The Alaska Federation of Natives has selected December 13-15, 2021 for its Annual Convention, which the AFN Board postponed on Tuesday over health and safety concerns which include the sharp resurgence in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide. 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 AFN Board in mid-October based on new data and guidance from national, state, and tribal health leaders.
“Because our top priority remains the health and safety of our delegates and other participants, the plan for an in-person convention is contingent on progress made in Anchorage and statewide on getting the COVID-19 pandemic back under control,” said AFN President Julie Kitka. “Critical work is needed by all of us to flatten the curve, expand vaccinations, and practice protective behaviors such as masking.”
“We join Governor Dunleavy in calling on Alaskans to get vaccinated and recognizing the urgent situation our hospitals are facing with the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations,” Kitka said.
“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.”
The popular cultural performances known as Quyana Alaska will be held the evenings of Monday, December 13 and Tuesday, December 14, also at the Dena’ina Center. The Native Arts Showcase and Exhibit Hall are planned for the first floor of the Dena’ina Center and will run concurrently with the main session.
For those unable to attend in person, the entire convention and both Quyana Alaskas will be broadcast live via television, radio, and Internet. In addition, a robust virtual platform and mobile app will be available.
The annual convention serves as the principal forum and voice for the Alaska Native community in addressing critical issues of public policy and government. The convention convenes thousands of official delegates and participants from membership organizations across the state. AFN Delegates discuss strategic opportunities and challenges, listen to memorable keynote and theme speeches, and hear reports from political leaders and presentations from expert panels. The resolutions passed by the voting delegates set the priorities for the year and guide AFN’s efforts. The Convention is the largest representative annual gathering of Native peoples in the United States.
This year’s Convention theme is “ANCSA at 50: Empowering Our Future.” The passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act fifty years ago was a groundbreaking, remarkable achievement for Alaska. A model around the world of Indigenous self-determination, ANCSA has led to tremendous economic benefits and opportunities for Native people and for all Alaskans.
AFN will proudly celebrate that accomplishment while acknowledging there is plenty more work to be done. This year’s theme emphasizes the importance of addressing the collective work ahead of the Native community to empower our people and face the challenges of the future together. Since its passage, ANCSA has been amended in significant and technical ways. AFN recognizes that there is unfinished business and unmet promises, particularly in the area of subsistence rights and food security, public safety and law enforcement, and economic development.