A word from the president, March 2013

By: Sophie Minich, CIRI president and chief executive officer
MinichPresidentsMessage Photo ENewsEarlier this month I had the honor of participating in the signing ceremony to convey more than 200,000 acres of land to CIRI village corporations. This transaction, which you can read more about in this issue of the Raven’s Circle, is monumental for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it brings to a close the long process to finally convey the last of the major land entitlements to the CIRI villages and sets the stage for what I believe will be a new era of collaboration between the village corporations and CIRI.

As many know, the issues surrounding the transfer of the 12(b) land entitlements have been complex and contentious. Every CIRI Board member and every CIRI president since the inception of our corporation 40 years ago has, in some way, been involved in this process. For CIRI and the villages, the delays and litigation with the federal government have led to frustration and, at times, bitter disagreements. But, with the selection and transfer of these lands, we can now focus our energy on opportunity rather than conflict.

I commend the village leaders for realizing the wisdom of resolving this issue in a manner that emphasized equity and fairness. I also commend the entire CIRI land department for the countless hours they committed to the project and the successful execution of the selection process.

This process has reminded us all that we are stronger when we work together. CIRI, its villages, the tribes and other Native organizations can accomplish so much more when we cooperate with each other. Whether the issues involve land access, joint ventures or other opportunities, our unity is our strength.

CIRI has made recent strides to build and improve relationships with our villages, tribes and nonprofits, and this remains an important priority for CIRI. One recent example is the effort to bring the organizations together to discuss issues of shared interest. The forum is a commitment on behalf of CIRI to work with our village, tribal and nonprofit partners to explore new opportunities where we can work together. These regional meetings will take place four times a year to ensure the dialogue continues.

In addition, CIRI helped organize an economic development conference in September that brought together a diverse group of Native organizations along with the University of Alaska, Anchorage Economic Development Corporation and more. It was an opportunity to share ideas, open lines of communications and encourage partnerships. I’m confident this effort will not only improve relationships but lead to new innovative approaches to work together.

CIRI recognizes it is not just the ANCSA corporations that are helping our shareholders. Tribal organizations play an essential role in many communities delivering services and defending the rights of Alaska Native people. CIRI has been a vocal advocate for reorganization and bylaw changes that were recently adopted by the Alaska Federation of Natives board, which strengthen the influence of tribes within the organization. CIRI will continue to collaborate with the villages and tribes in our region, including working cooperatively and requesting their support when we hold events in their communities.

CIRI is also working closely with CIRI’s family of nonprofit organizations. The communications teams for CIRI, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Alaska Native Justice Center, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, The CIRI Foundation, Koahnic Broadcast Corporation and Southcentral Foundation are meeting regularly to collaborate and share information about developments and upcoming events. This is a benefit, not only internally, but also to ensure our shareholders, members and clients have the latest information on the many developments affecting our organizations.

As CIRI shareholders, we are fortunate to have such diverse, professional and dedicated organizations working on our behalf. I am committed to the notion that CIRI can foster better, stronger relationships with these organizations and am confident that all of our respective organizations and shareholders will benefit.

Congratulations, again, to the villages that received their 12(b) lands. It’s a historic time for CIRI and Cook Inlet villages and tribes. I look forward to hearing about the new opportunities that will follow. And, know that CIRI remains a willing partner, ready to participate in collaborative efforts in the future with the realization our unity is our strength.