You might have thought that recalling three Palmer City Council members last year would dampen the Democratic leftist, socialist ideology being pushed in some influential circles around the Mat-Su. But these four council members (including one who lost her reelection) were part of a much larger network of progressive influencers who coordinated through the private Facebook page, Mat-Su Moms for Social Justice.
The broad goal remains the same – take over influential boards and commissions, and strategical stack key non-profits with leftist allies. The end game is to fundamental change a small town in the heart of conservative Mat-Su.
But Palmer is just an incubator for what this coalition intends to do to the rest of the Valley. Many of them have long-standing connections to some of the most radical assembly members who are now ruining Anchorage, and they take pages from their official playbook. We must pay attention.
The foundational ideas guiding this leftist movement are inspired by critical race theory. The basic premise is that white-skinned people are born racists, who then consciously or unconsciously subjugate all others, while non-whites are revered, entitled, and deserving of reparations from historical grievances.
ALASKA WATCHMAN DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX
Several states have banned this teaching in public schools. But there’s a lot of money on the line.
President Biden and the last Democratic-led U.S. Congress heavily pushed this agenda with their trillion dollar spending bills. Some of that money came home to roost right here in Palmer.
Ever heard of the Mat-Su Health Foundation? Rasmussen Foundation? ROCK Mat-Su? Palmer Greater Chamber of Commerce? Chickaloon Tribe? They all push a progressive leftist ideology in the Mat-Su through grants, programs and events. This is done by empowering and amplifying agenda-driven non-profit foundations, charities, contractors and closed social media groups. They use the non-profit Palmer Museum of History and Art (PMHA), because history must be altered. They have also enlisted failed Democrat U.S. Senatorial Candidate Pat Chesbro, along with numerous other progressive movers and shakers.
THE PLOT: Part 1
Remember the failed attempt last year to rename Palmer’s two premier community celebrations – Colony Days and Colony Christmas? Key leftist leaders and groups wanted to ditch the term “colony,” and replace it with the rebranded, “Braided River Festival” and “Hometown Holidays.”
Lisa Wade, who serves as vice chair of the Mat-Su Health Foundation, as well as the Health & Social Services Director for Chickaloon Village, supported a $15,000 grant to the Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce to rename both popular celebrations by dropping the term “colony,” which was deemed offensive and hurtful.
Who exactly was offended?
Let’s go back to the closed Facebook group, Mat-Su Moms for Social Justice (MSM4SJ), which organizes activists for left-leaning political initiatives in Palmer. Numerous posts from this group allege that the word colony “feels ick” (quoting Crystal Howard) and “hurtful” (courtesy of posting member Janel Gagnon). These criticisms surfaced on the MSM4SJ Facebook feed in May of 2021.
The membership of this closed Facebook group includes the three now recalled Palmer city council members, Sabrena Combs, Jill Valerius and Brian Daniels as well as the council member who lost her seat in October 2021, Julie Berberich.
Other members include board members and volunteers from the following entities: the Chamber of Commerce, The Palmer Arts Council and The Palmer Community Foundation.
The Palmer Museum of History & Art has a number of leaders associated with MSM4SJ. This includes former Executive Director Sam Dinges, President Mary Jo Parks, Treasurer Margaret Adsit, Director Pat Chesbro, and a lot of sub-committee members and volunteers.
The Mat-Su Health Foundation’s grant to rename Colony Days was intended to be gently introduced to the public in 2021, with the “full rebrand” slated for 2022. The “slow rollout” started with a Facebook post on June 10, 2021 by the Palmer Museum of History & Art, which included this historical fiction:
“When thinking of Palmer’s history, it is unfortunately easy to believe the narrative that it began in 1935. That the Matanuska Colony Project came and cleared farms out of an empty wilderness … but the lands weren’t empty. The town of Palmer was built on the unceded territory of the Ahtna Athabascan people, whose story goes back thousands of years and continues to this day. People came in 1935 and occupied land depopulated by violence and disease and displaced by colonizing forces.”
