2 main tribal teams’ departure from AFN raises questions on its future

The 2022 Alaska Federation of Natives convention was held in Anchorage in October. (Elyssa Loughlin/Alaska Public Media)

As the choice by two giant tribal organizations to tug out of the Alaska Federation of Natives begins to sink in, there was combined response from Native leaders. Some have stated the information caught them unexpectedly — however the rising stress between totally different teams on the AFN conference ought to have been a warning.

Two regional tribal organizations, the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and the Tanana Chiefs Convention, have every cited totally different causes for parting firm with AFN.

Tlingit and Haida, which represents 35,000 tribal members in Southeast Alaska, says it not wants AFN’s advocacy, as a result of it has developed its personal capability to advance its causes.

Tlingit and Haida President Richard Peterson stated the tribe nonetheless plans to collaborate with AFN.

“I don’t need it to appear like a divorce,” stated Peterson. “I preserve utilizing the analogy, the place the children who grew up and are transferring out of the home. We would nonetheless come residence for cooked meal or to do laundry on occasion, proper?”

Peterson stated Tlingit and Haida needs to divert the cash it has paid in dues to AFN to work on region-specific points.

The Tanana Chiefs Convention, which represents villages in Inside Alaska, stated in an announcement that it was ending its membership in AFN to deal with defending salmon and subsistence. Tanana Chiefs additionally stated it wasn’t happy with AFN’s efforts to behave on resolutions which have been handed over time to guard the Alaska Native subsistence way of life.

Some longtime leaders in AFN have referred to as the transfer to tug out of AFN a mistake. Paul Ongtooguk, an Alaska Native historian, agrees. He worries that the advantages of AFN are being taken with no consideration.

“We’re about actually one-fifth of the inhabitants in Alaska,” he stated. “So, if we’re going to affect issues, punch above our weight, we’ve got to have a type of unity that displays a way of shared function.”

Alaska Native historian Paul Ongtooguk says some tribal teams could have taken the advantages of being a part of the Alaska Federation of Natives with no consideration. (Courtesy Paul Ongtooguk)

In recent times, disputes between competing Native teams have arisen throughout AFN’s annual conference. Since 2019, three regional companies have pulled out of AFN — the Arctic Slope Regional Company, Doyon and the Aleut Company.

Collectively, the three companies have a big footprint in Alaska. ASRC is the state’s wealthiest personal company, and Doyon is Alaska’s largest personal landowner. Each have heavy pursuits in oil growth.

At AFN’s annual gathering this previous October, a debate broke out on the conference flooring over salmon shortages in Western and Inside Alaska, which pitted a number of Native teams towards one another. The Aleut Company’s delegation turned their backs to the conference in protest over a decision to handle the meals disaster. The company withdrew from AFN a short while later.

Ongtooguk stated sizzling debates on the conference are nothing new, however the rising variety of teams which have left AFN raises questions in regards to the group’s well being.

“Is it adapting? Is it reflecting the broad spectrum of curiosity of Alaska Native peoples and organizations?” Ongtookguk stated. “And by pulling out, it’s a means of voting publicly, a insecurity.”

Ongtooguk referred to as the choice to tug out short-sighted — and stated if there’s a disaster sooner or later, these organizations will want a gaggle like AFN to talk as one voice for Alaska Natives. He stated the general public infighting weakens the political energy of AFN, which remains to be thought-about some of the influential Native organizations within the nation.

AFN’s longtime president, Julie Kitka, stated she’s withholding remark in regards to the two tribes which have pulled out of AFN till after the AFN board meets subsequent week.