The Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP) is a regional non-profit tribal consortium comprised of the 56 federally recognized tribes of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The geographic boundaries of AVCP extend from the Yukon River village of Russian Mission downstream to the Bering Sea coast, north up through Kotlik and south along the coastline to Platinum, and then extending up the Kuskokwim River to Stony River, including Lime Village on the Stony River tributary. The area encompasses approximately 6.5 million acres, or 55,000 square miles, in Southwest Alaska.
For almost 40 years, the AVCP that operates today has been an Alaska nonprofit corporation, one that was created in 1977 under the legal name, “Association of Village Council Presidents.” Throughout that time, we have been a “charitable organization,” recognized by the federal U.S. government by reference to a specific law – section 501(c)(3) of the tax code – that allows the agency to receive tax-deductible contributions and automatically qualify for funding from other 501(c)(3) organizations as well as for some federal funds that are dedicated solely to ”(c)(3) organizations.” [Information on the limits imposed by 501(c)(3) exemption may be found at IRS Exemption Requirements – 501(c)(3) Organizations.]
But there were many different groups that preceded, and contributed to, who we are and what we do. Here is a brief history of what lead to our organization’s creation, an event that was preceded by 13 years of the member villages and tribes working together to effect and create changes in the region.
- The “first” legal structure using the AVCP ‘name’ is created: an unincorporated association (“Association of Village Council Presidents” and known as AVCP) was formed this year in anticipation of the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, in the hope that this group would be qualified to administer that Act’s proceeds.
- As a result of this ANCSA planning (which the YK Delta tribes endorsed), the creation of AVCP in 1964 is cited as AVCP’s birthday – more accurately a birthday of the tribes’ meetings which were then, as now, referred to as Association of Village College Presidents’ Conventions.
- The YK Delta tribes develop and continue efforts to serve the people of the region, working through various Committees they create – Health, Housing Committee, Resources Committee, etc.
- Eddie Hoffman hires Raphael Murran in 1968 to organize annual meetings of AVCP’s villages.
- In 1968, the Yukon-Kuskokwin Health Corporation is organized, with the approval of the tribes at the 1968 Convention. (1 of 2)
- In 1969, Association of Village Council Presidents, Inc., an Alaska for-profit corporation (“AVCP, Inc.”) was formed in anticipation of being ANCSA-administrator for the region.
- ANCSA is enacted into law, but AVCP, Inc. does not meet all of the law’s provisions and thus cannot serve as the administrator for the YK Delta region [Calista Corporation is formed and takes on that role].
- With the approval of the tribes at the 1970 Convention,4 (2 of 2) Yupiktak Bista, Inc. (YB, Inc.), a non-profit corporation, is formed to operate to benefit the people of YK Delta. Harold Napolean was the Executive Director through 1975, followed by Carl Jack in 1976. Carl Jack notes, “AVCP at that time existed by name only, and used YB, Inc. as its administrative arm . . . programs under YB, Inc. were the CETA program and the operating funds supporting P.L. 93-636, [the] Indian Self Determination and Educational Program Act ….” (YB, Inc. had been authorized by a number of YK Delta tribes to administer those funds on the tribes behalf).
- Nunam Klutisisti is organized with the tribes endorsement at the 1973 Convention.
- AVCP Regional Housing Authority is formed while Raphael Murran is Chair of YB, Inc. in line with the tribes endorsement of such creation at the 1974 Convention.
- Carl Jack becomes YB, Inc.’s Executive Director. Since at that time its only funding were the P.L. 93-636 funds, he initiates efforts “to organize a strategic plan to revitalize . . . [a] regional administrative infrastructure to address the social, educational and special issues” of the region.
- A strategic plan endorses a new “operating base” for these efforts. The “YB, Inc. Board of Directors during the fall of 1976 . . . [directs] the necessary corporate documents to incorporate AVCP [i.e., the current AVCP – THIS organization – to be] the regional non-profit corporation with a full understanding that in the process YB, Inc. would be dissolved and its programs novated [meaning the new AVCP would take over all contracts and grants that began with YB] to the new AVCP.” The tribes give approval during a last quarter 1976 special purpose Convention chaired by Eddie Hoffman.
- This organization is created by filing of nonprofit Articles of Incorporation [link to 1977 Articles] with the State of Alaska in May 1977, with the name “Association of Village Council Presidents.”
- An application was made to the Internal Revenue Service thereafter for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
- The Articles of Incorporation are amended at IRS’ request in 1978 (to reference tax-exempt purposes under the correct Code section, 501(c)(3)) [link to 1978 Amendment].
- The IRS awards 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in 1978, applying same back to the date of incorporation. Exemption is retained until revoked. Current exempt status can be confirmed by the IRS’ select-check tool (https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/)– type in the organization’s name in quotation marks, “Association of Village Council Presidents.”
