First Alaskans: The Magazine of Native Peoples, Communities, and Ways of Life
old photograph of two men in suits talking
50 Years of ANCSA typography

Winter 2021-2022

XIYH Winter 2021-2022
First Alaskans logo

Table of Contents

Volume 19, Number 3
THE MAGAZINE OF Native peoples, communities, and ways of life
tl’eł | connect
4
Ałixi / TOGETHER
Side by Side in the Same Direction
Honorees of the 2021 Howard Rock and Ted Stevens Smokehouse Gala
7
Indigenized Shopping List
“Shopping Native” can be the true gift that keeps on giving
8
Sinoghł xiłdhoyh / STORIES FROM AROUND
Bill Introduced to Grant Land to Landless Native Groups, and more
9
Alaska Native Health Campus launches Wayfinding App
“Tinitun” helps campus visitors navigate
10
Continuity, Renewal, and Joy
Celebrating whaling traditions at the Oliver Leavitt Crew Nalukataq
viye tr’ixidinli’an | focus
14
Organizing Up North
Along with other benefits, ANCSA brought back self-governance to parts of Alaska
20
Heading Toward 2071
Learning from the personal stories of ANCSA’s passage
xidingiłq’oyh | catalyze
24
More Than Merely Profit
ANCSA-created corporations invest in the seafood industry with an eye on shareholders and stewardship
29
Alaska’s Ranked-Choice System Could Boost Indigenous voting
Undeclared and nonpartisan voters get a voice in primaries
xinotthi tasoł | inspire
32
The Great Cedar Tapestry
Poetry by Gavin Hudson
34
Reads and Reviews
An Alaska Native reader reviews books by William L. Iggiagruk Hensley and Ernestine Hayes
36
Xan’ilił | IMAGINE
Virtual Smokehouse
this issue’s language:
Section and department titles are in the Deg Xinaq Athabascan language. Each issue of First Alaskans features a different Native language in this role. Thanks to the Deg Xinaq Learner’s Dictionary, published by the Anvik Historical Society.
tl’eł | connect
Ałixi | TOGETHER
2021 Howard Rock and Ted Stevens Smokehouse Gala

Side by Side in the Same Direction

First Alaskans Institute announced the awardees of their tenth annual Howard Rock and Ted Stevens Smokehouse Gala finale, held in “unceded virtual space” this November. Named in recognition of Howard Rock (Iñupiaq) and the late Senator Ted Stevens, the Smokehouse Gala celebrates significant contributions of Alaska Native peoples and friends in advancing collective wellbeing, and the essential role being good relatives to one another plays in keeping Alaska a special place.

The theme for the 2021 Gala was presented in the Eyak language: ahnuu dAXunhyuu AXAkihya’ iLka’ GAdAqeeLinuu (side by side in the same direction, the people go by canoe)—very fitting for uplifting the tremendous work of our awardees for advancing our Alaska Native community. The FAI Trustees and staff were honored to uplift the honorees and their families.

tl’eł | connect

Indigenized
Shopping List

Gift Box
Whether you’re shopping for a holiday, a celebration, or just an awesome gift for yourself, “shopping Native” can be the true gift that keeps on giving. Not only are you getting unique and authentic items you can’t get anywhere else, but it can strengthen the economy of an entire community. Below are just some of the amazing Native artists and businesses you can support now and all year long. Quyanaq and gunalchéesh to Ayyu Qassataq (Inupiaq) and Vera Starbard (Tlingit/Dena’ina) for compiling the list.
tl’eł | connect

Sinoghł xiłdhoyh STORIES FROM AROUND

Bill introduced to grant Southeast Native lands

Fifty years after being left out of the original 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, a bill has been introduced to the U.S. Senate to grant land to landless Native groups. If passed, over 23,000 acres from the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska would be granted to five new Native corporations in five Southeast communities.

The Sealaska Regional Corporation would maintain sub-surface rights to the land while the village corporations would maintain surface rights, and the bill includes land selections that differ between the U.S. Senate and U.S. House bills. For more, read Alaska Public Media’s coverage.

State of Alaska loses lawsuit challenging hunting rights

In December, a federal judge denied a permanent injunction the State of Alaska pursued against the Federal Subsistence Board opening emergency hunts during the Covid-19 pandemic. The State of Alaska sought to block the Federal Subsistence Board from working with the Organized Village of Kake, a federally recognized Tribe, in an emergency hunt.

“As Alaska Native people, we are only too familiar with the devastation that disease and epidemics can cause to our communities,” said President of the Organized Village of Kake Tribal Council Joel Jackson. “The State of Alaska’s lawsuit is an attack on the right of our people to continue our traditional way of life. Our Tribe is determined to join this lawsuit to defend ourselves and our subsistence way of life.” Learn more from the Native American Rights Fund.

tl’eł | connect
birds eye view of the Alaska Native Health Campus

Alaska Native Health Campus launches wayfinding app

“Tinitun” helps campus visitors navigate health campus

T

he Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) and Southcentral Foundation (SCF) have launched Tinitun, a mobile app that helps campus visitors locate providers or clinics with ease, discover campus food options, find the nearest shuttle, mark the location of their parked cars and more. The Tinitun app includes indoor turn-by-turn directions inside the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) hospital, specialty clinics and Anchorage Native Primary Care Center.

tl’eł | connect
Continuity,

Continuity, Renewal, and Joy

man being thrown up in a blanket toss
Renewal, and Joy

Continuity, Renewal, and Joy

Celebrating whaling traditions at the Oliver Leavitt Crew Nalukataq
By Willie Iggiagruk Hensley (Inupiaq)
F

or the Nalukataq whaling celebration in Utqiagvik last summer, the Oliver Leavitt Crew (OLC) and families took ten days to make 120 gallons of mikigaq (a fermented whale meat delicacy.) Each bucket had to be stirred at least five times a day to make sure the fermentation process was properly done.

