Alaska delegation nominates longtime Native leader to be co-chair of the Denali Commission

Julie Kitka
Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, at a June 28, 2022, news conference held by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Members of Alaska’s congressional delegation have nominated her to be the next federal co-chair of the Denali Commission. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Julie Kitka, the longtime president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, has been nominated by Alaska’s congressional delegation to be a new co-chair of the Denali Commission, which oversees a variety of federal programs in the state.

AFN is the largest Alaska Native organization. Kitka was elected as its president in 1990, but she joined the organization years earlier. AFN announced in February that Kitka would be stepping down in time for a new president to be selected before this year’s convention.

The Denali Commission, established through an act of Congress passed in 1998 and shepherded by the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, is an international federal agency that provides infrastructure and interagency economic support in rural Alaska.

KItka would be the top federal leader on the commission if the nomination is approved. The commission also has a co-chair from the state government, Micaela Fowler.

Kitka is already a member of the commission, representing AFN on it.

Congressional delegation members, in a statement released on Thursday, said Kitka is highly qualified for the position.

For 33 years, she served as the President of the Alaska Federation of Natives, successfully balancing the needs of a diverse group of tribes, village corporations, regional corporations, regional nonprofits and tribal consortiums, while advocating for Alaskan Natives on a local, state, and federal level,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in the statement. “There is no one I can think (of) who is more qualified to advocate for economic development in rural Alaska than Julie.”

“Julie’s wealth of leadership experience and vast knowledge of rural Alaska uniquely qualify her to lead the Denali Commission and execute its important mission,” Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said in the statement.

“Julie Kitka is a force of nature. Her work at the forefront of Alaska Native politics has inspired and motivated many across the state,” Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, said in the statement.

If Kitka’s nomination is approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, she would replace Jocelyn Fenton, currently serving as interim federal co-chair.

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