Violence against Indigenous women still a hot topic for Alaska Federation of Natives

Heather Kendall-Miller speaking during the second day of AFN at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage, southern Alaska. (Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)
The three-day-long Alaska Federation of Natives Convention wrapped up on Saturday. This year’s theme was Innovation in the past, present and future. The issue of violence against women was at the forefront of the conference.

Most of Friday’s early speakers on the convention’s main stage gave updates on legal, judicial and federal issues affecting Alaska Natives. But some, like Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s (CITC) Gloria O’Neill, directly addressed this year’s theme.

“Innovation is at the core of how we not only survived, but thrived for millennia,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill described CITC’s process for developing the 2014 video-game “Never Alone,” where players guide a young Inupiaq girl through an Arctic quest. O’Neill says the experience offers a template for taking Alaska history, stories, and talent toward emerging industries that benefit state residents and ANC shareholders.

“We’re asking permission to take our culture and our stories to this virtual world,” O’Neill said. “We paired Alaska Native elders, storytellers, youth, writers with video gaming experts.”

Justice reforms needed

But last week, the theme of defending Alaska Native women from sexual violence was more prominent than just about anything else. During an update from the Alaska Native Justice Center, prominent attorney Heather Kendall-Miller alluded to the recent Justin Schneider case appealing to groups like AFN to push for criminal justice reforms.

“To make this a time of change, a call to action, because we cannot be silent any longer,” Kendell-Miller said. “We have to be able to move together and call, and demand for some changes.”

Kendall-Miller called for reforms in how sexual assault cases against Alaska Native women are investigated and prosecuted, and for an increase in the State of Alaska’s accountability delivering justice to victims.

Friday morning also saw remarks from Congressman Don Young, who championed his record delivering results to Alaska Natives in the capital, and asked for their support in the November election.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Nunavut people speak out about Arctic mayor’s controversial statement on male Inuit leaders, CBC News

Finland: Sámi school preserves reindeer herders’ heritage with help of internet, Cryopolitics Blog

United States: Governor Walker apologizes for historical trauma at Alaska Federation of Natives convention, Alaska Public Media

Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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