AFN addresses challenges, marks 100 years for Grand Camp
The 2012 Alaska Federation of Natives convention will be held Oct. 18 to Oct. 20 at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage with the theme “Success Beyond Barriers.”
“It’s about our people’s repeated success at overcoming barriers and finding ways to thrive beyond the challenges that persist, especially in rural Alaska,” AFN President Julie Kitka said.
The annual AFN event will be preceded Oct. 15 to 17 by the First Alaskans Elders and Youth Conference. The 29th Elders and Youth Conference, also at the Dena’ina Center, has the theme of “Native Knowledge: Respecting and Owning our Living Culture.” The Elders and Youth event, designed to preserve traditional Alaska Native culture in a modern world, is expecting more than 1,500 participants in 2012.
The keynote Youth speaker at the Elders and Youth event will be Peter Squartsoff, an Alutiiq from Port Lions who works as a language mentor in Afognak, and Sam and Garrie Herman.
The Hermans, Cup’iks from Ninivak Island off the Western Alaska coast, have been married for more than 60 years and are the keynote Elder speakers. Sam Herman was a member of the Alaska Territorial Guard who helped build the railroad from Anchorage to Whittier, and Carrie is a talented artist who along with her husband are active in practicing traditional values and heritage.
This year’s keynote speaker at the AFN convention will be Carol Wren, director of employment and training services at Cook Inlet Tribal Council. Wren was also chosen as one of Alaska’s Top Forty Under 40 by the Alaska Journal of Commerce this past January.
“It’s a big honor,” Wren said. “I can really connect with the ‘Success Beyond Barriers’ theme.”
Within the theme, several specific issues are scheduled to be addressed: food security and management of subsistence resources, energy needs for Native communities, education reform and the Native community’s relationship with the State of Alaska.
This month, state agencies are celebrating Energy Awareness Month, led by the Alaska Energy Authority. AEA representatives will be attending meetings concerning energy usage at the convention.
Another notable part of the AFN agenda is recognizing the 100-year anniversary of the inaugural Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Camp gathering.
“One of the great things about the AFN Convention is looking back and recognizing and celebrating our past, like (ANB/ANS), while seeing the challenges and opportunities we face at the same time,” Wren said.
The Juneau-based ANB/ANS held it’s first Grand Camp in Sitka in 1912. The organization’s focus is “to improve individual and municipal health and laboring conditions, and to create a true respect in Natives and in other persons with whom they deal for the letter and spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and Laws of the United States,” according to its constitution.
Gov. Sean Parnell, First Lady Sandy Parnell, Rep. Don Young, Sen. Mark Begich and Sen. Lisa Murkowski are all scheduled to speak at the convention.
In addition, Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka will be in attendance and recognized for “his many decades of leadership and collaboration” on Native issues, according to AFN.
AFN was formed in 1966 to assure a fair lands settlements for Alaska Natives, with 400 people from 17 Native organizations attending the first three-day meeting. Today, according to AFN, the event draws more than 4,000 attendees every year and is the largest annual gathering of Native people in the United States.
Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].