On Saturday, people gathered at the Afognak Native Corporation building to celebrate the contributions of Kodiak’s Alutiiq elders. Koniag Incorporated, Kodiak’s native regional corporation, hosted the event and got to make a particularly exciting announcement at this year’s elder luncheon.
For the first time, the corporation will be giving out an elder benefit to its original shareholders who are 65 or older. Shauna Hegna, Koniag’s President, says around 600 elders will receive checks for $500 this year, which she thinks means a lot financially and culturally.
“It’s a direct reflection of our Alutiiq cultural values where hunters, fisherman, and gatherers in our community go out and get berries, they get fish, they get deer, and they bring it back and share with the entire community. It’s a demonstration of selflessness, commitment to the community, and reciprocity.”
Hegna believes it’s important for Koniag to take care of its older shareholders because without many of them the corporation wouldn’t exist. Koniag formed in 1971 after the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was passed. And, Hegna says it was through the tenacity of many of Kodiak’s elders that the corporation was able to succeed.
“It was because they were willing to kick off their extra toughs and sit at a board table and figure out how to read financial statements, how to run a for-profit company, and how to hire and lead teams.”
Koniag’s board of directors is confident it will be able to continue giving out this benefit for the foreseeable future and Hegna says the corporation hopes it will be able to increase the amount of the benefit over time. This year’s elder benefit will be distributed in November to all shareholders who will be 65 or older by the end of 2018.