U.S. Senator Mark Begich honored Native American Heritage month today by celebrating the contributions of Alaska's 229 federally recognized tribes and calling for increased tribal self-determination and protecting voting rights. Begich issued the statement shortly after the U.S. Senate approved a Senate Resolution recognizing National Native American Heritage Month.
"I honor Alaska's First Peoples in recognition of Native American Heritage month, celebrated during the entire month of November. Alaska is home to 229 federally recognized tribes. This month we honor all of them, from the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian in Southeast; to the Athabascan in the Interior; to the Inupiaq, Yup'ik and Aleut along the coast. Alaska's First Peoples have called our great state home since time immemorial.
"Alaska Native tribes, non-profits, health organizations, corporations, service men and women, artists, teachers, veterans and cultural bearers, continue to make significant contributions to the fabric of Alaskan and American society. This month we celebrate our nation's First Peoples and the endless contributions they have made to our great nation.
"The theme of this year's Alaska Federation of Natives convention was "Traditional Native Family Values.' Values like hard work, humor and family were highlighted in the remembrances of great Native Leaders such as Katie John and Clarence Jackson. They worked hard to protect their ways of life and to pass their knowledge on to the next generation. Our state would not be where it is today without their contributions. We must continue to follow in their courageous footsteps to honor and nurture the special relationship Alaska Native peoples have with the federal governments. As we continue to strengthen and grow as a community and a state, fighting for food security and meaningful tribal self-determination, we must remember the meaningful contributions made by past leaders like Elizabeth Peratrovich, who served their communities and people well, and continue to follow their pathways. Most importantly, we must continue to protect the right of all Alaskans to vote; to secure, not diminish, the Native Vote. We cannot--we will not--go back to denying Alaskans access to the polls simply because they speak Yup'ik or live in rural Alaska.
"Native American Heritage month gives us all the opportunity to reflect and honor the contributions that the First People of America have made in Alaska and in the entire United States. I hope that all Alaskan's join me in celebrating Alaska Native culture and heritage and that we continue to work together to build strong, healthy communities in both urban and rural Alaska."