SHARI GROSS, NANCY
ANDERSON, CARA PETER,
DORCAS ROCK, DOROTHY
JONES, DOVE KULL
Alaska's 596,000 square miles of
land proved to be no problem for the women from Barrow to Sitka, and everywhere
in between, who attended the state IWY
women's meeting last May in Anchorage.
Traveling across Alaska is nothing
like traveling across Connecticut, or Guam
or even Texas. The distance from Barrow
to Anchorage is more than 700 miles.
tance of their differences and the delegation itself is a balanced representation of
Alaska's population—one of the major precepts of the IWY state meeting guidelines.
While there seem to be few effective
pressure groups in Alaska, there is a commitment to the rights of the individual in
the land of rugged individualists.
"Although I have my own feelings
By Suzanne Iudicello and Cheryl Knott
Anchorage is nearly 600 miles from Sitka.
Alaskans take the plane, not the bus or
Yet more than 700 Alaska women
made the pilgrimage to the conference.
For many, the women's meeting was a first
attempt at political activity.
While Alaska's vast land mass is no
boon for travelers, it tends to feed the
state's diversity. The concerns of Alaska's
urban areas are as different from those of
rural locales as the days of midnight sun
are from the nights of winter darkness.
On one hand, urban dwellers face
the problems of employment, housing
and boom-town growth. Cara Peters, a
delegate from Fairbanks, and an activist
for nontraditional jobs and support systems, says that rapid growth presents new
opportunities, as well as new problems,
for Alaska women.
"If women are going to work on the
pipeline, we can't just advocate day care
from 9 to 5," Peters pointed out. "We've
got to think about long-term child care for
the woman who wants a chance at making
big construction money."
On the other hand, rural areas have
their own problems. Subsistence hunting
is still very much a part of life in Alaska.
Conservationists' efforts to lock up federal
lands will affect the women who live by
"Without the land and the ability
to hunt and fish, people cannot continue
in their accustomed lifestyles," Rosita
Worl, a delegate from Barrow, explained.
"A woman's role in the subsistence lifestyle is lost if access to the land is lost."
It is Alaska's version of the displaced
Rural areas also need to develop village water and sewer systems in the face
of Alaska's civilization. Yet, some villages
are none too eager to join the social and
economic system of the "lower 48 states."
"You wouldn't want to live in the
village," Dorcas Rock, a delegate from
Point Hope, told a Fairbanks delegate.
"But it's my home; I want to stay there.
The whole community feeds the rest of
the community. I don't just feed my
family when we get caribou or whale.
Sharing spilled over to the state IWY
meeting where Alaska women found it
necessary to learn about each other's lifestyles before tackling the business of the
conference. Their resolutions reflect accep-
about it, I think we should push for the
rights of individuals to make their own
decisions about abortion," Nancy Anderson, Kodiak, said. "Abortion is not the real
issue; the issue is whether we have the right
to decide for another person whether our
belief is right for her."
The idea carries over into other
issues. Dove Kull, a retired delegate from
Juneau, applies it to the problems of
older women. "Age should not be the reason to take away a person's right to her
Individual rights and self-determination are the top priorities for the Alaska
delegation and they color all of the state
resolutions sent to Houston. Resolutions
deal with such issues as preservation of the
subsistence lifestyle of many Native women, support for displaced homemakers
seeking new identities and employment
and enforcement of laws preventing sex
discrimination in education.
Each of the 12 delegates and five
alternates has her own point to make at
the conference, but they agree on one
basic tenet-that self-determination for the
individual woman and for the general
population of Alaska is necessary if the
land of contrasts is to survive its current
transition from frontier to boom town.
Jane Yamashiro, delegation chairperson, is a senior associate at the Alaska
Native Foundation in Anchorage and
works with state school districts to eliminate race and sex discrimination. She believes that a self-determination interpretation must be applied to each of Alaska's
"If, through our coalitions and our
talks with others, we keep emphasizing
self-determination, diversity and individual
rights translated in our own experiences of
how we view the issues, the status of the
individual and individual choices will remain our primary concern," Yamashiro
said. She commended the Alaska delegation for its diversity. She thinks the women
representing Alaska at the national conference in Houston can bring a much-needed
diversity of ideas and expertise to the
Another delegate, Shari Gross of
Juneau, justified the small delegation's
presence at the conference this way: "We
have a say in this conference because we
are the conference. We are the people and
we have a right to participate in making
the decisions that will affect our lives."
ROSITA WORL, CAROLYN JONES,
LYNNE WOODS, DIANE
CARPENTER, JANE YAMASHIRO
PAGE 8 NOVEMBER 18, 1977 DAILY BREAKTHROUGH