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Unalaska City Council approves funding request for Camp Qungaayux̂, as Qawalangin Tribe expands the program

Hope McKenney
Camp Qungaayux̂ campers greet a seal-hunting crew at Unalaska's Humpy Cove.

The Unalaska City Council has approved the Qawalangin Tribe’s full funding request for its annual summer culture camp.

Last month, local nonprofits presented requests for the city’s Community Support grant program for the coming fiscal year. All of the applications were approved except the Qawalangin Tribe’s, which sought about $94,300 for the evolving Camp Qungaayux̂.

The tribe is not a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, as required by the grant program. So the council moved to handle its request separately, using the city’s general fund instead.

Anfesia Tutiakoff is the Qawalangin Tribe’s culture director and Camp Q director. She thanked councilors last week for approving the funding in a 4-1 vote, continuing the city’s long history of supporting the culture camp.

“I thank you for not really making us turn this into a 501(c)(3),” said Tutiakioff. “Because that really does take away our tribal sovereignty over the program, and also takes away a lot of our funding that is specific to tribes for this type of programming.”

For 25 years, the tribe has hosted Camp Q as a free weeklong event to celebrate and hand down Unangan knowledge to kids from the community and around the region. Now, the tribe is planning to extend it into a year-round program. That’s why its request for fiscal year 2024 is up almost $60,000 from the current year.

Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson abstained from voting because he also serves as president of the tribe. The sole “no” vote came from Councilor Shari Coleman, who said the request should be funded through the community grant program.

Going forward, the council asked City Manager Bil Homka to work on a proposal to change the requirements of the program and make the tribe eligible even though it’s not a 501(c)(3).

The same issue has cropped up in past budget debates, and councilors said they want a long-term solution. Councilor Alejandro “Bong” Tungul said tweaking the current policy would help the council support future tribe requests without having to handle them separately.

“I want to see what we can do in the future,” said Tungul. “So we don't have this discussion and we don't run into this situation again.”

Homka is expected to bring a proposal to the council before the next grant application cycle. For fiscal year 2024, the council awarded a total of $1.4 million to seven nonprofits through the grant program.

Correction 5/23/23 : An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported that Anfesia Tutiakoff is the Qawalangin Tribe's cultural resource manager. She is now the tribe's culture director, and the story has been updated to reflect that.

Sofia was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She’s reported around the U.S. for local public radio stations, NPR and National Native News. Sofia has a Master of Arts in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism from the University of Montana, a graduate certificate in Documentary Studies from the Salt Institute and a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Arts from the University of Colorado Boulder. In between her studies, Sofia was a ski bum in Telluride, Colorado for a few years.
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