The AFN convention continued Friday in Anchorage. After Governor Sean Parnell and Representative Reggie Joule addressed the crowd, a panel discussion was convened on how Alaska Natives can strengthen their relationship with the state of Alaska. Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, DNR commissioner Dan Sullivan, and several other commissioners were in the front rows listening to the panelists cover a wide range of issues from education to resource development, crime and the need to elect more Alaska Natives to positions of power in the state. Former state senator and Doyon board member Georgianna Lincoln said she wants to see Alaska Natives take some of the jobs away from the current commissioners.
“We need to be the commissioners, the mayors, we need to be on the boards, on the assembly here in Anchorage, get on the assembly! Our Native people. That’s where we’re going to make a difference, on the inside, not on the outside,” Lincoln said.
Athna President and CEO Ken Johns suggested involving Native leadership in the vetting process when high level state positions are being filled.
“In the beginning when the governor choses the commissioner because that’s a very important position, that has a lot of influence not only on who he’s picked but has influence on the legislature,” Johns said.
And Bristol Bay Native Corporation President and CEO Jason Metrokin said it’s also important to be engaged with legislators and state government.
“One of the things I can do as an individual is spend more time in Jueanu. Spend a lot of time in Washington DC, just got back from there a few weeks ago, but we need to spend more time in Juneau and be a part of the process, so I will certainly commit to doing that,” Metrokin said. x
The perennial AFN issues of encouraging community wellness and healing from past traumas were also raised. Donna Erickson is a board member of the Bering Sea Women’s group. She said it’s important to look at the high rates of domestic violence and suicide and work to promote family wellness in order to move ahead with other important aspects of growth.
“What we need to do is find inner healing, so we can be the parents that help our children in the education department, we can be the parents we are meant to be, we can move forward in community wellness, in our economy, we can make decisions that are healthy and be the healthy people that our ancestors were,” Erickson said.
Ken Johns added that too many young Native men are in jail and they need support of their families and communities to help them have hope. But he also said part of that support comes from having adequate subsistence resources available so young men can help fulfill traditional roles of providing for families. He said 40 years after ANCSA, he wants better recognition of the resource rich areas of the state being in large part on Native lands.
“I think the state needs to sit down with the Native regional corporations, the villages, and tribes and come up with some kind of master economic plan immediately or we’re all going to die a slow economic death here in the state of Alaska and that needs to be recognized quickly,” Johns said.
A second panel was scheduled for the afternoon with participation of state commissioners. The convention continues tomorrow when resolutions and board positions will be voted on.