Government is taking center stage at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention.
The annual convention hosted by the statewide Native organization starts Thursday in Fairbanks with the theme, “Good Government, Alaska Driven.”
“Good governance means there’s a platform for everyone to have a voice,” said Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson, President of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, in an interview.
Peterson, who is among the people from Southeast Alaska who made the trip for the conference, said an example of that came this past year when public engagement seemed to have a demonstrable effect on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget cuts.
“We all encourage people to be informed and engaged and involved, and it worked,” Peterson said. “I think that’s why you saw a rollback on some of the cuts. “
He said Southeast attendance tends to dip slightly in years the convention, which runs through Saturday, is held in Fairbanks, but he hopes people will stay informed of what’s discussed.
The agenda includes many prominent politicians such as Dunleavy; U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan; U.S. Rep. Don Young; U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Alaska Rep. Bryce Edgmon; Sen. Cathy Giessel; Sen. Lyman Hoffman.
“You have to keep up on issues, you have to be involved, and most importantly we have to get out and vote,” Peterson said.
Jeff Silverman, communications director for AFN, said the convention’s theme and an agenda that includes discussion of the state’s finances and public safety was specifically made with the interests of both Native and non-Native Alaska residents.
“We’re really thinking there’s parts to the agenda that every Alaskan will find interesting,” Silverman said.
Those who aren’t in attendance will be able to watch the day’s events through a livestream through nativefederation.org. Silverman said people talking about the event on social media are encouraged to use #goodgovernment, #alaskandriven and #2019AFN.
In addition to the elected officials and policy talk, the AFN Convention will feature dance performances, arts displays, consideration of resolutions and remarks from Native corporation leaders.
Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl, who the inspiration for this year’s convention graphic, is scheduled to share her thoughts on leadership at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
“I tried to exemplify what good leadership is by highlighting several good leaders I’ve worked with from around the state,” Worl said in an interview.
She said leaders like former State Sen. Eben Hopson, former State Rep. and Lt. Gov. Willie Hensley and former State Sen. Georgianna Lincoln among others all had common traits that made them good leaders.
Worl said all great leaders before they held a role with a corporation or elected office, valued hard work and sought to gain and protect Native rights. Plus, Worl said they were able to put differences aside and work together.
“They were able to work together on these common causes,” Worl said.
She said unity is one of the most important aspects of the annual AFN convention and the AFN in general.
“These Native leaders realized the importance of having a statewide organization where we could speak with one voice,” Worl said. “When we went to D.C. and said this is what we want for the settlement of our aboriginal land claims, we spoke with one voice. AFN is really important.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.