Y-K Delta Regional Committee digs into modern day Alaska Native law

by Ben Matheson on February 5, 2014

Y-K Delta Regional Committee /  Photo by Thom Leonard, Calista

Y-K Delta Regional Committee / Photo by Thom Leonard, Calista

The historic Y-K Delta Regional Committee held its first full day of discussions Wednesday in Bethel. With 100 people in attendance from more than 43 communities, a broad mix of the region’s corporate and tribal players are taking a critical look at modern legal frameworks, such as Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and how the monumental land law has changed life in the Y-K Delta.

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Nancy Andrew is the St. Mary’s Native Corporation CEO. She says the diversity of the attendees is essential for fully understanding the situation and for bringing bout positive change.

“Having a lot of people: the village corporations regionals, non-profits, and other entities at the table, we’ve got a lot of knowledge in the room, and we’re able to hear everyone’s input,” said Andrew.

Robert Odawi Porter brings his unique input. He’s is an expert in Indian law, a citizen of the Seneca nation in New York, and works as an attorney in Washington D.C. He says the region clearly faces a lot of big challenges in terms of economics, health, and tribal sovereignty.

“But you can never resolve those problems if you are not fully empowered as a people to address them. That itself is not a guarantee. But the fact that you have a legal infrastructure that was designed to cripple and inhibit political power and the political voice of the people, means that has to be addressed before you can fully mobilize the power and resources of the people themselves to solve problems,” said Odawi Porter.

Facilitator Nelson Angapak is from Tuntutuliak. He says the first day included discussion of some very complex issues and making efforts to understand everyone’s role in it. He says these valuable discussions lead the meeting to a point which it’s possible to forge more effective relationships.

“When there’s unity between these organization, that unity, speaking with one voice will perhaps be one of the strongest results of this, however it’s arrived at,” said Angapak.

Thursday’s agenda is much more action oriented than the first day. It includes discussions with titles like

“How can the people of the Y-K Delta region speak with a stronger political voice?” and “Is now the time for change? And if so, what change should be made? What should stay the same?”

Thursday also includes the option of developing a steering committee to write a strategic plan. Calista’s resolution says that plan would aim to “correct the deficiencies and negative effects associated with state and federal government actions.”

The meeting is not open to general public or media. It is open to delegates, shareholders, and decedents. The important discussions will live on past the meeting, according to Thom Leonard, Calista’s Communications Manager.

“So we’re going to take every single thing that everyone has written and get those typed up. We’re going to put together a big a list of everything that was discussed, all the ideas and suggestions and make that available for everyone,” said Leonard.

Pictures and updates are posted at Calista’s facebook page.

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