Convention unifies rural communities across Alaska

This year’s Alaska Federation of Natives Convention was a heartfelt reunion, after several years without being able to meet in person. The joy of being reunited was palpable. And as usual, KNOM listeners had a front-row seat to the proceedings.

This year’s convention theme was “Celebrating Our Unity.” Alaska Native people gathered from across the state to celebrate culture, hear updates from leaders and organizations, dig into shared concerns and connect with one another. And for many artists, the opportunity to sell handmade items in person was an important source of income.

The convention was noticeably rooted in traditional values, especially sharing and spirituality. Many stood or bowed their heads as Lance Kramer of Kotzebue prayed for healing, referencing 2 Chronicles 7:14. He then led the crowd in songs of worship.

“If then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.”

2 Chronicles 7:14

From there, speakers shared knowledge and opportunities. Presenters discussed many difficult and complex issues of concern to the Alaska Native community. State and federal leaders and entities were present to offer assistance, advice and funding to those impacted by Typhoon Merbok.

“Sharing on every level — food, knowledge, etc. — is the pillar of our success and survival,” keynote speaker and congresswoman Mary Peltola of Bethel said. She received an overwhelming welcome, as the first Alaska Native representative in Congress. She encouraged all those listening to lift each other up, and counter messages of division, fear and self-pity. She said a speaker at her children’s school in Bethel had told them, ‘You are precious.’  and ‘You belong here.’

“‘You are precious. You belong here.’ We need to share that message with every American,” Peltola repeated.

Photo at the top: The Kingikmiut Dancers and Singers perform at the Alaska Federation of Natives 2022 Convention. Photo by Mary Ryan, KNOM (2022).