CITC President Addresses “Re-Imagining” the Future of Alaska’s Education at AFN Convention

Gloria O’Neill called for Alaska’s education system to be more reflective of Alaska Native community and culture

President and Chief of the Native Village of Elkutna Aaron Leggett and CITC President and CEO Gloria O’Neill address delegates and visitors at this year’s Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, where they spoke on “Re-Imagining the Future of Education.”

The Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Convention was held in Anchorage, October 20 – 22, marking the first time since 2019 that the annual event was held in person. After two years of virtual participation, delegates and visitors from around the state converged at Anchorage’s Dena’ina Center to discuss opportunities and challenges facing Alaska Native people, hear reports from political leaders, and share stories and knowledge.

This year’s AFN Convention theme, “Celebrating Our Unity,” honored the values and traditions that connect Alaska’s Native people. In this mid-term election year, the theme also spoke to the potential Alaska Native people possess to affect real change in our state. As a partner of Get Out the Native Vote, CITC encouraged AFN attendees to make their voices heard by registering and voting in this year’s election.

On Friday, October 21, CITC President and CEO Gloria O’Neill joined Chief and President of the Native Village of Eklutna Aaron Leggett to address “Re-Imagining the Future of Education,” a presentation of CITC’s partnership with the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development to explore and re-envision Alaska’s education systems.

Inspired by the vision of CITC’s Board of Directors to build new radical learning models, this project has taken CITC and its partners into communities around the state to ask: What if our learning systems were reflective of community and culture?

Through her travels across the nation to talk with youth, Gloria has heard from young people eager to have a voice in what their own education looks like.

“We’re listening to what all of you believe education should look like for our communities, not only today but in the future,” Gloria told the audience. “How do we ensure education is relevant? How do we ensure that we lead education?”

She related her experience speaking with young people through her work with the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children. In these conversations, Gloria said, she heard from youth across the nation and in Alaska who were demanding to be “seen and to be heard” and to “lead education in our own voice.”

Chief Aaron Leggett added that “education in Alaska is broken.” But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

“In the same way that we transformed our health care system more than two decades ago, imagine what it could look like if we took over our education system and made it culturally relevant—not just for our Alaska Native people, but for all Alaskan students,” he said.

Aaron and Gloria presented a video, “Our Future Ancestors,” and its associated website, both of which are intended to connect communities around the state to the conversation about what culturally relevant education in Alaska could look like. The project’s findings and recommendations will be submitted to state’s Department of Education.

To learn more about CITC’s work with partners to re-imagine Alaska’s education systems, visit