AVCP to this day continues to operate as an 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Its Executive Board of Directors is responsible to:
- carry-out the mission of the organization
- fulfill the obligations of its charter as a nonprofit corporation with the State of Alaska
- ensure that the corporation observes all 501(c)(3) limits and maintains that qualification with the IRS, and
- be accountable to the corporation’s voting members, the 56 villages of the YK Delta.
The corporation’s By-Laws are available here:
1978 By-laws [original By-Laws]
2013 By-laws [CURRENT By-Laws]
 Article by Carl Jack (this organization’s first President), “AVCP as a non-profit Corporation,” AVCP 2004 Special Convention Newsletter – Remembering Our Past, p. 4.
 Interview of Moses Paukan by Vivian Johnson (now, Korthuis), 9/27/2004, AVCP 2004 Special Convention Newsletter – Remembering Our Past, p. 3.
 Same as note 2.
 Carl Jack, article cited in note 1, p. 8.
 Carl Jack, article cited in note 1, p. 4.
 Carl Jack, article cited in note 1, p. 8
 Article by Raphel Murran, “Many people helped AVCP,” AVCP 2004 Special Convention Newsletter – Remembering Our Past, p. 5.
 Carl Jack, article cited in note 1, p. 8.
 Carl Jack, article cited in note 1, p. 4.
 Carl Jack, article cited in note 1, p. 8.v
Yukon Kuskokwim Region
The Regional Culture:
In Alaska, the Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Athabascan cultures are the most intact – they still greatly resemble that of their ancestors. Many residents still speak their traditional languages and most practice a subsistence lifestyle, which is supplemented by seasonal work when available.
The Culture at a glance:
– Most rural communities originated from traditional hunting, gathering or fishing camps
– A majority of residents still speak their traditional language
– The Yup’ik culture represents the largest ethnic population in Southwest Alaska
Traditional Fish Camp: A traditional fish camp is a place where extended family and friends gather to harvest subsistence foods, usually berries, salmon and seal. Elders, adults and youth work side by side to gather, process and store these valuable reserves for the upcoming season while passing down cultural knowledge and traditional subsistence techniques.
The Region History:
Western society and the indigenous peoples of Alaska first made contact in 1741. Over the next 100 years there were numerous voyages to “Russian America” before it was sold to the United States in 1867.
In 1971, the Alaska Claims Native Settlement Act (ANCSA) was signed. ANCSA created 12 regional corporations and over 230 village corporations. The establishment changed the model of co-ownership of shared lands to a corporate model that managed the lands and monies on behalf of their Shareholders.
The History at a glance:
– 1741 – First Contact with the Western world
– 1840s – 1863 – Russian missionaries recorded the fur and fishing trade activities of the Region’s people
– 1907 – 1909 – Gold discovered in the Kuskokwim area
– 1964 – AVCP established by the federal government
– 1968 – Community Health Aide Program (CHAP) established in the Kuskokwim Region
– 1970 – Yukon-Kuskokwim Helath Corporation (YKHC) takes over management of CHAP
– 1971 – ANCSA signed
– 1972 – Calista Corporation established
The Region Economy:
The first real economic development in the Region began in the early 1900s with the onset of mining operations. Over the past 100 years, the economy has evolved from one of total subsistence to one that is combined with a cash economy. Although hunting and fishing remain vital, wage employment has become increasingly prevalent, although it has not developed enough to fully support residents.
Commercial fishing, construction, trapping, and crafts production have provided village residents with earnings, but unemployment still remains high.
Economy at a glance:
- – Commercial fishing provides the largest influx of non-government money and wages into the local economy
- – Additional sources of income are hunting, trapping, and crafts production
- – Regional economic growth is centered in Bethel
Alaska – “The Last Frontier.” The 49th state covers 571,951 square miles of land, plus an additional 45,000 square miles of water, and is home to over 710,000 people.
Alaska is the least densely populated state in the Union and is one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world, at roughly one person per square mile.
Alaska at a glance:
- – Contains more than half of the world’s active glaciers
- – Over 3,000 rivers and 3 million lakes
- – Contains 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the United States
- – Officially became the 49th state on Jan. 3, 1959
- – Alaska’s name is based on the Eskimo word Alakshak, which means “Great lands” or “peninsula”
Alaska: Urban Areas
Approximately 41% of the state’s population resides in its largest city, Anchorage, making this urban hub a major center for commerce and business in Alaska. Juneau, the capital, is the seat for all state politics and Fairbanks is a transportation and shipping gateway for the Interior.
Urban Alaska at a glance:
- – Approximately 70% of all Alaskans live in urban areas of the state
- – Only about 30% of the Alaska Native population lives in urban Alaska
- – Anchorage is the state’s largest city, followed by Fairbanks
Alaska Hub Communities:
Situated between Alaska’s bustling urban centers and the most remote areas of Rural Alaska are hub villages – communities that serve as transportation, distribution and economic centers for smaller villages nearby.
