SPEAKING UP— Governor Sean Parnell addressed delegates at last week’s Alaska Federation of Natives speaking out against the rampant statewide problem of domestic violence. Photo by Diana Haecker
The first day of the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention set the tone of the annual three-day gathering of Alaska Natives held in Anchorage this year from October 22 to 23. While the energy crisis brought on by skyrocketing oil prices took center stage last year, the focus this year is on the importance of subsistence in the context of food security and tribal sovereignty in resource management. The line up of high-profile speakers addressing the estimated 4,000 delegates from all across Alaska included Congressman Don Young and Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich and senior officials with the Obama administration.
Governor Sean Parnell on Thursday spoke out to combat domestic violence statewide and pledged to work on making homes across Alaska safe. Parnell said that this year’s AFN motto “Northern Dreams, our historic journey continues” resonates with him, but he also said that this dream is fraught with despair as the occurrence of domestic violence and sexual assaults are rampant throughout the state.
Governors usually address the largest gathering of Natives in the nation talking about economics, but Parnell devoted most of his speech to the need to fight domestic violence and sexual assault. Parnell spoke about the social ill that he said is a statewide problem with no social or geographical boundaries.
He offered to beef up law enforcement presence in the villages but more importantly spoke of the civic duty of each citizen to step up to the plate and stop the passive reluctance to get involved. Parnell said it takes a statewide shift in the perception of domestic violence. The Native Emerging Leaders forum also addressed the issue, and reaffirmed that domestic violence is not who they are as a native people and that the cycle needs to be broken.
Head of the governor’s rural subcabinet Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan also addressed the AFN and reaffirmed to clamp down on domestic violence and sexual assaults.
Parnell also touched on education. He announced more details of his plan to institute a so called Governor’s performance scholarship program. The proposal would allow students to earn tuition scholarships based on merit. He said that a straight A student would get a 100 percent tuition scholarship award, a B student would get 75 percent tuition scholarship and a C plus student would receive a 50 percent scholarship.
The AFN convention continued throughout Saturday and also addressed energy, subsistence and climate change issues.