The Calista board of directors is putting the pieces together of the new regional committee.
The committee had a start in the 1980s, but it is getting new life this spring. Rural Alaska has no shortage of boards, committees, task forces, and panels. The Calista board has now created another committee, but this one’s membership and ambition are larger than most. They aim to lend a unified voice to native people of the delta, according to Robert Beans.
“You have a lot more clout politically and otherwise. That’s the impetus of why now. Our region in my estimation is really behind time, we have a senator and a representative but we need to go beyond that,” said Beans.
Robert Beans is originally from Mountain Village and sits on the Calista board of directors and is member of the committee. The committee will have a representative from each native government and village corporation. It adds non-profit representatives and Calista’s president. They plan to conduct a review of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the Indian Reorganization Act. They will also develop a strategic plan to in their words – correct the deficiencies and negative effects associated with state and federal government actions.”
Thom Leonard is Communications manager for Calista. He notes that there are many groups that represent the region, but they work on a range of issues and concerns.
“If you’re able to gather together a region and connect those circles together you’re going to have a much more centralized and focused base to work off off. I think that’s a pretty neat visualization. If you think of the Olympic rings there’s some overlap in the rings, so that’s what we’re looking at here,” said Leonard.
The large regional committee will create a much smaller steering committee that will build strategic plan to obtain remedies from the government about decisions that they say have negatively impacted native people in the area. As an example of the challenges in the area, Beans points outs the region’s high suicide rate.
“That’s very unacceptable in my opinion. My son is one of those statistics and it drove the point home real close. One suicide is one too many. One domestic violence is one too many. One person without a job is one too many,” said Beans.
Leonard says a successful committee will take work from the entire region.
“We are looking for input we are looking to build on the history of when this regional committee was originally conceived and passed back in the 1980s by AVCP and hopefully working with the region put it in action,” said Leonard.
40 Tribes and Village Corps have registered so far. The board authorized a budget of 200 thousand dollars for work this year. The resolution passed by the board is posted at Calista’s website.