On Friday, October 16, Alaska Native youth and elders held a press conference to shape reflections on this past week’s AFN activities. Three Alaska Native youth and two elders shared about resolutions they created through the annual Elders and Youth Conference. A looming question: as the virtual resolution portion of the annual gathering has been postponed until December, will the 2020 Elders and Youth resolutions be able to receive the same consideration and support as previous years?
Always Indigenous Media, a grassroots voice for Alaska Native people, hosted the press conference. Earlier in the week, Always Indigenous Media launched the website PeoplesAFN.org as a grassroots digital organizing tool to elevate the calls to action for justice and wellbeing.
Ruth Miller of Always Indigenous Media moderated the press conference and pointed out that, “About one-third of the entire [AFN] air time was devoted to oil and military.” Ruth commented on the lack of elder and youth voices in the 2020 AFN agenda, saying, “It’s part of our traditional ways to value and respect the voices of our Elders and youth… [AFN] claims to represent our people, they claim to represent our interests, but when they have the opportunity to gather and hear from our youth and elders, they turn an eye.”
Vi Waghiyi: Elder (Anchorage). Leader of the Alaskan organization, Alaska Community Action on Toxics. Vi shared thoughts on the role and prominence of the military at AFN 2020. “AFN is heavily supported by multi-national corporations including BP, all these oil industries… We are contaminated without our consent through our homes, our traditional foods… Former health aid Annie Alowa tried to get help for our people when she started finding an unusual amount of cancer in our people. The military industrial complex and these multinational corporations do not take our health into account… 70-80% of our households depend on our traditional foods. It is not a question of if we will get cancer, but when. It is linked to military and oil development contamination. If we cannot continue to hunt and live off of the ocean, we as Sivuqaq people would not exist. I’d like to see [AFN] take more proactive action on behalf of communities like ours.”
Mike Harper: Elder (Fairbanks). the resolution on Reclaiming Denali’s story with the Walter Harper Project. (2020) 20-02 SUPPORTING THE WALTER HARPER PROJECT AND RECLAIMING THE FIRST SUMMIT OF DENALI. “We do not have near enough great events involving Native Youth, we wanted to take this time to educate people throughout Alaska. We’re trying to build a memorial in Fairbanks”
“We don’t think there’s enough said about Native involvement in the development of this State”
Shawaan Jackson-Gamble: Senior at Northwest Indian College (Kake) writer of the Elders and Youth resolution to make the Tribal Affairs Committee a standing committee. (2020) 20-01 REQUESTING THE ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE TO MAKE THE HOUSE TRIBAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE A STANDING COMMITTEE. “I drafted this resolution because tribal issues are not heard from enough… I drafted this resolution because there are over 229 federally recognized tribes in Alaska and we always continue to deploy our tribal sovereignty to do what’s best for our citizens. As tribes we are sovereign nations and that has to be shown a lot more in the State. The House Tribal Affairs committee deals directly with tribal issues… A standing committee would have a committee in each house.”
Anya Tyrrell: Youth LGBTQ Advocate (Sitka). (2020) 20-03 MAKE GAY PANIC DEFENSE ILLEGAL UNDER ALASKA LAW. “The Gay Panic Defense is a legal loophold to brutally injure an LGBTQ+ community member. This includes murder. The LGBTQ+ community is over represented by hate crimes. I want to be the change to make sure that this legal defense is illegal in the State of Alaska. I want to make sure that it is banned here and hopefully moving onto other States in the future”
Quannah Chasing-Horse Potts: Youth Climate Advocate (Fairbanks). (2019) 19-56 DECLARATION FOR CLIMATE CHANGE STATE OF EMERGENCY IN ALASKA. “We are asking AFN to step up and get the climate justice we need and not support the industry that is a huge contributor to climate change. We thought AFN was really going to push and get this resolution out there by creating a task force to really start battling these issues. We weren’t asking for a lot, we wanted this issue to be elevated and taken seriously. It has been over a year, one year ago today… Seeing other youth rise makes me want to rise. The more we start coming together and speaking on these issues, which we have done for many years, we are at a point now when we need our leadership to listen and understand that we are the future. https://secureservercdn.net/184.108.40.206/ekq.405.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/EY-Resolutions-to-AFN19.pdf
Recording of live press conference: www.facebook.com/watch/?v=827254164502595