The First Alaskans Institute’s 32nd annual Elders and Youth conference begins Monday in Anchorage at the Dena’ina Convention Center. Hundreds of Alaska Natives from across the state, young and old, will meet over the next two-and-a-half days to learn about and discuss a diverse set of issues. This year’s theme is “Not in our smokehouse!”
On the first day, attendees will elect members to the Statewide Elders and Youth Council, participate in regional dialogue sessions and discuss Native languages and conference resolutions.
This year’s elder keynote speaker is Gregory Fratis Sr., who is Unângax from St. Paul Island. (Unângax is traditional alternative to Aleut.) According to the institute, Fratis is involved in teaching his Native language, cultural values and traditions to youth in his village.
The youth keynote speaker is Lacayah Engebretson. The Tlingit, Yup’ik and Athabascan college student from Glenallen is studying education at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She’ll speak to the conference about the importance of Alaska Native educators.
The conference, which is held each year during the same week as the Alaska Federation of Natives convention, is an opportunity for youth to learn about leadership and how to participate in policy discussions and group decision making. Last year about 1,100 people attended the conference.
Full disclosure: The First Alaskans Institute organizes and funds a volunteer group unrelated to the conference of which Jennifer Canfield is a member.