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Palin's Rural Adviser Quits Over Native Record

ANNE SUTTON | October 14, 2008 08:07 AM EST | AP

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JUNEAU, Alaska — Gov. Sarah Palin's rural adviser resigned Monday amid criticism of the governor's record on hiring Alaska Natives.

Rhonda McBride, who is not an Alaska Native, made the announcement in an e-mail to several Native leaders, saying there need to be more Native voices in Palin's administration.

"I definitely think it would help to have an Alaska Native in this position," McBride told The Associated Press.

Many Alaska Natives have said they felt neglected when Palin, now the Republican vice presidential nominee, made appointments to her administration, including the rural adviser post.

State Sen. Al Kookesh, a Democrat, said Palin left the position unfilled her first year in office and ignored Native leaders' suggestions on the selection process.

"We were really disappointed when an Alaska Native wasn't appointed," said Kookesh, a Tlingit Indian who held the job in a previous administration.

Natives bristled early in Palin's administration when she named a white woman to a game board seat held by a Native for more than 25 years. An Athabascan Indian eventually was named to the post after protests.

Relations worsened after Palin didn't remove a game board chairman who once suggested that Alaska Natives missed a meeting because they were drinking beer, seen as insensitive since the Alaska Native community has high rates of alcohol abuse.

Alaska Natives make up about 20 percent of the population.

Palin's husband, Todd, is part Yup'ik Eskimo, and her 13-member cabinet includes two Alaska Natives.

"In all honesty, I have never felt authentic in my role," McBride wrote in her e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by the AP.

McBride, who covered rural issues as a reporter before becoming rural adviser last year, said she would return to journalism to help bring attention to Native issues.

She said her last day would be Oct. 23.

Filed by Rachel Weiner  |  Report Corrections