The first day of the convention began with an unconventional note. The newly minted lieutenant governor for the state addressed the crowd just days after being sworn in.Valerie Davidson took the position after former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott resigned. She spoke briefly about the incident.“The dignity of all Alaskans is our responsibility,” Davidson said. “I also want you to know that I stand ready to serve as your lieutenant governor. These last few days have been tough for all of us. … We continue to heal from the past so we can continue to move forward. The events that occurred this week will not deter us … in the work that must be done.”
Davidson recognized that she had a lot to learn about the state’s executive branch. “I'm brand new,” she said. “I've never been a lieutenant governor before.”
The crowd erupted into cheers and applause.Davidson pleaded with the audience. “I'm not done. I'll bring to this job a strong work ethic,” she said. “When you lead with love you never stand alone.”
Gov. Bill Walker then took the stage and quickly addressed the turmoil his office faced this week.“We only fully heal when every woman in Alaska is treated with respect. To all the women who have come forward about mistreatment in their live, thank you,” he said. “You are brave you deserve respect. You deserve to be believed. We are listening.”
Walker then discussed the Alaska Tribal Welfare Compact. The agreement between Alaska Native tribes and the state promotes the wellbeing of children.“Alaska Native culture keeps Alaska Native children safe,” he said. “Alaska Native children will grow up safer and healthier because of the compact because they're raised in their culture.”
Walker talked about attending the funeral services for Ashley Johnson-Barr, a 10-year-old Kotzebue girl who went missing for several days before she was found dead. A 40-year-old man is a suspect in her murder and currently awaits trial.Walker also talked about the Indian Child Welfare Act. The federal law was recently struck down by a Texas federal judge. Walker’s office released a statement, but he echoed its sentiments Thursday.“My team and I continue to stand with Alaska tribes to continue to support the Indian Child Welfare Act.”
Walker closed his speech with apology to the Alaska Native. He said it was long overdue.“I apologize to you, Alaska’s first people, for the wrongs that you have endured for generations. For being forced into boarding schools, I apologize. Forced to abandon your Native language and adopt a foreign one, I apologize. For erasing your history, I apologize. For the generational and historical trauma you have suffered, I apologize.”
AFN continues through Saturday.