I hope you all had a safe and productive summer season. I always enjoy seeing photos posted by our people involving summer subsistence activities, including dried fish, jarred fish, ungimak (half-dried fish) and smoked strips. Many gallons of berries have also been gathered, which will be a great treat this winter for jams, pies, agutak, and even served frozen with milk and sugar. As we go through life, I believe that it is important to draw on our faith and traditional values for strength and direction. One of our core values as Native people is to lead with responsibility, a strong trait demonstrated by our late President Tim Towarak. In this regard, and because of the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Alaska, the BSNC Board of Directors recently voted to telecast our Oct. 2, 2021, Annual Meeting of Shareholders, and not hold an in-person meeting. As we continue to navigate the disruptions and challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I thank you on behalf of the Board of Directors and staff for your continued support. We are hopeful that our next annual meeting can be held in person but that will depend on whether COVID-19 continues to present safety and health concerns for our shareholders, employees and participants.
Despite challenging operating environments, our employees successfully adapted to the new work environment, allowing BSNC to continue to grow and deliver meaningful shareholder benefits. This includes special Elder and regular dividends, scholarships, bereavement assistance, and shareholder development programs.
The BSNC Board of Directors recently declared a record-high dividend of $9.50 per share, a 14% increase over the 2020 shareholder dividend. The Board also voted to declare a 2021 Elder dividend of $1,500. These dividend distributions will be paid by Dec. 31st from the BSNC Beringia Settlement Trust and are therefore not taxable.
BSNC is excited to announce that it will launch a new shareholder survey the week of Oct. 4. The survey will help inform the Board on what is important to our shareholders. We want to hear your opinions on a number of topics, including whether shares of stock should be issued to descendants. Your involvement will give BSNC insight into what is important to you. We plan to launch an open enrollment educational campaign in the Spring, and the survey is a first step in this shareholder-driven process. We want to hear from you in your own words and are hopeful that many of you will respond. BSNC staff will not see individual shareholder responses as the survey will be conducted by DHM Research, an independent third-party research firm.
BSNC’s 2021 Summer Internship Program was a success and provided 10 interns the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and skills. Like last year, the program was conducted completely online. In addition to gaining knowledge about BSNC through the departments in which the interns worked, they attended many weekly trainings which provided in-depth information about BSNC’s history and corporate structure, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, financial security, government contracting, board training and other important workshops. This program is important to me and the Board, and I am pleased that our executive team and management actively engaged in mentoring the interns. Because of the depth of the training and hands-on work experience program provided to our interns, I believe it is one of the best in the state. I strongly encourage students who are shareholders or descendants to apply in January when recruitment for a new class of interns begins.
I hope everyone has a productive and safe Fall as we harvest and store the traditional foods that will carry us through the winter months. Thank you for your continued support in all that we at BSNC do to provide the benefits we are blessed to share with you and your families.
Gail R. Schubert
BSNC President & CEO