Fish skin tanned and prepared by Karen Mcintyre. See page 15.
cháanuud FALL 2021
First Alaskans logo
Volume 19, Number 2
THE MAGAZINE OF Native peoples, communities, and ways of life
k’yuwáat’ajaay | connect
6
Patch Work
When you harvest, you choose to be in relationship.
9
kínggwdang / STORIES FROM AROUND
Life-saving youth
Plus casino setback; Native model and more
ña ñ’íit’iisk’w | focus
10
Tanning Fish Skin
The packaging of our soul food
18
An Act of Descent
Earlier ANCSA policies have consequences that remain today
19
Protecting our Ways of Life
Virtual tribunal focuses on hunting and fishing management
xangahlda | catalyze
20
Homeland
The Anchorage area has a much longer history of habitation than many know
23
gudahldiyáay | Opinion
Issue of Blood Quantum
Blood quantum is a tool that assimilates and terminates Native people
tla çid | inspire
24
Honoring Healthcare Workers
Watercolorist Karen Garcia brings her art to frontline medical workers
25
Dear Healthcare Workers
“You are saving our lives.”
26
A Fine Balance
Marie Tozier’s poems of Northwest Alaska
29
Reads and Reviews
An Alaska Native reader reviews Native-written books
31
katurlluteng | TOGETHER
The Future Looks Bright (And Pretty Cute!)
Our Native youth give us much to look forward to
32
ñánga | IMAGINE
Youth Hunter Denali Black
this issue’s language:
Section and department titles are in Haida. Each issue of First Alaskans features a different Native language in this role. Thanks to The Dictionary of Alaskan Haida, by Jordan Lachler.
k’yuwáat’ajaay | connect
When you harvest, you choose to be in relationship.

Patch
Work

By Silas Tikaan Galbreath (Ahtna)
A

s an act, it occurs one at a time. Picking berries reminds us to slow down, or things get missed. Berries hidden below the leaves. As my bucket slowly fills one handful at a time I wonder, what does it mean to preserve? Is it to persevere; to continue on; or overcome? Or maybe it is to outlast. Maybe in the act of preserving we hold onto something. Something is saved. An act, a value, culture, memories.

k’yuwáat’ajaay | connect

kínggwdang STORIES FROM AROUND

Three youth in Elim save fourth boy’s life

This summer, Brent Bradley (12), Logan Jemewouk (10), and Damion Takak (10) were crossing a creek in Elim when they saw six-year-old Trayce Saccheus lying face down in the water. As reported by Alaska News Source, the three older boys quickly shed their outer clothing and dove into the water to retrieve Trayce. While Trayve wasn’t initially conscious or responding, Logan and Brent performed CPR on Trayce until he started breathing on his own. Thanks to their heroics, Trayce back is alive and back at home.

Eklutna Tribe loses court decision for casino

In September, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled against the Eklutna Tribe in its effort to open a casino on tribally-owned land.

KTOO reported Judge Friedrich’s judgement that the eight acres were not considered “Indian land,” and therefore Indian gaming rules don’t apply.

The federal court decision can be read here.

ña ñ’íit’iisk’w | focus

Tanning Fish Skin

Tanning Fish Skin
The packaging of our soul food
By Peter Williams (YUP’IK)
Lettter T

he sacredness of salmon was not lost on me as a child; having respect for the life that sustains us was instilled into my worldview at a very young age when I first attended fish camp. However, the divinity of dry fish did not bless me until I returned to my father’s village of Akiak in the year 2006. As I sat chewing and pulling off a chunk of dark amber arid flesh with my canines, the abundance of flavors that stewed from our generational, cultural traditions was more than enough to make a foodie fall in love. The more you eat it, the more the savory mystery unfolds. When I was immersed in unlocking its hidden treasures, the faint bitterness of burnt wood stung the tip of my tongue as I attempted to consume all the oil off the skin. The cells in my body awakened, fingers anointed with lavish grease and the aroma of smoked fish.

