Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Tlingit & Haida) convened its virtual 86th Annual Tribal Assembly on October 1, 2021 with 95 Delegates present to act on resolutions, hear reports, discuss issues and conduct the business of the tribe. In a normal year, Delegates would travel into Juneau, Alaska; however, with the Coronavirus pandemic still widespread, Tlingit & Haida adapted once again to keep tribal citizens and communities safe while still being able to conduct business.
“Together We Prosper” was the theme selected for this year’s Tribal Assembly which commenced with an opening prayer and introductions of Tribal Host James Jack Sr. of Juneau, Alaska and Tribal Hostess Bertha Hamilton of Ketchikan, Alaska, who were both recognized for their many years of contributions and dedicated service to their communities and the tribe.
Tlingit & Haida was honored to receive a video keynote address from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. Secretary Haaland highlighted how hard Indigenous communities have been hit by the pandemic and how it put a spotlight on communities that lack physical infrastructure, including basic resources like running water, sufficient health care and functional broadband. She commended Tlingit & Haida for its leadership on vaccination efforts and relayed the importance of ensuring Indigenous leadership have a seat at the table for strong nation to nation dialogue. Secretary Haaland also shared the Biden Administration’s stimulus package is the largest investment in history for tribal communities and that she is committed to working with Tlingit & Haida to build a better future.
During the State of the Tribe Address, President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson reported on significant progress being made to realize his vision of economic sovereignty, expanding services to all tribal citizens, creating a Tlingit & Haida campus in downtown Juneau, increased broadband services for Southeast Alaska communities, and advocacy efforts of the Executive Council. In addition to reinstating community liaisons in recognized communities, he also announced the tribe has opened an office in Washington, will open an office in Anchorage by year end, and is developing plans for an office in California.
“We've continued to buy land and property and we're expanding,” shared President Peterson during his closing remarks. “We're opening offices and not just in other communities, but in other states. We're going to meet our citizens where they are. We're going to get beyond the service area. We're not going to tell our people anymore we can't serve you because you don't live in the service area. Those days will be behind us soon enough. We're going to reach them and we're going to uplift them as our ancestors taught us. We're going to be resilient. We’re Indigenous and we have the Indigenous mindset to make it happen…Wherever you are, you're a citizen of the Tribe, and that's a sacred position to have.”
Reports were also heard from Tlingit & Haida’s Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Development Officer, Tlingit Haida Tribal Business Corporation (THTBC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), outgoing Emerging Leader, Youth Commission President, Violence Against Women (VAW) Task Force Co-Chairs, Tribal Court Chief Justice and Court Administrator, standing committees (Audit, Finance, Judiciary and Enrollment), and the tribe’s newly formed Climate Change committee.
During CEO Richard Rinehart’s Tlingit Haida Tribal Business Corporation report, he outlined the tremendous growth the corporation has achieved. Tlingit Haida Tribal Business Corporation is a wholly owned business enterprise of the tribe that operates as a holding company for its subsidiaries. Tlingit Haida Tribal Business Corporation recorded its highest revenue in the company’s history closing 2020 with a total annual revenue of $134 million and a net income of $3.6 million. Based on its success and performance, CEO Rinehart announced to Delegates the company issued its first dividend distribution of $1 million to Tlingit & Haida this year.
Another highlight during Tribal Assembly was a lunch break premiere of the tribe’s new cultural video series, “Gumboots Go!”. Delegates were treated to a preview of the first episode of Gumboots Go! which presented Chilkat weaving with Lily Hope. The new series will include eight episodes of cultural education videos for all tribal youth and families developed under the tribe’s Cultural Heritage & Education department.
For this year’s virtual Tribal Assembly, Delegates were provided tablets and used the OnBoard app to access documents required to conduct business. Although welcomes and other reports outside of Tlingit & Haida’s direct business were not part of the one-day Tribal Assembly agenda, Delegates received special reports from Sealaska CEO/President Anthony Mallott, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) CEO/President Charles Clement and Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority (THRHA) CEO/President Jacqueline Pata. Video welcomes were also received from Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) Grand Camp President Heather Gurko Spillman, Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS) Grand Camp President Paulette Moreno, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, Congressman Don Young, and Senator Dan Sullivan.
A total of 11 resolutions were submitted and adopted under the consent calendar. Resolutions addressed support for congressional legislation, cemetery restoration, property acquisitions, Indigenous languages in schools, education, climate change, unrecognized Southeast Alaska Native communities, revenue distribution plan for Tlingit & Haida Community Councils, and health care system improvements.
Elections were held during the virtual Tribal Assembly for two Associate Justice positions, an Emerging Leader, and Delegate/Citizen of the Year. Aurora Lehr was elected Associate Justice for a two-year term, Cheryl Demmert-Fairbanks was elected Associate Justice for a one-year term, Jalen Ketah was elected as Emerging Leader, and Roald Helgesen was elected Delegate/Citizen of the Year.
Congratulations to those newly elected and to Tlingit & Haida’s Large and Small Community Councils of the Year: Seattle (Large Community Council of the Year), San Francisco (Small Community Council of the Year), and Anchorage (Large Community Council of the Year Runner-Up).
“I just want to thank our Delegates for their hard work and commitment as we navigated a virtual Tribal Assembly together,” shared Tribal Assembly Lead Coordinator Raeanne Holmes. “We had an incredible team of Tribal Assembly support staff who all shared the mission to support our Delegates and build the best framework for a successful virtual Tribal Assembly.”
Tribal Assembly closed on a somber note with a virtual memorial service honoring more than 300 tribal citizens who passed away since 2019. Through action taken on the floor of Tribal Assembly, Tlingit & Haida will publish a book of remembrance based on the virtual memorial slideshow.
Election results, resolutions and reports will be made available on Tlingit & Haida’s website: www.ccthita-nsn.gov/government/assembly/events.