Safety precautions have prompted the Alaska Federation of Natives to opt to hold a second annual convention online only, rather than as the indoor gathering that attracts thousands of attendees to the event in Anchorage or Fairbanks every year.
“Safety is paramount of our decision,” said Sheri Buretta, chair of the AFN’s convention committee, in an announcement made on Friday, Oct. 15. Social distancing guidelines to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus are not practical in the usual large indoor setting, she said.
Given that the number of new cases per day of COVID-19 is still in the hundreds, that the convention attracts a number of elders and other vulnerable people, and that hospitals statewide are seeing an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, the convention will remain virtual-only for 2021, the AFN said.
This year’s convention was to have been held in person in Anchorage.
Convention officials said they are planning live statewide television and radio coverage, with a full agenda to be released in early December. AFN will also develop an online Native arts marketplace, featuring a number of the same Native artists who have had booths in the exhibit hall during in-person conventions in years past.
The theme of this year’s convention is “ANCSA at 50: Empowering Our Future.” The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, signed into law 50 years ago, promised to return some 40 million acres of Alaska lands to regional and village Native corporations being formed under the legislation. AFN officials said they also recognized there is unfinished work to be done on subsistence rights, food security, public safety, law enforcement and economic development.