ña ñ’íit’iisk’w | focus

An Act of Descent

Earlier ANCSA policies have consequences that remain today
By Richard Perry (Yup’ik/Athabascan)
L

ike many original-enrollee descendants of Alaska Native corporations, Hallie Bissett (Dena’ina) grew up around her family’s regional corporation, CIRI. But it wasn’t always clear to her what the corporation meant to her, even as a young adult.

“I was 15 years old, and as part of an internship, I worked as a grounds keeper with CIRI,” said Hallie. “I didn’t think much about CIRI or being a descendant until I worked there… [But] it wasn’t until I wanted to go to Fort Lewis College that being a shareholder became relevant.”

At Fort Lewis College Native students may attend for free. But despite Hallie being Dena’ina, a problem quickly arose regarding her identity.

ña ñ’íit’iisk’w | focus
Protecting

Our Ways of Life

Virtual tribunal focuses on focuses
on hunting and fishing management
By Richard Perry (Yup’ik/Athabascan)
I

n September, First Alaskans Institute hosted an online event, Protecting Our Ways of Life Virtual Tribunal: Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation. The event was designed to allow Alaska Native people to speak about their experiences concerning State and Federal hunting and fishing management systems that have negatively impacted them and their communities. 

The testimonials stemmed from a need to recognize and address ongoing challenges to the social, economic, and political marginalization of Alaska Native people and communities. During the event, participants emphasized specific and tangible examples of many issues that have negatively impacted them and their communities.

xangahlda | catalyze

Homeland

Homeland
The Anchorage area has a much longer history of habitation than many know
By Richard Perry (Yup’ik/Athabascan)
I

f you have driven past the Anchorage Museum, you may have seen the front of the building with the enormous words, “This is Dena’ina Ełnena.” This is from the Dena’ina language, meaning, “This is Dena’ina homeland.” Years of effort went into bringing this land acknowledgment to the Alaska community.

Before statehood in 1959 and the “purchase” of Alaska in 1867, what is known as the Anchorage area already had a long and rich history. Between the Chugach and Talkeetna mountains, is home to the K’enaht’ana Indigenous people of Nuti (Knik Arm). They are members of the Eklutna (Eydlughet) and Knik (K’enakatnu) Tribes. They have been in the area for at thousands of years.

Anchorage Museum
Homeland
The Anchorage area has a much longer history of habitation than many know
By Richard Perry (Yup’ik/Athabascan)
I

f you have driven past the Anchorage Museum, you may have seen the front of the building with the enormous words, “This is Dena’ina Ełnena.” This is from the Dena’ina language, meaning, “This is Dena’ina homeland.” Years of effort went into bringing this land acknowledgment to the Alaska community.

Before statehood in 1959 and the “purchase” of Alaska in 1867, what is known as the Anchorage area already had a long and rich history. Between the Chugach and Talkeetna mountains, is home to the K’enaht’ana Indigenous people of Nuti (Knik Arm). They are members of the Eklutna (Eydlughet) and Knik (K’enakatnu) Tribes. They have been in the area for at thousands of years.

The knowledge of the area ultimately remains an outcome of a sustainable and reciprocal relationship with the waters, plants, and animals by the Dena’ina people.

While Anchorage and the Southcentral region are the homelands of the Dena’ina people, as recent as 2005, the city didn’t reflect its Native history. In 2006, Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) opened the Nat’uh Service Center. Nat’uh is a Dena’ina Athabascan word meaning “our special place.” It was the first building in Anchorage to have a Dena’ina name.

xangahlda | catalyze
gudahldiyáay | Opinion

Issue of Blood Quantum

A tool that assimilates and terminates Native people
By Raven Madison (Eyak)
A

laska Natives have been using marine mammals for food, clothing, shelter, and other necessary uses since time immemorial. Today, the use of marine mammals by Alaska Native people is becoming an act of civil disobedience due to the verbiage used in the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) enacted in 1972. The MMPA prohibits Alaska Natives under one-quarter-blood quantum from partaking in this longtime cultural tradition. Federal laws that were enacted in the 1970s purposefully do not recognize individuals under the quarter blood quantum as Indigenous. Currently, over 60% of Alaska Native people around the Gulf of Alaska are under a quarter blood quantum. With each successive generation, Alaska Natives’ blood quantum continues to decline.

