Elders Work to Develop Region-Wide Protocols on Use of Chief’s Necklaces

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Denakkanaaga Meeting held May 23rd to discuss protocols surrounding Chief’s necklaces

The Chief’s necklace has long been used in Athabascan culture to symbolize leadership. You often see the large, dentallium shell necklaces draped across the necks of prominent native leaders and chiefs during large meetings such as the Alaska Federation of Natives Annual Convention and Tanana Chiefs Conference’s Annual Convention.

However, in recent years, the necklaces seem to be showing up everywhere. You see them being presented to politicians, public service officers, and others who are not part of the native community. You see them being worn by those not in leadership positions. You see them being worn in grocery stores.

All of these situations bring up the question- are people forgetting the significance of these necklaces? But also, what are the rules of Chief’s necklaces? Who is allowed to wear them? Who is allowed to gift them? When should they be worn? Where should they be worn? What is their significance?

The Path to Ch’eghwtsen’

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Close your eyes and think about a moment in your life where you felt loved unconditionally. A time where you felt supported, understood, and appreciated.

There is a word for that feeling – Ch’eghwtsen’.

Ch’eghwtsen’, when translated from the Lower Tanana dialect, means ‘True Love’. The word is one that has been spoken at length by one of our most revered native leaders- the Late Traditional Chief Peter John, who described it as ‘pure’ and ‘powerful’.

For years, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) looked for a word that could accurately describe what they wanted to achieve. When Ch’eghwtsen’ was presented, it was exactly what they had been looking for – a culturally relevant word that embodied the fundamental concepts of compassion and empathy.

However, the road to Ch’eghwtsen’ was not straightforward. It took a lot of planning, preparation, people, and just a little bit of serendipity.

A Promise Kept: Improving Health Care in the Upper Tanana

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A draft design of the new clinic.

“Don’t forget about us.”

A simple request from the Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) Full Board of Directors that echoes in the back of TCC Chief/Chairman Victor Joseph’s mind every time he is making decisions about healthcare expansion in the region. In 2008, Chief Joseph was the Health Services Director when he stood before the Full Board seeking authorization to move forward with the construction of the Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center (CAIHC) in Fairbanks. The Full Board approved the proposal with only three stipulations – 1) Make sure the clinic isn’t designed as a square box, 2) When you expand services make sure you expand in the villages too, and 3) Don’t forget about us.

NOW ACCEPTING: BIA Housing Improvement Applications

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TCC Housing Department is now accepting BIA HIP applications. All tribal members are encouraged to apply. Applications are available at your local tribal offices.

Applications: Download the BIA Application or pick up at your local tribal office.

DUE DATE: Applications with all needed documents before December 15th, 2019.

Questions? Contact Mitchell Shewfelt Sr. at ext. 3319
Fax: 907-459-3944
Mail: 122 1st Ave, Suite 600
Fairbanks, AK 99701
Attn: Housing Department

Please review the checklist before submitting your application.