Anchorage, AK: AFN is pleased to announce that the 2014 Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Annual Convention keynote speakers are Miriam “Kaniak” Aarons and Mao Tosi. The two will co-present this year’s keynote address on Thursday, October 23rd at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage, AK.
“Miriam and Mao have worked to strengthen and join communities to make a better Alaska – their collaborative work exemplifies our 2014 theme, Rise as One,” said Julie Kitka, AFN President. “We look forward to the two sharing their ideas and experiences with our delegates.”
The AFN Annual Convention brings together some 3,500 delegates from across the state to discuss key issues, share information, and set the course for the AFN for the coming year. It is an opportunity to engage with fellow Alaskans and with leaders from Alaskan communities as well as government officials. The Alaska Native Customary Art Show, which will be open all three days of the Convention on the Dena’ina Center’s first floor, is renowned as one of the best places to find Alaska Native and American Indian artwork. Two evenings of Native dance and music, the ever-popular Quyana Alaska cultural performances, are also scheduled.
All AFN Convention proceedings and events are open to the public. AFN Board Co-Chair Tara Sweeney said, “We welcome and encourage our fellow Alaskans, Native and non-Native alike, to join us as an observer, visit and celebrate with us and rise as one with the Native community. For those unable to make it downtown in person, the entire Convention and Quyana will be broadcast live on statewide television and webcast as well.”
2014 AFN Convention: Keynote Speaker Biographies
Miriam “Kaniak” Aarons is the corporate Communications Director for Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC). At BSNC, Miriam is responsible for brand management, public relations, coordinating media communications and helping oversee BSNC’s charitable giving efforts. Miriam was born in Anchorage in 1982 to Martha Anagick Aarons and Dr. Charles Aarons. She spent the first four years of her life in Dillingham, Alaska and the remainder of her childhood in Anchorage. She is of Jewish and Inupiaq descent with family roots from Unalakleet and is a shareholder of Unalakleet Native Corporation and BSNC. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a field concentration in International Relations in 2007 from Columbia University in New York City. She serves on the Alaska Native Heritage Center’s Development Committee. Miriam lives in Anchorage with her husband and three sons.
Mao Tosi, born December 12, 1976 in Maun’a, American Samoa, is one of Alaska’s Top 40 Under 40 and is the only Samoan ever to be named Alaska’s Basketball Player of the Year. Tosi received a basketball scholarship to Butler Community College in 1995–1997, where they were ranked #1 in the country, during the 1996/97 season, AND finished 3rd in the NJCAA Tourney during the 1995/96 season. Tosi then received a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Idaho, where he excelled as a dual sport athlete, playing basketball and football for the Vandals. After two years of football for the Vandals, Tosi received many accolades including: East West Shrine Bowl and College Senior Bowl. Tosi was drafted in the 5th round of the 2000 NFL Draft to the Arizona Cardinals, where he started 10 of 16 games and led the defensive line in tackles, as a rookie. Tosi was injured in his 3rd season and moved back to Alaska to raise his young family. In 2006, Tosi found his calling and began to work with at-risk youth in his hometown of Anchorage, Alaska. Mao Tosi created non-profit organization called Alaska PRIDE Youth Programs. In 2011, Tosi took over the Northway Mall with less than 60% occupancy and now is more than 90% occupied. In 2014, Mao Tosi got involved in politics, running for the East Anchorage Assembly seat. Although Tosi did not win he was able to win more than 20% of the vote and gain much needed experience. Currently Tosi is focused on improving the Northway Mall and continuing to better his community for a better Alaska.