Director’s Report: 50th Annual AVCP Convention, Bethel, Alaska, October 7-9th, 2014
“Embracing Our Legacy to Empower Our Future”
This year’s convention and celebration of fifty years of service to the People of the region was well attended with forty-four out of fifty-six villages answering the roll call at the opening session. More joined the convention later.
The Middle Kuskokwim was represented by Lower Kalskag, Upper Kalskag, Aniak, Chuathbaluk, Napaimute, and Stony River. Absent were Crooked Creek, Georgetown, Red Devil, Lime Village and Sleetmute.
Some common themes heard throughout the two and a half day meeting were:
• The need for tribal co-management of the Yukon and Kuskokwim Salmon Fisheries
• The need for economic development in our region
• Great concern over the growing drug problem in our region – especially the use of heroin
The following are some of the highlights that were noted at the convention:
AVCP Financial Report:
Under the leadership of Vice President of Finance, Alex Werba the finances of AVCP appear to be much improved and increasingly transparent. Our own Council Vice President can elaborate on this further as she provided positive comments and good questions to the AVCP VP of Finance.
It was shown that TANF (temporary assistance to needy families) and Transportation were the two biggest funding sources to AVCP.
The VP of Finance did say that AVCP will be providing villages with quarterly or monthly budget reports.
It was also reported to the delegation that BIA is now prioritizing it’s funding toward education and law enforcement – two programs that are weak in Alaska. This is reducing the amount of funding available to Alaska tribes.
On a final financial note: AVCP’s audits for the past year were clean – no findings.
Alaska Federation of Natives President Julie Kitka reported in person on the following issues that AFN has been working on:
• The State’s challenge to the Katie John case – this has been rejected by the Supreme Court
• Voting Rights – worked on getting legislation passed that provides language assistance for Yupik and Kutchin speakers
• AFN is working at the national level to get executive orders that address economic development, clean energy, education, co-management of fish and game on federal public lands, and climate resilient infrastructure development
• AFN is also working with the Arctic Policy Council
In a final note, Ms. Kitka reiterated the importance of the Alaska Native Vote in the upcoming election. The AVCP region has 25% of the total Alaska Native Population and can make a real difference in the election at the State and National level.
Congressman Don Young:
Alaska’s long time congressman reported on his work on the following:
• The Ahtna Bill (for co-management of fish and game resources on Ahtna Corporation lands)
• Empowerment Act that would give Alaska tribes power over their lands
• Suicide, drug use and the need for jobs for our young people
• The need for a tribal subsistence seat on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC)
The Senator reported that the two main issues that currently are at the forefront in Alaska are: FISH & FUEL
Federal Fisheries Disaster Funds for the Yukon and Kuskokwim are expected to be released by November
Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Walker and his running mate for Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallot:
The following would be the top priorities of this administration if elected:
• Energy costs: they would declare an energy disaster in Alaska on their first day in office or shortly thereafter
• Health Care: they would expand Medic Aide coverage on day 1 and pursue 100% funding from the federal government
• Broadband : want to see faster and more connectivity across the State
• State and Tribal Relationships: stop suing each other and enter into co-management agreements with tribes
Subsistence Issues Panel:
This panel was made up of: Gene Peltola, Jr. Director of Federal Subsistence Management, USFWS, Cora Campell, Commissioner ADF&G, Sky Starkey, AVCP Attorney, and Victor Joseph, CEO, TCC
This discussion centered mainly on Yukon/Kuskokwim Salmon management. Key points made were:
• The State has a $30 million King Salmon Initiative that has 30 new research projects across the State with a greater recognition of traditional local knowledge
• The State is seeking further reductions in King Salmon by-catch by the Bering Seas Pollock fleet
• The need for an Inter-tribal Fish Commission for both the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers that would allow for tribal co-management of our fisheries
• The need for a tribal subsistence seat on the NPFMC this can be done through the reauthorization of the Magnusson Stevens Act which established the NPFMC
• Washington and Oregon already have tribal seats on their fishery management council
• Federal Fishery Disaster funds might be used to build the capacity for Inter-tribal Fish Commissions
• AVCP and Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) have submitted an emergency petition to the NPFMC requesting further reduction in Bering Sea King Salmon by-catch
• Funding for Inter-tribal Fish Commissions might be done through fines on by-catch and/or a fish tax on in-river commercial fisheries
Representative Bob Herron reported on the following accomplishments during the last legislative session:
• Alaska Natural Gas Line Bill: Senator Hoffman was able to get a 20% royalty for a Rural Infrastructure Fund put into the legislation. This is huge for us and has the potential to greatly improve our lives in rural Alaska should the gas line come to fruition. Unfortunately, the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline is still several years away from construction.
