Palin pick for state AG angers Native Alaskans

JUNEAU — Alaska Native leaders are angry at Gov. Sarah Palin's appointment of Wayne Anthony Ross to be the state's next attorney general, but it's unlikely that will stop the Legislature from confirming him to the job in two weeks.

"It almost looked like she was rubbing our face in Anthony Ross's appointment," said Tim Towarak, co-chairman of the Alaska Federation of Natives. "Like rubbing our face on the ground, saying 'Here, take this.' "

Native leaders object to Ross' history of opposing what's known as the rural preference for subsistence hunting. In 1989, Ross was co-counsel on a lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court tossing out the state's rural-preference law. When Steve Cowper, governor at the time, talked about creating a constitutional amendment restoring the law in 1990, Ross called it "the worst thing that could happen."

Native organizations opposed to the confirmation of Ross have started contacting state legislative offices. Angoon Democratic Sen. Albert Kookesh said there will be consequences for Palin, even if he cannot stop the Ross confirmation.

"Rural Alaskans will remember her appointment of Wayne Anthony Ross. Natives will remember her appointment of Wayne Anthony Ross," said Kookesh, who is also a co-chairman of the Alaska Federation of Natives. "That's where this is going."

Palin dismissed the criticism as unwarranted.

"Obviously I am not anti-Native and would never appoint anyone who is. It's unfortunate that a few vocal critics view anyone who may have a different opinion as they do as being unfit for public service for all Alaskans," Palin said in an e-mail sent out Tuesday by her spokeswoman.

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