Upen’ghaq Spring 2022
First Alaskans logo

Table of Contents

Volume 20, Number 1
THE MAGAZINE OF Native peoples, communities, and ways of life
kelenga | focus
Dealing with the Danger in Front of You
Setting the stage for the climate battle—on our terms
ilakullusi | connect
Sinoghł Xiłdhoyh / Stories From Around
Alaska Native corporations far exceed national averages for women in leadership; and more
Sovereignty From the First Breath
Indigenizing maternal care is changing the experience of becoming a parent
ligika | catalyze
The Father of Alaska Native Land Claims
Anyone who knew William Paul understood that he wasn’t afraid of a fight
Beyond Land Acknowledgements
Tune in to a webinar featuring Ayyu Qassataq, Joe Kaaxúxgu Nelson, Dr. Jessica Black and Dr. Charlene Khaih Zhuu Stern
The reconstructed story of a Nendaaghe Hut’aane Koyukon man
The ANCSA Regional Association
Alliance responds to the common challenges faced by Alaska Native regional corporations
aneghneghqelleq | inspire
We Are Still Here
And other poems by Blossom Teal Olsen
Reads and Reviews
An Alaska Native reader reviews Native-written books
this issue’s language:
Section and department titles are in Siberian Yupik. Each issue of First Alaskans features a different Native language in this role. Thanks to Yaari Walker (Siberian Yupik) and George Noongwook (Siberian Yupik) for their help in translating titles for this issue.
kelenga | connect

Setting the stage for the climate battle—on our terms

By ilgavak (Peter Williams) (Yup’ik)

Wilson Justin (Ahtna/Alth’setnay)

dealing with the danger in front of you

dealing with the danger in front of you

Setting the stage for the climate battle—on our terms

By ilgavak (Peter Williams) (Yup’ik)

Wilson Justin (Ahtna/Alth’setnay)

Wilson Justin (Ahtna/Alth’setnay)

In the summer of 2016, I met Wilson Justin (Ahtna/ Alth’setnay) at Signs of the Land: Reaching Arctic Communities Facing Climate Change at Howard Luke’s Gaalee’ya Camp. Nestled amongst vibrant sunlight, stands of black spruce casting their shadows over pinecone-covered foot trails, hungry mosquitoes, and waves of warm air working through the peaceful landscape.

There were more than a dozen tents scattered across patches of grass and log cabins. The National Science Foundation had funded the event. In order to have a deeper conversation on the impacts of climate change and its solutions, the Association for Interior Native Educators, PoLAR Partnership, and International Arctic Research Center collaborated on the project. Combining Alaska Native science and perspectives with Western ones. Collaborating on Climate: The Signs of the Land Camp as a Model for Meaningful Learning Between Indigenous Communities and Western Climate Scientists by Malinda Chase (Deg Hit’an Dene’) among others.

ilakullusi | connect


Alaska Tribal Spectrum receives wireless frequencies from FCC

In March, the Federal Communications Commission granted the largest single 2.5GHz spectrum award in the country to an Alaska Native Tribal-managed nonprofit organization. The Alaska Tribal Network is a collective of Tribal entities across Alaska with the goal of creating a statewide network that is Tribally governed. Currently the Alaska Tribal Spectrum represents half of all Tribes in Alaska, amounting to a quarter of all Tribes within the United States.

“This really is huge news for our Tribes,” said Crystal Dushkin, Native Village of Atka President. “Access to high-speed internet at unprecedented affordable prices will revolutionize our lives in our rural communities, such as our remote village of Atka.”

Read more at the Alaska Tribal Spectrum.

Nome police dispatcher settles suit against city

In 2017, Inupiaq police dispatcher Clarice “Bun” Hardy was sexually assaulted, and she reported the assault to the Nome police. Despite video evidence and Bun following up with both the Nome police and Alaska State Troopers, she was never given progress updates, and the case did not to appear to be investigated for over a year. In 2020, Bun filed a lawsuit against the City of Nome.

In March, Bun and the city reached an agreement that she would drop her lawsuit in exchange for $750,000 and an apology from the city. Bun credits Nome sexual assault activists in giving her the courage to pursue action against the city.