The use of blood quantum to determine a persons’ degree of Native ancestry is a construct of colonization that has been long used by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The use of blood quantum came into existence in the late 1800s when federal laws were enacted to compile lists of Indigenous people. It was a way for the government to “authenticate” how Indigenous an individual was during the allotment period between 1887 and 1934. Blood quantum was used and integrated into dividing land for individual allotments. Due to the quarter blood quantum rule many were ineligible, thereby reducing the amount of land that was given to the Indigenous people at that time. Blood quantum has always been a tool used against Native people to eventually be defined out of existence. It is the path that leads to the extinction of our people, our culture, and our traditions.

tla çid | inspire

Honoring
Healthcare Workers

Karen Garcia (Eben) is an Inupiaq watercolor artist from Anchorage. Many of her painting inspirations, however, come from childhood memories of days spent in Unalakleet, White Mountain, and Shaktoolik with her family.
Karen Garcia (Eben) is an Inupiaq watercolor artist from Anchorage. Many of her painting inspirations, however, come from childhood memories of days spent in Unalakleet, White Mountain, and Shaktoolik with her family.
Displayed in the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum in Nome
The Day Surgery department at the Alaska Native Medical Center
Lately, Karen has created a series of artworks honoring frontline and medical workers, displayed in the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum in Nome (above) and the Day Surgery department at the Alaska Native Medical Center (cover and left).

Honoring Healthcare Workers

Karen Garcia (Eben) is an Inupiaq watercolor artist from Anchorage. Many of her painting inspirations, however, come from childhood memories of days spent in Unalakleet, White Mountain, and Shaktoolik with her family.
Karen Garcia (Eben) is an Inupiaq watercolor artist from Anchorage. Many of her painting inspirations, however, come from childhood memories of days spent in Unalakleet, White Mountain, and Shaktoolik with her family.
Displayed in the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum in Nome
The Day Surgery department at the Alaska Native Medical Center
Lately, Karen has created a series of artworks honoring frontline and medical workers, displayed in the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum in Nome (middle) and the Day Surgery department at the Alaska Native Medical Center (cover and bottom).
tla çid | inspire

A Message From First Alaskans Magazine and First Alaskans Institute

Dear Healthcare Workers,

To the Native health system employees who are working night and day specifically with COVID to test and vaccinate both Native and non-Native community members in entirely new systems, locations, and guidances that didn’t even exist yet a year ago — chin’an.

You are saving our lives.

To all the Native health system medical staff who have been working long shifts to keep our population healthy in a ever-changing, stressful conditions — gunalchéesh.

Your work deserves every praise and all the support we can muster.

To the Native health system non-medical staff who have been working equally long shifts to reach as many members of the community as possible, Native and non-Native, and to make sure our health system is working as efficiently possible during a worldwide pandemic — qaĝaasakung.

tla çid | inspire

A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance
Marie Tozier’s poems of Northwest Alaska
By Shehla Anjum
T

he strong, measured, and contemplative voice in Open the Dark, a debut collection of forty-two lyric poems, belongs to poet Marie Tozier (Inupiaq/Puerto Rican.) The book’s release in August 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, prevented Tozier from giving any public readings. The work drew attention, however, and last winter the Poetry Foundation chose her poem “Little Brother” as a Poem of the Day and included two more on its site, and Poetry Daily featured “Aakuaksrak” as a Poem of the Day.” Marie wrote the poems for her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the University of Alaska Anchorage, which she received in 2016.

