HANGING ART – Raven Shaw hangs up art at her booth for the Sitka Artisans Market this afternoon at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Her business, Raven's Random, sells original art stickers and prints. The market opens tonight and runs through Sunday. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

State High Court Hears Kids’ Pleas On Climate

By DAN JOLING
Associated Press
    ANCHORAGE (AP) — An Alaska law promoting fossil fuel development infringes on the constitutional rights of young residents to a healthy environment, a lawyer told Alaska Supreme Court justices on Wednesday.
    A lawsuit filed by 16 Alaska youths claimed long-term effects of climate change will devastate the country’s northernmost state and interfere with their constitutional rights to life, liberty and public trust resources that sustain them.
    The state’s legislative and executive branches have not taken steps to lower greenhouse gas emissions and adopted a policy that promotes putting more in the air, said attorney Andrew Welle of the Oregon-based Our Children’s Trust group.
    “This is an issue that is squarely within the court’s authority,” Welle said.
    Assistant Attorney General Anna Jay urged justices to affirm a lower court ruling rejecting the claims. Ultimately, the climate change issues raised by Alaska youth must be addressed by the political branches of government, she said.
    “The court does not have the tools to engage in the type of legislative policy making endeavor required to formulate a broad state approach to greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

Dune Lankard of Cordova holds a sign showing his daughter, Ananda Rose, a budding musher, outside Boney Courthouse in Anchorage on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

    The 16 youths sued in 2017 and claimed damages by greenhouse gas emissions are causing widespread damage in Alaska. The lawsuit said the state has experienced dangerously high temperatures, changed rain and snow patterns, rising seas, storm surge flooding, thawed permafrost, coastal erosion, violent storms and increased wildfires.
    Our Children’s Trust is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting natural systems for present and future generations. The group in 2011 unsuccessfully sued the state in 2011, claiming the state failed to adopt measures to protect young people from climate change.
    The judge in that case concluded that courts lack scientific, economic and technological resources that agencies can use to determine climate policy and it was best left in their hands.
    Anchorage Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller rejected the current case a years ago.
    Alaska has no state sales or income tax and historically has relied on the petroleum industry, which extracts crude oil and sends most of it to West Coast Refineries, for much of its revenue.
    Welle said state policy promoting fossil fuels, expressed in a state statute, should be declared unconstitutional because it harms young Alaskans by trading short-term financial gains for long-term health problems.
    The lead client in the case, Esau Sinnok, has had his constitutional right to health and happiness denied by state policy and lack of action on climate change, Welle said.
    “His home village of Shishmaref is literally wiped off the map because of climate change,” Welle said before the hearing. “It’s endangering his culture, the very existence of his community, the health and safety of him and his community members.”
    Justice Peter Maassen asked Welle if the energy policy was balanced by other policies in state law, such as protection for natural resources and the environment.
    “How can we conclude that government agencies are following the energy policy blindly without consideration of these other policies?” Maassen asked.
    Welle said that while statutes provide authority to protect the environment, state agencies have been directed to systemically promote fossil fuels.
    Justice Susan Carney called Welle’s attention to a newspaper opinion piece by former Gov. Bill Walker in which he acknowledged severe economic effects of climate change.
    “Isn’t that a sign that state policy has balanced those concerns?” she asked.
    Welle replied that the court when assessing state policies, and their effects on fundamental constitutional rights, can assess the process, look at decisions and decide if balance struck is the most narrowly tailored choice.
    ___
    This story has been corrected to say that 16 Alaska youths in 2017 sued the state.
   

Old Tlingit Clan Hat Sent Back to SE Home

By BEN HOHENSTATT
Juneau Empire
    JUNEAU (AP) — A Tlingit clan hat was welcomed back to southeast Alaska with ceremony and dance after spending more than a century away.
    A ceremony Sept. 25 included both an original sculpin hat that was taken in 1884 from Sitka and became part of the Smithsonian Institution’s collection, and a newer replacement hat, which was given to the Kiks.adi clan.
    “It’s like seeing an old friend come around the corner when you thought you’d never see them again,” said clan leader Ray Wilson in an interview with the Juneau Empire. During part of the ceremony at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, Wilson donned the new hat.
    The team-up and technology that led to the new hat and ceremony are unprecedented as far as the Smithsonian is aware.
    “As far as we know, it’s never been done before,” said Eric Hollinger, tribal liaison for the repatriation office of the Smithsonian National History Museum. “This is the first time that we’re aware of that an object has been digitally scanned and repaired and a new one made to replace it and be made it into a sacred object.”
    The replacement hat was made through careful study of the original hat, 3D imaging and consultation with the clan, Hollinger said.
    “It shows what can happen when people work together,” Wilson said.

Members of the Killer Whale Clan support a replica of a sculpin clan hat on Ray Wilson, clan leader for the Kiks.ádi Clan, during a welcoming ceremony at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall last month in Juneau. (Michael Penn/The Juneau Empire via AP)

