More Native Alaskans head to the cities

With growing evidence of an Alaska Native exodus from villages to the city, Mayor Mark Begich and Schools Superintendent Carol Comeau sent a letter to Gov. Sarah Palin on Monday asking her to organize an emergency task force to find ways to stem the migration.

Anchorage and the state "cannot stand by and tolerate the deterioration of rural Alaska," the letter said.

The main evidence of the migration is enrollment in Anchorage schools, which have seen more than 400 new Native students since school started, said Doreen Brown, Indian Education supervisor for the district. It wasn't clear how many of those came directly from rural Alaska, but schools in communities across Western Alaska report losing pupils, Comeau said.

The $1,200 energy bonus that came with Permanent Fund checks this year was supposed to ease energy costs for rural residents, but many used the money to move to urban areas where food and fuel are cheaper, Comeau said. The district added 18 teachers, most of them at elementary schools, to accommodate increased enrollment, she said.

Palin was at Sen. John McCain's Arizona ranch Monday preparing for the vice-presidential candidates' debate, according to spokesman Bill McAllister. Her office had no immediate response to the Begich-Comeau letter, he said in an e-mail to reporters.

Palin pushed for the energy rebate and supported power subsidies for villages, he said.

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