Alaska Native leaders discuss priorities with Zinke

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke met with more than 40 Alaska Native leaders Tuesday for an hour and a half round table discussion.

“Very cordial, very frank about the priorities,” said Zinke.

Alaska Federation of Natives President Julie Kitka says the number one goal of the meeting was to discuss ways to strengthen the economy and pull the state out of recession.

“We aren’t just looking out for ourselves and our people and all that. We truly believe we need to pull the state out of the recession it’s in and build a stronger economy,” said Kitka.

She says the meeting also touched on support for emergency preparedness and response for all villages as well as opportunities to work with the Department of the Interior.

“We support ideas such as restructuring government and we want to be involved along the way and not read about it and find out that way,” said Kitka.

Zinke says Alaska Natives should have a greater voice and need a place at the table.

“Why can’t we allow villages to manage their destiny? And that means being an active participant in managing mammal populations, fish populations rather than having sometimes a smaller voice I think maybe they should have the voice,” Zinke said.

Zinke says he plans to return to Alaska before the end of the summer.

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