2017 Alaska Federation Of Natives Coverage, Day Three

Oct 23, 2017

Perspectives on Climate Change panel, Retired Ambassador Mark Brzezinski (left), Rolling Stone's Jeff Goodell (center), and Independent Journalist Mark Trahant (right).
Credit Christine Trudeau / KNBA

Last week KYUK, provided daily updates from the 2017 Alaska Federation of Natives conference. KYUK’s Christine Trudeau was there and filed this story:


On Friday morning, the Chairman of the Governor's Tribal Advisory Commission, Richard Peterson, told the Alaska Federation of Natives that a long-sought goal of getting the state government to recognize tribes had been reached.


“Some of the main conclusions from that AG opinion: tribes do exist in Alaska,” said Peterson.


This was according to an opinion that day from Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth. It's the latest in a succession of actions by the Walker administration on tribal issues.


Peterson said that the child protection agreement signed with tribes on Thursday could be the first of many partnerships in which tribes take over state services.  


Governor Bill Walker was once again on the AFN stage, and this time he was accompanied by the Legislative Bush Caucus and the state House Majority. Caucus Chairman Neal Foster of Nome then gave a report on their attempts to spare rural Alaska in the Legislature's budget cutting. He highlighted the caucus' stance on opposing an effort to close about 60 village schools with fewer than 25 students.


“So we stand ready to defend the educational opportunities of our youth from the largest to the smallest schools,” said Foster.


The subject of climate change came to the surface Friday afternoon when the President of the Newtok Village Council, Paul Charles, spoke. He urged delegates to support two separate resolutions that might help the village in its push for funding to move from the eroding shoreline of Newtok to the sloping hillside at Mertarvik.


One resolution asks Congress to take 2 percent of the annual funds dedicated to the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act and use the money for a program to create “affordable housing for communities experiencing natural emergencies that do not qualify for the Stafford Act,” as villages like Newtok that are experiencing slow moving disasters may not.


A second resolution calls on the President to dedicate some of the money saved by pulling out of the Paris Accord, and put it to work to assist Native American communities threatened by erosion, storms, flooding, and permafrost melt.


A panel discussion on climate change followed. Among the panelists was Shoshone-Bannock independent journalist Mark Trahant, who pointed to an indigenous history going back through thousands of years of change that can and should be looked to as an asset for all.


“One area to really think through is the opportunity for young people to see this as an opportunity for the future in the types of jobs being created around the climate, the types of jobs being created about food security are really important, and great opportunities for young people now to say, 'I’m gonna do that in the future,'” said Trahant.


The election of Ana Hoffman to another term as AFN Co-Chair was made official by unanimous consent on Friday. Hoffman spoke briefly, urging the AFN delegates to stay engaged.


“While we continue to break ground in tribal self governance, achieve corporate dominance, and fulfill our cultural independence,” said Hoffman.


Federation President Julie Kitka's report was full of scenarios for the future. AFN has been courting the military and expects to be a partner in billions of federal defense and emergency preparedness spending.  


“In the midst of our homeland we're in the midst of a military buildup, the likes of which we haven't seen in years,” said Kitka. “This is all in response to new challenges in the world. Alaska Natives need to continue to be active partners in the defense of our land and our country.”  


Kitka said that the military has agreed to participate in an AFN conference early next year on the issues of food security and emergency preparedness. This year's convention featured a panel of the top military brass in the state.