Every year, the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) hosts an annual event known as Alaska Day in Washington, D.C. This event provides an opportunity for Alaskans, particularly those of Alaska Native heritage, to gather and engage with policymakers, representatives, and the public, about issues important to Alaska Native communities. 

During Alaska Day, participants advocate for various issues such as tribal sovereignty, indigenous rights, healthcare, education, economic development, and environmental concerns affecting Alaska Natives and their lands. The event includes meetings with members of Congress, government officials, and other stakeholders to discuss these topics and raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by Alaska Native peoples. 

Alaska Day is also a platform for cultural sharing, showcasing Alaska Native traditions, arts, and language to a wider audience in the nation’s capital. Moreover, it provides an opportunity to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and contributions of Alaska Natives while advocating for policies that support their communities’ well-being and prosperity. 

This year, Sheri Buretta, Chairman of Chugach Alaska Corporation (Chugach), presented at the 2024 Alaska Day, and spoke about how, nearly two decades after the passing of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), Congress voted to amend ANCSA to designate ANCs as minority-owned and economically disadvantaged business enterprises. Around this time, Section 8(a) of the Small Business Administration (SBA) Act was changed to provide special consideration for ANCs and federally recognized tribes.  

Participating in the 8(a) program has allowed ANCs and the Federal government to forge a valuable partnership that continues today. The program is often referred to as the “missing link” to ANCSA that has provided an economic engine for ANCs to generate profits that benefit current and future generations of Alaska Native shareholders. The government benefits from ANCs’ industry expertise on 8(a) contracts and creates jobs for local communities, while revenue generated by ANCs through the program benefits thousands of Alaska Native shareholders and their descendants, who often gain educational and employment opportunities from scholarships offered through the ANCs. 

Touching on this history, Buretta discussed how Chugach was one of the first ANCs to begin pursuing Federal government contracts in the 1990s, after minority Federal contracting was opened to ANCs under these modified rules that recognized the unique nature of its shareholders. Fast-forward three decades since Chugach’s first 8(a) contract award, and Federal government contracting is still the cornerstone of Chugach’s business, comprising a large portion of our annual revenue.   

Buretta focused her closing comments on the current challenges and opportunities for ANCs in the Federal government contracting arena. Expressing her pride in the work that Chugach and other ANCs perform for the government (especially the U. S. Armed Forces), she also spoke to how this work could be improved, for Chugach and for the government, with further changes to contracting requirements and guidelines. 

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Director Randi Jo Gause

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