Alaska’s most venerable Alaska Native organization opened its 104th annual meeting Wednesday with a plea for youth and a look toward the future.
The 104th annual Grand Camp of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood, which runs through the weekend, will bring constitutional changes to an organization that defined the quest for Alaska Native rights in the 20th century.
In the 21st century, as tribal governments assume new power and authority, the ANB and ANS are seeking to adapt and find a new niche.
Nineteen-year-old keynote speaker Devlin Anderstrom urged Grand Camp attendees — many gray-haired — to help younger Alaska Natives learn.
“We’re fighting for our rights as Alaska Native people, as Tlingit people,” he said, but “to do that, we need to know who we are.”
That means helping young people “learn their language, learn about their culture and heritage.”
Knowing that culture and heritage is critical because it distinguishes ANS and ANB, Anderstrom implied.
“Our youth are starting to forget who they are, and if they don’t know who they are, then they’re not going to know what they’re fighting for,” he said.
Much of the Grand Camp’s first day was spent in procedural meetings that set up events later in the week. The Grand Camp has attracted 90 representatives of ANB and ANS camps from Anchorage to Portland, and they will be asked to decide significant constitutional changes for the two organizations.
One of the most significant is a change in the section dealing with membership requirements. If adopted, “a person regardless of gender” could join either the Brotherhood or Sisterhood.
Another change would create a joint executive committee overseeing both organizations.
Membership is already open to non-Natives, and several white politicians sat in the back of the hall wearing the hats and sashes that signify membership. U.S. Senate candidate Margaret Stock joined several Southeast legislators in the audience, befitting the influence ANS and ANB still have in Alaska politics.
The itinerary for the coming days includes speeches, constitutional debates, and consideration of resolutions on various topics.
“Progress is about to begin, and what a blessing to gather here in Juneau to join the path set out by our leaders,” said ANB Grand President Sasha Soboleff. “You are strong. You are valued. You are essential in order for us to grow. So now, let us begin.”
• Contact reporter James Brooks at 523-2258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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