AFN returns to Fairbanks


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Ashley Akpik and the Tagiugmiut Dancers of Barrow perform an Inupiat dance at the opening of the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention Oct. 18, 2012, in Anchorage. Several thousand Alaska Natives from around the state are expected to attend the three-day event, which is in Fairbanks for the first time since 2010.

Photo/Dan Joling/AP

The Alaska Federation of Natives Convention is back in Fairbanks.

It will be the first time since 2010 that the annual Alaska Native gathering will be held in the Golden Heart City and just the fourth time overall. AFN President Julie Kitka said the organization’s leaders are looking forward to what Fairbanks has to offer.

“AFN is very excited to be back in Fairbanks. The AFN Convention in Fairbanks is very different than in Anchorage,” Kitka wrote in an email to the Journal. “Our delegates tell us that they really like the warmth of the community and the ease of access for Interior tribes to participate in greater numbers.”

The AFN Convention will be held at the Carlson Center in Downtown Fairbanks Oct. 24-26. Its theme for 2013 is “Traditional Native Family Values.” As it has been for several years, the 30th annual First Alaskans Elders and Youth Conference will precede the convention Oct. 21-23. The Elders and Youth Conference’s theme is “We Are Our Ancestors.”

Run by a 37-member board, the Alaska Federation of Natives’ membership includes 178 Native villages, 13 regional Native corporations and 12 regional Native nonprofits and tribal consortiums.

When it is not held at the Carlson Center, the yearly fall convention is held in Anchorage. Kitka said the idea of moving the convention around the state appeals to AFN delegates and a lack of facilities to accommodate the nearly 5,000 people the convention draws in other cities is the only reason it doesn’t travel around Alaska more.

Helen Renfrew, meetings and conventions director for the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that the city’s leaders assembled 12 committees made up of more than 100 volunteers to coordinate the three-day event.

“When AFN comes to Fairbanks, it is the big show. Everything in Fairbanks is all about AFN,” Renfrew said.

The nonprofit’s leaders are appreciative of the efforts to extend traditional hospitality by Fairbanks-based Doyon Ltd., the Interior Alaska Native corporation, and by the regional tribal development group the Tanana Chiefs Conference to Native delegates converging on Fairbanks, Kitka said.

Longtime AFN contributor Nelson Angapak will give the gathering’s keynote address the morning of Oct. 24. Angapak has been a part of AFN as a staff member, board chairman and director since 1975, according to AFN. He spent time in several executive roles with Alaska Native corporation Calista from 1980 to 1988.

“Nelson Angapak is a well-respected Native leader of immense talent and strong character. He has served the Native people with honesty and with integrity.” Kitka wrote. “It has been a real honor to work with him for many years. It is an honor to have him speak at the convention and we all look forward to his messages.”

On Oct. 26, Sen. Mark Begich will hold a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs field hearing on subsistence issues. Kitka said AFN has provided Congress with a detailed history of federal protections regarding Native subsistence hunting and fishing rights as well has the impacts government action can have on rural Alaska Natives.

Additionally, delegates have brought forth proposals for an inter-tribal fish commission for the Yukon River and for tribal management of Native lands in their respective regions.

After lots of hard work, by AFN and the city of Fairbanks, Kitka said she is looking forward to seeing the fruits of their labor.

“We appreciate the leadership from the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center for their efforts. This will be a great convention,” she wrote. “So many individuals and groups have expended a lot of time and preparations to ensure nothing is left undone.”

Jack Tiepelman, an Inupiat Eskimo, works on one of five drawings depicting Alaska’s five main Native linguistic groups Oct. 15, 2012, at the Elders & Youth Conference in Anchorage. The drawings by Yup’ik Eskimo artist Phillip Charette were painted by participants of the three-day conference that precedes the annual convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives. (Photo/Rachel D’Oro/AP)

Elders and Youth

The theme of the First Alaskans Institute Elders and Youth Conference — We Are Our Ancestors — “embodies the enduring connection between those who came before us and those who will come after us. This is the right time, the right place and we are the right people to do this work of perpetuating our cultures, so make the best use of the conference and explore your understanding of what it means to be a modern ancestor.”

The conference, also held at the Carlson Center, is geared towards teenage Alaska Natives. It features workshops for young attendees to learn about subsistence issues and food security; money management; their role in Bureau of Land Management land use planning; college and career readiness; and Native language seminars.

 

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

 

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