The Mission of BBNA is to maintain and promote a strong regional organization supported by the Tribes of Bristol Bay to serve as a unified voice to provide social, economic, cultural, educational opportunities and initiatives to benefit the Tribes and the Native people of Bristol Bay.
Bristol Bay Natives, like others throughout Alaska, were involved in the land claims struggle for years prior to passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA) in 1971. In 1966 leaders from 15 villages across the region gathered in Dillingham to form Bristol Bay’s first Native Association to negotiate the land claims settlement. The association’s membership would double as the ANCSA regional boundaries were finalized. In these early years the Association’s energies were devoted to securing and then implementing ANCSA, including assisting individual Natives obtain Native land allotments before the window to do so expired. The original BBNA was an unincorporated association of the Native people and villages of Bristol Bay, although other economic development organizations were formed serving largely the same membership. These entities merged into the Bristol Bay Native Association, Inc. which was formally incorporated as a regional non-profit organization in 1973 and continues as the organization we are today.
After ANCSA, BBNA turned it’s attention to addressing the social and economic problems facing Native people in the region. The change was partly in response to increasing requests for social services directed to BBNC, the for-profit corporation formed pursuant to ANCSA, but primarily in in response to the problem that most social and economic development services were delivered by distant state and federal agencies with no knowledge of the people, culture and living conditions in the most politically and culturally diverse region in Alaska. BBNA sought to bring services closer to the people of the region.
BBNA’s early work focused on jobs and on training funded through the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA), and it began operating various grants from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). In 1975, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act opened the door for tribal organizations to systematically assume responsibility for delivering federally funded services to Native people. BBNA added BIA programs in the 1970s and 1980s, and by 1987, when it took over BIA Realty Services, it was operating almost all programs the BIA then provided in the region. Previously, these services had been provided sporadically from Anchorage or Juneau.
BBNA and our member tribes have been expanding and improving their services ever since. Head Start was added in 1995 and serves four communities. BBNA entered Self-Governance Compacting in the 1996 fiscal year. Compacting added some smaller BIA programs and significantly increased BBNA’s share of funding previously held at the BIA Agency and Regional Offices, and more importantly provided much greater autonomy in designing services to meet locally-determined needs. Today we offer Head Start, Land Management Services, Indian Child Welfare, Natural Resources, Economic and Workforce Development, Vocational Rehabilitation, Higher Education, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Tribal Energy programs, Environmental, Transportation and Facility Development, and others. We pass through more than $2 million annually to our member tribes. Collectively, BBNA and other tribal entities provide the most jobs in the region and are the fastest growing segment of the Bristol Bay economy.