Speech: Alaska Federation of Natives
Governor Sean Parnell
October 21, 2011
Pleased to be joined by my cabinet. Would cabinet members stand so AFN delegates can see you? These are your public servants, our commissioners, here to make Alaska government more accessible. And I thank them.
We celebrate the news of Fort Yukon’s Clarence Alexander who received the Presidential Citizens Medal. Clarence is one of just 13 Americans honored with this award.
I am both humbled and honored to be among you. For in coming together, we make time to listen. And to speak. To understand. And to be understood.
And we celebrate together.
While we mark the 40th anniversary of ANCSA, we also celebrate the 45th anniversary of AFN.
We celebrate community anniversaries this year: The 100th anniversary of King Cove, and Hydaburg.
And with great respect, we celebrate the lives of those who walked among us. It’s the 100th birth year of Elizabeth Peratrovich.
We remember and honor that great Alaskan we lost last spring: Dr. Walter Soboleff, who lived 102 rich years.
In Dr. Soboleff’s presence, I knew God’s love and His wisdom.
His absence reminds us that, even if we live to 102, our time on earth is short. Let’s make it count. We also recognize the passing of Hanna Solomon of Fort Yukon, who also lived to 102.
We will grow young Alaskans to become the Elizabeth Peratrovichs and the Walter Soboleffs of tomorrow. People of character. Our elders and leaders.
Let’s watch this video and listen to what Alaskan youth say they want their lives to be like when they are elders:
Aren’t we proud of these young Alaskans?
Last year, when I stood before you in Fairbanks, I asked the men in the room to also stand.
I asked them to use their God-given strength.
To guard their families against domestic violence and sexual assault.
Today, I want to thank you men who stand up every day to protect your families.
I also want to thank the 64 communities that held Choose Respect marches and rallies this year.
Communities like Noorvik, where 161 people turned out.
And Galena, with 80 people joining in.
To all the volunteers in these 64 communities, I want to say a big “Thank you!”
You brought hope and dignity to people who had none.
Our new goal is for one hundred Alaska communities to host Choose Respect rallies in 2012.
You may ask: Are we making a difference? Are we really helping victims and survivors live free from abuse?
Let me read aloud a letter I received this month. I’ve shortened it to make the author unidentifiable:
“Dear Governor: I just want to say thanks to the team behind this program. I recently received some help from organizations I didn’t know existed until I met the people on your staff.
“I feel so much stronger and I know when the time for the trial comes I will have all the support I need to stand up against the violence in my family.
“But sometimes tragedy can bring you closer to things in life that you didn’t know existed. At the trial I will be her voice and she will continue to be heard.
“I have spoken to many other people going through similar situations and have told them things they can do to become a survivor, not a victim.’’
So, yes, we are making a difference. One Alaskan at a time.
I want you to know, and I pledge to you today: That we will not rest as long as the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault steals the hopes and dreams of Alaska’s women, children, and men.
The AFN board and I met recently to discuss how to work together on domestic violence and sexual assault issues. One of the things I heard was the need for heroes to take the lead.
Well, the person who wrote that letter is a hero. A hero because she spoke out and found a way to help others.
Alaska’s champion Iditarod racer, John Baker, has stepped up to be one of those heroes.
Here’s the public service announcement he did earlier this month.
Let’s roll that video:
John: I am so proud to know Alaskans like you! Thank You!
While Choose Respect rallies and public service announcements on TV are part of our prevention efforts, we are also creating a safer Alaska another way: Through more VPSOs and troopers.
Every year since becoming governor, I have said that if your community wants a VPSO – I will work with you. You will have one.
Two years ago, we had 47 VPSOs. This year, 88 are on the job. And more are in training.
I’m proud of our VPSOs. They are great Alaskans!
Today, I commit to you I will support 15 more VPSOs in my budget for 2013.
In addition, three troopers were added this year to support VPSOs in the Bethel, Kotzebue, and Fairbanks regions.
And we added a trooper post in Selawik, which, I am told, will soon have two new troopers.
We know VPSOs need better housing, or they won’t stay. We dedicated a million dollars in 2011, and another million in 2012.
And I’m pledging another million for 2013.
Children who are safe are children who can learn.
Our rural communities have legitimate grievances in the area of education.
Out of respect for you, I have listened, learned, and taken seriously your concerns.
I heard how some rural schools were in pitiful, unsafe shape.
I visited schools in Southwest and Western Alaska with Senators Hoffman and Olson, and Representatives Herron, Edgemon, Foster, and my rural advisor, John Moller.
We went to Napaskiak, Alakanuk and Kipnuk.
In Alakanuk, the school was falling down. It was bursting at the seams with students.
In Napaskiak, school structures were falling sideways off their supports.
Something had to be done.
In 2010, I worked with legislators and helped create a funding mechanism that means greater equity for rural school construction. So when urban schools get funding under the formula, rural schools do too.
In this year’s legislative session, we funded the school renovation at Quinhagak, and a replacement school at Napaskiak.
In 2011, we achieved another milestone in the fight for equal opportunity for rural children. After 14 years of litigation in the Kasuylie case, we resolved it.
And, I pledged to support funding five of the highest-priority rural school construction projects in the coming four years.
We’ll begin making good on that promise when I release the Parnell Administration budget on December 15.
That budget will contain 62.4 million dollars for schools in Emmonak and Koliganek.
In addition to safe and secure schools, every Alaska student deserves access to high-quality teachers:
The state is working with 15 rural districts to prepare highly qualified Alaskan teachers in core subjects.
