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National Congress of American Indians president Fawn Sharp (Quinault) touched on climate change in her annual State of Indian Nations this week, but some attendees at the speech say their nations are being impacted by job losses as the country transitions away from fossil fuels.
Matt Laslo reports from Washington.
President Sharp recently traveled to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum.
She says many nations are now taking note of how Indigenous people have traditionally lived in unity with their land.
“When politicians forget that we have political power, we remind them. When companies forget that we have economic and social power, we remind them. And we are using that power to make incredible progress for the earth and all things living.”
Christina Aspaas is Navajo from New Mexico and a school board president.
She says the closure of a coal mine and coal fired power plant on their reservation is devastating the economy of her tribe, which is even seen at her school.
“That has impacted us greatly. As of this year, we’ve lost 1,300 students. So there goes our student count. Teacher retention—it just cascades. The impact cascades all the way down.”
The Biden Administration is hoping to replace many of those traditional fossil fuel jobs with clean energy ones.
Even so, President Sharp says this period of energy transition doesn’t have to be either/or.
She says tribal nations are showing other nations and industries how to live today while being stewards of tomorrow.
“Finally, traditional ecological knowledge is being taken seriously as an equal and indispensable partner to western science. It simply isn’t possible to achieve sustainability or prevent wildfires or restore balance to nature without the practices that tribal nations have perfected for generations and for centuries.”
A borough in Alaska is reconsidering the boundaries of a planning group in response to push back from the remote Alaska Native community of Tyonek.
KDLL’s Riley Board reports.
The borough’s assembly spent more than an hour debating the issue Tuesday night before pushing a decision to its next meeting.
Representatives from Tyonek have been speaking out against their inclusion in a planning commission based on the other side of Cook Inlet in the community of Nikiski, which is connected by roads to the borough’s population center.
The commission makes recommendations about land use and planning to the borough.
As it stands, its authority extends more than three-point-five million acres. But all the commissioners live in Nikiski, and Tyonek residents say they want to be removed from the map.
“The west side is not and never will be a part of the community of Nikiski.”
That’s Tyonek Native Corporation’s Chief Administrative Officer Connie Downing.
She rejected claims from Nikiski residents that Tyonek is a part of their community, and says differences in culture and resources between the two make them distinct.
Downing and more than 50 other Tyonek residents and Alaska Native corporations advocated for a plan to shrink the commission to just the east side.
The assembly eventually seemed to come to terms with at least removing Tyonek from the map, but decided to postpone the issue to work on finding a compromise.
They’ll reconsider in March.
The Junior Native Youth Olympics for student-athletes grades first to sixth is having its first in-person competition since 2020 this week in Anchorage, as
Hannah Bissett reports from our flagship station KNBA.
The games are a collection of nine events, which were originally used to maintain fitness for subsistence practices in Alaska and throughout other northern areas in the world.
Adele Villa (Inuk) is Native Youth Olympics coordinator for the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, which hosts the games.
“Our Alaska Native youth games really create that connectedness – especially to their culture it’s very important to our people.”
This year, the competition is more anticipated than before since the last games were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Native Youth Olympics is celebrating more than 50 years as a format for children and teenagers to celebrate culture, gain self-confidence, and gain physical strength.
Each spring, older students in grades seventh to 12th compete in the statewide Senior Games.
The junior games take place at the University of Alaska Anchorage February 24-26.
WEB EXCLUSIVE STORY
The Alaska Snow Sculpting Competition, part of Fur Rondy activities, is underway in downtown Anchorage, AK.
Jill Fratis from our flagship station KNBA spoke with some competitors Friday morning as they crafted their works of art.
Twenty-four contestants in all are working tirelessly.
Many have been at it for the last week, carving a block of solid snow 8 feet x 8 feet x 8 feet into art, including taking the forms of animals and fruit.
There are five divisions in the competition – individual, family, schools, corporate, and three-person teams.
Contestants shave and carve away at the blocks in hopes of walking away with an award for their hard work.
Colin Reedy is a teacher with the Adult Transition Program (ACT), which helps students ages 18-22 transition after high school.
Reedy has been taking part in the snow sculpture competition going on seven years now.
He says he usually works with a group of 12 students each year.
“We spend the whole week doing this. Probably about five or six hours a day. A lot of times we will have lunch here.”
One of Reedy’s students is Louie Movea. This is his second year competing.
Last year, they made a snow castle.
Movea says he enjoys partaking in the annual activities.
“I like making ice sculptures, I like being around people.”
Reedy and his class are part of the school division.
“There’s usually about three schools in the school division and we typically get third place, it’s about having fun and taking part in Fur Rondy.”
This year, the ACT class is making a spaceship with aliens surrounding the ship says Reedy.
“I always come up with the plan for the snow sculpture. Every year, I try to come up with something different. We’ve done a water fountain one year, we’ve done a Fabergé egg, we’ve done a bird house, a log cabin, a giant teddy bear. So we’re looking for simple things that we can handle. But also, things that have four sides so all students can work around the sculpture.”
Across from the ACT students’ sculpture is the Service High Partners Club.
They were working diligently on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sculpture, with orange, green, and purple spray paint decorating the entire piece.
The Partners Club is a Special Olympics Alaska school-based club for students with and without intellectual disabilities.
Louis Donaldson says he has been a part of the Rondy competition for over 16 years.
“We usually don’t take first place in the school division, but every year we usually win the public choice award. Everybody walks around and there’s numbers on the placards so everyone can vote on what their favorite sculpture is, and every year we usually take that award.”
18-year-old McKenzee Peters, a student at a vocational school, is volunteering with the Partners Club.
She enjoys working with the students so much so, that she wants to continue on a career path as an educator.
“I want to be a paraprofessional now. I’ve worked with them last year and this year and it’s changed my perspective of what I want to be when I’m older.”
Both schools were enjoying taking part in friendly competition, and hope the judges and visitors will appreciate their hard work and dedication.
Voting will take place Sunday from 10am-11:30am with awards being handed out at noon.
The snow sculpture competition is part of the annual Fur Rendezvous Festival held in Anchorage in late February.
It marks the end of a long winter and the return of spring.
Watch ACT Program teacher Colin Reedy talk about picking a snow sculpture theme.
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