The Alaska Federation of Natives
(AFN) is the largest statewide Native organization in Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...
. Its membership includes 178 villages (both federally-recognized tribe
A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...
s and village corporations), thirteen regional native corporations, and twelve regional nonprofit and tribal consortiums that contract and run federal and state programs. AFN is governed by a 37-member board, which is elected by its membership at the annual convention held each October. The mission of AFN is to enhance and promote the cultural, economic and political voice of the entire Alaska native community.
The Alaska Federation of Natives was formed in October 1966, when more than 400 Alaska Natives representing 17 Native organizations gathered for a three-day conference to address Alaska Native aboriginal land rights. From 1966 to 1971, AFN worked primarily to achieve passage of a just and fair land settlement. On December 18, 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, commonly abbreviated ANCSA, was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on December 23, 1971, the largest land claims settlement in United States history. ANCSA was intended to resolve the long-standing issues surrounding aboriginal land claims in...
(ANCSA) was signed into law.
In the early and mid-1970’s, AFN provided technical assistance to help Alaska Natives implement ANCSA and set up the corporations mandated by the Act. Since then, AFN has evolved to meet the changing needs of Alaska Natives and respond to new challenges as they emerge, working to address and protect Native interests at the state and federal levels.
AFN was instrumental in the development and passage of federal laws including the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, and the 1987 Amendments to ANCSA (the “1991 legislation”). At the state level, AFN plays an active role in the legislative process, promoting laws, policies and programs in areas such as health, education, resource development, labor and government. In the late 1980’s, AFN turned its attention to social, tribal and economic issues.
AFN's Detailed Mission
Alaska Native people began as members of full sovereign nations and continue to enjoy a unique political relationship with the federal government. We will survive and prosper as distinct ethnic and cultural groups and will participate fully as members of the overall society. The mission of AFN is to enhance and promote the cultural, economic and political voice of the entire Alaska Native community. AFN’s major goals are to:
- Advocate for Alaska Native people, their governments and organizations, with respect to federal, state and local laws;
- Foster and encourage preservation of Alaska Native cultures;
- Promote understanding of the economic needs of Alaska Natives and encourage development consistent with those needs;
- Protect, retain and enhance all lands owned by Alaska Natives and their organizations; and
- Promote and advocate for programs and systems which instill pride and confidence in individual Alaska Natives.
The AFN Convention is the largest representative annual gathering in the United States of any Native peoples. Delegates are elected on a population formula of one representative per twenty-five Native residents in the area and delegate participation rates at the annual convention typically exceed 95%. 3,000-4,000 people attend each year, including 1,000 voting delegates from across the state and the proceedings are broadcast live via television, radio and webcast reaching Alaska Natives and non-Natives alike from Barrow to Ketchikan, from the Aleutian Chain to the Canadian border. During the convention, the entire state of Alaska is blanketed with discussion on current events and issues. International observers are present at most meetings, both exchanging information and learning from the Alaska Native experience. Each year the convention adopts a theme.
Their traditional dances remain the lifeblood of their culture and their communities: they sustain them and connect them with their rich cultural history. Passed from generation to generation, their dances ensure that the many distinct Native cultures across Alaska remain connected to their origins.
For over 20 years, Alaska Natives have come together in dance to celebrate Quyana Alaska during AFN’s Annual Convention. First introduced at the 1982 Convention, Quyana Alaska was designed to restore the traditional dances and ensure that they were passed on to the future generations. To date, over 200 different dance groups have performed at Native gatherings across the state. The cultural revival has certainly exploded across rural Alaska, and Quyana Alaska is now a treasured highlight of each and every Convention.