VIDEO REMARKS: Kawerak/Rural Providers' Conference

Good morning everyone, Senator Lisa Murkowski here. I am honored to welcome you to the 2015 Rural Providers Conference – this year joined with the Kawerak Regional Conference. Each year I have an opportunity to address a number of meetings convened by our Native community. The Rural Providers Conference occupies a special place in my heart and let me tell you why.

This is not a conference dominated by politics, politicians and policy. Nor is it a conference about managing and funding Native programs. The Rural Providers Conference is about culture, it’s about healing, and frankly it is about helping our rural providers recharge their own batteries. This conference is about you.

I’m not going to bore you with a lengthy policy update from Washington, but I do want to be generous in my appreciation today. My greatest admiration is reserved for those who devote their lives to serving others. And in my view there is a special place in heaven for those who perform that role in our remote Native villages here in the north. The problems are many, the crises too frequent. Community support is too often lacking. And our rural providers frequently must go it alone. Backup is hours away in the regional hub or in the big city – assuming the weather is good. I get it. Your jobs are hard. The sacrifices are many. The frustration level is often huge and the appreciation often lacking. I get it.

Yet your experiences are rich. Your knowledge vast. Nobody knows more about what ails rural Alaska than you do. Nobody knows better what works and what doesn’t. And the best ideas for new directions - they are much more likely to come from you than they are BIA, IHS or any of the other alphabet soup agencies in Washington, DC.

We both know that hardly anyone bothers to ask front line service providers how to do things better. Well I’m asking. Because there’s much I still don’t know and much I still need to learn. Even after twelve years of representing you in Washington, there’s still much to learn.

That is why I seek you out when I visit your villages and welcome you when a conference brings you to Washington. As those from Little Diomede have come to know – no matter how remote the community; no matter how many or how few the population – your problems are my problems.

Drugs mysteriously arriving in the village – my problem. Helicopters that aren’t bringing the mail in – my problem.  And it’s not always problems. Watching the youth come together for sobriety –my joy. Bringing rural interns to DC each summer – even more joy. And celebrating basketball victories and graduations – great joy.

I have three Native liaisons on my staff to work with you day to day. Deborah Vo in Anchorage, Gerri Hoffman Sumpter in Wasilla and Greg Bringhurst in Washington.

I encourage you to get to know them. But don’t forget me. You can send me an e-mail anytime at my website – www.murkowski.senate.gov. If there’s a crisis in the village, don’t wait. The quicker I know the quicker I can get to work for you. And if you have an idea – don’t keep it to yourself. Conversations stimulate change.

I know how therapeutic the Rural Providers Conference can be. And I don’t want to delay you anymore from constructive time with one another. I hope that in these brief few moments I’ve helped set the tone. But there’s much more good to come. So thanks for spending a few minutes listening and enjoy the conference.