I was pleased to attend the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) 2015 annual convention on October 15-17, 2015 in Anchorage, Alaska. The theme for the convention was, “Heroes in our Homeland,” which was chosen as way to recognize and celebrate the many leaders working humbly to strengthen our communities and to reflect the Alaska Native way of life. The keynote address for this year was split between Ketchikan residents, Delores Churchill and her grandson, Donald Varnell. The focus of their address was how important it is to preserve, pass along, and grow Alaska Native art, culture, and languages.
I also had the pleasure of attending many events held during the busy three day convention, but one highlight was the joint reception held by Sealaska and Tlingit Haida Central Council, the tribe and the regional corporation are both in my district. My staff were also on hand and attended the three day convention.
During the Southeast Caucus the delegates voted on the Southeast Village representative seat which is taken into consideration on every year by those in attendance. A very special congratulations to the newly elected Southeast Village representative, Sarah Dybdahl. Sarah’s family is from Klawock, Alaska and she currently serves as a board of director on the Klawock Heenya Corporation. Sarah will join Joe Nelson (Sealaska Board of Directors Chairman) and Richard Peterson (Tlingit Haida Central Council President) at the table of the Alaska Federation of Natives Board of Directors representing our communities on the statewide board.
Delores is Haida, and a renowned Chilkat weaver, teacher, and culture bearer who learned her craft from her mother, Selina Peratrovich. She is also keenly interested in preserving and growing native languages, and is a member of the Alaska Native Language Council. Her grandson, Donald Varnell is a wood carver and sculptor. Delores just celebrated her 86th birthday. Please join me in honoring her contributions to making Alaska a better place to live and grow up.
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