that Co-Chair Will Mayo brought a dignified halt to this travesty. The Governor showed great humility continuing his speech; I am certain that Rose was humble, brave and very courageous to continue her presentation of the Shirley Demientieff award, but from my up close vantage point, yes, she was shaken. But she did show that she also possesses respect and dignity for others , which I hope the protesters felt a sense of shame. This does not speak well for their voices being worthy us to listen too anytime soon in their lives. Thank God that most of us know better how to behave and handle our affairs with a sense of decorum.

  4. A great piece by Judy, And I agree that those actions were shameful against the governor and Rose. But one small correction. Alaska is not “the land that has always been.” That, according to all of the commercials I have seen, is reserved for Bristol Bay lands and I don’t want to be lumped in with them.

  5. My heart goes out to Rose Dunleavy and the rest of the folks at the AFN convention as well.

    She represented her parents, relatives, friends from northwest Alaska, the majority of those attending the convention, and the majority by far of aboriginal Alaskans with strength and dignity in a very difficult situation.

    My heart also goes out to Shirley Demientieff who I worked with for several years quite awhile ago. She also exemplified the character qualities most aboriginal Alaskans hold dear and she too would have been embarrassed by the foolish and evil behavior that, unfortunately, brought shame on the rest in attendance.

    Finally, thank you to Will Mayo, who I am sure was also embarrassed – but acted wisely. I hope his friends were listening.

  6. Yes, the protest at the wrong time was shameful. Such lack of respect is not the Native way, either. Special thanks to Will, a respected Native elder, for stopping the protest and addressing the issue. (I also witnessed the event.)

  7. Young, “woke”, agitated by handlers, mad because their piece of the pie has been taken or reduced, mad because of climate change- somehow Dunleavy is the culprit. Rudeness and hatefulness is the new normal for the left in politics.

  8. First of all, Rose was wearing an atikluk. She is Iñupiaq- please use Iñupiaq terminology.
    Secondly, most of you who support Dunleavy on here seem to have such hardened hearts for others.

    I’d encourage you to spend some time with the FIRST peoples of this land- hear their stories- please, show some human decency when talking about federal and state budgets.

    Thirdly, a non-Native to Alaska talking about another non-Native in Alaska “knowing the Native way” is implausible and you have NO authority to say that Dunleavy “…knows the Native ways because of her and his life in their land.”

    ASK the Native peoples whom he interacted with if he “knows the Native way.” Ask them how he treated them in the schools. I know you will hear stories telling you otherwise.

    • I would ask everyone to judge the man as a governor by the way he governs. Does he want a balanced budget…yes! Does he want a failing university system to clean up their act so we can get better than a 8% graduation rate, (from a 4 year program) return on our investment? Yes. Does he see other ways to trim the budget as local problems that should be handled on the local level? Yes. To say that Dunleavy supporters have hardened their hearts is not true. A few folks who have never lived in the bush, or on a reservation don’t understand that our government caused the partial loss of a way of life and are fiscally responsible. Does he want Bryce to quit stealing the PFD from thousands of Alaskans, FIRST, LAST and IN-BETWEEN who really need it…YES!!!!

    • Oh gosh, MC, your agony at having to suffer in the presence of the SECOND peoples of this land brings a tear to my eye and I just want to reach out and buy you a beer. Do you think one beer would do the trick? I could probably throw in a second beer and some comfortable broken-in Carhartts if it might help to make you all better.

    • So “the Native way” is government handouts. Got it. Very proud way of life. And yes, I’ve spent a lot of time living in villages and have many friends there. It isn’t unique.

  9. “Hard hearted” is a good description of the disrespectful people who interrupted the Alaska Governor’s presentation to the people at AFN Convention. Gov. Dunleavy was an invited guest and anyone picking nits about what to call the attire of the Governor’s Native wife is tone deaf to what is unacceptable behavior.

    The Native way is part of our overall Alaska culture and honorable Alaskans recognize and respect it. “Shameful” is a better description of the behavior.

  10. Shame, WTF(Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) Dunleavy shamed himself, tanik with forked tongue. I would have turned my back on him too.

    The first thing he did was take away our respected elders funding away. They have a hard enough time with what little they have. They worked hard raising their children on subsistence, the education system took the older children away to shamefully educate them.

    • Go cry your tears to the Native Corporations and get your money from them. Turn in your cellphones, your snowmobiles, your satellite televisions, your F-150s, etc…etc..and go back to the culture you want to protect. We have elders too. And quit being such a rascist.

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