Alaska Native leaders plan international summit

Posted: Thursday, March 04, 2004

Alaska Native leaders are planning an international summit this summer to exchange information about developing the economies of rural and indigenous communities.

Organizers say representatives from cities, villages and development organizations in Asia and South America are expected to participate.

Alaska Federation of Natives President Julie Kitka said World Bank President James Wolfensohn has agreed to be part of the summit. The Asian Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank also will participate.

"It is an opportunity for us to build tremendous partnerships which could bring home resources to our villages, bring job opportunities to our people, expand opportunities for our regional corporations and foster an exchange that is unprecedented in many ways," Kitka said at a recent forum in Juneau.

Organizing the international summit is part of the work of the Denali Commission, a federally funded panel formed in part to spur economic development in Alaska.

Language sponsored by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and added to the commission's enabling legislation calls for a summit to "evaluate the best practices for economic development worldwide and how they can be incorporated into regional economic development plans."

Kitka chairs the commission's Economic Development Committee, which is organizing the summit.

AFN spokesman John Tetpon said the event will take place this summer in Southcentral Alaska. The date and location are still being worked out.

Tetpon said the goal is to bring as many people as possible to the summit from Alaska villages in need of economic development.

"It's going to include people from our nonprofit organizations, our regional corporations, village enterprises, village corporations and tribal groups," he said.

Lower 48, Hawaii and Canada indigenous groups also will be part of the summit, as will Alaska's congressional delegation, AFN said.

Kitka said the summit's information exchange will go both ways. While Alaskans hope to learn from other countries' examples, international groups also want to learn more about northern Native economics.

For example, Kitka said, the Asian Development Bank is interested in how Alaska's indigenous people have worked with their resources.

"They said, 'We want to learn what works at the village level because we have hundreds and thousands of villages in our countries, and they have some resources behind them and they are interested in partnering as well,"' Kitka said.

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