Doyon withdrew its membership from the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) in 2019. Recent feedback from shareholders and other stakeholders led to the decision to share our reasoning for the withdrawal.
Doyon’s decision to withdraw from AFN was made by the Doyon Board of Directors after significant deliberation and after a long history of sharing our concerns with AFN leadership. Doyon engaged with AFN for over a decade, sharing our concerns and advocating for continued improvement in the AFN organization, decision-making, and services provided to its members; these requests were all made well prior to the decision to withdraw.
Pushing AFN toward Structural Improvement
During the 2009 AFN Convention, the delegates passed Resolution 09-05: “a resolution to evaluate the representation of Alaska Natives in the Alaska Federation of Natives.” The resolution was intended to:
- Strengthen and update the structure of AFN through the inclusion of additional Alaska Native organizations representing Native interests
- Align the AFN Board of Directors
- Review the resolutions process
- Strengthen, respect, and empower tribal governments and tribal nations
Following the passage of the resolution, AFN established the AFN Leadership Committee, which was tasked with proposing recommendations to address the resolution. But, by 2012 the efforts to reform AFN had stalled. In May 2012, the AFN Board of Directors rejected the AFN Leadership Committee’s recommendations including those made to address strategic planning, improve executive reporting to the AFN board and membership, improve processes for quarterly financial reports and committee reports, and provide processes for identifying issues and resolving issues involving differing points of view among AFN’s membership.
When the AFN board rejected the leadership committee’s recommendations to implement the 2009 Resolution, several AFN member organizations, including Doyon, sent a letter to Julie Kitka, AFN President, and the AFN Board of Directors to express our concerns about the lack of action. Doyon withheld our membership and convention dues in support of these reform efforts.
This withdrawal motivated AFN to adopt changes in the election of the AFN Co-chair, to include Tribal institutions in membership rolls, and to improve regular reporting. Doyon rejoined AFN but remained dismayed by AFN’s resistance to continued improvement. Importantly, processes for reviewing and addressing conflict among AFN’s members remained problematic.
In 2018, the Tanana Chiefs Conference and Doyon, Limited wrote a strongly worded letter to AFN regarding the Sturgeon Case, writing, “In the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act (ANILCA), the Congress made two solemn promises to Alaska’s Native people: it promised a right to continue subsistence hunting and fishing, and it promised that the land granted back to Alaska Natives under ANCSA would not become de facto federal conservation units. The Sturgeon case [decision] manages to jeopardize the first promise while clearly violating Congress’s promise on the second.”
Doyon, Limited actively protected the use of Doyon lands and subsistence fishing through involvement in the Sturgeon court cases. In 2019, to our great disappointment, AFN filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the National Park Service in the Sturgeon case at the United States Supreme Court. This position was directly adverse to Doyon’s position and the interests of our shareholders. The National Park Service’s position in the case would have allowed the federal government to regulate ANCSA lands within conservation units as if they were public federal lands and not lands privately owned by Alaska Native shareholders.
Redirecting our Efforts
In 2020, following continued conflict over the Sturgeon case and other issues, the Doyon Board passed B.R. 2020-31, withdrawing from AFN.
In the years following the 2012 reform effort at AFN, Doyon recognized that AFN reform efforts needed to continue. AFN still needs to complete the work outlined by AFN Resolution 09-05, including a review of the AFN resolutions process. The needed work on conflict resolution among various Native constituents was highlighted at the 2022 AFN Convention when a proposed resolution addressing subsistence fish declines on the Yukon River was met with impasse and conflict.
Doyon remains engaged in Alaska Native policy conversations, whether across our State or within our region. Doyon’s membership in AFN does not preclude Doyon from direct advocacy or furthering and advancing the goals and interests of Doyon, Limited, our shareholders, and our communities.
For more information about Doyon’s membership in the Alaska Federation of Natives, please contact Sarah Obed at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-459-2092.