Dear fellow shareholders,
After two years of virtual events, it was wonderful to connect face-to-face with many of you at the Annual Meeting. We are so thankful to everyone who participated, whether in person or virtually through the live stream.
John Craig was honored as Board Member of the Year and as an outgoing Board member. A big thank you for his many years of service. The late Dorothy Shinn was recognized for her years of service on the Ahtna Board and devotion to the Ahtna people. Ahtna’s 2021 Annual Report was dedicated to her memory.
We are happy to welcome Susan Taylor (Seat A, At-Large) and Jessica Denny (Seat D, Cheesh’na) to the Board. You can read more about them here. We would also like to congratulate returning directors Jason Hart (Seat A, At-Large) and Linda Pete (Seat F, Gakona). Newly elected directors will serve 3-year terms, until the 2025 Annual Meeting. We expressed our huge appreciation to outgoing directors John Craig and Shawn Sanford for their dedication and service to the Ahtna people.
Employees enjoyed the Ahtna Day holiday on June 20th. Our Board created the holiday to recognize our Ahtna culture, traditions, and traditional use of our lands. Our ancestors worked hard and fought to give us land for hunting and access to rivers for salmon fishing – so we would always have access to our traditional foods. Our ancestors were strong, practical, hardworking, non-materialistic people who knew what it took to survive and thrive on our homelands. Ahtna Day honors their contributions and helps to educate our staff about our traditional ways.
The Ahtna, Incorporated Board of Directors voted to endorse Tara Katuk Sweeney’s candidacy in the special election for Alaska’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. We were disappointed to hear that Tara will not be allowed to advance to the August special election, but she has announced plans to stay in the race for the regular election. It is important that we Get Out the Native Vote (GOTNV) and make our voices heard! We have set up a GOTNV email (AhtnaGOTNV@ahtna.net) and are seeking volunteers to help us get the word out and answer any questions.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve Superintendent Ben Bobowski has committed to working to maintain a strong and positive relationship with Ahtna. National Park Service (NPS) and Ahtna staff held a two-day workshop this spring to discuss challenges and opportunities and how we can work together on shared goals. The workshop was very productive, and we plan to continue to meet on a regular basis to share information and collaborate.
I’m happy to announce that after being closed for three seasons, the Ahtna Cultural Center (ACC), C’ek’aedi Hwnax ‘Legacy House’, has reopened under a new partnership between Ahtna and the NPS. You can read more about the partnership and the ACC reopening here. With the help of special NPS funding, we have hired Edward Greybear as the ACC intern supervisor overseeing interns Ryan George and Damien Shank.
I was invited to two meetings with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland while she was in Alaska earlier this year. The first meeting was an Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Board meeting, and I focused on traditional hunting and fishing issues and our wish to manage wildlife on our Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) lands. In the second meeting, I focused on the need for resources to deal with contaminated lands that were conveyed to us under ANCSA. There was also a meeting with the Secretary regarding the Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans Land Allotment Program (www.blm.gov/alaska/2019AKNativeVetsLand). It was announced during the meeting that the Interior would be opening 27 million acres of federal land to selection by Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans.
I would like to thank shareholder veterans John Craig and the late Bruce Heaton for their service and for representing us at the meeting. Bruce, who operated the Tolsona Lake Lodge with his wife Michelle, passed on May 24th. Our sincere condolences go out to Michelle and the entire Heaton family.
Nearly 80 years ago, a bridge on the Richardson Highway divided a large, thriving village called Sta-keh. The Native people that lived on one side of the bridge were forced to move to the other side of the road where the present village of Gulkana stands today. There was no warning, no consultation, and no compensation. There were 34 known graves (though there are many more), sacred sites, houses, and household goods left. The experience of Sta-keh (Gulkana) is not unique in Alaska or other states in which Indigenous peoples have been forced to move or relocate as states have developed.
In 2020, 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 is now able to protect what was rightfully theirs to begin with. New visitor facilities, including restrooms, trash receptacles and interpretive signs, have been installed at the Gulkana River Boat Launch site. The signs are meant to give visitors a greater appreciation for the historical, cultural, and spiritual importance of the area. Ahtna and the Gulkana Village Council in partnership produced a historical video to help preserve the land’s legacy: www.vimeo.com/563802617.
Congratulations to our class of 2022 shareholder graduates! Your commitment to furthering your education is admirable, and we are delighted to be able to share your accomplishments here.
Michelle Anderson, President