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Photos: Alaska Federation of Natives 2012

The Uyagagvinmiut Dancers, from Barrow, perform at AFN's Quyana. October 18, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Audience members join the Uyagagvinmiut Dancers on stage during AFN's Quyana. October 18, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Lepquinm Gumilgit Gagoadin, a dance group from Metlakatla, perform at AFN's Quyana. October 18, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Lepquinm Gumilgit Gagoadin, a dance group from Metlakatla, perform at AFN's Quyana. October 18, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Audience members watch the Nanwalek Sugpiaq Dance Group at AFN's Quyana. October 18, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Members of the Stebbins Dance Group ready to go on stage during AFN's Quyana. October 18, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
The Stebbins Dance Group performs at AFN's Quyana. October 18, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
The Stebbins Dance Group performs at AFN's Quyana. October 18, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Young audience members watch a performance by the Stebbins Dance Group at AFN's Quyana. October 18, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
The Stebbins Dance Group performs at the Alaska Federation of Natives' Quyana (dance). AFN is the largest annual gathering of natives in the country. October 18, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
The Tagiugmiut Dancers from Barrow kick off the Alaska Federation of Natives annual conference on October 18, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
The Tagiugmiut Dancers from Barrow kick off the Alaska Federation of Natives annual conference on October 18, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
The Tagiugmiut Dancers from Barrow kick off the Alaska Federation of Natives annual conference on October 18, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
The Tagiugmiut Dancers from Barrow kick off the Alaska Federation of Natives annual conference on October 18, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
The Tagiugmiut Dancers from Barrow kick off the Alaska Federation of Natives annual conference on October 18, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
The Tagiugmiut Dancers from Barrow kick off the Alaska Federation of Natives annual conference on October 18, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
The Tagiugmiut Dancers from Barrow kick off the Alaska Federation of Natives annual conference on October 18, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
The Tagiugmiut Dancers from Barrow kick off the Alaska Federation of Natives annual conference on October 18, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Anchorage mayor Dan Sullivan welcomes attendees to the Alaska Federation of Natives annual conference on October 18, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
2012 Alaska Federation of Natives keynote speaker Carol Wren. October 18, 2012
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Alaska governor Sean Parnell listens to the keynote address at the 2012 Alaska Federation of Natives conference. October 18, 2012
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Alaska Federation of Natives president Julie Kitka. October 18, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Alaska governor Sean Parnell addressing the Alaska Federation of Natives at their 2012 conference. October 18, 2012
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Alaska's first lady, Sandy Parnell, addresses the 2012 Alaska Federation of Natives conference. October 18, 2012
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Mary Jane Fate, recipient of the 2012 Shirley Demientieff Award, at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference. October 18, 2012
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Alaska's lone congressman Don Young at the 2012 Alaska Federation of Natives conference. October 18, 2012
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Alaska's congressman Don Young greeting attendees at the 2012 Alaska Federation of Natives conference. October 18, 2012
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Attorney Heather Kendall-Miller discussing subsistence hunting and fishing rights at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference. October 18, 2012
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Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, addressing subsistence hunting and fishing rights at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference. October 18, 2012
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Akaik fisherman Sammy Jackson, cited this summer for fishing for king salmon during a closure, speaks out against overregulation of subsistence hunting and fishing, at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference. October 18, 2012
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Akaik fisherman Sammy Jackson, cited this summer for fishing for king salmon during a closure, speaks out against overregulation of subsistence hunting and fishing, at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference. October 18, 2012
Loren Holmes photo

"Native people are the heart and soul of our state," Alaska Federation of Natives President Julie Kitka told attendees at the opening of the 2012 Alaska Federation of Natives convention at the Dena'ina Convention Center in downtown Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, on Thursday. "Our greatest strengths as Native people have been our cultural values and our strength in working together."

For as great as the diversity is among peoples and regions, Aleuts of southwest Alaska, Eskimos of the Arctic coastlines, and Athabascan Indians of the state's interior, the Native community shares a host of adversities. High costs of living, sexual and physical abuse, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment, poverty, access to education, access to traditional foods -- these and other barriers have for years been complex problems with grudging, if any, solutions.

Through a unified, unrelenting political voice, the state's Native community has the strongest influence, several leaders said. 

MORE: In Alaska, whose hunting and fishing rights matter most?