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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola (D-Alaska), the first Alaska Native to serve in the U.S. Congress, on Saturday was greeted with a standing ovation when she arrived at the podium to address the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) convention in Anchorage, Alaska.

The room at the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center in downtown Anchorage, Alaska was filled with love and adoration for Peltola, whose husband Eugene "Buzzy" Peltola died in a plane crash last month on September 12. Peltola spent over three weeks to be with her family and recntly returned to her work as a congresswoman. 

“It was just a year ago I stood before you giving my first address as a member of our congressional delegation. And the welcome was just overwhelming and now a year later…you know,” Pelola said as she teared up and the crowd clapped as if to indicate they shared her grief.

Twenty seconds later, the congresswoman was able to continue talking. 

“This convention has always been the highlight of my year. I’m standing here today with all of you. I feel lighter than I have in a long time,” she said.

“The outpouring of love has been so palpable. We can feel it and it is very healing. And it helps us to stay motivated. There are so many rules that our cultures have all laid down for us ho how to grieve in a way where you’re still production and still moving forward,” Peltola said.

She then said she is excited to get back to work and provided a congressional update. Peltola said the Alaska delegation that includes her, Sen. Lisa Murkowsi and Sen. Dan Sullivan, have brought more than $2.5 billion to the state in federal funds. 

Peltola is a Democrat and the U.S. senators are Republicans. She said the work together for the sake of the state of Alaska. 

“As a delegation, we spend mort of the political spectrum that gives us the unique ability to speak to any member of Congress or member of the administration, whether they are Democrat or Republican. That’s a powerful advantage in a government as divided and polarized as the one we have in America today,” Peltoal said. 

She admonished the crowd of Alaska Natives to be united to improve the lives of their people.

“If Alaskan Natives don’t continue to advocate for ourselves, the rest of the country won’t do it for us. We must organize, educate, and both like our way of life depends on it, whether we are from urban centers to the most remote villages>” Peltola said

Peltola todl the crowd it has been the honor of her life to work and serve Alaska in the U.S. House. 

“But it’s not my seat; it’s Alaska seat and I can’t take it for granted,” Peltola said asa she concluded her speech and asked for their continued support.

After her address, a five-minute video was shown of family photos that included those of her late husband and the Peltola family.

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Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].