To read more, visit the Anchorage Daily News.

ilakullusi | connect
ANBC founders
ANBC founders left to right: Margaret Olin Hoffman David (Koyukon Athabascan) with daughter Tala David, Helena (Lena) Jacobs (Koyukon Athabascan), Abra Nungasuk Patkotak (Iñupiaq), Stefanie Cromarty (Siberian Yupik), Stacey Lucason (Yup’ik and Scandinavian), and Dr. Charlene Aqpik Apok (Iñupiaq).
Photo courtesy of ANBC

“Sovereignty From the First Breath”

An organization focused on indigenizing maternal care is changing the experience of becoming a parent in Alaska. Including my own.
By Penny X’waséeya Gage (Lingít)

f you have given birth or been intimately involved with the arrival of a baby, you know what an awe-inspiring, transformative, and all-encompassing experience it is. It’s also an enormous challenge: even a birth that is free of major complications is hardly all storks and snuggles.

For Alaska Native individuals there are often extra complications, some of them stemming from historical policies that extinguished our traditional methods of caring for parents and families, and others more specific to the contemporary healthcare system or structural racism.

ligika | catalyze
Circled, William Paul, Sr., (left) and brother Louis Paul (right)
Circled, William Paul, Sr., (left) and brother Louis Paul (right), Alaska Native Brotherhood at Grand Camp Convention, 1929, Haines.
Photo courtesy Paul family.

The Father of Alaska Native Land Claims

‘Anyone who knew William Paul understood that he wasn’t afraid of a fight’
By Joaqlin Estus (Lingít)

ince right now we’re really celebrating and looking at the 50th anniversary of ANCSA. I have to say that William Paul [Sr, Lingít] should be regarded as the father of Native land claims,” said Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl, PhD (Lingít) after a recent talk on William’s early life by his grandson Ben Paul.

“We’ve had many, many great leaders who have come after him, but he was the one that began it,” she said.

Decades before Congress adopted the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), the Lingít and Haida Indians of southeast Alaska waged claims battles launched by Paul (1885-1977).

ligika | catalyze


Dr. Charlene Khaih Zhuu Stern headshot
Joe Kaaxúxgu Nelson headshot
Dr. Jessica Black headshot
Dr. Charlene Khaih Zhuu Stern headshot
Joe Kaaxúxgu Nelson headshot
Dr. Jessica Black headshot
Dr. Charlene Khaih Zhuu Stern headshot
Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center hosted the webinar “Beyond Land Acknowledgements” on Feb. 14, 2022. Presenters included Ayyu Qassataq (Iñupiaq, top) and (above, left to right) Joe Kaaxúxgu Nelson (Lingít), Dr. Jessica Black (Gwich’in), and Dr. Charlene Khaih Zhuu Stern (Gwich’in).
In this special session, Alaska Native educational advocates engage participants in thoughtfully considering the role of higher education in the assimilation of Native students and extraction of Native knowledge to its own benefit, and uplift ideas to align efforts beyond land acknowledgements to the transformation of the relationship between universities and Native communities.
ligika | catalyze


The reconstructed story of the life of Saityen, a Nendaaghe Hut’aane Koyukon man originally from the Upper Nendaaghe River Valley
By Adeline Peter Raboff (Gwich’in/Koyukon Athabascan)
This piece is dedicated to the life and work of Ruthie Tatqaviñ Ramoth-Sampson and for Katherine L. Arndt

Saityen was known by many names; Sayyen by Iñupiat storytellers of the Middle Kobuk River (Charles Piġliġiaq Custer, Truman Siqupsiraq Cleveland,) Saityet (Joe Immałurauq Sun) and Saityen (Barbara Qalhaq Atoruk) on the Upper Kobuk River, and Satnik and Sannik (Simon Panniaq Paneak, Justus Mekiana) was his Nunamiut name. (Storytellers further west and north add too many elements that are not in the upper Kobuk version. Therefore, the author has omitted them.) His name in Koyukon might mean something associated with the word ‘knife,’ tsaaye. This person was also known as Nitsehduu (Stephen Peter) of the Neets’ąįį Gwich’in.


s a young boy, Saityen was displaced from the Nendaaghe River (Noatak River) sometime after 1820. He came from a community who called themselves the Nendaaghe Hut’aane Koyukon people. They were exclusively caribou hunters.

Unbeknownst to Saityen’s people, geologic events took place across the world that caused a period of sudden unexpected cooling. The initial cooling was so severe that it caused some family groups, fearing starvation, to abandon their land to join relatives far to the east, around 270 miles as the crow flies. Unfortunately, this left a weakened community of Nendaaghe Hut’aane on the upper Nendaaghe. This was not good.

ligika | catalyze

The ANCSA Regional Association

Alliance responds to the common challenges faced by Alaska Native regional corporations
Richard Perry (Yup’ik/Athabascan)

laska Native corporations (ANCs) are as diverse as the Alaska Native shareholders and communities they represent, all with varying interests. An organization works behind the scenes to support ANCs in areas where those interests intersect; it started to come together after the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was half as old as it is now.

