Mary Peltola first Yup’ik Native on Capitol Hill by carlos matías
Mary Peltola has become the first Yup’ik Native congresswoman on Capitol Hill in U.S. history. Reviving the child tax credit, construction of ConocoPhillips’ Willow oil project and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Resource Management and Conservation Act are among her first and foremost goals as Alaska’s representative. Sol de Medianoche already interviewed her when she was a candidate, and interviews her again now that she has been declared the winner against her two Republican opponents, Sarah Palin and Nick Begich.
As a congresswoman, her main initiatives will be, in the short term, “to see how far we can go to advance the Willow project and build relationships with my colleagues,” as well as, in the long term, “codifying the right to choose, reviving the child tax credit and reauthorizing the Magnuson Stevens Act,” she tells Sol de medianoche.
Do you think you will be able to move them forward? I have always worked in a bipartisan way, in the interest of benefiting Alaskans across the state. I know that there is bipartisan support for reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Act (legislation that provides management of marine fisheries in US waters) and protecting our marine resources, including wild salmon runs. Similarly, members in both parties have seen the effectiveness of the child tax credit and the 40% reduction in child poverty that came from it. We cannot afford to go back. Among elected officials, codifying legal and safe reproductive health is obviously more contentious, but Alaskans and the American people as a whole believe in women’s bodily autonomy, and I will work hard to ensure that our laws represent the will of the people.
Do you see your election as paving the way for other Alaska Native peoples? I hope all Alaskans will see this win as an indication that there is an appetite for inclusivity and unity in our diverse state. I am of mixed heritage, Alaska Native and German American. While some would refer to this as “half,” I like to think of it as being “double” because our diversity is a multiplier not a divider. The world view of most Alaska Native people is holistic and interconnected. That is a perspective I would like to bring to policy making and representing Alaska in Washington, DC.
Do you think Alaska Native peoples are more marginalized than other Native peoples in North America? Alaska Natives and Native Americans have a history of forced assimilation and there has historically been a concerted effort to erase us. But we are not alone. A feeling of disenfranchisement has become the norm among all ethnicities, now including Caucasians.
What do you think about the reorganization of voting districts? Some people think it is a trick to downplay the Latino and African American vote. I believe that reapportionment across the country is susceptible to manipulation by parties in power to engage in voter suppression. I am concerned that areas like Muldoon in Anchorage do not have their voting power diluted. Do you think the Inflation Reduction Act is a good measure for Alaska Natives? Why? Yes, though it is not everything we would have wanted it does a lot of good for Alaskans. In the big picture, the IRA will mean lower healthcare prices for Alaskans by capping prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries, reducing health insurance premiums for tens of thousands of Alaskans by about $1,170 per year on average, and expanding coverage to about 5,000 Alaskans. Furthermore, the clean energy investments that the Inflation Reduction Act makes will bring vital investments into our communities. These include $75 million to the Tribal Energy Loan Program, $3 billion for environmental and climate justice block grants to states, $2.6 billion to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the protection and restoration of marine habitats and fisheries, $412 million for Tribal electrification, and $1 billion for tribes, cities, and school districts to purchase clean vehicles. These investments will have a tangible impact on Alaskans across the state.
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