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By Marc Lutz
Wrangell Sentinel 

WCA tribal council candidates share their views on serving

 

February 8, 2023 | View PDF

Amber Wade

Wrangell Cooperative Association members will vote later this month to fill four seats on the eight-member tribal council, which oversees decisions for the tribe.

Council members must be members of the WCA; the deadline to apply for candidacy is Feb. 14. Voting takes place on Feb. 28 at the WCA cultural center on Front Street.

Tribal administrator Esther Aaltséen Reese said there are a few aspects candidates should be aware of if elected to a two-year term.

"We have one meeting a month, it's usually the first Tuesday of the month. We have some special meetings and workshops and committee meetings that they may have to attend," she said. "When people get on the council, we just do our best to make sure they have all the information they need and that they are familiar with all the departments and grant funding, so they can come in and feel confident they're serving in the best way possible."

As of Feb. 6, five people had applied to be candidates: Luella Knapp, Jason Clark, Amber Wade, Sandy Churchill and Sam Campus. The new council members elected Feb. 28 will fill four seats. Clark and Knapp are currently on the council, and there are two vacant seats.

The Sentinel reached out to the candidates to ask why they would like to serve on the council.

Luella Knapp, 68; retired, speaker of the Naanyaa.aayí clan house

How long have you lived in Wrangell? I am a true Wrangellite, born and raised. I went to get my college degree and came back. I went to Juneau and got my associate (degree) and then went to Sitka for my bachelor's.

Why are you running for the council? I just would like to see our tribe continue to grow. There are a lot of things we are looking at in the future, different programs and ways to grow.

What do you hope to accomplish during your two-year term? I would like to work more with the local government for the betterment of Wrangell as a whole.

Have you held any positions with the tribe before? No. I've just worked in tribal government.

What, if anything, do you believe should be done differently? I think that I would love to see our tribal government become a strong and cohesive government. And that we have a good board that works toward the benefit of tribal citizens.

Sandy Churchill, 64; Head Start, lead teacher

How long have you lived in Wrangell? I was born and raised here. I went to college and lived in Sitka for a couple years and in Juneau for about six years. I moved back here in 1983.

Why are you running for the council? I have been asked several times over the years to run for a seat on the board, but I've always been too busy over the years. I've loosened up on some of my other obligations so I'm able to put time into the WCA.

What do you hope to accomplish during your two-year term? I want to be a voice for the people, not just letting the board run the meeting. I want to hear what the people have to say and stand up for what they want.

Have you held any positions with the tribe before? I was the office manager (at the WCA, and I did) ... what Esther (Reese) is doing now from 1983 to 1988.

What, if anything, do you believe should be done differently?

We need to be more present, more visible in the community, including tourism. Since COVID, we haven't been dancing. There's also the problem if you work for the tribe, you couldn't be on the board.

I'm really dedicated to the organizations I join. I've been with the Tlingit and Haida community council for 30 years. I've been the secretary, vice president and president. And I'm the vice president right now. Also, I'm the president for the local Alaska Native Sisterhood. And I'm the secretary for the Presbyterian Church.

Amber Wade, 31; customer service manager, River's Mouth Trading Co.

How long have you lived in Wrangell? I was born and raised here and left in 2009 and came back in 2021.

Why are you running for the council? I have had more chances to connect with my indigenous side after moving home. I've enjoyed absorbing that ancestral heritage and all the interesting parts that come along with my Larsen and Shakes and Peratrovich and Wigg side.

What do you hope to accomplish during your two-year term? Bringing more young adults and residents coming home after being away a long time, including them and getting them more involved. Our perspective is very good to have. A lot of the tribal things, it's getting to be that the elders are getting so much older.

Have you held any positions with the tribe before? I have not. I have just been a Tlingit and Haida member my entire life. I grew up here and I went to JOM. I've kept that side of my life at the forefront of my mind, even when I wasn't living here, and constantly learning or finding out new things about my family or the tribe is what I've been doing.

What, if anything, do you believe should be done differently? I think continuing to include the younger generations and absorb and learn from the elders, while the younger generation and our perspective and life experiences can help day-to-day tribal issues. More of working together to ensure a spectrum of all voices are heard.

I'm looking forward to the opportunity of working and serving alongside elders and community members that I've looked up to and known my entire life and being more involved with the tribe on a day-to-day level.

Jason Clark, 40; station agent for Alaska Airlines

How long have you lived in Wrangell? I was born and raised in Wrangell. I left for 10 years and came back in 2010. In total, I have lived in Wrangell for 30 years.

Why are you running for the council? I want to help my fellow tribal members first and foremost. I want to see Wrangell's Native community not only survive but thrive. We are in a technology age, but I don't want to lose our way of life. I don't want to see our culture disappear. WCA is actively working on cultural revitalization and bringing back our ways of life. I want to continue to be a part of that.

What do you hope to accomplish during your two-year term? I want to continue the work we have done over the past two years. We have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time, and I would like to continue that. We are putting WCA in a very strong position to be more self-sufficient so we can do more for our tribal members.

Have you held any positions with the tribe before? I am currently the vice president of the WCA council. I also serve on the Indian Education Committee in the Wrangell Public Schools.

What, if anything, do you believe should be done differently? I'm not going to say differently, but I would like to see us as a council work with our employees to get the word out to more tribal members about all the great things we are doing. I would love to see a bigger turnout for voting and input from tribal members on what we as a council are trying to accomplish. The staff at the WCA does an amazing job getting information out but I know there is always more that can be done.

I have been honored to serve our tribal citizens on the WCA council during a difficult time. Dealing with the pandemic and increasing services to tribal citizens in need was important. I'm looking forward to hopefully continuing that work.

Sam Campus, 75; retired U.S. Army, King County assessor's office, Seattle

How long have you lived in Wrangell? I was born and raised here. I moved away right after graduating high school in 1966. Then I moved back 13 years ago. I always knew I was going to move back. There's no more beautiful country than Southeast Alaska, and right here in Wrangell you've got this beautiful ocean and mountains. That's what I missed most.

Why are you running for the council? I didn't request it. People asked me to. They signed me up. I didn't sign up.

Jason Clarke

What do you hope to accomplish during your two-year term? There's so much to it. Wrangell is the only city that doesn't take care of its elders and kids. We're the only town without an ANS and ANB hall. Our culture used to share everything with everybody. This group of Natives here is, "Gimme, gimme, gimme." They don't want anything else. There's only a few of us that think (the old) way. If you have a squabble with another Native, the two families get together and the tribe gets together and it's like a mediation. But most of the Natives here don't know that. We've lost our tradition here.

Have you held any positions with the tribe before? I used to be the president of WCA at one time, a year after I moved here. (I was president about) a year or two. I am the (Alaska Native Brotherhood) president about four or five years now. I'm also on the council for Tlingit and Haida.

What, if anything, do you feel should be done differently? I think we have to pay more attention to the elders here and the children.

 

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