Elders & Youth Conference History

In the initial years, students planned the event with support from staff.

In 1984, the first Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Youth Conference, attended by 54 high school students, convened in response to a resolution passed by delegates to the previous AFN Convention. By allowing Alaska Native students their own gathering, modeled on the main Convention, the conference was a training ground in advocacy, collaboration, and leadership development.

In those initial years, students planned the event with support from staff. The conference introduced them to processes of group decision-making that includes debates and voting on the floor, adoption of resolutions, meeting in regional caucuses, and election of representatives. The new conference gave voice to our youth, who brought up and sought solutions to Alaska Native issues like subsistence, sovereignty, education, economic development, health and wellness.

In the late 1980, AFN added a Native Elders Conference to its Convention week activities. Before long, these two groups were meeting together in an Elders & Youth Conference, where the energy and excitement of the youth was guided by the wisdom of their Elders.

When and why it was handed over to FAI.

Today, the Elders & Youth combines the best of both worlds: our young people - the next wave of leaders; and our Elders - the culture bearers who are the vital connection to our own heritage. Participation at the conference annually exceeds 1,000 participants, both urban and rural, representing all Alaska Native cultural groups. It brings together Indigenous leaders from statewide, national and international arenas of all ages. It fosters solidarity and unity as we advocate for our lands, peoples and Ancestral Imperative.