• HB 216: Alaska Native Language Bill: this bill made all native languages official State languages
• HB 333: An Act establishing a museum construction grant program in the Department of Education and Early Development
• Alaska Arctic Policy Council: Representative Herron has been highly involved in this because the Yukon/Kuskokwim region is defined as being arctic
• HB 301: An Act relating to duties and procedures of the state medical examiner and the Department of Health and Social Services. The passage of this bill gives families in rural Alaska more control over the treatment, transport, and associated costs when a family member has passed away
Senator Hoffman reported on the following:
• Due to the final redistricting decision beginning in January, 2015, Senator Hoffman will represent the entire Kuskokwim River – for the first time in his long career as our region’s Senator
• SB 138: $800 million funding for weatherization of Alaskan homes to make them more energy efficient (warmer)
• Energy is the #1 issue to make Alaska an affordable place to live
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
• BLM reported that there are still 1.9 million acres that need to be conveyed to ANCSA corporations
• There are still many communities in our region that haven’t completed the 14c3 process
• How the new law allowing corporation lands to be put in federal trust status will affect ANCSA corporation lands is unknown at this time. Pending court cases will not be decided for years
AVCP Economic & Business Opportunities Panel
AVCP is focusing increasingly on economic development for the region. They have formed partnerships with the following entities:
• Economic Development Administration
• Department of Energy
• Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC)
• Alaska Small Business Development Center
Additional partnerships are being developed.
One project currently being developed is an E-commerce web site where local arts & crafts people can market their products.
Also extremely energy efficient housing from the CCHRC has been recently been built in several Lower Kuskokwim villages and construction of a new aviation school housing facility will be begin in Bethel later this month working with CCHRC.
Henry Hunter of Bethel was elected as the new Chairman of the AVCP Executive Board
After a close election that required ballots to be cast twice, Myron Naneng was re-elected as President of AVCP. He beat Ray Watson by one vote.
AVCP 50th Anniversary Highlights:
A slide show was shown that had pictures of regional leaders and the good work they did going all the way back to the formation of AVCP in 1964. Some of Napaimute’s original leaders were in the pictures as well demonstrating NVN’s long tradition of being involved in regional issues beyond our little village.
Past and present Presidents, Traditional Chiefs, and Chairmen were honored as well. For those that have passed on, their families or villages were recognized.
Key state-wide programs that were first developed in the AVCP region were also recognized. These included:
• Community Health Aide Program
• Village Public Safety Officer Program’
• Yuut Yaqungviat (flight school)
Senator Begich who is in a close race against Dan Sullivan (not at the convention) for re-election to the U.S. Senate addressed the convention and spoke on the following:
• His important role on both the Indian Affairs & Appropriations Committees
• Alaska has both a republican and a democrat on the senate appropriations committee – a very valuable position to be in – can work both sides of the aisle
• In this year’s election the Alaska Native Vote can determine the power of Congress and set the direction of both the State and the Country
• The need for Inter-tribal fish commissions on the Yukon and Kuskokwim
• He chairs the senate fisheries committee and wants to see language recognizing the importance of subsistence in the reauthorization of the Magnusson Stevens Act along with more local involvement and traditional knowledge
• He supports the Safe Family and Village Act – that gives tribes more power to handle crime at the local level. The State of Alaska is against this.
Closing: This was a good convention made even more so through the reflections back on what has been accomplished in our region over the past half a century. We’ve come a long ways but there’s much more that need to be done as we move ever further into the modern world while striving to maintain the good things about our way of life in the AVCP region.
And as was seen in the close race for AVCP President – every vote counts!
A big thank you to the administration & staff of AVCP for all their hard work in hosting the 50th Annual Convention.