Alaska lawmakers erupt after white tour guide says natives should be sent home
An assembly meeting in Alaska turned into a racial debacle when a community member used the public comment portion to espouse his racist views that Native Americans should go “home,” prompting a local legislator to denounce the sectarian “absurdities” of the man.
On October 11, the Anchorage assembly held a regular meeting to discuss day-to-day issues, such as ordinances and proposed licenses in the city. More than four and a half hours later, however, a white man in a collared shirt stood up to casually plead for Alaska Natives to be kicked out of Anchorage.
The man, who identified himself as David Lazer, began by complaining about the area’s homelessness problem.
“For example, 80% are indigenous. I have to call them ‘Indians,’” he said, grumbling that Native Americans are considered Native, but his Alaskan-born white children are not. “My children were born here, and they are not indigenous. It’s not a white-black problem. It’s an Indian problem.
“I say send them home to their home village. An Indigenous society is the problem, not a white problem,” Lazer continued, using the term to organizational partnerships trained in Alaska to protect the native culture of the region. “Why should we pay for an Aboriginal problem? Send them home. They would be happy there, and we would be happy. They could drink, smoke, do drugs and whatever they do in the villages with their people and they would be happy.
After essentially advising a “Separate but equalphilosophy for Alaska Natives in Anchorage, Lazer said the city should evict them.
“After the Indigenous Agreement next week let them bring their homeless people home,” Lazer said while providing a financial blueprint on the supposed effectiveness of removing 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. “Nobody is talking about eliminating the problem. I say send them home. Send the invoice 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 good native people. I know good black people. I know good white people,” Lazer said. and send them to a hotel or send them somewhere for the winter.”
Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar, a Democrat, immediately fired back at Lazer.
“First of all, I find it deeply ironic that anyone other than an Alaska Native would tell them to go home in Alaska“, Dunbar said. “My second thing to say: these are American citizens and residents of Anchorage and members of our community, and we are responsible for taking care of the members of our community.
Next, Dunbar asked if Lazer had ever had a conversation with homeless Alaska Natives.
“When you talk to people experiencing homelessness, where do you think they say Where do they come from?” He asked.
“They must be from a village,” Lazer claimed.
Dunbar attempted to correct him, but Lazer continued.
“They are aboriginal people. It’s villages there, and it’s the natives,” he said.
Again, Dunbar attempted to correct Lazer’s generalizations and stereotypes of white supremacy.
“[M]You have the experience of going out and talking with people is that people say they are from Anchoring. They have lived here for decades. Some of them were born here,” Dunbar said. “I think we have this stereotype that people come from somewhere else. Many homeless people in Anchorage, whether Alaskan Native, white or any other race, say they are of Anchoring. 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 time, other members of the assembly tried to intervene. Congresswoman Jamie Allard, a Republican, said she didn’t think it was appropriate for there to be a debate, but she “understands” where the speaker was coming from.
“I understand both points of view. I just hope we can move on and not debate,” she said.
“Where did you learn all this fake nonsense?” Dunbar asked Lazer before the meeting moved on to the next speaker.
Lazer smiled sheepishly before answering.
“I lived here for over 50 years,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot.”
After Lazer finally pulls away from the podium, Roger Bransona Republican running against Allard for District 23 of the Alaska House of Representatives, told attendees that Lazer’s comments made him feel “dirty.”
As a self-proclaimed advocate for mental health service users, Branson said he supports people who “are overrepresented in both homelessness and corrections.”
“This last testimony was difficult. … I feel dirty,” he said, before talking about providing adequate resources for people struggling with homelessness.
Branson told The Daily Beast that Lazer’s comments were offensive.
“[I felt] deeply offended for the people I defend,” he said. “The homeless population, we’re vastly overrepresented with behavioral health issues, whether it’s just introducing mental health issues. The two go hand in hand. We are vastly overrepresented among Alaska Natives, both in the homeless community and in corrections.
He said comments like Lazer’s are dangerous for Native Americans because they perpetuate harmful stigma.
In an emailed statement to The Daily Beast, Dunbar said Lazar’s comments were “outrageous” given that he made the statements “while standing in Alaska, on native land.”
“There’s a weird phenomenon you see here sometimes where people seem to think they have an exclusive claim to the ‘real Alaska,’ even though that claim doesn’t include Alaska Natives or their culture, nor even most of rural Alaska,” Dunbar wrote, adding that Lazer failed to mention the traumatic historical discrimination The Alaska Natives experienced it.
According to company registration records, Lazer has a travel agency just outside of Anchorage in Palmer, Alaska. His business was bombarded with negative reviews after footage of the assembly meeting was shared online.
“The owner of this business stepped up to the microphone at the Anchorage Assembly and told the world that Alaska Natives should ‘go home,'” said one Yelp Reviewer written under the profile of Lazer Tours. “The horrible irony of it all is that he makes his living showing tourists the Alaska Native home, while having such disrespect for it and for them.”
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Lazer said he felt like people 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 people, sleep in trees. They could do whatever they want, but they would be with their own friends.
Then he questioned why Alaska Natives don’t care for the homeless, expressed frustration with hunting laws on Native property, and railed against people who don’t work. He ruled out mental illness as a possibility for many 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 watching us?