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Joaqlin Estus
Indian Country Today

The annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention kicked off Monday with a jam-packed agenda. Speakers will give talks and report on major issues affecting Alaska Natives — from tribal governance to health, voting rights, and military strategy in the Arctic. The 50-year anniversary of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act will be featured in several sessions.

AFN is Alaska’s largest Native organization. Its members include tribes, regional non-profits, and for-profit Native corporations created under ANCSA. Delegates of member organizations vote on resolutions that will guide the organization’s advocacy and education efforts in the coming year. When the conference is held in person, approximately 4,000 to 5,000 people attend. Due to COVID-19, this year’s convention will be held virtually.

The convention will cover a variety of issues.

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act sessions will touch on its history and how it has and hasn’t met expectations, a Supreme Court ruling recognizing Native corporations as tribes, and a status report on lands conveyed to the corporations. Tribal self-governance and Native self determination will also be the topic of presentations.

A panel of senior military leaders will discuss the developing security dynamics and geostrategic environment affecting Alaska and the Arctic.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium will present a 50-year report on the impact of cancer among Alaska Natives. There will also be a panel on how to advance Native public policy on health, wellness, and housing.

Other sessions will discuss voting rights, internet connectivity, restoration of aboriginal hunting and fishing rights, missing and murdered Indigenous persons, the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Dignitaries giving talks include four Cabinet members, the chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Alaska’s Congressional delegation, Alaska’s governor, chief of the Eklutna Dena’Ina, and the mayor of Anchorage.

The two-day convention will include recorded traditional dance performances, and a virtual arts and crafts market.

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