Dear fellow shareholders,
I am thankful to report that we are rounding the corner and beginning staff re-entry at Ahtna’s various office locations. The Anchorage office opened at full capacity on June 7 and the Glennallen Headquarters staff has been back working from the office since March. Our employees have demonstrated amazing resiliency and flexibility in meeting our business, shareholder and client needs during these challenging times, and their collective commitment to safety is unwavering.
We were delighted to have so many of you join us online for Ahtna’s virtual 48th Annual Shareholders Meeting on June 5th. For the second year COVID-19 restrictions prevented us from being able to invite shareholders to attend in person. While it was necessary to protect everyone’s health and safety, we missed being able to connect face-to-face with you. We are optimistic about returning to an in-person meeting next year, and will continue to create a valuable virtual experience for those who cannot make it to Glennallen.
We are happy to welcome back newly elected director Karen Linnell (Seat A, At-Large) who previously served on the Ahtna, Incorporated Board of Directors from 2004-2019. Ms. Linnell was also elected to serve as the AI Board’s Vice Chair. We would also like to congratulate returning directors Genevieve John (Seat A, At-Large), Lucille A. Lincoln (Seat G2, Kluti-Kaah), Cecil Sanford (Seat H, Mentasta) and John Dye (Seat I, Gulkana). Newly elected directors will serve 3-year terms, until the 2024 Annual Meeting. We expressed our huge appreciation to outgoing director Margie Ewan for her dedication and service to the Ahtna people.
Local COVID heroes were nominated by the eight Ahtna villages and recognized during the meeting. You can read here about the individuals and organizations who went above and beyond to care for the people of our region during the pandemic. There are countless stories of people pulling together during this crisis; what is shared is merely a glimpse of the care and compassion shown.
We have seen the Coronavirus disproportionately affect Native people and as our Elders recall, it’s not the first time. The 1918 flu epidemic devastated Alaska, wiping out more than half the population of some villages. The late Lucille Brenwick was only 7 or 8 at the time, but shared her vivid memories in a 2001 interview with her great-niece, Ahtna shareholder Ruth Ann Shinn, for the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve’s Project Jukebox. The changes witnessed by our Elders over the past century are remarkable. We must continue to pass down their stories so future generations can learn from their resilience and follow in their footsteps.
In a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), the unique agreement between the federal government and Alaska Native people has been upheld. The Court held that Alaska Native regional and village corporations should be recognized under the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act’s (ISDA) definition of tribes. We are pleased to see the Court affirm Alaska Native corporations’ eligibility for CARES Act funds. The Treasury has yet to announce a distribution timeline, but we intend to use the money to benefit our villages and our shareholders who have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. We extend our deepest thanks to Alaska’s congressional delegation, the State of Alaska, Alaska Federation of Natives, ANCSA Regional Association, and Alaska Native Village Corporation Association for standing with us throughout this litigation.
Last year, after almost 50 years, the Gulkana Village Council reached a resolution with the State of Alaska on the return of their former village lands and traditional burial grounds. The Council and Ahtna produced in partnership a historical video to commemorate the long-awaited resolution and help preserve the land’s legacy: www.vimeo.com/563802617.
In July 1974, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and Ahtna, Incorporated launched a unique and special partnership by entering into an Omnibus Agreement that gives each other reciprocal benefits and creates special opportunities. Recently, our partnership with Alyeska was formally elevated with the renewed signing of a Declaration of Friendship. The friendship agreement is reviewed and updated frequently to demonstrate the continued connection between our organizations. The Trans Alaska Pipeline right-of-way crosses 55 miles of fee simple Ahtna lands and some 197 miles are within Ahtna’s traditional territory. Ahtna Construction is the primary baseline contractor for the Glennallen Response Base (GRB), and we are incredibly proud of our amazing staff there! We look forward to many more years of partnership with Alyeska.
Congratulations to our class of 2021 shareholder graduates! Your commitment to furthering your education is admirable, and we are delighted to be able to share your accomplishments in this issue.
Michelle Anderson, President