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KNBA News - Sen. Murkowski gives AFN Speech; Musher John Baker introduces Wellness Initiative


Murkowski Highlights Alaska Native Civic and Cultural Leader in AFN Speech


By Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC


Every year, Alaska’s congressional delegation is invited to address the AFN convention, and today was U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s turn.

  Like Sen. Dan Sullivan, Murkowski kept the speech focused on Alaska Native heroes. But while he mostly discussed military veterans, Murkowski put more emphasis on the civic and cultural leaders. She reeled off scores of names -- Sidney Huntington, John Baker, Poldine (Pole-DEEN) Carlo, Georgianna Lincoln, Rosita Worl. She recognized leaders in community health, suicide prevention, education, and one pair of exemplary parents.

“These are heroes, each and every day making a difference. One person, making a difference. One person saying I can do something to change the direction,” said Murkowski.

Murkowski also endorsed a passionate cause permeating this year’s convention.

“My list of heroes includes friends in the Interior and across the state who seek justice for the Fairbanks Four. We will continue with that,” said Murkowski.

During her speech, a dozen or so demonstrators came in, some in animal costumes. They held subsistence- and climate-related signs, like “Don’t roll the dice with my ice” and “ichthyophonus” is upon us.” That’s a fish parasite. They were soon asked to leave.

Murkowski did highlight some of her work in the Senate, including a provision in an education bill that would require school districts and the state to give more deference to Native communities, and her support of a bill to restore the Voting Rights Act. With help from Daysha Eaton in Anchorage, I’m Liz Ruskin in Washington.


AFN Protestors Slam Murkowski’s Support for Arctic Drilling


By Daysha Eaton, KBBI


Among the protestors in costume was George Pletnikoff Jr., originally from St. Paul Island, who now lives in Palmer.


“We refuse fossil fuel use as continuing it. No drilling in the arctic, no drilling in the National Wildlife Refuge and we must switch towards renewable energies and create a sustainable future,” said Pletnikoff. 


Pletnikoff said the protest was organized by members of “Alaska’s Rising Tide, Red Oil, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands”.


Rasmuson Highlights Native Points of View on Declining Oil Revenues


By Daysha Eaton, KBBI


Rasmuson Foundation President, Diane Kaplan, was part of an AFN panel Friday on what declining oil revenues could mean for the economies of Alaska Native Communities. She said a recent statewide Survey by Rasmuson said that Alaska Natives shared some different opinions than other Alaskans about the fiscal situation.


Protestors during Sen. Lisa Murkowski's speech

   “Alaska Natives are less likely to be familiar with the current budget situation. They are less optimistic about the current situation, but a little more optimistic about the future than other Alaskans. Alaska Natives are more favorable about an income tax and less favorable about a sales tax than other Alaskans,” said Kaplan.


Dependent on tax revenue from the oil industry, which has been declining, Alaska currently faces a budget shortfall of about $3.5 billion annually. Rasmuson Foundation, earlier this year, announced a statewide effort to talk with Alaskans, to share facts and options and to explain the urgency of the state’s fiscal situation. More info, click here.


John Baker Introduces Wellness Initiative at AFN

By Daysha Eaton, KBBI


John Baker

  Iditarod champion John Baker, of Kotzebue, with top state and congressional leaders announced an initiative to curb ills such as drug abuse, depression, violence, and suicide among Alaska Natives. In an unprecedented presentation, Rep Don Young, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, as well as Governor Bill Walker and Lt. Gov Bryon Mallott spoke in support of Bakers work and his idea. Baker says it will take a unified grassroots effort to bring about change:


“We must ask, how have we allowed this to become acceptable or even commonplace? We must ask, how can we make things right? And then together, we must act to make things right,” said Baker.

The group went on to announce a booth at AFN where people can sign up to become Wellness Ambassadors in their communities.