The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 created the regional for-profit Aleut Corporation and village corporations in the 12 villages of the Alaska Peninsula, Aleutian Islands, and Pribilof Islands. The Act also sparked the passage of federal laws that transferred authority for many social services to regional and village nonprofit corporations and their shareholders. The Aleutian/Pribilof Islands Association (A/PIA) was formed as the regional Native nonprofit corporation serving Natives who are shareholders of the Aleut Corporation, direct descendants of a shareholder, or members of a federally recognized tribe residing within the Aleutian/Pribilof Islands region.
The A/PIA formed in 1976 with the merger of the Aleut League, created in 1967 as a parent organization for individual community associations seeking funds for health and welfare projects, and the Aleutian Planning Commission. The Association was chartered in 1986 as a nonprofit corporation under the executive directorship of Aleut leader Patrick Pletnikoff. Dimitri Philemonof is the current president and chief executive officer of the A/PIA. A 13-member board of directors governs the Association. Each board member represents one of the 13 constituent tribal governments; each community's tribal organization appoints a board member who serves a three-year term. The board establishes overall policy and direction for the Association and appoints the president to administer the Association.
The purpose of the Association is to promote the self-sufficiency and independence of the Aleut, or Unangan in their own language. The Association acts as political advocate, offers job training, and provides economic enhancement programs at the community and individual levels. IT assists in maintaining the health and safety of each Aleut village, and promotes, strengthens, and preserves the Aleut cultural heritage.
A/PIA contracts with federal, state, and local governments and secures private funding to provide a broad range of health, educational, social, psychological, employment and vocational training, and public safety services throughout the region. It comprises five departments: administration, community services, cultural heritage, health, and human services.
The administrative department is governed by the board of directors and the president. They handle accounting, human services, and strive to enhance the Association's programs and finances. Administration supports local self-governance and provides tribal court training and assistance in handling cases for villages in its region.
The Association's cultural heritage department works to preserve language and culture. The department develops Aleut language curricula, oral history programs, facilitates family history research, and imports training in historic preservation to maintain historical sites that will be conveyed to the Aleut Corporation under section 14(h)(1) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The cultural heritage department sponsors traveling exhibitions, spirit and culture camps that bring together Aleuts of all ages to share traditional skills, and art and dance programs. The department has been instrumental in a number of repatriation cases of Aleut burials and artifacts. This department also manages the Aleut Resource Library and Archive.
The community services department offers public safety services, improvements to infrastructure, transportation, environmental protection, natural resources management, housing improvements, and water and sanitation, among many, to Aleutian communities. It facilitates Aleut involvement in the cleanup of military sites throughout the chain, especially on Amchitka Island, the site of three underground nuclear tests in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Association's community services also pursue research opportunities to understand environmental health changes occurring in the delicate Bering Sea ecosystem, and they sponsor the Traditional Foods Protection program. Other community service programs include the
Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs), who double as first responders in any emergency to communities in need and train VPSOs and social workers in child sexual abuse prevention and support of victims.
The health department imparts services on health and nutrition, emergency medicine, substance abuse counseling and prevention, and behavioral health as well as specific health services for children, pregnant women, diabetics, and elders. The department operates and staffs clinics in a number of villages, and initiated the delivery of telemedicine to many communities where village providers could consult with Anchorage providers.
The human services department within the Association provides aid to individuals based on need. Programs include education and training, financial aid, childcare, general assistance, and social services.
The A/PIA was instrumental in the creation of the Aleut International Association (AIA). While the AIA is focused on broad natural resource and health concerns of all Aleut peoples in the United States and Russia and is able to maneuver on the international stage as a permanent participant in the Arctic Council, the A/PIA is concentrated in the United States. The organizations are separate, although some overlap exists in staff and office space.
See also Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA); Aleut; Aleut Corporation; Aleut International Association; Arctic Council
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Berger, Thomas, Village Journey, New York: Hill & Wang, 1985
Case, David S., Alaska Natives and American Laws, Fairbanks:
University of Alaska Press, 1984 Flanders, Nicholas, "The Alaska Native Corporation as conglomerate: the problem of profitability." Human Organization, 48(4) (1989): 299-312 Korsmo, Fae L., "The Alaska Natives." Polar Peoples: Self-Determination and Development, edited by Minority Rights Group, 1994, pp. 81-104 Marenin, Otwin & Gary Copus, "Policing rural Alaska: The Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) Program." American Journal of Police, 10(4) (1991): 1-26
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