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.