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Annual Tribal Assembly put biggest emphasis on policy

Posted: April 18, 2011 - 9:11pm

The 76th Annual Tribal Assembly wrapped up over the weekend.

The Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA) oversaw more than 120 delegates from across the state plus Seattle and San Francisco, as it is the governing body and program manager for more than 27,000 tribal citizens.

“It’s always good to see old friends and meet new ones at these assemblies, but it’s important for us to focus on business,” President Edward K. Thomas stated in a release. “This year we streamlined our agenda to pay more attention to critical issues facing our people. I thank my staff for preparing all the Assembly material and activities and for following up on Tribal Assembly actions.”

Thomas told the Empire the fact that there were fewer speeches and more time spent drafting policies and resolutions was a bright spot in this year’s Assembly, calling it a “good and healthy debate.”

“Generally speaking, the delegates appeared to be grateful for the amount of time spent on policy and going through resolutions rather than passing things last-minute at the end,” he said.

Delegates submitted 55 resolutions that addressed a variety of issues, including subsistence, health care, foster care, enrollment, transportation, Northwest Coast Native art legal protection, expansion of the Alaska Legislature and Southeast redistricting.

Thomas said the majority of resolutions passed, with a few found to be out of order, tabled or referred to other committees.

Some issues he said he felt were of particular importance included the impact of the national budget crisis on human services, saying it appears Congress may cut such service funds.

He said contracts have had to be renegotiated using a different methodology to recover costs, resulting in the need to reduce administration costs.

“There’s been a glitch in the methodology for us in how much we get reimbursed. We submitted some proposals and the Assembly agreed with our approach and reduced budget,” he said.

Native health care is always a hot-button topic at the Assembly, he said.

“The thing that really generates a lot of interest is health care, so when SEARHC (SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium) gave its report there were people standing up to ask questions on every level of health care,” Thomas said.

Thomas said a big concern is that there was already a shortage of health care available even before budget cuts. One concern at the Assembly was the fate of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

“The unfortunate part of that is the Act has been pending so long, the quality of health care has deteriorated over the years and the Act offered would bring up the standards,” he said.

He said it’s been reported there have been some successes in increasing village services over the last few years, but the outlook is hard to predict if cuts are made.

“Any cuts are bad when there is already a deficiency,” he said.

Thomas said CCTHITA also adjusted the rules for its election delegation following problems it observed last year.

As for the delegations, Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand President Richard Jackson and Juneau delegate Brad Fluetsch were seated as co-parliamentarians. Seattle delegate Aurora Lehr was elected to a two-year term as a tribal judge and Craig delegate Charlene Wolfe got a one-year term as a tribal judge.

Other Assembly highlights included Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl receiving the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and designating April 14, 2011 as Rosita Worl Day.

First Vice President and San Francisco delegate Will Micklin was named Delegate/Citizen of the Year.

Ketchikan earned the Large Community Council of the Year award, with Seattle as the runner-up. Klawock was the Small Community Council of the Year, with San Francisco as the runner-up.

The keynote address came from Walter Soboleff. The 102-year-old scholar spoke on the importance of all values, not just traditional ones, and how Alaska Natives transitioned from a trade economy to a cash one.

Youth Representative Megan Gregory gave a report on youth suicide and the importance of positive social interactions and healthy activities.

Incoming 2011 Youth Representative Shawn Eby spoke about the University of Alaska’s Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program and its relevance in building confidence in Native students.

Thomas transferred the Tlax’aneis Noow Shakee.át (Kingfisher Fort Headdress) to the Lúkaax.ádi clan of Haines, which was accepted by Lúkaax.ádi clan leader Raymond Dennis Jr.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.

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