Alaska Natives: It's Time for a Radical Change to How AFN Works

Ray Austin

Alaska Natives are in need of success stories and statistics that can show we can be more educated and can improve employment opportunities for all. Instead of being divided, we should be as one to improve education for all Alaska Natives, regardless of what corporation they belong. The statistics prove that we are disparate in education and scholarships, Alaska Natives have the lowest percentages of college graduates and have the highest rate of unemployment, even though the ANC's (Alaska Native Corporations) generate revenue in the billions.

Under 7(i), 70 percent of all revenues received by each Regional Corporation from timber and subsurface estate resources must be divided among all 12 Regional Corporations in proportion to the number of Alaska Natives enrolled in each region. At least 50 percent of the revenues received must be redistributed among the Village Corporations. A similar revenue sharing could be started to improve education for all, money before taxes could be contributed for improving education opportunities for all. It may take collaborative action to convince Congress that this is necessary for the good of all Alaska Natives.

Instead of the same old-same old agendas for the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN), I want to hear others say, "I am ready to step forward to improve education and employment opportunities for all Alaska Natives, and I am willing to work together to do this." One, we could work together to employ all Alaska Natives, take away the divisive statements such as “Shareholder Preference” and change that to “Alaska Native Preference”. If a job is open in one urban, village, or subsidiary, it should be open to any Alaska Native, not just specific shareholders.

We have proven for 42 years that we can contribute in revenue sharing, we need to step up that initiative to work together on opportunities that will work for the long term to improve statistics and the negative stigma, that we are deficient education and employment.

Now is the time to improve things. Subsistence has been a favorite topic since the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was formed, and is a common bond for all our cultures. Now is time to focus on long-term ways to make us stronger and smarter. If it takes a radical change, by changing how AFN works or doesn’t work, then the time is no better than now. This can only be accomplished by sharing the same mission goals that support more education opportunities and a means to improve employment, because they go hand-in-hand.

Ray Austin is a Tlingit Indian. He lives in Albuquerque and is originally from Juneau, Alaska. He is a shareholder of Sealaska and Goldbelt Corporations.

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Anonymous's picture
AFN is headed by the executives of the Sealaska Corp. The most corrupt, oppressive native corporation in Alaska. Fifty of it's top Sealaska managers and boardmembers will pass the fifty million dollar mark in compensation just since 2008. This, while 70% of Sealaska shareholders live below the poverty line, and Sealaska's dividends from it's operations and permanent fund total 68 cents per day for shareholders with one hundred shares of stock. Our problems are certainly linked to the things Mr.Austin states here. Our main problem is the resource extraction policy of the Sealaska Corporation. The Sealaska Corporation has logged at unsustainable rates in spite of it's four decade propaganda to the contrary. This "Native cultural corporation" structured itself to provide at risk and long term at risk bonuses for executives, but remains one of the only native corporations in Alaska not to provide anything in burial assistance for it's poverty stricken shareholders. Discretionary voting in board of director elections, no term limits for boardmembers and the majority of boardmembers being appointed by other boardmembers has open the door for decades of nepotism, favoritism and the general parental treatment of native people, not to mention the board of directors authorizing one half million dollars be paid to itself for thirteen meeting last year. Education, certainly. Basic greed at the administrative level is the real problem.