Gwich’in say Don Young is not a member of their Tribe

Gwich’in leaders from across the Arctic are setting the record straight after the congressman for Alaska, Don Young claimed he was Gwich’in on March 26th, during a US House of Representatives Subcommittee hearing on H.R. 1146, The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act.

Gwich’in Council International co-chair Ed Alexander has shared a video on Facebook of some of the exchange which has been viewed over 13,000 times.

Young, the longest serving Republican congressman currently in Washington, DC is originally from California.  He’s been the lone Congressman for Alaska since 1973. CKLB contacted his Washington and Fairbanks offices, but he was not available for comment this week. An email request was also sent to his press secretary Zack Brown.

“His first wife,  who sadly died in 2009, God bless her soul was Gwich’in from Fort Yukon,” explained Gwich’in Tribal Council Grand Chief Bobbi Jo Greenland-Mogran.  Lou Young is pictured on Young’s website and appears to be wearing a Gwich’in style parka.

Ed Alexander, Co-Chair of Gwich’in Council International, and also hails from Fort Yukon, and is a Gwich’yaa Gwich’in.

“Mr. Young claimed his tribe is Gwich’in. I am Gwich’in he is not. Having a native spouse does not confer tribal membership, nor does it provide an inherit understanding of native issues or a right to speak on behalf of tribes,” Alexander and leaders from Gwich’in communities of Circle, Arctic Village, Chalkyitsik wrote in a press release this week.

Vuntut Gwich’in Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, was also in Washington recently. “We had wonderful discussions with other lawmakers like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who speaks the truth,” he told CKLB in an earlier interview.

“Mr. Young called us foreigners in our own land. We do not live in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, because we see it as a sacred place. In Gwich’in we call it Izhit gwat’san gwandaii goodlit, the sacred place where life begins. It’s not only home to the Porcupine Caribou calving grounds, it’s also where many migratory birds nest and hatch,” explained Tizya-Tramm.

Young has also been under-fire this week after he allegedly shoved a reporter Thursday morning and later apologized after she called him out publicly.

Politico’s Melanie Zanona tweeted that the congressman “physically shoved me and told me to get out of his way ‘damnit’ as I was trying to interview another lawmaker outside the House chamber.”

A couple hours after she tweeted again that Young had apologized. Young also made headlines last year when he  seemed to suggest that Jewish people died in the Holocaust because they were unarmed.

Young also apologized in 2013 after he referred to migrant workers on his father’s ranch as “wetbacks.” He apologized again in 2014 after he made an insensitive remark about suicide during a high school assembly and used an expletive when a student challenged him, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

There’s also an urban legend involving him once pinning former House speaker John A. Boehner to the wall and holding a knife to his throat during an altercation over spending.

“Every time the story gets told, the knife get’s a little longer,” Young told reporters on capitol hill.

About the Author

Josh Campbell
Splash is back as the host of Denendeh Sunrise, CKLB's morning current affairs program. Campbell was mentored by longtime host and Gwich'in entertainer William Greenland. Josh, as he's known professionally by folks across the broadcast industry has worked for CBC North, CKRW the Rush in Yukon, and at CJCD Mix 100. Before moving north for his love of radio and Indigenous culture in 2007, Campbell graduated from Loyalist College's Broadcast Journalism Program in Belleville, Ontario the traditional territory of the Tyendinaga Mohawks. Campbell is proud of his Scottish and Irish ancestry. He was born and raised along the Tobique River the home of the Wolastoqiyik, Tobique Maliseet Nation.

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