As the 77th Annual Tribal Assembly of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Central Council) came to a close on April 21 two key announcements were made. The first was the re-election of Edward K. Thomas as president of the Central Council and the second was a resolution strongly apposing the exclusion of Alaska Natives in a bill currently making its rounds in Washington D.C. according to a press release from the Sealaska Corporation.
Thomas was elected based on the overwhelming support from the 129 delegates attending the four-day event that also elected six vice presidents to additional two-year terms. The assembly addressed important issues like health and human services, education and training, tribal government, housing, governmental affairs, and natural resources according to an article by Juneau Empire. By the close 60 resolutions had been introduced.
One of the standout items on the assembly’s agenda was an approved resolution by the delegates to strongly oppose the exclusion of Alaska Native tribes from the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
The current bill under Sections 904 and 905 will allow a large number of Native women to go unprotected as approximately 230 of the 566 federally recognized tribes, all in Alaska, would be left unprotected according to a story by Indian Country Today Media Network. A major concern as Alaska Natives make up the majority of domestic violence and sexual assault cases within the state.
“We are very much aware of the challenges the federal government faces with our nation’s budget deficit, but our tribe needs to continue to be a strong advocate for the funding of programs needed by our needy tribal citizens,” Thomas said in the release.
Alaska tribes aren’t the only ones who have noticed this change, as Matthew Felling, a spokesman for Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told ICTMN in its story on the issue that, “Senator Murkowski is extremely concerned about this inadvertent drafting error and she is in the process of resolving the issue through the amendment process.”
Thomas began his stint as president of the Central Council in 1984, until 2007 when he retired. In 2008 he was elected as president emeritus, before coming out of retirement in 2010 to be re-elected as president according to the release.
Awards were given during the assembly and Thomas honored Mary Elizabeth Jones with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Jones was recognized for her continuing contributions towards improving healthcare services for Tlingit and Haida people and strengthening Alaska Native women’s political positions within their communities according to the release. The other award handed out was the Doloresa Cadiente-Hardin Tribal Justice Award, which was presented to its first two recipients: Jessie Archibald, Tribal Child Support Unit attorney; and Holly Handler, Alaska Legal Services Corporation attorney.
The award is named after the Central Council’s former Chief Justice, who passed away on December 5, 2011 according to an obituary by Juneau Empire. Cadiente-Hardin “was a tireless servant, working for quality of life issues related to health, community, and social justice,” the obituary states.