After corruption allegations, tribes call on AVCP to meet

Four tribes in western Alaska are calling on the Association of Village Council Presidents to broaden the focus of a special meeting originally intended to address regional governance, and to set a date for the gathering.

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Association of Village Council Presidents’ 51st Annual Conference. (Dean Swope/ KYUK)
Association of Village Council Presidents’ 51st Annual Conference. (Dean Swope/ KYUK)

On Jan. 8, KYUK in Bethel reported it had obtained documents showing AVCP used grants for intended to help needy families to keep a vocational flight school going. In December, AVCP laid off 30 employees, 7 percent of its work force, citing budget troubles. AVCP also announced a 5 percent pay cut for general staff and a 10 percent salary reduction for senior management.

Mike Williams, Sr., with the Akiak tribal council, says the sudden layoffs may leave people unable to pay for stove fuel or electricity.

“Yeah, the majority live in Bethel and a lot of those are in the villages. So they’re left out in the cold, and we’re very concerned about that.”

He says the tribes of Akiak, Akiachak, Kwethluk and Tuluksak — along with several others along the Yukon River — want to find out more than they’ve been told.

“I think in that meeting, we can close the door and find out what’s really going on.”

Last year, the regional for-profit corporation Calista created a group to study problems with legislation affecting Alaska Native people and organizations. The group came up with three proposals: 1) To strengthen AVCP, 2) To create a borough, or 3) To create a new regional tribal government. Williams says the goal is to give Natives a stronger voice…

“…and if there is development for instance, the Donlin Gold project, then how are we going to have the ability to regulate and also the issue of tax payment as well.”

In an October meeting, tribal representatives voted to hold a special meeting on governance in February. AVCP Administrators have not yet approved or announced a meeting date. AVCP is the regional nonprofit for the 56 villages in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta.

Joaqlin Estus is a reporter at KNBA in Anchorage.

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