Submitted by the Akiak Native Community
ONC Multipurpose Building, Bethel Alaska
The Yup’ik and Athabascan tribes of the YK delta are being called to a meeting April 4, 2017 in Bethel to consider and to set a timeline for the creation of regional tribal government unifying the area’s 56 tribes.
The Calista region, the jurisdiction being discussed, is as large as the state of Oregon with over 40,000 Yup’ik and Athabascan members living in 56 villages. It is historically and culturally integrated and bound by the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers and the Bering Sea.
Mike Williams, who chaired the March 8 and 9, 2017 YK Delta Intertribal Conference called to address liquor sales in Bethel, the Donlin Creek Gold Mine, Senate Bill 18, the lack of public safety and law enforcement in many of the area’s villages, said that “the April 4 meeting was called by the representatives of the tribes who attended the March meeting because they needed the assistance and support of the other tribes.”
“The March meeting served to highlight the disorganized state of our 56 villages, their inability to respond timely, in concert, and in unity, to issues affecting the health and well-being of our lands, our waters, our families, our women, and our children,” Williams said.
“People from surrounding villages are dying because of the liquor stores in Bethel. Over 20 of our villages have no public safety or law enforcement. The region is assailed by high rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual assaults, and most tragically, child neglect, abuse and suicide. Still, no organized response from our villages.”
“A bill in the state legislature would blanket the YK delta with a borough without once addressing the issue with the 56 tribes living within the proposed boundaries; from those tribes – silence.”
“Donlin Gold, if it ever goes into production, will be one of the largest placer gold mines in the world, a gold mine without a local government in place to monitor and regulate its operations to safeguard the health and well being of the people and the environment,” Williams says. There are 28 villages directly below the proposed mine on the Kuskokwim River.
The April 4, 2017 meeting will be the third regional conference on creating a “regional tribal government” for the 56 tribes within the Yukon Kuskokwim delta. The first two were sponsored by Calista Corporation as its board of directors believe that a supportive government is a prerequisite for successful economic development.
“We hope to secure an authorizing resolution from the tribes on April 4, 2017 to construct a constitution and to set a timeline for the creation of a regional tribal government with the ratification election set for November 7, 2017,” says Harold Napoleon from the Native Village of Paimiut.
“We’ve been talking about this for forty years,” said Phillip Peter of Akiachak. “It’s time we honored the wishes of our late elders and create the government that they called for in 1976. As time goes on it is becoming clear that we cannot continue to operate without one, without placing our lands, our Ways of Life and the future of our children at risk.”
Please call Mike Williams, Akiak Native Community at 907-765-2061 if you have any questions.