In early May, the Walker-Mallott administration announced the formation of the Governor's Tribal Advisory Council. Eleven Native leaders from around the state were appointed to sit on the council, including Sand Point's Tiffany Jackson, executive director of the Qagan Tayagungin Tribe. KUCB spoke with Jackson via phone Friday morning.
Jackson says it was a bit of a surprise when in April the governor's office called to congratulate her on her appointment to the council, called GTAC for short.
"I had told Gov. Walker last year, I said that I'd be interested. I knew they had an education seat on the GTAC board, and education is a passion of mine," Jackson said. "But I hadn't really heard anything about it since I expressed my interest."
The GTAC is designed to represent tribal interest in a number of areas such as transportation, subsistence, justice and energy and natural resources. Although Jackson was appointed to the education seat, she wants to bring her expertise in many areas to the table.
"My specific passion is for education, but this board is to represent all the native people in the state of Alaska. So it's not that I'm limited to speaking about education, I can also speak about public safety and housing and all these other things. To the best of my ability, obviously I'm not going to have the knowledge and perspective of people from other regions - hopefully I represent our region well," Jackson said.
In addition to heading the QT tribe, Jackson is the current president of the Association for Alaska School Boards. She also sits on the board of the National School Boards Association, and is a member of the Aleutians East Borough School Board.
She says she's ready to get to work on creating a new kind of relationship between the state and Alaskan tribes.
"It's important that the tribal community and the state of Alaska have an open and working relationship. We've had previous administrations of the state of Alaska that didn't even recognize that tribes existed here," Jackson said. "And it's really a breath of fresh air that Governor Walker recognizes that we are tribes, and that we're here, and that there are opportunities for us to work together for the betterment of all of our people.
The group met recently at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage. Jackson says that was a key meeting in setting goals and benchmarks for the council going forward.
"A concern that was expressed there was what if we get working on this and we're doing some really great work, but then when the next governor comes in, they set it aside and it goes away?" Jackson said. "So I think, one of the priorities is, how do we establish a working relationship between the state of Alaska and tribal communities that survives future administrations? I mean, how do we make sure that the work we're doing is so valuable that future administrations would have a hard time trying to dismantle it?"
Walker and Mallott plan to meet with the GTAC on a quarterly basis via teleconference. You can contact Jackson via the QT tribe's website at www.qttribe.org.