Grand Camp returns to Petersburg between centennial celebrations
Petersburg’s Alaska Native Sisterhood and Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp 16 will play host to the 102nd annual Grand Camp Oct. 8-11, returning after 43 years of convening elsewhere around Alaska.
“Each year the camp itself in each community works to address the needs in the community,’’ said Brenda Louise, ANS 2nd Grand Vice President and member of Petersburg’s Camp 16. “Each community, depending on how big or active the camp is and what issues they see as needing addressing in their environment, would write resolutions and bring them to Grand Camp every year.’’
Similar in many ways to state and federal governing principles, the tribal resolutions are debated by the elders and delegates from the camps and either accepted or rejected. Accepted resolutions are then formalized and passed on with the delegates to bring home and adopt for each camp, along with a wealth of new information from other tribes, she said.
Alongside domestic issues, the Grand Camp also highlights the tribes’ interactions with Alaskan and federal government officials as politicians interact with current or prospective constituents and tribal leaders take the opportunity to directly discuss their concerns.
One of the current concerns topping local tribal lists are the prohibitive amounts of red tape tangling applicants for cultural hunts with the Department of Fish and Game, Louise said. “We have found that the process was not very transparent and could use a little bit broader base to make access to the cultural hunt program more applicable. The other is to seek other cultural education programs that could come to Petersburg and perpetuate our culture here.’’
With Petersburg hosting, a much older issue never set to rest for the tribes was dredged up in the minds of the Tlingit in particular, she added, referring to the five landless tribes.
This Grand Camp is another opportunity to appeal the issue, “with so many candidates seeking the native votes presenting, as one of our big community concerns — it’s been 42 years since the Alaskan Native Settlement Act, where land issues were settled with everybody but the five landless communities,’’ Louise said.
Aside from Petersburg, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Haines and Tenakee also suffered under the much-appealed deal, in which land and cash compensations were awarded to eligible private corporations owned by Alaskan natives. The five landless communities were not included in the deals.
“The Alaska Native Brotherhood actually was the first civil rights movement, long before Martin Luther King,’’ she said, adding that the brotherhood recently celebrated its100th anniversary in 2012, with the sisterhood’s centennial coming along soon in 2015.
Scattered across Alaska, Washington and Oregon are 29 camps that send delegations — three from the brotherhood, three from the sisterhood and two alternates, she said. “Potentially, there could be 144 people, if everyone is represented. We won’t really know how many people are attending until we do registration.’’
While this means most hotels or bed and breakfasts are sold out — “we booked up the jets pretty good’’ — other tribes have taken offers of limited local housing arranged by the Petersburg Indian Association and U.S. Forest Service, she said. “Most of the camps have booked everything in town.’’
Grand Camp will begin, for most, at 6 p.m. on Tuesday with the first fundraising dinner, prime rib to start, cooked by Juneau’s Camp 70. Each fundraising dinner is open to the community, with proceeds going to support Grand Camp.
Wednesday will dawn with the first of the meetings, called to order at 9 a.m. and concluding at 5 p.m., an hour before a moose and coho barbecue by Petersburg’s camp an hour later.
ANB/ANS officers for the coming year will be nominated on Thursday, though the fundraising meal for the day will be at the Presbyterian Church at 2nd and Haugen streets, at noon. The menu will be seafood chowder and fry bread.
Political dignitaries from around the state will gather to speak to the delegates on Friday, beginning at 11 a.m. after officers are elected. A cultural dinner put on by all the tribes will be held at 6:30 p.m. with storytelling and cultural entertainment.
Saturday will be the day to wrap up tribal business and install new officers, though a final fundraising lunch at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, across from the convention, will feature adobo chicken and lumpia.
Petersburg’s Camp 16 also will hold a tribute in memory of Yax Yeidi, known by most of the borough as Amy Hallingstad.
“She was the only ANS Grand President to come out of Petersburg,’’ Louise said. “She was the host in 1970, the last time Petersburg was holding a convention.’’
Hallingstad, sometimes called “the First Lady of the First People,’’ was a motivated, inspirational figure that lobbied ceaselessly for native rights, education and opportunity, according to an event brochure that will be made available during the event.