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Elders and Youth Conference will be held virtually this fall

Jul 14, 2020

First Alaskans Institute president and CEO La quen náay Liz Medicine Crow makes morning announcements Oct. 13, 2019, during the Elders and Youth conference in Fairbanks. Out of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 conference will be held virtually. (Photo by Tripp J Crouse/KNBA)

The Elders and Youth Conference will be held virtually this year out of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to a news release from First Alaskans Institute, the 37th annual conference will be held online in an effort to protect the health of attendees and communities at-large.

La quen náay Liz Medicine Crow is the president and CEO of First Alaskans Institute. She says that the cultural knowledge and expertise in surviving pandemics and epidemics made the choice of going virtual easy.

“It leads us to centering what is most precious to us – and that is our elders and our youth,” Medicine Crow said via phone on Tuesday. “It’s kind of a decision that makes itself because we have to center who is most important. We’re not going to endanger their lives. “

About 1,100 people attended the Elders and Youth Conference in-person last year in Fairbanks. The conference is usually held the Sunday through Wednesday ahead of the annual convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives.

“We’ll have a different opportunity than we’ve ever had because we’re going into the unceded virtual territory of our Native people. We’ll have a much different way of connecting We’re still working out all the details.”

First Alaskans Institute also made the decision to hold its annual Smokehouse Gala virtually.

The moves to a virtual environment come as other events made similar changes. The Cama’i Dance Festival was postponed. And Celebration, an event held every two years in Juneau, went virtual.

“Virtually we’ve seen over the last few months of being hunkered down and working from home in this pandemic that it is possible for us to connect socially while being physically distant. And that is going to keep us safe.” 

Medicine Crow says more details about the virtual Elders and Youth will be released later.

In June, AFN announced that Alaska House Speaker Bryce Edgmon would provide the keynote speech at its convention – which is scheduled to take place October 15th through the 17th at the Dena’ina Center in downtown Anchorage.

According to an email from AFN communications director Jeffry Silverman, the Alaska Federation of Natives board is expected to meet in early August to decide whether the convention would go virtual.