Originally from Nome, Marie celebrates a life that harmonizes with seasonal rhythms and the land’s varied offerings throughout the year. Most of her short lyric poems focus on family, the northwest landscape, nature, seasons, gathering food, fishing and hunting. Other poems, however, highlight the challenges and problems that beset Native people. The writing, subtle and restrained, explores joyful moments, personal traumas, memory and loss. The language is accessible and clear but with layers of complexities and meanings.

tla çid | inspire
Sisters of the Neversea book sitting up against a tree
PhotoS by Erin Tripp (Tlingit)

Reads and Reviews

An Alaska Native reader reviews Native-written books
By Erin Tripp (Tlingit)
Sisters of the Neversea
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
(Muscogee Creek Nation)
For over a hundred years there have been countless retellings of Peter Pan, and in theatre I’ve seen numerous debates about how a Peter Pan adaptation can respectfully represent Native characters. And generally the answer is: You can’t do it. You can’t stick close to the original storyline and do justice to Indigenous people, and you can’t just get rid of the Native characters (a form of erasure).

What Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek Nation) has created is much more than a retelling, however. She’s written a new story that stands on its own. Of course the answer was to have an Indigenous person re-write the story and reclaim the narrative. I loved the two sisters who are grappling with a shift in their family structure and trying to figure out how it will change their relationship. There was a great representation in all of the Neverland characters from the Lost Boys, the Native kids, and pirates. I appreciated the characterization of Peter Pan as the source of everyone’s problems, which is a shift I’ve seen in a couple other retellings… and honestly the only way it makes sense to me now. In terms of the writing style, I really enjoyed the use of third person narration for the book. It felt very much like we were being told a story, and the storytellers were the stars.

katurlluteng | TOGETHER

The Future Looks Bright (And Pretty Cute!)

right: George Martin Romero Ferguson (Yup’ik,) son of Dr. Gary Ferguson (Unangax) and Carlos Romero (Muisca/Pijao), completes his work with a smile. Photo courtesy of Dr. Gary Ferguson.
below: Rylan Campbell from Gambell (St. Lawrence Island Yupik) takes a little taste of some good Native food. Photo courtesy of his mom, Apaay Campbell, and grandma, Sharon Aningayou.
bottom: Bryanna, Davena and Avery are three Inuvialuit girls from Tuktoyaktuk, in Canada, who have some great gear to fight mosquitos while they pick berries. Photo courtesy of their grandma, Marilyn Cockney.
Rylan Campbell from Gambell (St. Lawrence Island Yupik) takes a little taste of some good Native food
SEND US YOUR IMAGES!
Do you have photos or videos of amazing Alaska Native youth to share? Email them to [email protected]
No matter the challenges we face today, we can look at our creative, ingenious, precious Native children and know the future is something to look forward to. In the meantime, we can enjoy all the cute and amazing things they are doing today.
George Martin Romero Ferguson (Yup’ik,) son of Dr. Gary Ferguson (Unangax) and Carlos Romero (Muisca/Pijao), completes his work with a smile
Bryanna, Davena and Avery are three Inuvialuit girls from Tuktoyaktuk, in Canada, who have some great gear to fight mosquitos while they pick berries

The Future Looks Bright (And Pretty Cute!)

No matter the challenges we face today, we can look at our creative, ingenious, precious Native children and know the future is something to look forward to. In the meantime, we can enjoy all the cute and amazing things they are doing today.
Rylan Campbell from Gambell (St. Lawrence Island Yupik) takes a little taste of some good Native food
Rylan Campbell from Gambell (St. Lawrence Island Yupik) takes a little taste of some good Native food. Photo courtesy of his mom, Apaay Campbell, and grandma, Sharon Aningayou.
George Martin Romero Ferguson (Yup’ik,) son of Dr. Gary Ferguson (Unangax) and Carlos Romero (Muisca/Pijao), completes his work with a smile
George Martin Romero Ferguson (Yup’ik,) son of Dr. Gary Ferguson (Unangax) and Carlos Romero (Muisca/Pijao), completes his work with a smile. Photo courtesy of Dr. Gary Ferguson.
Bryanna, Davena and Avery are three Inuvialuit girls from Tuktoyaktuk, in Canada, who have some great gear to fight mosquitos while they pick berries
Bryanna, Davena and Avery are three Inuvialuit girls from Tuktoyaktuk, in Canada, who have some great gear to fight mosquitos while they pick berries. Photo courtesy of their grandma, Marilyn Cockney.
SEND US YOUR IMAGES!
Do you have photos or videos of amazing Alaska Native youth to share? Email them to [email protected]
tla çid | inspire
young hooded Alaskan man carries a large animal leg over his shoulder

