Alaska Federation of Natives kicks off convention week with the AFN Tribal Conference

Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 6:21 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A conference room in the Egan Center in downtown Anchorage was jam-packed on Wednesday, with even more people sitting alongside the walls. The Alaska Federation of Natives kicked off its convention week Wednesday with the AFN Tribal Conference.

“A precursor to the AFN Convention with a focus on our tribes. Just strengthening our tribes,” Joe Nelson, a chairman for Sealaska and a speaker at the conference, said.

The conference featured a variety of speakers who detailed the struggles many Alaska Native communities face. Some of those speeches included discussion about broadband and infrastructure.

Both Nelson and the President of Tlingit Haida Richard Peterson spoke about the importance of unity among tribal members. Peterson said there are over 229 tribes in Alaska and that tribes need to move past their differences to work together.

“When we fight amongst ourselves, someone else wins. We aren’t doing our job to improve the lives of our citizens. We’re not improving communities,” Peterson said. “It’s critical to have these discussions, and show that we can work together and build strong relationships, build stronger communities, build a stronger Alaska.”

“That’s how we start to make progress. When we are able to be in a healthy space and work together,” Nelson said.

When tribes come together they are able to create a stronger union amongst each other, allowing them to come together as a stronger unit to fix the problems the Alaska Native communities face and increase their representation, Nelson said.

“Unity is more than a tagline, more than a theme. It’s really our only way forward, to find that sense of unity to get done what we need to get done,” Nelson said.

The discussion that Nelson and Peterson held on Wednesday aligns with the theme of 2022 AFN’s convention, “Celebrating Our Unity,” which is set to honor the unity amongst communities, families, and organizations working together to tackle ongoing problems. The conference kicks off at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20 in the Dena’ina Center.