A screenshot of Gov. Mike Dunleavy giving his address to the Alaska Federation of Natives 2020 Annual Convention.

A screenshot of Gov. Mike Dunleavy giving his address to the Alaska Federation of Natives 2020 Annual Convention.

Watch: Dunleavy addresses AFN

Gov says he’s committed to rural Alaska

Gov. Mike Dunleavy emphasized the importance of collaboration between the state and its rural communities on Thursday while addressing the Alaska Federation of Natives Annual Convention.

In a pre-recorded message, Dunleavy said his administration worked closely with AFN and other Alaska Native organizations since the beginning of the pandemic to an effort to slow the spread of the virus to rural Alaska.

“In preparing for and battling this pandemic, rural Alaska, including our fellow Alaska Natives, were not an afterthought. During the planning and execution of mitigating approaches to deal with this virus, you were, in fact, front and center,” he said.

[Governor draws protests and applause at 2019 AFN]

The governor also highlighted other efforts by his administration to aid rural Alaska and Alaska Native communities including expanding the presence of Alaska State Troopers and clearing the backlog of sexual assault kits. The state reopened 21 sexual assault cases and produced charges in four of those, he said.

The governor’s address was followed by a message from First Lady Rose Dunleavy, who is Inupiaq. The First Lady recalled growing up in rural Alaska, and how older generations had struggled to better the lives of their children.

“Life was tough at times, but we held together as a community. We helped each other when in need. We tackled big challenges; I remember our leaders fought so hard for ANCSA,” she said, referencing the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. “Today, we have more big challenges at our doorstep, but just like our parents we will prevail.”

Governor Dunleavy spent many years as an educator in rural Alaska, and he was committed to those regions of the state.

“Some of the best years of my life were spent in rural Alaska, and I want to do everything in my power to improve the lives of those that call rural Alaska home,” he said. “This has been, and will continue to be, my commitment to all of you.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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