CIRI President and CEO Sophie Minich kicked off two days of Alaska Native leadership meetings with a call to unity. “These meetings are about creating a space to work together, having critical conversations, and identifying challenges and opportunities,” she said. “We come together at a pivotal time to re-evaluate what we think we know, identify opportunities for making change, and ultimately come in closer alignment on our shared goals and values.”
COOK INLET REGION LEADERS ROUNDTABLE
Held Jan. 30 in Anchorage, the Cook Inlet Region Leaders Roundtable brought together leaders from CIRI, the CIRI family of tribally designated organizations, and Cook Inlet villages and tribes to develop regional priorities. The roundtable was hosted by CIRI, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, Cook Inlet Tribal Council and Southcentral Foundation.
Cook Inlet region leaders identified various economic, social and cultural priorities. The priorities were discussed during the roundtable, and the top three region-wide priorities were determined by a region leaders vote at the following day’s Alaska Native Unity Forum:
- Protecting self-determination: Defend Alaska Native people’s rights to self-determination and access to critical federal programs and funding.
- Subsistence: Manage subsistence resources for future generations. Protect all Native people’s subsistence practices, regardless of whether they live in urban or rural Alaska.
- Revitalize Alaska Native culture and identity: Protect ancestral lands, preserve and revitalize Native languages, celebrate all Alaska Native cultures and build awareness of the importance of cultural identity.
“Gathering in the same room, listening to tribal leaders’ stories and working through ideas is valuable,” said Ronette Stanton, council chair, Kenaitze Indian Tribe. “We worked to develop a clear plan of action to address national issues that significantly impact Alaska Native people. It is imperative we come together and have these crucial conversations.”
ALASKA NATIVE UNITY FORUM
On Jan. 31, Cook Inlet region leaders joined tribes, Alaska Native regional and village corporations, tribal health organizations, nonprofits, housing authorities and other Native organizations from across the state for the Alaska Native Unity Forum (ANUF). The purpose of the forum was to discuss Alaska’s model of self-determination and how to better work together to serve and represent Alaska Native people. In all, more than 200 Native leaders from across Alaska participated in the ANUF.
“I enjoyed the collaboration and saw what we can accomplish when we work together and support one another as Alaska Native people and organizations,” said Chris Monfor, president and CEO of Salamatof Native Association. “Coming together for the Cook Inlet Region Leaders Roundtable the day prior was helpful, as our region established an agreed-upon direction and we were able to immediately move into action at the statewide level.”
Cook Inlet region leadership will meet again this summer to discuss the region’s priorities and establish a formal protocol for engaging one another on critical issues. “The work being done is not just for CIRI Shareholders and Descendants and Cook Inlet villages and tribes, but all Native people,” Minich said.
“We may not always agree—and indeed, healthy conflict is an important part of any relationship—but we all want the same thing: a bright future for Alaska Native people in our region and beyond,” she continued. “These leadership meetings provide a way to share learning, strengthen our relationships and ultimately affect positive change for our people.”