Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s 84th Annual Tribal Assembly has adjourned after convening on April 10 at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall in Juneau.
Delegates gathered to conduct the business of the Tribe, hear reports, discuss issues and take action on resolutions – 99 of 110 Delegates were present.
The day before Tribal Assembly, Delegates had the opportunity to participate in a Robert’s Rules of Order and Civics training, receive an update from the Tribe’s Violence Against Women Task Force and attend a VAW Rally. This year’s Tribal Assembly embraced technology and replaced traditional three-ring binders with Samsung tablets – agendas, resolutions, governing documents and presentations were made available through a meeting application.
The Southeast Alaska Native Veterans led the grand entrance with the posting of the colors followed by President Richard (Chalyee Éesh) Peterson, six Vice Presidents and Delegates dancing in with the Xáadaas Dagwíi dance group.
During the opening ceremony, Delegates were introduced to Tribal Host James Price and Tribal Hostess Cheryl Dodson, both of Washington. The Tribal Assembly also received opening remarks from Gov. Michael Dunleavy and special welcomes from state, local and tribal leadership.
With the theme, “Through Unity We Have Strength,” each day ‘started in a good way’ with special music provided by Petersburg Delegate Nathan Lopez and a Word of the Day in Lingít Yoo Xʼatángi, Xaad Kíl and Sm’álgyax provided by Anchorage Delegate Shirley Kendall, Hydaburg Delegate Lisa Lang and tribal employee Alfie Price.
President Peterson delivered the State of the Tribe Address highlighting significant program accomplishments, the work of the Executive Council, and the Tribe’s business and economic development activities.
“One of the things you hear me repeat over and over again is economic sovereignty,” said President Peterson. “We have inherent sovereignty, but I really believe we can only be as sovereign as we can afford to be. We have been reliant on federal funding for too long. This is not a sustainable method when we are trying to build crucial programs. There is nothing more hurtful than building an expectation that you can’t keep and having to end a program due to loss of funding. My vision of economic sovereignty is to build sustainability and match what we receive in federal funding through commerce. I never want to use the term again that ‘you don’t live in the service area.’ The only way we are going to do that is through economic sovereignty.”
The Tribe’s newest business startups (Smokehouse Catering, Sacred Grounds Café and Sacred Shine Auto Detailing) are part of fulfilling that vision of economic sovereignty. President Peterson also shared that the Tribe recently executed a letter of intent with Channel Construction and Shorty Tonsgard for the acquisition of 86 acres of land on Douglas Island and signed a purchase agreement with Triplette Construction to establish a construction academy.
Reports were also heard from Tlingit Haida Tribal Business Corporation Chief Executive Officer Richard Rinehart; Tlingit & Haida’s Chief Financial Officer Theresa Belton, Tribal Court, and standing committees.
Abigail Echo-Hawk, citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Director of the Urban Indian Health Institute and Chief Research Officer of the Seattle Indian Health Board, provided a powerful keynote address sharing her personal journey of healing, the work of the Urban Indian Health Institute and Seattle Indian Health Board to elevate public awareness on missing and murdered indigenous women, and encourage Delegates to challenge the culture of silence to bring healing to people and communities.
“We have to challenge this culture of silence, which is not cultural,” shared Echo-Hawk. “We need to acknowledge that trauma occurred in order for us to not pass it on. We need to not just survive. We have a responsibility to our ancestors to thrive…I challenge all of you to be bold, be brave, take a leap of faith that our ancestors survived so that we can thrive. Violence is not traditional. Silence has to end. Healing will happen and you will lead it.”
In addition to hearing a report on the Language program, the Audit Committee shared that the Tribe’s audit had no significant findings for its seventh year in a row. Delegates also received a special address from the Assembly of First Nations’s Regional Chief Kluane Adamek and an update on legislation for the landless communities of Haines, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Tenakee and Wrangell from representatives on the Southeast Alaska Landless Corporation.
Tlingit & Haida’s 2018-2019 Emerging Leader Stephanie (Saal ’gín) Masterman provided an inspiring outgoing report to the Delegates that reflected on her experience serving on the Executive Council this past year and her passion to serve, defend and protect.
“Our values - respect, unity, patience, humility, mindfulness, altruism and compassion have been guiding us since time immemorial,” said Masterman. “These values, planted safely in the hearts of our children and protected fiercely as they grow, have energized generations of resilience through all that we have endured and continue to give us strength through each day...they are the granular components of our identities as indigenous peoples and as human beings, and the future of the world depends on them.”
Shawaan Jackson-Gamble of Kake, Alaska was elected to fill the 2019-2020 Emerging Leader seat. Also elected was Aurora Lehr of Washington to serve another two-year term as Tribal Court Associate Justice, and Patricia Alexander of Sitka, Alaska as Delegate/Citizen of the Year.
Delegates reviewed and adopted proposed amendments to Statute Title 15 Enrollment, which codified existing procedures and updated practices in others, one of which removes listing blood quantum on tribal identification cards. A total of 31 resolutions were acted on – 17 were adopted via consent calendar, five were adopted through committee referrals, six were ruled out of order, one was withdrawn, one failed, and one was tabled.
A full listing of resolutions will be made available on Tlingit & Haida’s website.