Three-term incumbent Rachel Moreno is hoping Sitka tribal citizens give her a fourth opportunity to serve on the Tribal Council, in elections planned for next Tuesday, November 11th. Moreno has moved from driving tour buses in summertime to serving on a national tourism board — and if elected, wants to bring this knowledge of tourism to the Tribal Council.
Rachel Moreno is from a big family with a long history of service. Her grandparents were founding members of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood. Though she’s lived other places, Sitka has always been home.
“When I was a little girl, my cousins and I used to always run through Totem Park,” said Moreno. “We’d wait until it was just about dark and we would see if we could walk all the way through. Inevitably one of us would scream and we’d all start scattering and running and screaming, but the totems are what drew us there. Those totems are so beautiful and they have history and a meaning to the people here.”
For Moreno, this history provides a financial opportunity. Moreno spent five summers driving a tour bus for Sitka Tribe. The experience showed her the possibilities of tourism.
Moreno is running for her fourth term on Tribal Council and her number one priority is finding sustainable cash flow for the tribe. “Economically being grant dependent gives us no guarantees,” said Moreno. “With monies that we bring in through business, that is pretty much unrestricted funds.”
In the past two years, Moreno has helped grow Sitka Tribal Enterprises and Tribal Tours. And nationally, Moreno plays an even bigger role. She is the Vice President of AIANTA, the American Indian Alaskan Native Tourism Association.
“The European visitor or the overseas traveler, they don’t want a coffee cup and a t-shirt anymore,” said Moreno. “They want a real interpersonal experience.”
She believes that tourism development and tribal advocacy walk hand-in-hand.
Moreno said, “You could look out over a vast plain and see nothing, or if you’re educated by the people who used live there, you would know who lived there, how they lived there, and why they’re no longer there. That’s the importance of us telling our own story.”
Moreno also would like to explore the possibility of tribal gaming in Sitka — with a type of a bingo slot machine — but she’s cautious.
“Yes, it would give us some financial stability but it could also create a lot more demand on our social services and the social issues that gambling addiction brings,” Moreno said.
At the end of the day, what’s most important to Moreno is making the world an easier place for tribal citizens to succeed. This philosophy has informed her work in a variety of issues, from fetal alcohol syndrome to language revitalization. Her reason is simple.
“If you don’t know who you are, other people are going to tell you who to be. So I always support the funding whenever we apply for anything to do with youth or language or culture.”
Moreno has been elected continuously since 2008 and two years ago, secured the most votes of any candidate. 203. When asked why, she said she hopes it’s because people see her as a participating member of the community.
“My leadership comes from not necessarily leading and telling people what to do but being right there with them in it,” Moreno said.
And for Moreno, this means lending a helping hand whenever and wherever she can.
Rachel Moreno is on the ballot for tribal council, along with Wilbur Brown, Lillian Feldpausch, Michael Miller, and Bob Sam. Sitka Tribal Council elections will be held Tuesday November 11. You can find profiles of the all the candidates on our website, kcaw.org.