Dear fellow shareholders,
A return to semi-normal life made for a very busy and fulfilling summer. The uptick in summer activities gave us many opportunities to socialize, listen and learn from one another.
I personally enjoyed participating in this summer’s Copper Archeology Camp with Dr. Kory Cooper, Associate Professor at Purdue University. We had the opportunity to visit the Gulkana Pit archeological site where Dr. Cooper did copper-use research in the early ’90s. The site has been the subject of two research digs and contains 49 identified house and cache pits. Time and nature have reclaimed the area and, at this point in time, archeologists are guessing what these pits were used for. We desperately need Alaska Native and local archeologists who have a passion for reviewing past research with fresh eyes so new findings can be published on these significant and spiritual places. I feel that way anytime I find myself in a sacred or significant Ahtna site. We have so many special places whose history deserves to be documented and shared with future Ahtna generations.
Ahtna’s Shareholder Enrichment department hosted a youth event in August to welcome local shareholder students back to the classroom. Shareholders aged 12-18 were invited to come to the Anchorage and Glennallen offices to learn about our scholarship programs and career opportunities and were given Ahtna backpacks filled with school supplies. Prince William Sound Community College gave an informative presentation on earning college credits while attending high school. Sincere thanks and appreciation to parents and grandparents who came with their student to learn more about Ahtna benefits and opportunities. I learned from parents who shared during the evening.
We also had the pleasure of participating in other regional summer youth programs, including the Copper River Native Association’s (CRNA) Youth Employment Training Initiative (YETI), CRNA Youth & Elders Conference, cultural camps, and Wrangell Institute of Science & Engineering’s Earth Discovery Day. We closed out the summer event season by hosting a free Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Construction and Survey Career Exploration camp. Thanks to funding from Ahtna and the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME), nine Ahtna high school students had the opportunity to stay at the Alaska Laborers Training Center and learn about careers in STEM, construction and survey fields. You can read more about the experience here.
I am thrilled we were able to reopen the Ahtna Culture Center this summer, thanks to a wonderful partnership with Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Supervisor Edward Greybear and interns Ryan George and Damien Shank, our exceptional shareholder guides, walked visitors around the Ahtna exhibits and were wonderful representatives for our Ahtna people! We are already working with the National Park Service on plans for next season.
I am happy to report that Ahtna’s Walter Charley Memorial Scholarship approved a record 71 applications for the fall 2022 semester! The average GPA for scholarship recipients during the Spring semester was a remarkable 3.33. Our Ahtna students are amazing, and we are incredibly proud of their commitment to furthering their education. I also hope that our graduates share their resumes with us and that they apply for Ahtna opportunities as they come up.
In August, Governor Dunleavy and Representatives George Rauscher and Mike Cronk visited the region to meet with the Chitina Joint Task Force, a dedicated group representing Chitina Traditional Indian Village Council, Chitina Native Corporation (CNC), and Ahtna. We toured the Copper River Highway, traveling from Chitina to Haley Creek. The Governor said during his visit that the State of Alaska will do their part to protect the cultural sites and gravesites at Eskilida Creek.
While the visit with Governor Dunleavy was happening, crews from the Copper River Watershed Project, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Chitina and Ahtna collected ten dump-truck loads of garbage and debris from the Chitina fishing grounds. The Chitina Joint Task Force will continue to collaborate on protection of the vulnerable cultural resources in the area.
The 2022 Ahtna Shareholder Survey is open through December 2nd to all shareholders 18 and over. The brief survey can be completed online, over the phone, or by mailing in the detachable form that was mailed this month. The survey asks a variety of questions about Ahtna’s priorities, engagement, and customer service and there are several opportunities to share comments in your own words. We added new career-focused questions this year to help us better understand and support the needs of shareholders seeking employment.
November 8th is the Alaska General Election. It is critical that we elect officials that represents us and our priorities. You can make an informed choice at the polls by educating yourself on the ballot measures, candidates and incumbents.
The Get Out the Native Vote website is a great resource www.aknativevote.com. AFN will also have a voter education guide, which may be distributed sometime during the AFN Convention October 20-22 in Anchorage. Do you have young voters in your family? Election season is a great time to educate them on the importance of voting and the impact they can make. Every vote counts!
As events are announced, please save the date for the return of the Shareholder Christmas Gatherings in Anchorage and the region. Event details can be found on here, and updates will be posted on the Ahtna website and Facebook page. I hope to see many of you at these gatherings – I, along with our Board and employees, always enjoy visiting with you, hearing your input, and catching up.
Michelle Anderson, President