Tribal Members demand answers from Tanana Chiefs Conference leadership over recent firings

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 9:50 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Emotions ran high Friday at a rally in front of the Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC).

“Over the last year we have seen again and again people treated wrongly at TCC,” Edward Alexander, Former 2nd Chief Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Government, said, “which is why we have seen so many people leaving TCC. Our Advocacy Director, our Communications Director, we have seen our General Council getting terminated... why? Why aren’t they answering the questions?”

The Tanana Chiefs Conference is a non-profit corporation based in Fairbanks. According to the TCC website, the organization was officially formed in 1962.

Around two dozen concerned Tribal and community members had questions about how the organization is being run internally in the wake of recent layoffs and firings of employees.

The crowd waited outside the building in hopes of hearing from the Executive Board or the President of the organization, P.J. Simon, who was elected in October of 2020.

Peter Captain Jr., a concerned and upset Tribal Member, helped organize the event.

“We are here to try to make dialog with the (Executive) Board and talk to them and ask them questions,” Captain said. “In return, we can hopefully get them to put some kind of pressure or some kind of investigation on P.J. on the wrongdoings that he is doing with our organization right now.”

Many held signs stating “I stand with Natasha” for Natasha Singh, who was the organization’s 10-year General Counsel before she was fired earlier this week.

Natasha Singh, who worked for the organization for 10-years as General Counsel, was fired...
Natasha Singh, who worked for the organization for 10-years as General Counsel, was fired earlier this week.(Sarah Hollister)

“Obviously Natasha did something as a whistleblower,” Captain said, “because that’s what sparked this. That’s why she was put on administrative leave, and a couple of days later she was fired.”

Tribal Members participating in the rally were locked out of both the building and the Executive Board meeting, which Captain said is against their bylaws.

When Simon exited the building, he was followed, with many of the crowd members asking him for answers. Simon replied: “No comment.”

In a statement, TCC’s Public Relations Specialist, Leona Long, wrote in an email, “Per Tanana Chiefs Conference policy, we do not comment on Human Resources and employee matters.”

Natasha Singh declined to comment.

We will be following this story as it develops.

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