“Native Knowledge: Respecting and Owning our Living Culture” is the theme of this year’s Alaska Federation of Natives Elder/Youth Conference, which kicked off Monday morning at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage.
This is the 29th year that young Alaskan people and elders are gathered together in Anchorage for this 3-day event, which precedes the annual Alaska Federation of Natives Convention. The AFN Convention is the biggest gathering of its kind of Alaskan Natives from all over the state. It is also the largest statewide Native organization in Alaska, and its membership includes 178 villages, both federally-recognized tribes and village corporations, 13 regional Native corporations and 12 regional non-profit and tribal consortiums that contract and run federal and state programs.
Participation in the Elders and Youth Conference has increased over the years and this year, it is expected to draw over 1,500 participants. This year’s Youth keynote speaker is Alutiiq Peter Squartsoff from Port Lions, a full-time student at Kodiak Community College and who works as a mentor to preserve the Alutiiq language. The Elder keynote speakers for this year’s conference are Cup’ik elders Sam and Carrie Herman, originally from Mekoryuk and who now reside in Anchorage. The Hermans are retired and have been married for over 60 years with family ties to Bethel.
The Elder/Youth Conference will be followed on Thursday by the regular annual AFN Convention which runs through Saturday. This year’s theme is “Success Beyond Barriers.” AFN President Julie Kitka says “It’s about our people’s repeated success at overcoming barriers and finding ways to thrive beyond the challenges that persist, especially in rural Alaska.”
This year’s keynote speaker will be Carol Wren, originally from Dillingham and now the Director of Employment and Training for the Cook Inlet Tribal Council. Other notable speaker to present at this year’s AFN Convention include retiring U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka from Hawaii and Assistant Interior Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn.
For more information on the convention you can go to their website at nativefederation.org.