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Commemorating the Signing of ANCSA; Hosted by Alaska Pacific University.  -  Part 6 - Julie Kitka
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Edgar Blatchford: Thank you, Senator Hensley. Irene and I are in the middle of a tiff right now, and she wants to introduce Emil Notti and I want to introduce Emil Notti, so in order to buy time, why don’t we have Julie Kitka come up and speak, and Irene and I will settle this. Okay, Julie. And by the way, none of these folks knew they were going to speak today.

Julie Kitka
Julie Kitka: Well, I’ll be very short, because I know everybody wants to hear from Emil. I want to thank Irene and Edgar and Dr. North for hosting this gathering today. I think it is very important and very symbolic, and I want to share from my perspective. I was also in college at Western Washington University when the Land Claims was resolved. In fact, Gordon Fuller and I were talking, we were in the same anthropology class at the same time. He paid attention and I slept in class. We both had graveyard shifts where we worked all night and then went to class, and after classes, we went to sleep. Anthropology was our last class of the morning.

The level of commitment from people involved in the Land Claims was important to me. As many of you know, Cecil Barnes, Dick Jansen, and his brother Bud were prominent leaders from our area. Cecil, if you can imagine, owned a home at that time, and in order to get airfare money to travel to D.C., he took out a mortgage on his home and used his own money. In this day and age, it’s hard for me to imagine anybody reaching into their pocket and grabbing whatever resources they have and putting it on the table for the common good. I always think of Cecil and the inspiration his story has for me. He and my dad were boxing partners in Cordova, and always did lots of rounds. I’ll always treasure the commitment that Cecil and his family had in putting anything that they had on the table to help the other Native people.

After ANCSA was settled and people were starting to set up the corporations, I remember Cecil asking me to come to the Chugach corporation as a vice president. I knew nothing about business. He took me around the office, and we were just going from office to office to office, and there was nothing in these offices. There were desks and chairs and a phones, and briefcases that were completely empty. There were no pens, no papers, no files, nothing. People were just sitting in the offices trying to figure out the next step and where to go. I told Cecil, “I can’t do this. I don’t have any experience in this business, let me get some other experience and I’ll see what I can do to help out later.”

It meant a lot to me to see the people -- Henry McArkin and the others -- who were willing to roll up their sleeves and try to make a go of it. They didn’t have any experience in business, at most they had fishing and commercial fishing experience. I don’t think we often recognize the courage that it took for them just to try.

I want to pay tribute to everyone who helped out, both the lawyers and the consultants and the people in government and the leaders at the village and regional associations. The settlement really came about because of these people. It’s been implemented because of people, and its success or failure will be because of people’s commitment to make it work. In my experience, AFN is only as successful as the people who are willing to step up and ask, “How can I help?” It’s built on individual people working together to accomplish something.

Lastly, I want to say that someone asked me recently to describe AFN as an institution. I said AFN is not really a nonprofit organization or an institution; it’s more of a movement. It’s people who have gathered around an institution whose sole purpose is to unify the Native community, and to use that institution to further their goals. It really is a movement of people trying to accomplish things, to better things for the Native people, no more or less.

I want to pay tribute to all the people who have contributed, and I want to encourage people to continue the work, because there’s still a lot that needs to be done. Thank you.

Edgar Blatchford: Irene won.

Irene Rowan: No, no. Oh, thank you Edgar, this is so nice. As I told you, my students were asked to write a paper about an ANCSA warrior, and I had this one student who had been out for a couple sessions. She came in and announced that she didn’t have her paper done. This was the Tuesday before the final, so I gave her a few more days. She said that, all right, she would see what she could do.

She decided to write the class off, but then her father said no, no, no, no -- you have to meet this man, you have to go talk to this man, you will never know anything unless you talk to this man. On the last day of class, this girl came bubbling into the class and said, “I met the greatest man!”

What more can I say, other than Emil, I hope you will come up here and tell us how you were able to organize us Alaska Natives. Remember, we didn’t speak the same languages, we weren’t from the same areas, we didn’t know each other. We just knew that we were related some way, and this guy was able to organize us and get us to act as one body.

I really, really want to say thank you to Mr. Notti for all the work that he put in. As John Borbridge said, this is a man who devoted his life. He worked without pay to help the Native cause. I really, really can’t say enough about Mr. Notti and I hope he’ll come up here and share his story with you.

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