We’re seeing positive results in teacher retention and student achievement.
And, beyond that, we created Alaska’s Learning Network, with online courses districts said were needed.
I’d like to acknowledge and thank Gloria O’Neill and Cook Inlet Tribal Council for their dedication and groundbreaking work on Dena’ina House, and Margie Brown for being a leader in education reform. Both are great Alaskans!
After our children attend K-12, then what?
It was Charlie Franz, a historic figure in ANCSA, who said, “I believe that the greatest legacy that we can leave our children is an opportunity to seek higher education.”
When Alaska’s students step up to take rigorous courses…
When they study hard…
When they show the world they want to learn more…
We reward them.
Part of that reward is the Alaska Performance Scholarship.
The first recipients of the Alaska Performance Scholarship are enrolled this fall in colleges and trade schools throughout Alaska.
There are pipefitters-in-training, welders-in-training, teachers-in-training, and doctors-in-training!
Nearly a third of Alaska’s 2011 high school graduates earned Alaska Performance Scholarships.
13 students from Mount Edgecumbe qualified.
10 graduates from Nome qualified.
Two Point Hope graduates are studying at UAF on Alaska Performance Scholarships.
And we’re only in Year One.
We have two of those scholarship recipients with us today from Galena and Barrow. Will Jaylen Green and Kyle Nestebe stand and wave so we can see you?
We’re seeing a trend. And it’s going in the right direction.
In 2007, 3,500 Alaska Native students attended University of Alaska.
This year? Over 4,400. An increase of 26 percent in four years.
Let’s turn our focus to energy and economic development.
Affordable energy is a pillar of economic opportunity and community sustainability.
So the Legislature and my administration advanced the largest energy package in our state’s history:
$1.1 billion dollars worth.
$434 million for power cost equalization.
$64 million for home weatherization.
$12 million in hydro for Southwest and Hydaburg.
And $4 million for Akiak.
Our weatherization program reduces home heating costs, and puts local people to work.
The Alaska Energy Authority has completed 50 rural power upgrades, including five this year –
Unalakleet, Igiugig, Chignik Bay, Kwethluk and Nondalton.
So far this year, our Renewable Energy Fund helped 11 communities complete their projects.
By the end of this year, an additional 21 projects will be completed, at places like Ambler, Quinhagak, Toksook Bay, Mekoryuk, Delta, and Cordova.
With these energy expenditures, we’ve made a very good start at Securing Alaska’s Future.
But we need to do more. And we need to talk about Alaskans’ oil, for each of us owns every barrel of oil that is produced in this state.
Most of the money we get from oil is used to build schools, and energy projects. It pays teachers and VPSOs, and provides for our public safety and for medical help for Alaskans.
The problem, though, is that North Slope oil production is declining. We are producing fewer and fewer barrels of oil.
Years ago, the Trans Alaska Pipeline System flowed at a rate of over 2 million barrels per day. Today? Less than 600,000.
We have been pumping from the same fields for 30-plus years. We need some new oil in that pipeline!
With so much oil in the ground that you own, and that we count on for essential public services, I refuse to stand by and leave Alaskans’ treasure buried in the ground.
Before closing, I must turn to a topic so painful, and so profoundly difficult: Suicide.
I am grateful to every Alaskan who has taken the time to comfort, to listen, to reach out and to help someone who is experiencing depression or despair. It is our highest calling to love our neighbors.
As we learned from Dr. Soboleff, life is to cherish.
Government can do a lot of things, but government is poorly equipped to repair the broken hearts or wounded spirits of those who feel life is not worth living.
As governor, I will walk with you. I will walk with our communities, as we look for the right questions to ask – and meet the challenge, together.
I’m grateful to my youngest suicide prevention council board appointment, Tessa Baldwin, for helping lead a discussion on prevention.
I value all who have stepped up to address this subject, and I appreciate Sen. Murkowski holding a field hearing on suicide prevention tomorrow. I encourage everyone here to attend and offer your ideas.
Our strength in Alaska: Our people.
Every Alaskan’s birthright: To be cherished by our Creator and respected by others.
When our great grandchildren are elders, and when they look back on this time in history, I hope they talk about how we stood unified, to face every challenge. And to celebrate every milestone of life.
And now it’s my privilege to announce this year’s Shirley A. Demientieff Award, a tradition where we honor a person or organization who shares Shirley’s passion for protecting and promoting respect for Alaska Native women and children.
This year’s honoree was born in Wrangell to Carl and Martha Lund.
She graduated from Wrangell High School and attended the Good Samaritan School of Nursing in Portland, Oregon.
As one of the founders of the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, she has, since 1997, served as its president.
SEARHC began in 1975 as a small organization led by an Alaska Native volunteer board – mostly women – from remote villages.
Over the next three decades, SEARHC grew into one of the largest health care organizations in Alaska with the help of our honoree’s leadership.
Our honoree oversees regional operations and village-based health programs across Southeast Alaska.
Will John Moller please escort this year’s honoree, Mrs. Ethel Lund, to the podium?
You will know Ethel as the former grand president of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Camp, as well as local president of ANS Camps 1 and 70.
You’ll know her as the chair of the Alaska Native Health Board from 1978 to 1981. And for developing a landmark Memorandum of Agreement with the Indian Health Service.
As Chair for the Alaska Tribal Health Directors.
As Vice Chair of the National Indian Health Board.
And so much more.
She has a medical center and a scholarship named for her.
Mother of three, grandmother of three, and honored elder. Let’s thank and congratulate Ethel Lund.
# # #