AFN prepares for annual gathering
The Alaska Federation of Natives is entering its 44th year, celebrating with its annual AFN convention beginning next Thursday in Anchorage. The convention will be held Oct. 18 to 20, at the Dena'ina Convention Center in Anchorage.
Senior Vice President Nelson Angapak expects somewhere between 3,500 and 4,500 participants this year, a reflection of the convention's substantial growth over the decades. Angapak has been involved as a board or staff member of AFN for more than 30 years. He said this year's theme — Success Beyond Barriers — is a strong reminder of the strength of the Alaska Native people through time.
"The convention theme recognizes the achievements of the Alaska Native community in context," Angapak said. "It recognizes our people's repeated success at overcoming barriers and finding ways to overcome those challenges, especially in rural Alaska. It also recognizes the fact that Alaska Native people are resilient people, and have been able to overcome many challenges."
Convention events are open to the public, though seating is given first to delegates from tribes around the state, there to participate in discussions and vote on issues important to the native community.
Alaska has 231 federally recognized tribes, Angapak said, and each one will be sending at least one or two delegates. Many will likely send more than that. They will observe the presentations and dialogues, and on Saturday their votes on issues will help direct the political and social focus of AFN for the year to come.
"The delegates have an opportunity to consider resolutions on issues that impact the native community on an annual basis," Angapak said. "And those resolutions really tell us where the heartbeat of the Alaska Native community is on issues."
Alaska's congressional delegates and Governor Sean Parnell will all be addressing the convention individually, as will special guest Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii.
Akaka is attending all three days of the convention and will be honored at Thursday afternoon's luncheon at the Downton Marriott Hotel for his decades of work and support of Hawaii's indigenous peoples.
Akaka is the chairman of the U.S. Senate's Indian Affairs Committee, and Angapak said it is especially noteworthy that he will be present for the entire convention.
Another unique item on the agenda is a workshop session on Thursday afternoon, Angapak said, the subjects of which highlight some of the most important topics facing native community leaders.
"We're going to be having a more interactive agenda in such a manner that our membership will be able to participate on some of our more pressing issues," Angapak said.
Those workshops will occur simultaneously from 3 to 5 p.m. The five separate sessions will cover energy development; Alaska Native community relationships with the state of Alaska; strong native peoples in mind, body and spirit; subsistence resource issues; and education.
An agenda and more information on AFN can be found at nativefederation.org.
Hannah Heimbuch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.