Denakkanaaga Hosts Well-Attended Elders and Youth Conference
Last month, Denakkanaaga held their annual Elders and Youth Conference. For the first time in decades, the conference was held in the Upper Tanana subregion. The community of Tanacross did an amazing job hosting the conference, which had a record number of Elder and youth delegates from across the Doyon, Limited region, as well as organizational representative from across the state.
The community of Tanacross welcomed attendees on June 11 with a traditional gun salute and welcome potlatch. Tanacross administrator and Doyon board member, Jerry Isaac, performed a welcome song and dance with delegates and Tanacross community members for attendees who traveled from Dawson City, Canada, to attend the conference.
The first day of the conference included a welcome from Denakkanaaga board first Chief, Luke Titus, and Tanacross tribal council president, Herbie Demit. A remembrance by friends and family of the late Poldine Carlo, founder of Denakkanaaga, took place and ended with the Tanacross traditional dancers. Reports from a number of organizational representatives, including Doyon president and CEO, Aaron Schutt, and tribal liaisons from both of Alaska’s senators, were presented. The day ended with resolution and election business presented by Chief Titus.
Day two of the conference focused on generational trauma and healing. Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) prevention manager, Roxanne Frank, provided a presentation on the history of Alaska Natives, generational trauma and how to heal. Keynotes were provided by Peter Demoski of Nulato and youth delegate, Kirsten Law Sunnyboy, of Nenana. Both keynotes focused on the conference theme, Native Traditions and Values: Our Foundation in Challenging Times. TCC counselors and behavioral health aides provided a panel presentation on how to heal from generational trauma and hosted breakout groups for men and women. The day of business ended with a traditional healing ceremony led by Rev. Anna Frank.
“It’s always inspirational to hear the Elder’s comments and wisdom at the conference. This year’s discussion on generational trauma and ways to heal from it was an emotional one for many, but helpful. Denakkanaaga’s board of directors felt it very important to address this topic to help people heal themselves and their communities,” said Denakkanaaga executive director, Sharon McConnell.
On Denakkanaaga’s annual meeting day, June 14, Jack Wholecheese of Huslia was elected as the new Yukon-Koyukuk subregion Elder for the Denakkanaaga board of directors. Wholecheese will serve two years on the board. Brooke Demientieff of Holy Cross was also elected as the board’s new youth representative for the next year. Luke Titus of Minto was re-elected as the board’s first Chief, Rev. Anna Frank of Minto was re-elected as second Chief, and Patricia Salmon of Chalkyitsik was re-elected as the board’s secretary and treasurer.
In the meeting, delegates selected Nulato, the hometown of Denakkanaaga’s late founder, Poldine Carlo, as the location of the 2019 Denakkanaaga Elder and Youth Conference.
“Denakkanaaga’s board of directors thanks all the organizations who attended and participated in the important gathering. The board feels it is vital that Denakkanaaga works closely with its sister organizations on important issues facing our Elders and youth,” McConnell said.
Doyon thanks the community of Tanacross for hosting a great conference. A special thanks goes to community member, Diana Titus, and the Tanacross youth volunteers who helped cook meals, serve, set up and break down for the conference each day.
To learn more about Denakkanaaga, visit www.denakkanaaga.org.