50th AFN convention begins today in Fairbanks

The 50th Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Fairbanks will open with a healing ceremony from the Alaska Suicide Prevention Council. The observance acknowledges a suicide that took place at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage during the final hour of the convention last year.

After the ceremony, the agenda for the three-day conference has many of the same elements it features every year. AFN President Julie Kitka will deliver her annual report. Shortly after, Gov. Bill Walker will address the convention, as will Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott.

This year’s keynote address will be given by Emil Notti and Megan Alvanna-Stimpfle. Notti was the first president of AFN when it was created in 1966 and was active in the effort to pass the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Alvanna-Stimpfle is a former legislative assistant for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an elected member of the King Island Traditional Council and was recently named executive director of the Iñuit Arctic Business Alliance.

Items on the convention’s agenda include panels on rethinking indigenous education, land into trust, criminal justice reform and safety for Alaska Native women and families.

Murkowski is scheduled to address the convention Thursday. Sen. Dan Sullivan will take the stage Friday, and Rep. Don Young will make his speech Saturday. Murkowski and Young are both up for re-election this year, so they will also participate in the AFN candidates forum Friday afternoon. Candidates for U.S. Senate Margaret Stock, Joe Miller and Ray Metcalfe are scheduled to participate, as is Young opponent Steve Lindbeck.

Delegates will consider convention resolutions Friday morning.