by AFN Staff
The Alaska Federation of Natives today (October 15th, 2021) announced that the 2021 Annual Convention will be all-virtual. After consultation with state, federal and tribal health officials, and reviewing current data trends, AFN decided to hold its annual meeting online out of concern for the safety and health of the thousands of attendees who come from every part of Alaska, including AFN delegates, presenters, other participants, artists and exhibitors, and the public. The virtual Convention will be held on December 13 and 14.
Last August the AFN Board postponed the Convention from October to December to give time for the city to get the COVID-19 numbers turned around. The current information shows continuing high rates of COVID-19 cases, transmission, hospitalization and deaths, particularly in Anchorage, which is on an upward trajectory according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
“Safety is paramount to our decision,” said Sheri Buretta, chair of AFN’s Convention Committee. “Our convention is a large indoor gathering where CDC guidelines of social distancing are not practical. The situation in Anchorage has not improved nearly enough to risk the health of Convention participants, particularly our Elders and other vulnerable attendees, when hospitals across the state are under extreme pressure right now.”
As was done for the all-virtual 2020 AFN Convention, a robust virtual meeting platform will be combined with live statewide TV and radio broadcast coverage, and live streaming on multiple video channels. A full agenda will be released to the public in early December.
AFN will also develop an online Native arts marketplace featuring many of the same Native artists that have had booths in the exhibit hall during in-person AFN Conventions.
This year’s Convention theme is “ANCSA at 50: Empowering Our Future.” The passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act fifty years ago was a groundbreaking, remarkable achievement for Alaska. A model around the world of Indigenous self-determination, ANCSA has led to tremendous economic benefits and opportunities for Native people and for all Alaskans.
AFN will proudly celebrate that accomplishment while acknowledging there is plenty more work to be done. This year’s theme emphasizes the importance of addressing the collective work ahead of the Native community to empower our people and face the challenges of the future together. Since its passage, ANCSA has been amended in significant ways and with technical fixes. AFN recognizes that there is unfinished business and unmet promises, particularly in the area of subsistence rights and food security, public safety and law enforcement, and economic development.
About the AFN Convention
AFN’s annual convention serves as the principal forum and voice for the Alaska Native community in addressing critical issues of public policy and government. The Convention convenes thousands of official delegates and participants from membership organizations across the state. AFN Delegates discuss strategic opportunities and challenges, listen to memorable keynote and theme speeches, and hear reports from political leaders and presentations from expert panels. The resolutions passed by the voting delegates set the priorities for the year and guide AFN’s efforts. The Convention is the largest representative annual gathering of Native peoples in the United States, and the largest meeting of its kind in Alaska.