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The representative also wants to invest in research that would further examine other reasons the fish population continues to decline. “What we’re hearing from fishermen and fishing communities is that research needs to be done to find out why the salmon are in decline before anything can be done,” she says. “Unfortunately, research takes a very long time—it takes at least 10 years. And we don’t have 10 years.” To many Alaska Native communities, hunting and fishing their own food remains pivotal to survival, especially as the state faces increasing issues of food scarcity. (According to a 2021 report from Feeding America, roughly one in eight Alaskans struggle with hunger.) To combat this issue, Peltola believes the state needs to also address its skyrocketing shipping and freight costs, which play a role in the availability of basic essentials like food and water. “We had a disaster on the western coast of Alaska a couple of weeks ago, and one of our companies, Coastal Villages Region Fund, wanted to send $600 worth of supplies to a community,” says Peltola. “It would have cost them $20,000 to ship $600 worth of supplies. That’s a very good illustration of what the average rural person faces when they’re shipping things. We’ve got to really look at this issue and come up with solutions.”While these are areas that of course affect all Alaskans, Peltola also understands that she carries a special duty to make the issues of Alaska Natives specifically heard as well should she be reelected. Policymakers have long ignored issues concerning the Native population, after all: Representative Deb Haaland—a Democrat who has represented New Mexico and became the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency last year—has made combating this a clear focus.
Peltola’s plan involves building bridges between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Alaska. “One of the things that I learned very early in the political process is no matter how good a policy or an idea is, if your colleagues feel threatened by you, they’re never going to listen to you,” says Peltola. “In order to have a healthy relationship, you have to have five good interactions for every one bad interaction—so I make it my mission to have positive interactions 100% of the time.” She maintains, however, that she wants every issue she tackles to benefit all Alaskans, not just its Native population. “Any challenge that Alaskan Natives face is something that’s reflected across our state and our nation,” says Peltola.
Going into the midterms, Peltola sees huge potential in maintaining bipartisanship in the House. The representative says it’s key for the state and the nation’s survival, especially as it faces international threats from countries such as Russia and China, Peltola adds. She wants Alaskans to feel like she will listen to any and all sides, not just Democrats. “We have formidable international enemies right now. I grew up during the Cold War, and this time that we’re in right now is very reminiscent of [that],” says Peltola. “If you are an American, you are my team member. You are my partner, not my enemy. It does not matter if you’re undeclared, nonpartisan, Republican, or MAGA—if you are an American, I want to work with you.”
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