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Policy, legislation, green infrastructure projects, the Oregon Clean Energy Jobs bill, the Spokane Indian Housing Authority’s solar initiatives, the 2020 Census, the Indian Child Welfare Act,  Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and the future of Indian Country in the Northwest—These are just a few of the topics on the table at the ATNI Winter Convention 2019, taking place January 28-31, 2019, in Portland, Oregon.

“ATNI provides the platform for different experts in the field to update Tribal leadership,” explained Terri Parr, Coeur d’Alene, Walla Walla and Oneida (Wisconsin), Executive Director of ATNI.  

Hosted by the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), a committee-driven Tribal organization made up of Tribal leaders, approximately 350 people have pre-registered for the ATNI Winter Convention 2019, hosted at the DoubleTree by Hilton Portland. “That’s probably near capacity, but we will still take some onsite registrations. We’re semi-fluid,” Parr said.

She added: “ATNI is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, and we are so proud of the Tribal leaders within our footprint. The ATNI Tribal leaders and a lot of the presenters are from the Northwest, from ATNI Tribes. For example, Fawn Sharp [President of the Quinault Indian Nation in Taholah, Washington] will be presenting on a couple of federal reports, the recent Climate Change assessment report, as well as the follow-up report to the Quiet Crisis [in Indian Country]. which was written a few years ago.”

In addition to celebrating its 65th anniversary, ATNI will commemorate the mid-term elections of Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, (D-Kansas) and Deb Haaland, Pueblo of Laguna, (D-New Mexico) to Congress.

RELATED: An Historic Day: Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland Sworn in to Congress

“We’ll also highlight some of the legislative races here in the Northwest; for example, in Montana, numerous Native Americans were elected to the state legislature,” said Parr, adding that Oregon and Washington elected indigenous leaders as well. “Debra Lekanoff, Democrat, was elected. While Deb is an Alaska Native, she lives in Washington and has worked for the Swinomish Tribe for years and has been a part of ATNI, working with the Natural Resources committee as the co-chair of the committee. We are really happy to see her elected,” Parr said. “And of course Sen. John McCoy, Democrat, who is Tulalip, who has been in the legislature for years.”

 

ATNI convention attendees will include representatives from Tribal enterprises and departments, Native organizations and outside experts. “We’ll see Tribal leaders from nearly all the member Tribes. Some will bring their staff and experts in various fields, for example natural resources,” Parr said.

Non-Tribal attendees will include local, state, and federal government, as well as university, representatives. “Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs [Tara Sweeney] was scheduled to come, but with the shutdown she had to cancel,” Parr noted.

The Tradeshow will similarly hit a cross-sector of industries, featuring Tribal enterprises, broadband providers and educational institutions, with a strong university presence. The Tradeshow will also feature local arts and crafts vendors.

Native Business Magazine asked Parr to weigh in on critical issues to be addressed at the ATNI Winter Convention.   

NBM: What inspired ATNI’s focus on climate change and energy this convention?

Parr: Climate change is at the forefront for many Tribes. Don Sampson [ATNI Climate Change Project Coordinator] heads our climate change program, and he has worked on our behalf nationally and internationally.

NBM: Can you speak to the ATNI Winter Convention’s focus on the Oregon Clean Energy Jobs bill (House Bill 4001 and Senate Bill 1507)?

Parr: Interestingly, a year ago in Oregon, there was some legislation that didn’t move forward. Since then, Oregon Tribes have watched and worked with the 1631 effort in Washington [Washington Initiative 1631, the Carbon Emissions Fee Measure], which also did not pass. But the Oregon Tribes learned a lot from the strategies of 1631, and have implemented some of that in their language that they are presenting, and hope to see some results where Tribes will benefit from the legislation in terms of projects that they can do on their own reservations at their choosing.

Gov. [Kate] Brown (Democrat) of Oregon signed a clean energy bill earlier in her tenure. [Oregon Tribes] are hoping to get [the Oregon Clean Energy Jobs bill] passed, and Tribes will be able to work on their own projects as they see fit.

NBM: What inspired ATNI’s focus on the Spokane Indian Housing Authority’s renewable applications for Tribal residential and government buildings?

Parr: Both personally and professionally, I’m very interested in the Spokane Tribes’ solar project. As you know, a lot of projects or efforts are born from challenges that Tribes have faced. In 2016, there was a catastrophic fire on the Spokane Reservation, and they were without power for several days, going on a week, and that included their water source. So, this is their response. This is how they are going to deal with it. Should this happen again, they will be much better prepared on their own, without having to rely on any external assistance. They will be resilient on their own.

NBM: Who are the notable keynote speakers and presenters this year?

Parr: One of the things our participants always look forward to is the legislative update. Specifically, Brian Gunn, who is a Colville Tribal member, but works in Washington, D.C. He attends on a regular basis and provides a legislative update from the federal level, and that is always one of the favorite presentations.

Of course, the new census will make a presentation (U.S. Census – Preparing for 2020 Census). They are trying to do it electronically, and that will be a big challenge to [some] Tribes.

NBM: What other key topics will ATNI address?

Parr: One of the biggest topics will be the [National] Indian Child Welfare issue, and trying to strategize how to move forward and address the issue.

Another serious issue is Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Abigail Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), Director of the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), a division of the Seattle Indian Health Board, will present the UIHI report on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).  

The State of Washington has put forward a piece of legislation for a study on how to look into and deal with the situation [MMIW] better. Montana is also creating legislation; Washington’s legislation is already in place. We’ll be hearing from experts in the field about this.

Another exciting panel is a media panel [Media and Communications Strategy Panel] on how Tribes can get their own story out without having to rely on anyone external.

The full agenda for the ATNI Winter Convention 2019 is available at https://atnitribes.org/sites/default/files/Agenda.Winter.2019.pdf.

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