Residents from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta held prominent positions on the opening day of the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention.
On Thursday, AFN reelected Bethel Native Corporation President and CEO Ana Hoffman to her third term as AFN Co-chair. Hoffman ran unopposed and will serve in the position for two years.
“Our theme this year is Strength in Unity: Leadership-Partnerships-Social Justice," said Hoffman, addressing the convention. "These are the things that face our communities today, the challenges that face us, and we are working to overcome those through our tribal systems, our corporations, and our nonprofits.”
Keynote speaker Col. Wayne Don of Mekoryuk imparted values that he learned growing up close to his grandparents on Nunivak Island: “Show respect to others, and each person has a special gift. Share what you have; giving makes you richer. Know who you are; you are a reflection of your family."
Values like these, he said, led to the creation of the Alaska Federation of Natives in the 1960s and are its foundation today.
“Without empathy, service, and a sense of responsibility," said Don, "you can’t be successful as a leader whatever industry you’re in. So our values are the cornerstones of who we are as people, and they’ve stood the test of time.”
Robert Nick of Nunapitchuk received the Alaska Federation of Natives Citizen of the Year Award. Nick, age 76, lives a traditional subsistence lifestyle and has served on the Nunapitchuk City Council and on boards for the Lower Kuskokwim School District, Nunapitchuk Limited, and the Association of Village Council Presidents, Regional Housing Authority.
Accepting the award, he told the crowd, “I feel deeply humbled, but I’m glad. Quyana."
Nick also received the Association of Village Council Presidents' Public Service Award at the nonprofit’s annual convention in September.
Bethel Orutsararmiut Native Council tribal member Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Social Services, helped form the historic compact signed Thursday between the state and 17 tribal organizations. The agreement provides a framework for tribes to offer child welfare services formerly provided by the state. Association of Village Council Presidents CEO Vivian Korthuis signed the YK Delta native nonprofit into the agreement.
Tara Sweeney is being nominated by President Donald Trump to the position of assistant secretary of Interior for Indian affairs. Sweeney spent part of her childhood in Bethel, and if the U.S. Senate confirms her to the post, she’ll be the first Alaska Native to hold the seat overseeing the nation’s Native American matters.
The AFN Convention continues through Saturday in Anchorage.