AFN 2022 Convention ends with flair
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - People from across Alaska came together late last week to celebrate unity with traditional Alaska Native dances, art, and even the first-ever fashion show.
Running Thursday through Saturday, the Alaska Federation of Natives held its annual conference to address “critical issues of public policy and government” and to celebrate Native culture around the state.
Along with honoring Alaska Native culture, the federation also sought to address more serious topics, from broadband access to mitigating erosion. Some of the discussions embraced historically painful subjects, such as missing and murdered indigenous peoples and American Indian boarding schools.
One big issue on a lot of minds was salmon, something that impacts so many communities, especially rural ones. Many attendees lamented not seeing standard and consistent salmon runs for years now, which many hope might soon change — especially if people can work together.
“The theme celebrating our unity really set the tone in a good way,” AFN Co-chair Joe Nelson said. “Unity is always something we strive for. Alaska Federation of Natives — that’s the whole goal, to find things to unify behind as a community, to help improve the status of our people, to advocate.”
Saturday saw a resolution on salmon fisheries, which passed and will be presented to the Alaska Board of Fisheries in the spring.
Although there continue to be many challenges, Nelson said he is encouraging people to lean into the goodness of being a united Native people who are happy and healthy and taking care of one another.
“As Native people, that’s just in our nature to take care of each other, so we encourage everyone to take care of yourselves, take care of each other, and we’re looking forward to next year,” Nelson said.
Nelson says that because this is an election year, one of the underlying messages of the convention was to get out and vote. Convention-goers even had the chance on Saturday to see many of the candidates running for office, including U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, who is the first Alaska Native woman to be elected to Congress.
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