The Alaska Federation of Natives opened it’s 50th annual convention with a healing ceremony this morning in Fairbanks.Listen Now The 2016 Alaska Federation of Natives conference will go on from October 20-22. (Photo by KTOO)Later, Governor Bill Walker addressed the body, saying that it was a painful decision to reduce the amount of this year’s Permanent Fund dividend.” I had to bring the permanent fund into an average and keep that money in the account to grow for future generations,” Walker said.A hearing hosted by US Senator Dan Sullivan this afternoon addressed state laws across the country that ban sales of ivory products. Alaska artist Susie Silook, a noted carver, said the ban hurts Alaska Native artists.“This new dilemma we face is unconscionable. Decisions are made by people far removed from our realities. Such as the over-reach of eliminating all ivory markets world wide, regardless of differing regional concerns and situations,” Sullivan said. “Our sole economy in some regions of Alaska is set to suffer unnecessary and perhaps unrecoverable damage in the name of saving elephants, which we may never see in our lifetime. By all means, save the elephants, just don’t punish and conflate us with poachers.”Representative Lyman Hoffman accepted a special award from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alumni Association for his work for rural schools, weatherization and power cost equalization. Hoffman accepted the award just before a panel on Alaska Native education got underway.“I believe all of these programs and many more came from me through my education at the University of Alaska, developing a working relationship and a trust with my colleagues,” Hoffman said. “And I would encourage others and you that education opens so many doors, whatever field you are in.”And AFN’s 2016 Citizen of the Year award went to Mike Toyukak. Toyukak and others sued the State of Alaska in 2013 for lack of language assistance for voters with limited proficiency in English.One of the keynote speakers was 33-year-old Megan Alvanna-Stimpfle, who grew up in Nome then worked for both Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan.Alvanna-Stimpfle’s address acknowledged the legacy of gains made by organizations like AFN, while calling for controversial policies to collapse divisions between corporate and community institutions. Those included a request for ANCSA corporations to reconsider allotment of shares to so-called “afterborns,” as well as ceding state and corporate powers to local governments.“We must be able to question leadership without fearing losing our campsites, of those managing our lands,” Alvanna Stimpfle said. “We need to pay attention to how corporations organize their voting, because those in power will change the rules to stay in power.”A consistent theme throughout the speech was the need for Alaska Natives to become more directly involved in the state’s social and political institutions – schools, village corporations, and especially state government. She recommended the creation of a candidate training center at AFN each year, to prepare Alaska Natives to run for state office.