Before the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention gets underway in Anchorage on Thursday, there’s a lot of effort to prepare resolutions to be considered by the full convention.
So far this year, there are about 30 resolutions. Five of them deal directly with subsistence and protecting a rural priority, established under federal law and years of litigation.
One calls for congressional action to permanently protect the right of Alaska Natives to engage in subsistence in Alaska’s navigable waters.
Nicole Borromeo, an AFN vice president and general counsel, said Alaska Natives have a legal right to these protections, but they need to be revisited and spelled-out more clearly. She said that in the face of failed salmon runs, they are needed more than ever.
“Hunger is a right-to-live issue. And we have Alaska Natives, non-Alaska Natives that live in rural Alaska on the river systems that are hungry,” Borromeo said. “The river is their Carrs or Safeway, and we need to be able to prioritize the taking of fish in times of shortages, which we are in, for rural residents.”
Last week, a federal judge allowed AFN to join a federal lawsuit against the state to defend rural priority for subsistence.
Some of the other subsistence resolutions AFN will consider is a request to the state to incorporate more traditional Indigenous ecological knowledge into its decision-making process. There’s also a resolution to include tribal seats on the state’s boards of fisheries and game.
Ben Mallott, AFN’s second vice president, said the resolution process can be tedious — but from AFN’s earliest days until now, it’s where change begins.
“So, I ‘m probably a unique one on staff. I actually really do enjoy resolutions,” Mallott said. “It can be chaotic. I think it’s also very unique to see all of our members focusing on one issue, amending it as a group.”
Among some of the other resolutions prepared for a vote:
- Calls for a federal investigation into the disproportionate number of Native deaths in Alaska prisons
- Calls for federal legislation to support efforts to address missing and murdered Indigenous people
- Support for the Alaska Native Heritage Center’s efforts to raise awareness about the impact of Native boarding schools
- Support for development of an Indigenous tourism organization in Alaska
- Support for Alaska’s ranked choice voting system
AFN delegates will begin debating resolutions on Saturday morning, the final day of the convention.
One of the most explosive debates at last year’s convention erupted during the resolution process, involving disagreements over how to protect endangered Western Alaska salmon.