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First Alaskans Institute

Elders and Youth Conference History

In 1984, the first AFN Youth Conference, attended by 54 high school students, convened in response to a resolution passed by delegates to the previous AFN Convention. By allowing Native students their own gathering, modeled on the main Convention, the conference was a training ground in issues and leadership development.

It was planned and run by the students, with staff support. It introduced them to processes of group decision-making: debates and voting on the floor, adoption of resolutions, meetings in regional caucuses, election of representatives. It has also opened a new forum for Alaska Native issues like subsistence, sovereignty, education, economic development, health and wellness.

In the late 1980's, AFN added a Native Elders Conference to its Convention week activities. Before long, these two groups - youth and grandparents - were meeting together in an Elders/Youth Conference.

More than 30 years later, this idea has developed into a significant event for the Alaska Native community. The Elders/Youth conference combines the best of both worlds: our young people - the next wave of leaders; and our Elders -- the culture bearers who are the vital connection to our own heritage.

Participation at the conference has exceeded 1,000 participants, both urban and rural, representing the five main Alaska Native cultural groups. It brings together an eclectic mix of youthful energy and time-tested wisdom, as well as indigenous leaders from statewide, national and international arenas.

The conference offers motivational and educational speakers and panels. Additional events of convention week include Exhibitors, an "Arts and Opps" expo, a Youth Dance, and the Monday night cultural celebration giving thanks we named Chin'an, which is the Dena'ina Athabascan term for "thank you."

The conference strengthens the knowledge and self-confidence of Native people to speak out and to create change within themselves and in their communities. It celebrates the Alaska Native intellect. And, it encourages young people and Elders alike to pursue the great task of maintaining our traditional Native values and practices, while thriving in the modern world.

Given the purpose of the Institute -- to advance Native Peoples -- the conference is a natural fit and a powerful mechanism for developing future Native leaders.

To learn more about the history of this event, go to First Alaskans Institute's webpage describing the conference at: 

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