In 1997, a group of Alaska Native regional corporation leaders came together to discuss the unique advantages of creating a forum where they could collaborate on issues they had in common. They agreed that, given the differences in purpose, structure, and mandates among ANCs and other organizations representing Alaska Native people, they must discuss and respond to the common challenges faced by Alaska Native regional corporations.

This group included Carl Marrs, Cook Inlet Region, Incorporated; Michael Brown, Bristol Bay Native Corporation; Oliver Leavitt, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation; Dennis Metrokin, Koniag; and Morris Thompson, Doyon, Limited. These Alaska Native leaders understood that while the twelve regional corporations operated different businesses, they also had similarities and there were many common issues that affected ANCs and Alaska as a whole.

aneghneghqelleq | inspire

by Blossom Teal Olsen (Iñupiaq)

We Are Still Here

I am no longer my Ancestors

The voices of this world tell us that our world has past

The people who live on the land that we have taken care of for millennia say that we need to move on

by Blossom Teal Olsen (Iñupiaq)

There is No Such Thing as Time

Robert’s Rules has become our most listened to Elder

Before the government told us that we were a government

Our Elders listened to one another, as their Elders listened to one another

by Blossom Teal Olsen (Iñupiaq)

Laws Affect Us

The United States Government tells me that one plus one equals one whole Native

The rest of Americans live in their houses and drive their cars and fly in planes

Meanwhile, the Indigenous are fractions of people who belong to nations older than the government we call America

aneghneghqelleq | inspire

Reads and Reviews

An Alaska Native reader reviews Native-written books
By Erin Tripp (Lingít)
The Break

The Break and The Strangers

by Katherena Vermette

If I made a five-star predictions list, The Break would have certainly been on it. It is now one of my favorite books that I’ve ever read. The Break is told from multiple perspectives, mainly within one family, that give you many different viewpoints of a traumatic event that acts as a turning point in the characters’ lives. The more I read books like this, the more I realize I love books with chapters from numerous perspectives that all tie together in some way. Especially when you aren’t sure how they’ll come together. It makes me feel connected to more of the characters by putting me in their heads and giving them depth. It’s a really engaging storytelling method for me and I need more!


First Alaskans logo
Willie Iġġiagruk Hensley (Iñupiaq)

Sam Kito, Jr. (Tlingit)
Vice Chairman

Valerie Davidson (Yup’ik)

Sven Haakanson, Jr. (Sugpiaq)

Albert Kookesh (Tlingit)

Sylvia Lange (Aleut/Tlingit)

Oliver Leavitt (Iñupiaq)

Georgianna Lincoln (Athabascan)

Morris Thompson (Athabascan)
In Memoriam

Barbara Wáahlaal Gíidaak Blake
Alaska Native Policy Center Director

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

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

Elizabeth Uyuruciaq David (Yup’ik)
Financial Director

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

Kacey Qunmiġu Hopson (Iñupiaq)
Indigenous Knowledge Advocate

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

Ayyu Qassataq (Iñupiaq)
Vice President
& Indigenous Operatons Director

Candace Cutmen Branson (Suqpiaq)
Indigenous Advancement Director

Gloria Kaaswóot Wolfe (Tlingit)
Indigenous Leadership Continuum Director

Hannah Egeghaghmii Hamilton (Siberian Yupik)

Meritha Misrak Capelle (Iñupiaq)
Gyedm Si Ndzox

Olivia Henaayee Irwin (Koyukon/Iñupiaq)
Indigenous Knowledge Advocate

First Alaskans Spring 2022 cover
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) encourages Rey Asicksik (Ts’msyen/Haida/Yup’ik/Inupiaq,) one of the youngest members of the Lepquinm Gumilgit Gagoadim dance group.
Photo by Nicole Hallingstad, Ch’aak’ Tlaa (Tlingit)
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



First Alaskans Magazine is published by
First Alaskans Institute. © 2022.

Vera Starbard (Tlingit/Dena’ina Athabascan)
Kaasteen–Katelynn Drake (Tlingit/Inupiaq)
Erin Tripp (Tlingit), Blossom Teal Olsen (Iñupiaq), Richard Perry (Yup’ik/Athabascan), Joaqlin Estus (Tlingit), Penny X’waséeya Gage (Tlingit), ilgavak (Peter Williams (Yup’ik), Adeline Peter Raboff (Gwich’in/Koyukon Athabascan)
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. Gunalchéesh, Háw’aa, for your understanding and continued support!
First Alaskans title
Thanks for reading our Spring 2022 issue!