After a year of planning, the guests have gathered and the table has been set for another Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, which will officially come to order at 9 a.m. (AKT) Thursday morning.
The Qasigirmuit Dancers from Bethel will welcome delegates today, as they take their seats on the convention floor at the Dena’ina Center in downtown Anchorage.
After opening ceremonies and speeches, the convention will hear from two keynote speakers this morning: Sophie Minich, president and CEO of the CIRI Native Corporation, and Ryan Redington, champion of this year’s Iditarod.
This is the 57th annual AFN Convention.
This year’s theme is “Our Ways of Life,” which will explore the subsistence lifestyle in communities across the state and how Alaska Natives are blending their culture and traditions to address today’s challenges.
Get out the Native vote efforts are underway this week in Anchorage, as people from across the state gather downtown for the AFN convention.
Michelle Spark is the director of Get Out The Native Vote, a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan voter education group.
She says one area they’re focusing on is rural communities.
“Rural village precincts with Native populations did not vote at all, either in August or in November. So we’re here to make sure that the staffing happens, that there’s less barriers to voting when it comes to an election day, and that our vote counts in the end.”
Spark says they’re gearing up for 2024.
The theme for this year’s Annual Elders and Youth Conference that was held at the Dena’ina center in downtown Anchorage, Alaska was “Let it be that we all heal each other.”
One of the people in attendance was George Holly, Athabaskan from Soldotna.
He came to the Elders and Youth Conference to promote healing with multi faith daily prayers at dawn.
“About four years ago at elders and youth, a group of Indigenous friends from all over Alaska, proposed that Dawn belongs to all and that the Earth turns and humbles itself before the sun each day. And we can do that too. And the Elders and Youth Conference was so open to it, we had a fire, and folks were attracted to be able to have that kind of expression again, as we get together. And it’s been going since so this is its fifth year.”
Another passion of Holly’s is language revitalization.
He says when it comes to healing, speaking your Native language brings back cultural identity.
Naomi Michaelson (Eagle Wolf tribe of the Shark House) is from Ketchikan.
For ten years she worked for a domestic violence shelter, but found it hard to balance her personal life and her job. Still wanting to advocate for domestic violence victims, she took a different approach.
“ I took some time off and started a business called Café Indigenous Foodways. And my hope and goal is to help people reconnect back to the land and to each other. I’m passionate about helping people, and including myself with healing, and our families and our communities.”
Michaelson’s approach on using food for healing goes hand in hand with this year’s Alaska Federation of Native’s convention theme, “Our ways of Life”, by exploring the subsistence lifestyle in communities in the state, and how using culture and traditions can help address today’s challenges.
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