As Fairbanks looks forward to welcoming the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention next week, as well as the Elders and Youth Conference, I can’t help but marvel at the community partnerships and synergy that has been achieved in the weeks leading up to AFN.
It’s not every day that our Fairbanks-area population increases by thousands for an event. But what an event this will be! While delegates look forward to the important discussions relating to politics, social issues and other topics affecting Alaska Natives across the state, they also join the local community in enjoying the art, dance and fellowship that goes along with convention week. This weeklong series of events brings something that everyone can enjoy.
Residents and visitors will have the opportunity to shop for (or just enjoy viewing) Native arts and crafts from Oct. 17-19 at the Alaska Native Customary Art Fair. This is a wonderful opportunity to buy one-of-a-kind items, including clothing with beautiful beaded designs, baskets made from birch bark or baleen, sculptures made from ivory or soapstone, as well as a variety of pottery, jewelry and artwork. The best part about it is you can buy directly from the creator of the crafts and have the opportunity to engage one-on-one with talented artists from across Alaska.
Another way to participate in AFN week includes attending, or volunteering at, the Welcome Potlatch on Oct. 16 at the Big Dipper Ice Arena. This traditional Native potlatch is open to the public and is one of the ways that Fairbanks welcomes thousands of the visitors for AFN week. We also look forward to Quyana Alaska performances on Oct. 17-18. This cultural celebration is made up of traditional dances that have been passed down generation after generation.
While the delegates and local residents enjoy the week, I would ask that everyone take a moment to reflect on all the hard work that went into this event from a local level. Individuals from organizations such as Tanana Chiefs Conference, Fairbanks Native Association, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Explore Fairbanks, Doyon, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks North Star Borough, the Fairbanks school district, the city of Fairbanks, Denakkanaaga and more worked together to make sure delegates have everything they need to have a great week in Fairbanks. Subcommittees were formed to address specific issues such as health and safety, public relations, transportation and accommodations. Explore Fairbanks created a website so that visitors would have an easy source for information for their visit to Fairbanks for AFN. Hundreds of volunteers will be helping with the potlatch, with parking, as airport greeters and more.
If you are interested in volunteering for any of the events during AFN week, please visit afnfairbanks.com for more information.
The hundreds of volunteer hours, many committees made up of diverse organizations and a community eager to welcome delegates and visitors will surely help this important week be a success. I am proud to be serving in this amazing community and look forward to a week that will make Fairbanks’ welcoming spirit manifest.
Mayor Jim Matherly was first elected mayor of the city of Fairbanks in 2016.