Photo By Amber Kurka | Staff members from the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies at the TSC booth during the 2023 Alaska Federation of Natives Conference, on Oct. 19, 2023, at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska. The three-day conference serves as the principal forum and voice for the Alaska Native community and convenes thousands of official delegates and participants from Alaska Native tribes and organizations across the state. At the event, TSC staff showcased its dedication to advocating for the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in Arctic security, underlining its commitment to the broader cause of fostering collaboration and dialogue on Arctic security matters. (DoD photo by Amber E. Kurka) View Image Page
For the second year running, the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies made a meaningful appearance at the Alaska Federation of Natives Conference, that was held from Oct. 19 through 21 at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska. The annual convention serves as the principal forum and voice for the Alaska Native community and convenes thousands of official delegates and participants from Alaska Native tribes and organizations across the state. Over the course of the three-day event delegates discussed strategic opportunities and challenges, listened to memorable keynote speeches, heard reports from political leaders and presentations from expert panels, and shared stories of resilience, experiences, strengths, knowledge, and hope for the future. “AFN is the largest Native gathering in the world at this time of year,” explained Terrence Shanigan, deputy associate director of Strategic Engagement at the TSC and an Alutiiq member of the Kanatak tribe in Alaska. “AFN is important because it gives our TSC team a venue where many people from Alaska’s Indigenous community come together in one place and enables us to engage in meaningful dialog.” As a congressionally authorized Department of Defense Regional Center TSC’s mission is to strengthen security cooperation between Arctic communities to include Indigenous communities in North America and in Europe. At the event, the TSC showcased its dedication to advocating for the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in Arctic security, underlining its commitment to the broader cause of fostering collaboration and dialogue on Arctic security matters. “Arctic Indigenous peoples and their knowledge, experiences, and expertise are woven into the fabric of the Ted Stevens Center.” said Shanigan. “The Ted Stevens Center is a platform from which the Indigenous community can engage in Arctic security dialog.” This year’s AFN Conference theme, “Our Ways of Life,” celebrated Alaska Native traditional culture while reflecting on the fundamental principles of traditional ways of living off the land. For TSC representatives it was an opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and insight on key issues, concerns and find ways to collaborate and connect. “This year focused on our way of life as Indigenous people and there was a significant emphasis on the forgotten science and understanding of nature within our Indigenous cultures,” Shanigan explained. “There were conversations about subsistence living and our way of life and what each of those means highlighting the connection between food security and human security amidst a changing climate.” One of the focuses for TSC is how environmental changes in the Arctic are impacting food and resources in the region. The center offers educational courses and research projects on how those relate to Arctic security and why security practitioners should be informed about subsistence living and Indigenous knowledge. “If you think of security in a narrow frame, you think about protection: physical security, military or police, but when you broaden it, to include something like food security, then it’s more relatable and that is significant,” explained Shanigan. “Food security is a conversation that’s been happening for a long-time, decades, in the Alaska Native community. Ensuring that communities are thriving and food security translates into communities that are self-reliant. The Ted Stevens Center can help fill the gap and bridge different types of hard power and soft power security issues and integrate them into the education programs we deliver.” The center’s presence served as a testament to its commitment to fostering a collaborative approach to Arctic security that is inclusive of all stakeholders. The TSC booth at the conference was a hub of activity, providing attendees with information and resources related to Arctic security studies. Visitors were able to engage in constructive dialogues with TSC representatives about Arctic security and how it relates to Indigenous culture, while providing visitors insight into the center’s ongoing outreach, research, and educational initiatives. On Saturday, the highlight of TSC’s participation at the conference was a discussion panel moderated by Shanigan. The panel featured top military leaders, emphasizing the military’s commitment to understanding and collaborating with the Indigenous communities in the Arctic. Shanigan emphasized the importance of such forums, stating, “Strategic relationships start with people and that was emphasized by the Military/Veteran discussion panel on Saturday.” Panelists included U.S. Army Lt. Gen. A.C. Roper, deputy commander, U.S. Northern Command; U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Nahom, commander Alaskan NORAD Region, Alaskan Command and Eleventh Air Alaskan Command; U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, commanding general, 11th Airborne Division and deputy commander, Alaskan Command; U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, adjutant general, Alaska National Guard, and the commissioner, Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Sucato, commander, Navy Region Northwest. “Through their vast expertise and knowledge of our military leaders that participated on the panel we opened dialog with the Arctic Indigenous community underscoring the importance of relationships to Arctic security,” said Shanigan. For Department of Defense officials, this event served as a reminder of the vital role Indigenous knowledge plays in shaping effective Arctic security policies and strategies. The TSC’s presence at the conference further underscored the commitment to fostering cooperation between military leaders and Indigenous communities, ultimately working toward a safer and more secure Arctic region. “If you look at the relationships the TSC has in Barrow, that community welcomes us and allows us to bring military and government leaders to their community to learn about what it’s like in the U.S. Arctic,” said Shanigan. “Without those relationships we wouldn’t have that same experience.” By working together with a range of partners, including Alaska Native communities, the center uses a whole-of-government approach to realize an Arctic region that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and cooperative. TCS’s participation in this year’s Alaska Federation of Natives Conference was not merely a showcase of commitment to fostering collaboration and dialogue in Arctic security matters; it was a testament to the center’s dedication to inclusion and partnership with Arctic communities.