(2004) JLP 50: 145-160
In 1914 a small Alaska Tlingit village received permission from the United States Customs agent to form a local city government. One Tlingit man recorded his memories of the formal ceremony “to abolish the old customs of government and adopt the new government introduced by the Americans, a radical decision at that time” (Jackson 2002). He remembered the new mayor’s words, that Keex’ Kwaan (not its official name),
…has been like a small child. In the white man's way of living, we can only crawl. We're not prepared; we have no education. So it was like a little child that could crawl, but now with our self government (Keex’ Kwaan) is going to get on its feet, and we'll begin to walk …. The white man's law went beyond the authority of the Tlingit chiefs, so some of them see it that there was no necessity for chiefs anymore. (Jackson 2002)
Today, the contradictions, inconsistencies and discrepancies between an ‘adopted’ Euro-American political system, which professes equal access to political representation, and older Tlingit practices and values have produced a social and legal paradox. The ironic result in Keex’ Kwaan has largely been government polarization and disenfranchisement. Fernandez and Huber (2001: 4) observed that “irony can be expected in situations of unequal power when discourses, interests or culture clash.” In this case, the US colonizer’s ideological over-confidence, that its laws and political and economic processes are ‘best for all’, has led to a ‘predicament of irony’ which makes economic problem-solving difficult in Keex’ Kwaan.