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By Dan Rudy 

Grand event planned for ANB/ANS Grand Camp

 

Submitted Photo

The women of Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 1 pose together for a photograph: April Einert, Virginia Oliver, Lu Knapp, Victoria Demmert, Sandy Churchill, Donna McKay, Sophia Willard, Donna Kuntz and Annette Thompson.

Next week, the Alaska Native Sisterhood celebrates its 100th anniversary at the place of its founding, Wrangell.

Alaska Native Brotherhood/ANS is the oldest rights organization for indigenous persons in the world, with the Brotherhood founded in 1912 and the Sisterhood established in 1916. Its stated mission is to improve the lives of Native people and their families, by promoting Native culture and advocating for civil rights and land rights.

Membership is organized into local camps, stretching from the Kenai Peninsula down to Washington and

Oregon. ANB Camp #4 and ANS Camp #1 are centered in Wrangell.

ANS Camp #1 president Sandy Churchill explained this year's gathering will be a big event for Wrangell, which last hosted a grand camp in 1998.

"We're almost at full gear," she said. "Preparations are coming along great."

From Tuesday through Saturday, organizers are expecting around 150 delegates to take part, accompanied by family and friends. In all, around 300 visitors might be attending.

Events will begin Tuesday evening, which will feature a community potluck at the Stikine Native Organization building at 6:30 p.m.

After an early breakfast at the Nolan Center Wednesday, honoring May and Marcus Dailey, American Legion Post 6 will help start official proceedings with a flag ceremony.

The agenda for the next three days features a formidable list of speakers. Attendees will be addressed by Tlingit-Haida Central Council (CCTHITA) president Richard Peterson, Sealaska president Anthony Mallott, Sen. Bert Stedman, Rep. Dan Ortiz, Forest Service deputy supervisor Tawnya Brummett, and others. A video message is even expected from First Lady Michelle Obama. Wednesday's keynote speaker is Ethel Lund, an ANS executive from Wrangell and former CEO of Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

Along with Churchill, visitors will be welcomed by ANB Camp #4 president Bill Willard, Wrangell Cooperative Association president Sam Campus, and Mayor David Jack.

As well as ANB/ANS business, the grand camp will also be an opportunity to highlight regional issues, specifically concerns with mining projects upstream of rivers shared between the United States and Canada. Over the past year and a half, CCTHITA has taken hold of the issue with its transboundary mining work group, informing and uniting Native groups across Southeast against hazards current and proposed development poses to traditional ways of life.

The landless status of Wrangell's Native population will also be discussed. Wrangell is one of five communities in the state excluded from the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Sealaska supported a delegation sent to Washington D.C. in June to push for passage of a pair of bills that would, if passed, correct the exclusion.

Not only looking towards the future, the grand camp will also be a time to reflect on the organization's history, and on the lives of its members over the past century. On Thursday evening a memorial service is planned for 6 p.m. at the Nolan Center.

"There will be a real good reception after," Churchill said, with refreshments and live music planned to be held at 7:30 p.m. There will be food aplenty throughout the five-day grand camp, with a large traditional meal planned for Friday at the SNO Building at 6:30 p.m.

"We have our freezers full for feeding everybody," Churchill commented. The group received one of the

illegally-harvested moose taken last week, so she said roasts and stroganoff can be expected.

The gathering culminates with a parade on Front Street at 11 a.m. Saturday, the conclusion of executive business that afternoon, and a banquet and grand ball at 6 p.m.

 

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