From Kyle Hopkins at the Dena'ina Center --
4:45 p.m. UPDATE:
Among the other proposals scheduled for a vote this week at AFN: A call to abolish Columbus Day.
"It is unconscionable for the United States of America to celebrate and honor a person of such character of child molestation, degradation of women, genocide and enslavement of people," says a draft resolution proposed by the Bethel-based Association of Village Council Presidents.
The association is asking Alaska's congressional leaders to propose a national ban on Columbus Day celebration and replace it with a "holiday honoring the great Native American leaders who contributed to this country."
1:40 p.m. UPDATE:
Are you a registered Democrat? A Republican?
The board of directors for the Alaska Federation of Natives -- the non-profit representing nearly 180 villages across the state -- recommends dropping your party affiliation. At least on paper.
A draft resolution proposed by the board this week calls on voters, and Alaska Native voters in particular, to switch their registrations to "undeclared."
Undeclared voters can vote for either a Democrat or a Republican in primary elections, the board argues, "and thereby vote for the candidates that most support their views and standings on the issues."
Former AFN President Byron Mallott said he supports the proposal, which would allow voters to participate in the closed Republican primaries which typically favor more conservative candidates.
“Very conservative ideologies scare the hell out of us, because of our circumstance," Mallott said, emphasizing that he was speaking for himself and not all Alaska Natives. "Because of the range of issues that affect us ... I hope it passes with a huge vote.”
Delegates will vote on the proposed resolution and about 50 others on Saturday, the final day of the convention. AFN resolutions are non-binding but signal the collective will of the state's largest association of Alaska Natives.
Which candidates stand to gain, and which stand to lose, if voters follow the board's advice? Would it make AFN endorsements and regional corporation spending more influential in electing candidates?
One unofficial theme at this year's convention is a blooming recognition that efforts to re-elect Murkowski proved the Native vote and unrestricted Alaska Native corporation spending can sway an election.
“It may be in this day and age just an urban myth that most Alaska Natives are registered Democrats," Mallott said. "For example, I’ve been registered undeclared for at least a dozen years.”
Any registered voter can choose the primary ballot that includes Democrats, members of the Alaskan Independence Party and Libertarian candidates. Only registered non-partisan, undeclared and Republican voters can choose the Republican primary ballot, according to the Division of Elections.
12:15 p.m. UPDATE:
I caught up with Rep. Don Young to ask what he meant when he told the AFN crowd that he'd like to see an Alaska Native elected to the state's sole Congressional seat. (That is Young's job after all. But he told the crowd that he won't live forever.)
So did he have a replacement in mind?
Young isn't planning to step down any time soon. He's running for re-election in 2012 and plans to run again in 2014, a spokesman said.
Meantime, I spoke briefly with Sen. Al Kookesh about behind-the-scenes tension between Alaska tribes and corporations. Kookesh has called for corporations to be recognized as part of the National Congress of American Indians ... a notion that concerns some tribal leaders, APRN reports.
I'll post Kookesh's remarks later today. He said a resolution supporting inclusion of corporations in the National Congress of American Indians has been pulled from the agenda to avoid arguments at this year's unity-themed convention.
Kookesh, by the way, said he's not interested in running for Congress. People beat you up enough when you're running for the state House or Senate, let alone a statewide seat, he said.
10:30 a.m. UPDATE: Kotzebue musher John Baker, wearing Team Baker blue, told the crowd of hundreds that Alaska Natives collectively "prevented a disaster" by re-electing Lisa Murkowski to the U.S. Senate last year.
Alaska Natives had faced a candidate "who would not represent our interests," he said. Republican Joe Miller had defeated Murkowski in the primary and village voters were one of the big reasons -- along with financial support from Alaska Native corporations -- that Murkowski won an unprecedented write-in campaign.
Baker also showed his support for the regional corporations, which "provide more private sector jobs in Alaska than any outside company or industry," he told the crowd.
The foray into politics was brief, as Baker delivered a largely inspirational message.
“Too often, when things get difficult, there’s a temptation to see ourselves as victims. I’m here to tell you today, that we’re only victims if we allow ourselves to be," he said.
The Alaska Federation of Natives convention is underway. Still time to catch Iditarod musher John Baker’s keynote speech.
Among the highlight’s so far:
-- AFN President Julie Kitka told the crowd that the feds’ changes to subsistence oversight have fallen short. She is calling for a “Native-plus” subsistence priority.
AFN co-chairman Al Kookesh has said that a Native-plus-rural priority would mean that Alaska Natives who move from villages to the cities would still get first crack at subsistence hunting and fishing -- even in times of shortage. It would take Congressional action to make that happen.
-- Anticipated cuts to federal funding to Alaska Natives and Alaska Native programs is “nothing short of another form of termination by the United States,” Kitka said.
-- “I would be no more prouder in my life than to have an Alaska Native be a United States congressman,” says U.S. Rep. Don Young. (Does he have anyone in mind?)
I'll be posting updates on here and on Twitter through the day, and posting recaps and stories at adn.com and in print, so check back.