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Alaska Federation of Natives convention goes virtual, again, due to COVID-19

The 2015 Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage.
The 2015 Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage.(KTUU)
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 6:02 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention will be completely virtual for the second year in a row, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the organization announced Friday.

This year’s convention will take place Dec. 13 and 14.

“After consultation with state, federal and tribal health officials, and reviewing current data trends, AFN decided to hold its annual meeting online out of concern for the safety and health of the thousands of attendees who come from every part of Alaska, including AFN delegates, presenters, other participants, artists and exhibitors, and the public,” the Friday statement reads.

According to AFN, the annual convention is “the largest representative annual gathering of Native peoples in the United States, and the largest meeting of its kind in Alaska.”

Last year’s convention was also held virtually due to the pandemic, and according to the statement, current COVID-19 data indicate Anchorage is on an “upward trajectory” when it comes to the virus. The convention will be presented through a combination of statewide television and radio broadcast, and livestreaming on video platforms.

AFN said it will also create an online marketplace for Native arts, featuring the same artists that would normally have booths at the convention’s exhibit hall.

“Our convention is a large indoor gathering where CDC guidelines of social distancing are not practical,” Sheri Buretta, chair of AFN’s Convention Committee, is quoted as saying in the statement. “The situation in Anchorage has not improved nearly enough to risk the health of Convention participants, particularly our Elders and other vulnerable attendees, when hospitals across the state are under extreme pressure right now.”

The theme of this year’s convention is “ANCSA at 50: Empowering Our Future.” It had already been postponed from October to December in an effort to give Anchorage more time to get COVID-19 numbers down.

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