AFN Announces Keynote Speakers for 2015 Annual Convention

The Alaska Federation of Natives is pleased to announce that world-renowned Haida weaver Delores Churchill and her grandson, the Haida master carver Donald Varnell, have accepted our invitation to deliver the 2015 AFN Convention keynote address.  The Convention will be held October 15-17 at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage, with the theme: “Heroes In Our Homeland.”  The keynote address is scheduled for the morning of Thursday, October 15.  The AFN Convention and the Alaska Native Customary Art Show are open to the public.

“AFN is pleased that Delores and Donald have accepted our invitation.  Having two keynoters is a way for AFN to showcase the actual sharing of our cultural traditions between generations and they are an inspiration to the entire Native community,” AFN President Julie Kitka said.  “This year’s theme was chosen as a way to recognize and celebrate the many heroes living among us, the people working humbly to strengthen our communities.”  The convention theme is a reflection of Alaska Native values and guides the structure and focus of the convention gathering.

Delores Churchill is a Chilkat weaver from Ketchikan.  Her artistic influence and knowledge of the art stretches around the globe.  She has also worked as a researcher and consultant, helping curators identify works in museum collections.  Churchill has been honored for her role as an artist and culture bearer, including a Rasmuson Foundation Distinguished Artist Award, an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Alaska Southeast, a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Artist residency, an award by the Alaska State Council On The Arts travel grant to study Haida basketry in London and Canada, and a Sealaska Heritage Foundation study grant.

Also from Ketchikan, Donald Varnell is a folk/traditional artist who blends tradition with social, cultural and political ideas in his multi-disciplinary works of art.  He has worked and apprenticed under Tlingit master-carvers Nathan Jackson and Willphoto (0000000C) (2) Burkhart, as well as Haida master-carver Reggie Davidson.  Varnell has carved works that now stand in public, museum and private collections worldwide and throughout Alaska. He has been awarded numerous Percent for Art commissions at schools and youth facilities throughout Alaska as well as a Rasmuson Foundation Artist Fellowship.

The AFN Annual Convention is the largest annual gathering in the United States of any Native peoples. Policy guidelines and advocacy statements are set by the dozens of resolutions passed by voting delegates at the Convention.  AFN has been very successful promoting greater self-determination in programs that best meet the need of the Native people, lessen dependency on the federal government and ensure greater participation in the national economy.  Each year, the AFN Convention draws between 4,000–5,000 delegates and observers.    The proceedings are broadcast live statewide via television and radio and webcast to some 70 countries worldwide.

Visit for more information and updates on the 2015 Annual AFN Convention.