As Summer comes to a close, I hope that everyone who was able to engage in our traditional subsistence activities had success this past Spring and Summer in harvesting fish, picking berries, and hunting walrus, seals, oogruks, moose and caribou. It was very rewarding to see our youth continue to provide our elders with a share of the bounty that the land and sea have to offer, and to see some of our elders in their 80s and 90s engage in subsistence activities themselves. Our elders have experienced more changes in their lives than we can imagine, and I am so grateful to them for sharing our traditions and way of life with our youth, even in the face of so many changes. Our traditions are based on ensuring that the needs of our families and communities are met, and include living a healthy lifestyle and sharing the bounties of our subsistence efforts.
In line with this, the BSNC Board of Directors established the Young Providers Award in honor of two of our former shareholders, Paul Johnson of Unalakleet and Irene Tagumaaq Aukongak of Golovin, whose lives reflected our traditional values. Congratulations to both Sierra and Christian!
Recently, the Board elected to dedicate the Nome and Anchorage boardrooms to two of our distinguished regional leaders, the late Charlie Johnson and Chairman Henry Ivanoff. The Nome boardroom was dedicated to Charlie Johnson, who was originally elected to the Board of Directors in 1979 and served until 2006. Charlie worked tirelessly to advocate for our Region, and served in a number of leadership positions within the Region, including the Eskimo Walrus Commission, the Alaska Nanuuq Commission (serving as Executive Director until his death), Kawerak, Inc., and as the Chairman of the White Mountain Native Corporation. Charlie also held statewide and national office as the Chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives, vice president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference-Alaska, and as a presidential advisor to President Bush on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. In addition, he served on the Oversight Counsel for the International Arctic Research Center, as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Arctic Council and to the Organization of American States, and was co-Chair representing the U.S. on the Bi-Lateral Commission for the Conservation of Chukchi Polar Bears. Charlie’s service to our Region greatly improved the lives of our people.
Chairman Henry Ivanoff has served on the Board of Directors since 1978, and has served as Board Chairman since 1990, giving him the distinction of being the longest-serving Board member and Chairman in BSNC’s history. Henry also served as BSNC’s President from 1985-1989. Henry’s civic service and leadership is commendable. In addition to his BSNC service, he served on the boards of the Alaska Federation of Natives (co-chair from 1988-1989), Community Enterprise Development Corporation, Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, Unalakleet Native Corporation, and the Rural Alaska Television Network. He also holds the distinction of being the longest-serving mayor of Unalakleet, where he held office from 1994-2006. Congratulations to Chairman Ivanoff for guiding BSNC during trying financial times, and for your many civic contributions to our Region.
Education has always been a priority for me, and I believe that our shareholders and descendants should have the opportunity to obtain an education or job training if they wish. The BSNC Board also shares this view. In our Region, we are proud to provide significant support to the Northwestern Alaska Career and Technical Center (NACTEC), which provides practical and useful training, skills and resources to high school students to prepare them for graduation. We also support to the Bering Straits Foundation (BSF), and awarded a total of $212,700 to BSF for educational funding to BSNC shareholders and their descendants. We also provide a hiring preference for BSNC shareholders and descendants. I encourage descendants who meet academic qualifications to apply for BSNC’s Summer Internship Program, which provides professional development, training workshops and networking opportunities. We will start recruiting for the 2017 Internship program in January.
I am pleased to report that BSNC’s Board of Directors voted to increase bereavement assistance from $1000 to $1,500, to help defray the cost of funeral expenses for an original BSNC shareholder, a lineal descendent of an original BSNC shareholder, or the spouse of an original BSNC shareholder. We recognize that families have many burdens when a loved one passes, and are hopeful that the assistance we provide helps to alleviate some of the financial burdens.
Finally, I encourage all eligible BSNC shareholders and descendants to vote in the upcoming statewide and national elections. Irrespective of whom you vote for and support, your vote is important and will matter as new leaders are elected nationally and at the state level. As Alaska enters uncertain economic times because of low oil and gas prices, there will be increased pressure on the State Legislature to cut spending and to find new revenue sources, such as reducing the permanent fund dividend, and enacting new state income and sales taxes. Because of the critical decisions that must be made, it’s important to ensure that the leadership you vote to elect is able to represent your best interests in both Washington, DC and in Juneau. Because of this, BSNC is once again participating in the Get Out The Native Vote effort, and we encourage all our shareholders and descendants to vote on Nov. 8.
In closing, I hope everyone has a safe, fruitful and enjoyable Autumn. See you either at the BSNC Annual Meeting in Anchorage or the AFN Convention in Fairbanks.
Gail R. Schubert