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EPA chief under fire for insulting a gift from Native Alaskan tribes

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Alaskans are not letting Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy forget that she said a gift she received from the state’s Native tribes “could gag a maggot.”

Although the comments were made to reporters weeks ago, the fallout continues.

“This is not coming from some random bureaucrat who’s never been to Alaska, this was from a cabinet secretary,” said Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

“What is more part of our culture than the foods that our Alaska Native peoples eat, whether it is moose or whether it is salmon?” Murkowski added. “Sometimes smoked salmon doesn’t smell that appealing to other people, but it is a rich resource for us and it just demonstrates, again, a lack of understanding — it was an unforgivable statement, I think.”

“Gina McCarthy’s words sound like they come from someone who has contempt for, rather than an appreciation of the rich customary traditions of Alaska’s people,” said Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young in a statement.

The firestorm began when McCarthy’s comments were reported by The Wall Street Journal last week while the agency head discussed federal gift guidelines. McCarthy said that federal officials chased her down for a “dinky” North Pole pin someone gave her at an event to which she said, “I threw the f–ing thing away.” She also said that a jar of moose meat she got from a little girl at a hearing in Alaska “could gag a maggot.”

McCarthy spent several days in Alaska last August touring the state and meeting with tribal officials to discuss the Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay, which the EPA has effectively blocked. The EPA administrator has since apologized for her remarks.

“I’ve taken a few steps backward, but I will go forward, as well. I’ll earn your trust,” McCarthy told Alaskan tribes last week.

“We were surprised to read how Ms. McCarthy spoke about the gifts she received while visiting Alaska tribes,” said Melinda Warner, a spokeswoman for the National Congress of American Indians.”NCAI was pleased she began her remarks to our conference with an apology.”

But the EPA chief’s “dietary preferences don’t really concern us,” Alannah Hurley, program manager for the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, told E&E News. “We’re grateful that she apologized, and we just hope that she does what she needs to do to protect Bristol Bay and the traditional foods that we eat.”

Hurley told E&E news that moose meat is “delicious” and she prefers it to beef. “It’s one of the healthiest foods you can eat; it’s natural,” she added.

The Alaskan delegation of the NCAI said they would accept her apology, but asked her to direct it to the family of the little girl that gave her the moose meat.

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