Steering Spotlight: Chief Mike Williams, Yupiit Nation

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WASHINGTON – In order to address the impacts of climate change on our nation’s communities and industries, Senate Democrats hosted a roundtable with a dozen stakeholders from across the country last week. Traveling all the way from Akiak, Alaska was Chief Mike Williams of the Yupiit Nation who welcomed the opportunity, “It was really good to hear what is happening with the farmers and other communities across the United States,” said Chief Williams. “When I got the invitation from Majority Leader Reid and Senator Begich, I did not hesitate to RSVP and make travel arrangements to get to Washington. I was honored to be able to share my experiences with more than a dozen Senators.”

Chief Williams outlined the toughest challenges his tribe faces, “I came to Washington to share what was happening with our native lands – particularly where it’s really affecting us big time, like with permafrost thawing.  Some of our villages have gone under water because of coastal erosion, former fishing grounds have turned to dead zones, and the persistent droughts have been harmful to our way of life.”

Senate Democrats have strived to increase public awareness for the effects of climate change through forums like these and committee hearings, but according to Williams there is still more work to be done, “I would recommend congress writing up legislation to counter these effects”, Williams added. “The framework is there, but now is the time for Congress to act and mitigate climate change effects. We need to do some community education to help get the truth out. We can educate the naysayers and convince them to accept the truth and move forward.”

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Chief Williams has been a fixture in his community and a leader for his tribe for decades through his service as Chairman of the Inter-Tribal Council, Vice Chair of the Alaska State Board of Education, and as a board member for the Alaska Humanities Forum and the Native American Rights Fund. Even with his busy schedule, Chief Williams finds time to carry out his passions like dog sled racing – including competing in 15 Iditarod races – all for the cause of sobriety and wellness. Sometimes even he will admit he can be a little “too active” at times, but Chief Williams plans to keep serving as a strong voice for his tribe and all Alaska Natives.