ñánga | Imagine

Celebrating Denali Black (Han Gwich’in), a junior in high school. This youth leader has been hunting and packing meat for his family since he was four years old.
Photo by Naiche Sol Chavira
First Alaskans logo
FIRST ALASKANS INSTITUTE
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Willie Iġġiagruk Hensley (Iñupiaq)
Chairman

Sam Kito, Jr. (Tlingit)
Vice Chairman

Valerie Davidson (Yup’ik)
Secretary/Treasurer

Sven Haakanson, Jr. (Sugpiaq)

Sylvia Lange (Aleut/Tlingit)

Oliver Leavitt (Iñupiaq)

Georgianna Lincoln (Athabascan)

Morris Thompson (Athabascan)

In memory of Byron Mallot (Tlingit) and Albert Kookesh (Tlingit)

STAFF
Barbara Wáahlaal Gíidaak Blake
(Haida/Tlingit/Ahtna)
Alaska Native Policy Center Director

Karla Gatgyedm Hana’ax Booth (Ts’msyen)
Indigenous Leadership Continuum Director

Amanda Khaa Saayi Tlaa Bremner (Tlingit)
Indigenous Advancement Director

Meritha Misrak Capelle (Inupiaq)
Gyedm si ndzox

Eliabeth Uyuruciaq David (Yup’ik)
Financial Director

Hannah Egaghaghmii (Siberian Yupik)
Ikayuq

Angela Łot’oydaatlno Gonzalez (Koyukon Athabascan)
Indigenous Communications Manager

Kacey Qunmiġu Hopson (Iñupiaq)
Indigenous Knowledge Advocate

Oliver Henaayee Irwin (Koyukon Athabascan/Inupiaq)
Indigenous Knowledge Advocate

Shawaan Ch’aak’tí Jackson-Gamble (Tlingit/Haida)
Indigenous Stewardship Fellows

Anthony Khaakhootee Lindoff (Tlingit/Haida)
Indigenous Stewardship Fellows

Melissa Silugngataanit’sqaq Marton (Sugpiaq)
Indigenous Operations & Innovations Director

Elizabeth La quen naáy / Kat Saas Medicine Crow (Tlingit/Haida)
President/CEO

Ayyu Qassataq (Iñupiaq)
Vice- President

First Alaskans Fall 2021 Cover
ON THE COVER
Watercolorist Karen Garcia (Eben) created a series of artworks honoring frontline medical workers.
See page 24.
First Alaskans Institute logo
First Alaskans Institute is an Alaska Native non-profit organization. Our mission is: True to identity, heritage, and values, Alaska Natives are informed and engaged in leading the decisions that shape the future.
606 E Street, Ste. 200
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 677-1700
Fax: (907) 677-1780

[email protected]

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First Alaskans Magazine is published by
First Alaskans Institute. © 2021.

EDITOR
Vera Starbard
(Tlingit/Dena’ina Athabascan)
CONTRIBUTORS
Erin Tripp (Tlingit)
Karen Garcia (Eben)
Raven Madison (Eyak)
Richard Perry (Yup’ik/Athabascan)
Peter Williams (Yup’ik)
Silas Tikaan Galbreath (Ahtna)
ART DIRECTOR
Dean Potter
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, First Alaskans Magazine has gone digital. We apologize to our readers, advertisers, and subscribers for this interruption in publishing as we work through the technical aspects of going online. We look forward to when we can print hard copies once again, so you can share with family, friends, customers, and all others who love the experience of holding the magazine and enjoying the connection to our amazing Native peoples. Gunalchéesha, Háw’aa, for your understanding and continued support!
First Alaskans title
Thanks for reading our Fall 2021 issue!