AFN Convention Day 2 Discusses Sovereignty, Public Safety & Tribal Compaction

The second and final day of the AFN convention is filled with guests and great conversations.

Sponsors of a ballot initiative took the opportunity to explain why tribal recognition in the state is long overdue.

Several attempts to pass a bill through the Legislature have failed. A bill on tribal recognition was passed this year in the House but never passed in the Senate.

Chayee Éesh Richard Peterson is President of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. He is also one of the sponsors of the initiative.

“A bill that was introduced by Representative Tiffany Zulkosky to recognize the tribes couldn’t do it because they weren’t able to really do their business. We thought it best to just let it be in the hands of the people.

The initiative would not give any new power to the tribes, since they are inherently sovereign. Instead, the initiative aims to have this sovereignty recognized by the state.

To stand in next year’s ballot, the initiative needs more than 36,000 signatures within a year of approval. Two months later, more than a third of these signatures have already been collected.

Former Sealaska CEO Chris McNiel spoke about the need to restore native hunting and fishing rights as Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, as well as the relationship between Native societies of Alaska and the tribes.

“This is not just any federal law. It was established under Indian federal law, and it is really on par with Indian treaties and does not diminish the author of anyone else. is just different. And so it’s really important for us to see that as we go along and how we describe ourselves and, more importantly, how we write our own story. “

Home Secretary Deb Haaland also addressed the AFN convention.

“Investing in Indigenous Peoples alone will not solve all of the challenges we face. Many disparities for our people stem from marginalization and oppression. I firmly believe that by recognizing these dark pages in our history books, we can heal and create a future we can all be proud to embrace. That is why we are putting the power of the federal government behind work. To face the crisis of the murdered indigenous peoples, and by creating the Commission of the unseen act. Which will include representatives of the native communities of Alaska. In addition, we are undertaking the Federal Indian Residential Schools Initiative. To heal from the terrible impacts that residential schools had on our communities. “

Ingrid Cumberlidge is the Alaska Coordinator of the Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples. After a number of listening sessions with tribes and communities, Cumberidge spoke about the response from those communities

“The cultural understanding was really, how are we going to handle our leftovers? Definitions were all definitions associated with him and I came from Operation Lady Justice. The training opportunities again, what the tribes wanted for their research and their rescue and all kinds of things. And then victim services. We know that’s a great resource. There’s been a lot of money invested in Alaska. How do we connect them with all the other agencies in? intervention was part of that discussion. “

The Alaska Native Federation convention often turns the conversation to key state issues. AFN President Julie Kitka, Alaska Education Commissioner Michael Johnson and Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy discussed an initiative to create a tribal education accord between the tribes and the state.

“What does tribal compaction really mean? Well, the concept is that we are a state that would contract, say, with a community and a tribe in rural Alaska to come up with a charter school concept, and we’re still working on that with AFN, ” Dunleavey said. during the panel “They are partners in there. But basically it’s the idea that we get more parental involvement in the education of children. We get more direct involvement from community members and the actual governance of the school. And the idea is that by doing that, we’re going to hope that we will achieve better outcomes for all of our children, and it will put them on a course that will ensure a positive future for them.

Alaska Department of Education commissioner Johnson explained why the education pact is so crucial for Alaska.

“Our education system has not had a positive impact on the languages, culture, and outcomes of Alaskan natives. Our character and conscience now demands that we do something. And finally, like the Governor the mentioned, it’s been a tough few years, but we’ve seen. “

Another interested partner in education is the First Alaskans Institute and its annual Elders and Youth Conference. Liz Medicine Crow spoke about some of the important resolutions and what came out of this year’s conference.

“We have critical issues that our youth and elders talk about and engage with, from intergenerational healing to residential schools and the return of our ancestors from Carlisle and other residential schools to behavioral health issues for our youth and to the support for them across the state on funding for and recovering our education systems, ensuring that our cultures and especially our languages ​​are accessible in every school in the state. “

Lyndsey Brollini of KTOO, Hannah Bissett of KNBA, Alice Qannik Glenn and Alyssa London contributed to this report.

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