Many rural residents use hubs as a transfer point on their way to and from Alaska’s urban centers. Additionally, residents of hub communities typically have greater access to health care, grocery shopping and other services than those who live in smaller villages.
Hub Communities at a glance:
- – Local road system connects the community
- – Local access to health and dental care
- – Local access to groceries, provisions and fuel
- – Transportation is readily available; connects to urban Alaska via air service
- – Populations are generally larger than in more remote villages
- – Only one FAA Part 139 certified airport in Bethel, serves the Region
Alaska Rural Communities:
Rural Alaska defies simple description. It is a place where tradition is revered and elders teach the old ways to younger generations. It is also a place where the complexities of the outside world have gained a foothold, creating new economy – a combination of cash and subsistence – that has affected both the Alaska way of life as well as its ability to survive in a rapidly changing environment.
Rural Alaska at a glance:
- – Lack of readily available prepared provisions, fresh groceries and fuel
- – Most residents speak their traditional Alaska Native language
- – Roads and cars are the exception; residents largely rely on ATVs in the summer and snowmachines (snowmobiles) in the winter
- – Lack of modern seage treatment (most homes use a honey bucket)
- – Characterized by a combination of cash and subsistence economy; hunting, fishing and gathering are a high priority
- – Most rely on generators for heating – diesel fuel can cost more than $10/gallon in some villages
Land and Subsistence
The region and its people have a strong tradition of land management that is based upon 10,000 years of cultural knowledge. Although faced with numerous challenges, the people of the Yukon Kuskokwim are first and foremost caretakers of their lands and the resources contained within it.
Communities are bound together by the social and cultural aspects of subsistence. The Region has developed a combination cash and subsistence economy, but most residents rely primarily on hunting, fishing and gathering to supply food for their families. Though most rural villages have a general store, the food is often very expensive and low in nutritional value.
A major concern for all parents, no matter what their location or ethnicity, is having access to quality education for their children. Schools in rural Alaska face a unique set of challenges that differ from other areas of the United States.
Many of the Region’s schools are located in villages where Yup’ik and Cup’ik have been the dominant languages for thousands of years. These communities want their children to be fluent in their traditional language as well as English.
- – Depending on the region, subsistence seasons often mandate when the school year begins and ends for students
- – Rural Alaska schools face a high teacher turnover rate
- – Annual teacher recruitment fairs pull in fewer teachers every year
- – Many programs designed under the No Child Left Behind Act do not take into account cultural and regional differences
- – For many students, English is a second language
- – Lack of support services for children and parents
The infrastructure needs of rural Alaska are amplified by the size and geography of the state. Communities, which are not connected to each other or urban centers, rely on inadequate water, sewage and housing for their basic needs.
Weatherization and Affordable Housing:
Housing in rural areas is often constructed of low-quality materials with little insulation, which makes homes difficult and expensive to heat.
- – Energy costs in rural Alaska are much higher than urban areas; heating oil averages $6 per gallon and reaches almost $10 per gallon during winter months
- – Remote communities in Western and Northwest Alaska have some of the highest rates of overcrowding in the United States
- – Due to limited access to rural villages in the Region, building supplies are significantly more expensive in rural Alaska than in the rest of the country
- – Building supplies, gasoline and heating oil generally need to be ordered in advance so they can be shipped in during summer months when the river system is not frozen
The enery needs of rural Alaska grow as residents have become increasingly dependent upon fuel oil for heating and gas for transportation. As oil prices around the world have surged, many Alaska Natives have been forced to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families.
Rural Energy Crisis:
The rural energy crisis has touched every region of Alaska. With fuel costs skyrocketing, many Alaska Natives have had to reallocate their already strained incomes in order to compensate.
- – Subsistence hunting and fishing severely affected by the cost of gasoline
- – Energy inefficient homes have become increasingly hard to heat
- – The high cost of heating fuel and gas have made some rural residents face the possibility of starvation – choosing heat over food
Although steadily improving, the health status of Alaska Natives is much worse than most other Alaskans. As the majority of Alaska Natives live in remote villages with little economic base, they are more likely to live in poverty and the most basic health services can be hard to obtain.
Rural Health at a glance:
- – Leading cause of death is cancer
- – High rates of influenza, skin infections and pulmonary infections due to inadequate water supply
- – Incidents of suicide are twice the national average
- – Shortage of dentists and optometrists – most villages do not have them
- – Pregnancy, life threatening diseases and people in need of long-term care are factors that result in relocation for many, separating families and loved ones
- – Improvements include new clinics, local access to care and telemedicine access for rural communities to YKHC