    The new hat came to be after Harold Jacobs, cultural resource specialist for Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, noticed the hat was in the Smithsonian’s collection, Hollinger and Wilson said.
    Jacobs asked if it would be possible for the original hat to be digitized and repaired, Hollinger said. He said at the time something similar had been done to replicate Dakl’aweidi clan hats, and it could be possible.
    The Smithsonian got in touch with Wilson and the Kiks.adi clan, who expressed interest in proceeding with the project.
    “We began that process with seven years of consultation and work to try to figure out where to get the wood, where to get the funds for it, how to do it, what’s the appropriate ways to do it,” Hollinger said. “The clan and the several units of the museum, the Smithsonian Institution Exhibits and digitization program office of the Smithsonian worked with the Natural History Museum to acquire the wood and the materials and work with the clan for guidance on how to attach things.”
    Funding for that effort came from a $26,000 grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, Hollinger said. That also helped pay for creating a second replica, which Hollinger said the Smithsonian wanted to have to help it tell the hat’s story.
    Chris Hollshwander, exhibition specialist and model maker for Smithsonian Institution, who helped mill the hat, was adopted into the Sitka Kaagwaantaan. That was done so the hat maker would come from a non-Raven moiety.
    “I think it turned out beautiful,” Hollshwander said in an interview. “I’ve been adopted into the culture and given a chance to do a very special piece.”
    The newer hat was made because the centuries-old hat is delicate after hundreds of years of wear and tear. Both Smithsonian personnel and tribe members said it needs to be treated carefully and kept in a controlled climate in order to continue to exist.
    “The original hat is fragile and can’t be danced, this hat is a new functional hat,” Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Director Kirk Johnson said in an interview.
    The new hat, which Wilson said will live at a still undetermined location in Sitka, will have staying power in Southeast Alaska.
    “Our grandchildren will be using this hat down the line,” Wilson said.
    Not entirely old hat
    While the old and new hats are extremely similar, they are not identical. That’s by design.
    “The milling (cut) is all the same and based on it, but they wanted to add slightly different things,” Hollinger said.
    Some of those changes reflect the history of the original hat, which was gleaned in part from a CT scan, Hollinger said. The scan showed evidence of past repairs, which Hollinger said indicated it had likely been around for many years before it was collected in 1884.
    “It’s hard to tell how old it was, but because it had all those repairs on it, it could have been 100, 200 years old,” Hollinger said. “We have no way of dating something from that time.”
    The carver of the hat is also unknown.
    Some of the paint used on the old hat contained mercury, Hollinger said, so it was likely made post-contact — after non-indigenous people and Alaska Natives met. However, he said it’s possible it existed in the 1700s, and the telltale paint came during repairs.
    The scan also showed areas where sea lion whiskers were likely present, so the new hat has whiskers on one side. The newer hat also includes shell inlay that was not present in the older hat.
    “The shell inlay here was not on the original hat, but the original hat had an incised circle as if they intended to put inlays in there. They learned from the original hat and restored it to where they thought they would have liked to have it.”
    Wilson said the two hats are also spiritually distinct.
    At.oowu, sacred clan objects, are considered to have spiritual properties, so a repatriated item is thought to come with the spirits of ancestors attached. Wilson said the old hat’s spirits will be retained rather than transferred to the new hat.
    “It will have its own spirits, and the old hat will still be as powerful,” Wilson said. “We did ask the old hat if they would treat the new hat like it was his child and he could pass on any information he would want it to have.”

State High Court Hears Youths Climate Lawsuit

By DAN JOLING
Associated Press
    ANCHORAGE (AP) — The Alaska Supreme Court was to hear arguments today in a lawsuit that claims state policy on fossil fuels is harming the constitutional right of young Alaskans to a safe climate.
    Sixteen Alaska youths in 2017 sued the state, claiming that human-caused greenhouse gas emission leading to climate change is creating long-term, dangerous health effects.
    The lawsuit takes aim at a state statute that says it’s the policy of Alaska to promote fossil fuels, said Andrew Welle of Oregon-based Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting natural systems for present and future generations.
    “The state has enacted a policy of promoting fossil fuels and implemented it in a way that is resulting in substantial greenhouse gas emissions in Alaska,” Welle said in a phone interview. “They’re harming these young kids.”
    A central question in the lawsuit, as in previous federal and state lawsuits, is the role of courts in shaping climate policy.
    Attorneys for Our Children’s Trust represented Alaska youth in an unsuccessful 2011 lawsuit that sought court intervention because the state had failed to adopt measures to protect young people in Alaska from climate change. The judge concluded that courts lack scientific, economic and technological resources that agencies can use to determine climate policy and it was best left in their hands.
    The second lawsuit was filed in October 2017 by Alaskans who at the time ranged in age from 5 to 20. Anchorage Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller in October 2018 dismissed the lawsuit, citing the 2011 case and other precedents.
    Welle acknowledged that courts cannot create climate policy. However, a court can intervene if the other two branches of government approve policies that exacerbate harmful effects, he said
    “Their core role within that system of checks and balances is to make sure that the other branches are not actively and affirmatively harming individuals through official state action,” he said. “That’s exactly what’s at issue in this case.”
    The lawsuit claims that under Alaska’s Constitution, the state climate, like water, fish, wildlife, air and ocean, is a public trust resource held for maximum benefit of its people.
    Human-caused climate change will be catastrophic unless atmospheric carbon dioxide declines, according to the lawsuit. Among damages already occurring: dangerously increasing temperatures, changing rain and snow patterns, rising seas, storm surge flooding, thawing permafrost, coast erosion and increased wildfires, ocean acidification and violent storms.
    The lead client in the case, Esau Sinnok, has had his constitutional right to health and happiness denied by state policy and lack of action on climate change, Welle said.
    “His home village of Shishmaref is literally wiped off the map because of climate change,” Welle said. “It’s endangering his culture, the very existence of his community, the health and safety of him and his community members.”
    The lawsuit asked the court to declare that state actions have violated the plaintiffs’ fundamental rights to a stable climate system.
    The lawsuit seeks to have the state policy on fossil fuels declared invalid.
    The lawsuit also asked the court to order the state to prepare an accounting of carbon emissions and create a recovery plan.
    ___
    This story has been corrected to say that 16 Alaska youths in 2017 sued the state.
   

Login Form

Facebook

calendar