Speaking to a packed room at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday, Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska President Richard Peterson wanted to dispel a common misconception.
“One of these mysteries surrounding the tribe is I think people think, ‘Oh, I can’t go there because tribes only serve the tribal citizens,’” Peterson said. “Well, that’s not true.”
CCTHITA plays a larger role in the community than some might think, Peterson said. He said CCTHITA contributes almost $25 million to Juneau’s economy, with about $10 million of that being in salaries to 184 employees.
Peterson said one project for the future stands out to him as CCTHITA continues to provide services that everyone in Juneau can enjoy. For years, the organization has had its eye on creating a Cultural Immersion Park in the place of the Thane Ore House. The immersion park is projected to include workshops, vendor spots, a stage, a dining area, a museum area and more.
“We can create opportunities for our tribal citizens to either work there or have vendors set up out there,” Peterson said, “and really showcase what I think is our beautiful culture in a respectful and truthful way.”
Myrna Gardner, the manager of the Business &Economic Development Department at CCTHITA, was at the luncheon and spoke briefly about the timeline of the project. She said it is currently in the deconstruction phase, getting rid of the current ore house and preparing the land for construction.
They will put out bids for roofing and other services this spring, and Gardner said she hopes to begin the construction process in mid-August of 2018. Gardner later said the estimated budget for the project is $7.1 million.
In introducing Peterson at the luncheon, Chamber President Richard Burns announced that CCTHITA recently became the second Capital Member of the Chamber. Being a Capital Member, Burns explained afterward, means that an organization has donated $10,000. Avista, the parent company of Alaska Electric Light &Power, was the first Capital Member. Burns was elated to have CCTHITA become the second.
“It’s right and it’s fitting that they’re involved with the Chamber,” Burns said, “and we’re really pleased to have them.”
Peterson spent much of his presentation Thursday reminding those at the luncheon of the many services CCTHITA offers. For example, the organization’s Vocational Training and Resource Center is the only place in Southeast Alaska to get a Commercial Driver’s License, Peterson said.
The organization serves 30,000 individuals worldwide, with 6,000 of them living in Juneau. The services it provides include job training, second-chance recidivism treatment for recent convicts, transportation services and more. CCTHITA also supplies backpacks to “darn near every tribal citizen youth in Southeast,” as Peterson said. They gave out more than 7,000 backpacks this year, Peterson said, and they try to buy all of their materials locally.
Peterson wrapped up his talk saying that he’s hoping that CCTHITA can partner with more local businesses and organizations. CCTHITA is currently partnering with the state of Alaska, the University of Alaska Southeast, Penn Foster Career Academy and others in employing tribal citizens or helping tribal citizens get real-world work experience.
Craig Dahl, the executive director of the Chamber, said he’s been pleased with the employees he’s had from CCTHITA and recommended employing tribal citizens. Peterson gestured to a slideshow presentation that listed the organization’s current partnerships and turned to the members of the audience.
“We’re hoping to add to this list,” Peterson said. “I’m sure many of you will look really good on this list.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.