The Palmer Museum made this statement without one shred of documented archeological proof. None.
The next bit of “slow rollout” took place the following day, June 11, 2021, on the Palmer Museum grounds in the form of a quasi-religious land acknowledgment ceremony with speakers Sam Dinges and Lisa Wade. This was just before the start of Colony Days. Dinges spoke about how they were standing on traditional “unceded” native lands. That statement is a legal falsehood, but he continued on, saying they recognize that the word colony has hurtful connotations. He then mentioned the term “braided rivers.”
Lisa Wade followed by commenting on the open hearts and minds of the Palmer Chamber of Commerce, the very group the Mat-Su Health Foundation gave $15,000 to for the rebranding of Colony Days and Colony Christmas.
A few months later, after Palmer residents roundly rejected the name-change plan, Wade seemed to feel responsible for the fiasco. After those involved realized the residents of greater Palmer were not remotely amenable to a name change, Wade spoke at the March 26, 2022 chamber meeting where she apologized for everything the chamber endured, and said she would support any decision they made to change the name back.
THE PLOT – Part 2
The abysmal name-change failure was not the end of the story. The Palmer Museum of History & Art, which contracts with the city to run the town’s museum, was conspiring with the Palmer Chamber of Commerce, the Palmer Museum and the Palmer Arts Council (PAC) to form a new non-profit organization called The Palmer Coalition for Art and Culture (PCAC). This new entity is difficult to pin down. It’s impossible to find any information online, but I did get a copy of the group’s draft bylaws, as well as its vision statement – both of which came from Palmer Chamber of Commerce meetings.
The new group’s goal statement claims “Palmer needs a large Museum space to display and store the City’s historic artifacts.” Further down the document notes an intention to “build an art and culture hub that will include an expanded and updated museum…”
I believe this group plans to exhibit and push a dark, altered history of Palmer in order to construe Mat-Su colonists as intruders who forced their way onto a land that had a “long history of excellent and sustainable land stewardship by the Deni’ina before the miners came, and before the New Deal colonists,” to quote Janel Gagnon from a Mat-Su Moms for Social Justice post.
I believe the new museum group will push the notion that white colonists occupied land which natives lost through violence, disease, and colonizing forces, and without one hint of paying for it. There will be little attention paid to the 1971 Alaska Native Lands Settlement Act.
With an altered history, systemic racism can gain a toehold and, in time, become accepted as actual history. In time, there will be buildings and complexes and lots of exhibits and programs addressing critical race theory in Palmer – paid for with grant money.
I recently sent a letter to every Palmer City Council member, the mayor, manager, and deputy mayor, warning about this plot to alter, shade and outright fabricate Palmer’s history. I highlighted the Palmer Museum of History & Art’s conflict of Interest, its failure to fulfill duties as required, and its breach of public trust.
I specifically noted my concerns that since the prior museum director Sam Dingles had resigned, the museum group had conveniently selected Amber Lindstrom to replace him. Lindstrom served as a board member of the Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce throughout the entire colony name change fiasco. Official chamber minutes list her comment as: “In for a wild ride next couple of months. Name change will test us.” A survey was done of those chamber board members in which the president openly stated that it was a unanimous decision to rename the festival.
CANCEL THE CONTRACT
Recent events have stirred Mat-Su Moms for Social Justice back into action. They can’t afford to let all their plans be thwarted by a conservative city council trying to right the wrongs of the prior reign of leftist agitators. The hole is deep, the tangled plots numerous, but the 203 colony families who arrived in Palmer in 1935 to established and build an agricultural frontier town need our help to preserve their unique legacy.
The contract between the City of Palmer and the Palmer Museum of History & Art is on the Palmer City Council’s Feb. 28 agenda. This is just the beginning for us. Mayor Steve Carrington said it will be discussed at the meeting. Now is the chance to push back against this attempt to alter our history.
— Click here to contact the Palmer mayor and city council members.
— Click here for information on how to participate in the Feb. 28 city council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at Palmer City Hall.
The views expressed here are those of the author.