First Alaskans Institute brings social justice leaders to Juneau

Sep 27, 2018

More than 150 people attended the First Alaskans Institute's Social Justice Summit in Juneau. The two-day gathering discussed identity, becoming an ally, decolonization and political activism through presentations and performances from leaders in the social justice community. 

Presenter Prairie Rose Seminole talks with Samuel Johns following the “Voting Rights 1010: Achieving Equity in Civic Empowerment” break out session at the First Alaskans Institute Social Justice Summit at Centennial Hall on Monday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Photo by Annie Bartholomew/KTOO)

Prairie Rose Seminole is an educator and cultural leader enrolled in the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota. She co-led a breakout session with Evan Anderson from the Alaska Center on voting rights that addressed historic policies and modern efforts to suppress voter turnout, like voter ID laws, gerrymandering and registration deadlines.

Seminole hopes participants leave with new strategies to engage Alaska’s youth and minority communities.

“It’s one thing to change hearts and minds about voting but we really have to start changing our practices as indigenous people and allies,” Seminole said. “How do we as allies gain more access for indigenous people, but how do we as indigenous people equip ourselves to go and get more people into the voting process?”

Organizers supported policies for voter empowerment, like the 2016 ballot measure that automatically registers Alaskans to vote when they apply for permanent fund dividends.

Seminole said she sees parallels between how rural communities in Alaska and North Dakota are marginalized from the political process.

“But on the other hand, candidates that have engaged indigenous communities often win, and they kind of hold this little secret in their pocket and use it when it’s to their advantage,” she said. 

The summit closed Tuesday night.

Editor’s note: 360 North is under contract with First Alaskans Institute to produce video coverage of the summit.