Pressed for change, leaders promise a 'new, modern AFN'

Kyle Hopkins

A new effort is underway to overhaul and modernize the state’s largest Alaska Native organization, Alaska Federation of Natives board member Gregory Razo told convention delegates today.

“We look forward to this time next year sharing with you a new, modern AFN,” said Razo, who represents the Cook Inlet region.

Razo will serve as chairman of a newly created 15-member committee that’s expected to propose specific changes to the non-profit in December.

The announcement follows threats by AFN members such as Fairbanks-based Doyon Limited that they might withhold dues unless changes were made. One group, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, has refused to pay convention dues until it sees action on restructuring, AFN president Julie Kitka said in an interview today.

CITC is one of the more than 400 organizations AFN represents, Kitka said. “The big thing,” she emphasized, is that AFN is undertaking a reorganization and that “everything is on the table right now.”

“They’re trying to look at AFN from top to bottom and make it better,” she said of the committee.

Some members of the Alaska Federation of Natives have sought changes big and small to the group’s power structure for years. They’ve lobbied for more tribal seats on the AFN board, changes to the convention voting process and term limits for federation leaders.

Previous attempts to modernize or rewrite bylaws of the 46-year-old federation failed despite a 2009 convention resolution that called for restructuring by 2011.

A prior AFN committee worked for two years to come up with specific changes, but the AFN board earlier this year voted against making the recommended amendments, Razo said.

One sticking point: An attempt to grow the size of the board from 37 people to 48 in hopes of adding seats for tribes and at-large members, Kitka said.

“People thought it was too expensive,” she said.

Other changes now under consideration include inviting additional regional health corporations into the organization and adding a provision “that respects the sovereignty of tribes and makes it clear that AFN supports federally recognized tribes,” Kitka said.

AFN membership currently includes 178 villages, the 13 regional corporations and a dozen regional and non-profit tribal consortiums, according to the group's website.

AFN delegates, representing villages across the state, voted today for a resolution urging the federation board to launch term limits for co-chairs.

By Kyle Hopkins
Anchorage Daily News
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