Jack Zayan: Thank you, Mr. Kroto, for those wonderful stories and history. Tyonek’s generosity and willingness to share back then set the course for history. We need to remember our elders and the actions they took that have brought us to where we are today.
Our next speaker is Julie Kitka, a Chugach Eskimo and a shareholder of Chugach Alaska Corporation. She has one daughter, Zassa. Julie currently serves as president of the Alaska Federation of Natives at the pleasure of a 38-member board of directors representing the 13 regional ANCSA corporations, 12 regional nonprofit tribal associations, and 178 villages. Julie began working in AFN in 1981 and has held numerous positions within AFN. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. She currently serves as one of seven commissioners on the congressional-created Denali Commission, overseeing federal funding for rural infrastructure. Ladies and gentlemen, Julie Kitka.
Julie Kitka: Thank you. I am very pleased to be invited to participate in this celebration and event, because I do believe that the Native community and our fellow Alaskans don’t celebrate our successes enough and recognize people that we need to recognize. I want to publicly thank the people from Tyonek for the helping hand they gave to the Land Claims -- may your future generations always be blessed by memories across the state of how you helped everybody get a start. I want you to convey that and share that with you fellow family members and community members of Tyonek. That would be very much appreciated.
I would also like to briefly state that what we do at AFN, and what I do at AFN, is not done by ourselves. Everything that we do is based on work that people who have gone before us have done, their efforts and time. I’d like to invite all of you who were involved in the early days to stand up, all of you who were sitting on the AFN board of directors or regional corporations or regional associations and who were involved. Let your fellow members thank you for your hard work and the dedication of your family for letting you participate and give up your time and energy. I see many members of AFN who travel to D.C., many early corporation leaders, so would you please stand so everybody can thank you?
As I said, everything we do is based on what was done before us. We all know the Land Claims is not perfect, but it is remarkable what we have here. I truly believe that we do not even understand the opportunities that we still have in front of us.
In talking with indigenous people around the world about where they are on their path to self determination, I see that we have so many tools at our disposal. We have our corporations and the leadership that’s coming out of them. We have our tribes and the leadership that’s developing, there the legal tools that we’re being able to further through the courts in regard to Indian law. We have lots of tools and institutions at our disposal, but I’m also reminded that it doesn’t really matter what institutions you have or what laws you have if the people themselves don’t have the will to survive and go forward. That is what I have sensed more than anything in the Native community over the last 20 to 30 years -- the will to accomplish things for the next generation, the desire to pull together and work together no matter if you’re from the Slope or you’re from Southeast.
At Native meetings, you often see three, four hundred people. At the convention, you see three, four, five thousand people. It’s the desire to come together and build on each other’s strengths and share information that makes such a very priceless component. This ability to come together and resolve problems is something that indigenous people, in many areas of the world, wish they had.
We still have many things on our plate to resolve in regard to the Land Claims. Many of you know that there have been packages of technical amendments passed by virtually every congress since the Land Claims was signed into law. Many of those technical amendments have corrected problems or conflicts, and some have been major.
For example, the 1991 amendments. Many of you were involved in the discussions and workshops all over the state to develop legislation to allow the extension of the stock protections. It was only 10 years ago. In 1991, all the stock was supposed to go public, the corporations were supposed to go public, our land would no longer be protected, and so forth on that. That changed because of a major packet of amendments. Not that it can never go that route, but it is now up to the Native people themselves to decide. That package of the 1991 amendments took five years to develop and bring back to the Native people. In fact, I remember one convention in which it was brought forward and the Native people turned it down and said it wasn’t what they wanted to see happen.
I’m really encouraged that ANCSA, the Land Claims, is really a living settlement and a living document. As people’s needs and desires change, we can go back to Congress and alter it and change it and make it more effective and more relevant. We all know Land Claims didn’t satisfactorily address hunting and fishing rights. There is still major conflict in the state about that. Native people are united on resolving that conflict and getting those rights settled into federal law. In addition, governance and how it fits into the state and how it fits as a tool for Native people is an issue.
I’m going to conclude by saying things are still in that progress. The work that’s been done should be celebrated. It was done by a lot of people of goodwill who gave up their time and their family’s time. They could have been doing other things, but instead they chose to make this happen. No law by itself would have accomplished what the Native people have accomplished. It’s people who make laws and institutions work. There are challenges still ahead of us, but we have a new generation ready for those challenges, so we will continue to prevail. We will create a future that is unlike any we can imagine today. The possibilities are open to us.
Thank you for coming together to share and to honor the people who led us to this point. Thank you for honoring the people from Tyonek. Thank you.