Alaska Lawmakers Erupt After Old White Guy Says Natives Should be ‘Sent Home’

YouTube: Municipality of Anchorage Meetings

An assembly meeting in Alaska turned into a racial debacle when a community member used the public comments portion to espouse his racist views that Indigenous Americans should go “home,” prompting a local lawmaker to call out the man’s bigoted “nonsense.”

On Oct. 11, the Anchorage assembly held a regular meeting to discuss everyday issues, like proposed ordinances and licenses in the city. More than four-and-a-half hours in, however, a white man in a collared shirt stood up to casually argue for Alaskan Natives to be kicked out of Anchorage.

The man, who identified himself as David Lazer, started by complaining about the area’s homeless problem.

“Like, 80 percent are the Natives. I have to call them ‘Indians,’” ​​he said, grumbling that Indigenous Americans are considered Native but his white children born in Alaska are not. “My children were born here, and they’re not Native. This is not a white-Black problem. This is an Indian problem.”

“I say send them home to their native village. A Native Corporation is the problem, not a white problem,” Lazer continued, using the term for partnerships of organizations formed in Alaska to protect Native culture in the area. “Why should we be paying for a Native problem? Send them home. They would be happy there, and we would be happy. They could drink, smoke, do dope, and whatever they do in the villages with their own people and they would be happy.”

After essentially advising a “separate but equal” philosophy for Alaskan Natives in Anchorage, Lazer said that the city should expel them.

“After the Native convention next week, let them take their homeless home with them,” Lazer said while also providing a financial plan on the so-called efficiency of booting Native Americans from the area.

“Putting them in a hotel, putting them in places, feeding them, next spring, next summer you’re going to have the same problem,” he said. “No one talks about eliminating the problem. I say send them home. Send the bill to the Native Corporation.”

He also suggested shipping them to sanctuary cities, similar to what the Texas government has done with asylum seekers.

“I feel sorry for some of them. I know some good Natives. I know some good Black people. I know some good white people,” Lazer claimed. “But we need to eliminate the problem, not just put a Band-Aid on it and send them to a hotel or send them some place for the winter time.”

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Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar, a Democrat, immediately shot back at Lazer.

“First of all, I find it deeply ironic to have anyone but an Alaskan Native person telling them to go home in Alaska,” Dunbar said. “My second thing to say: They are American citizens and Anchorage residents and members of our community, and we are responsible for taking care of members of our community.”

Then, Dunbar questioned whether Lazer had ever had a conversation with Alaskan Natives who are homeless.

“When you talk to people experiencing homelessness, where do you think they say where they are from?” he asked.

“They have to be from a village,” Lazer asserted.

Dunbar attempted to correct him, but Lazer continued.

“They’re Native people. Those are villages out there, and that’s the Natives,” he said.

Again, Dunbar tried to correct Lazer’s generalizations and white supremacist stereotypes.

“[M]y experience going out and speaking with people is folks say they are from Anchorage. They have lived here for decades. Some of them were born here,” Dunbar said. “I think we have this stereotype that people are just brought in from somewhere else. A lot of the people experiencing homelessness in Anchorage, whether they are Alaskan Native or white or any other race, they say that they are from Anchorage. They are members of our community–”

“They don’t work,” Lazer interjected. “They don’t pay taxes. They do nothing. …It looks like a septic tank where they live–”

At that point, other members of the assembly tried to step in. Assemblywoman Jamie Allard, a Republican, said that she didn’t think it was appropriate for there to be a debate but “understood” where the speaker was coming from.

“I understand both perspectives. I just hope we can move on and not debate,” she said.

“Where did you learn all this false nonsense?” Dunbar asked Lazer before the meeting moved on to the next speaker.

Lazer made a sheepish smile prior to answering.

“I lived here for over 50 years,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot.”

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After Lazer finally stepped away from the podium, Roger Branson, a Republican competing against Allard for District 23 in Alaska’s House of Representatives, told attendees that Lazer’s comments made him feel “dirty.”

As a self-described advocate for users of mental health services, Branson said he supports people who “are overly represented in both homelessness as well as corrections.”

“That last testimony was tough. …I feel dirty,” he said, before talking about providing adequate resources for people dealing with homelessness.

Branson told The Daily Beast that Lazer’s comments were offensive.

“[I felt] deeply offended for the people I advocate for,” he said. “The homeless population, we’re way over-represented by behavioral health issues, whether it’s just introducing mental health issues. They both kind of go hand in hand. We’re way over-represented with Alaskan Natives, both in the homeless community as well as in corrections.”

He said comments like Lazer’s are dangerous for Indigenous Americans because they perpetuate harmful stigmas.

In an emailed statement to The Daily Beast, Dunbar said Lazar’s comments were “outrageous,” considering he made the statements “while standing in Alaska, on Indigenous land.”

“There’s a strange phenomenon you see here sometimes where folks seem to think they have an exclusive claim to the ‘real Alaska,’ even if that claim doesn’t include Alaska Native people, or their culture, or even most of Rural Alaska,” Dunbar wrote, adding that Lazer failed to mention traumatic historical discrimination Alaskan Natives experienced.

According to business registration files, Lazer owns a tour company just outside of Anchorage in Palmer, Alaska. His company was bombarded with negative reviews after footage of the assembly meeting was shared online.

“The owner of this business stepped to the microphone at the Anchorage Assembly and told the world that Alaska Natives should ‘go home,’” a Yelp reviewer wrote under Lazer Tours’ profile. “The horrible irony of this is that he makes his living showing tourists the Alaska Natives’ home, while simultaneously having such vile disrespect for it and them.”

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Lazer said he felt as if people had misunderstood what he was trying to say.

“I think it would be better if we let these Natives go out wherever in the villages where their relatives are,” he said. “They could pick berries, they could fish, they could hunt, be with their own kind, sleep in the trees. They could do anything they want to do, but they’d be with their own friends.”

Then, he questioned why Alaskan Natives don’t take care of those who are homeless, voiced his frustration about hunting laws on Indigenous property, and railed against people who don’t work. He brushed aside mental illness as a possibility for many of the situations involving homelessness.

“I mean, they’re nice people and I have good friends [who are Native],” Lazer said. “Why can’t they take care of their own? How come they keep looking at us?”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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