About a month ago I wrote a My Turn for the Empire, along with former Assembly member Randy Wanamaker, proposing that the city return the historic Auke Village site at Indian Point to the Auk Kwáan people via Goldbelt Heritage Foundation.
Since writing this op-ed, I’ve received some feedback that some residents think this is being spurred on by Goldbelt Inc. in an effort to double dip at receiving land and wanting to further their tourism businesses. Given that my colleague Wanamaker used to serve on the Board of Directors of Goldbelt Inc., I can understand why some residents make this assumption. However, this is a false assumption. The idea of this opportunity to right an old wrong, not out of guilt but simply out of wanting to do the right thing, was spurred on by me when I was serving on the Assembly and Kim Keifer was our city manager.
At the time I was on the Assembly, the Land Management Plan was being revised and out for public review. It was prudent to wait for that process to be complete before exploring this idea further. I also needed to find a suitable trust recipient for such a transfer as well as allow time for staff to have conversations with the appropriate Alaska Native elders. Once Goldbelt Heritage Foundation, was identified as a suitable trust recipient, I reached out to Wanamaker to work with me on this idea. I reached out to him for two reasons 1) he was an appropriate conduit to the Alaska Native community, and 2) us working together would show a bipartisan acceptance of this idea.
I reached out to Wanamaker prior to my bid for re-election to the Assembly. However, I specifically told him I did not want to bring this up while running for re-election as I did not want my interest in this transfer to be seen as serving my re-election interest, particularly since my challenger was a member of the Native community. Wanamaker concurred.
Now, with city elections behind us and the approved Land Management Plan calling for Indian Point to be managed “in a manner sensitive to the cultural heritage of Auk Kwáan people”, Wanamaker and I wrote the op-ed encouraging the city to move in the direction of transferring the old village site to the Auk Kwáan people.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that this transfer is about righting an old wrong and promoting cultural stewardship; it has nothing to do with Goldbelt Inc.’s tourism businesses or giving Goldbelt Inc. a second bite at the land selection apple. I have no financial or personal connection to Goldbelt Inc. My only connection to this proposed transfer is as a former City Assembly member tuned into the cultural diversity that makes Juneau special.
• Kate Troll is a former City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member. She resides in Douglas.