BETHEL -- In a historical election, Bea Kristovich is the first woman to be elected traditional chief of the Association of Village Council Presidents, according to a story from KYUK Public Media.
"I think I'm still in shock," she responded when asked about her new position.
With the second day of the AVCP 51st annual convention pushing into its 12th hour Wednesday, the association delegates elected Kristovich as second traditional chief of AVCP.
"Women were always left out over the years," Kristovich said. "The men were the leaders. But over the years, there's been more people, or more ladies, more women getting more active, going into active roles as leaders from the villages. And they're still silent.
"But I think being the first one, it will show these other younger generations that they can do it."
The traditional chief acts as a figurehead, opening meetings, saying prayers and offering traditional knowledge. But Kristovich, who belongs to the Native Village of Napaimute, wants to do more than that. As chief, Kristovich said, she wants to encourage leaders to speak openly. To do that, they will have to challenge their cultural upbringing.
"We weren't raised that way to be open or talk about people or argue or stuff like that," Kristovich explained.
She also says she wants older leaders to retire so younger leaders can step forward to learn about tribal issues.
"I want them to be united," Kristovich continued. "You know, there's 56 villages, and they're still separated by Yukon, Kuskokwim and our area. And I think if we were all united, we'd be so strong. We could stick together and fight for issues that are very important for our people and our villages. It would work."
Kristovich has been working for Native issues and education for over 40 years. She helped work toward the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and served on the state school board.
This story has been reprinted with permission from the original at KYUK Public Media.