The Alaska Federation of Natives Board of Directors today decided to postpone the 2021 Convention to mid-December, citing health and safety concerns which include the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide and the consequent pressure on Alaska’s healthcare system.
AFN will continue to plan for an in-person convention at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage, Alaska, with a virtual option. However, the final decision on the in-person aspect of the Convention will be made by the Board in mid-October based on new data and guidance from national, state, and tribal health leaders.
“The high-risk factors of holding a 5000-person indoor meeting, with delegates coming in from across Alaska, make an in-person October gathering out of the question,” said AFN President Julie Kitka. “The pandemic’s economic impact on businesses and individuals continues to be felt, even as COVID case trends go up and down. When large events like the AFN Convention go virtual, the economic fallout is felt by everyone, especially in the host city. We are working to avoid that if we can, though our top priority remains the health and safety of our delegates and other participants.”
“Gathering in the same place and sharing with each other is a very important part of our convention, so we are really hoping Anchorage and Alaska can turn the corner on this pandemic by December,” President and CEO of Bethel Native Corporation and AFN Co-Chair Ana Hoffman said.
Sealaska Chairman and AFN Co-Chair Joe Nelson said, “Postponing until December provides us an opportunity to gather in person on the 50th anniversary of ANCSA, but it all hinges on everyone’s willingness and ability to get vaccinated.”
Sheri Buretta, Chairman of Chugach Alaska Corporation and AFN Convention Committee Chair, said, “We want our Convention plans for December to be an encouragement to Alaskans to double our efforts, get vaccinated, and mask up. We can get through this pandemic together.”
Exact dates and times and an agenda will be announced in the coming weeks.