Richard and Janice Jackson of Ketchikan have been elected as grand presidents for the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood, respectively. This marks the first time in more than 60 years a husband and wife have held the positions concurrently.
"I think it will really help us to work together on the issues," said Janice. "Of course the communication will be open and frequent. We'll be having a lot of discussions over the dinner table."
The Jacksons said they feel passionately about the issues facing Natives, which is what inspired them to lead. Janice said some of these issues include suicide, alcohol and drug prevention. She said the organizations are working with others on programs.
"We work on behalf of the Native people, and we tackle some of the big issues, so we have our work cut out for us," she said.
Janice said youth is another concern and the ANB and ANS are working to recruit and train young people and hope they will become junior members.
She hopes they will be able to visit as many local grand camps as they can to help them revitalize their training.
Richard, who has served as ANB grand president before, said that as presidents, they will continue to work on subsistence issues facing Natives.
"This year, we're addressing the federal subsistence laws as they exist in Alaska," he said.
He wants to address how these laws are managed, plus he would like to see more Natives on the Federal Subsistence Board.
He said they have a $20,000 fund allocated to work on these issues with Tlingit Natives and Sealaska.
Janice said other projects in store include a leadership conference in the spring and evaluation of the officer's handbook. Richard said the organizations' constitution could also be looked over at a convention next year.
Richard said there is also work to be done in preparation for ANB's 100 year anniversary in 2012.
Before the Jacksons, other husband and wife teams have served as grand presidents but not simultaneously. The last to do so were Roy and Elizabeth Peratrovich in 1945.
Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.