Oliver Aveogan Leavitt has been Umailik (Captain) of his whaling crew since the early 1980s. That responsibility is a big one as he has to insure that the whaling vessel is safe, that the crew is trained, the whaling gun is properly loaded, the harpoons sharp and the ropes strong and properly knotted, and the floats ready. He also has to have enough sleds built to carry the catch home, snow machines maintained and gassed, the tents and stoves ready to use and the proper rifles available in the event polar bears show up. The wife of the umailik, in this instance Annie, is also the backbone of whaling, making sure there is enough food for the crew, that they are clothed and prepared for their vigil on the ice and the water. She makes sure that everything is cut and cooked properly and ensures that there are donut and soup makers. The effort is year round and the real work begins when they tow the agviq (bowhead whale) to the solid ice to be winched up and butchered.

The OLC flag is flown to let the community of Utqiagvik know of the catch and the success of co-captains Alex Kaleak and Avaiyak Burnell. The flag was designed by Oliver’s mother, Mary Lou Leavitt. It features a dark blue background, a center red diamond and two white bands anchoring the four corners. I asked what the symbolism was and gave it my own—white for purity, blue for the ocean and red for the blood vital for all mammals.

viye tr’ixidinli’an | focus
Original Sealaska regional corporation board directors sign the Sealaska articles of incorporation in 1972 with U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior Harrison Loesch (seated, center). From left to right, Clarence Jackson (Tlingit), Jon Borbridge, Jr. (Tlingit), Marlene Johnson (Tlingit), Harrison Loesch, Dick Kito (Tlingit), Leonard Kato (Tlingit).
Original Sealaska regional corporation board directors
Original Sealaska regional corporation board directors signing the Sealaska articles of incorporation in 1972
Original Sealaska regional corporation board directors sign the Sealaska articles of incorporation in 1972 with U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior Harrison Loesch (seated, center). From left to right, Clarence Jackson (Tlingit), Jon Borbridge, Jr. (Tlingit), Marlene Johnson (Tlingit), Harrison Loesch, Dick Kito (Tlingit), Leonard Kato (Tlingit).

Organizing
Up North

Along with other benefits, ANCSA brought back self-governance to parts of Alaska
By Shehla Anjum
T

his year is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA,) which has changed and benefited all Alaskans in fundamental way. Passed in 1971, the act provided a cash payment and settlement of outstanding claims of Alaska Native people over lands they never ceded to the United States and continued to use for hunting, fishing and other ways of life.

ANCSA’s impact, however, went beyond the cash settlement and the land. It is also linked with the creation of two large regional municipalities, or boroughs, in Alaska—the North Slope Borough in 1972 and Northwest Arctic Borough in 1986.

Those two municipalities, the largest in the U.S by land area, took advantage of the natural resources in their areas, oil for the North Slope and minerals for Northwest Arctic, to bring back self-governance and to revolutionize the lives of people in their areas.

viye tr’ixidinli’an | focus
Heading Toward 2071 title

Heading Toward 2071

Learning from the personal stories of ANCSA’s passage
BY JACQUE LAMBERT (INUPIAQ)
Illustration of Alaska

I. Native Land Claims Era

Both of my parents were born before the historical Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was passed, but they were young kids. They both have vague memories of what happened around the time. My mom remembers moving away from Utqiagvik, where both of her NANA-region parents were based for work. 

“They could have claimed ASRC,” she’s said a couple times. She was in kindergarten and one of my Inupiaq names, Iqilan, is after her babysitter of the time. My grandparents knew where they truly came from. “But we’re from the Kobuk River, not the Slope. We only lived there.” 

My dad has a similar story, one that recalls how Kotzebue neighborhoods looked before 1971. He’d have been about ten years old. The NANA regional hub town was never a traditional settlement; it was where the surrounding communities went to trade their goods and share their dances every summer. They called the spot Qatnut, a gathering place.

xidingiłq’oyh | catalyze

More Than Merely Profit

ANCSA-created corporations invest in the seafood industry with an eye on shareholders and stewardship
By Richard Perry (Yup’ik/Athabascan)
boats on Bristol Bay
Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association supports sound science to ensure the sustainability of “a biologically and economically healthy and productive commercial fishery.”
Photo courtesy of Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association
F

or Alaska Native corporations (ANCs), developing seafood interests means more than merely making profit; they seek to benefit shareholders and descendants in other ways.

For Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) and Sealaska, holdings in the seafood industry provide many benefits to their shareholders and descendants. The profits of these business lines offer opportunities for shareholders and descendants such as job search and employment placement assistance, higher education and vocational training, and leadership development/management training programs, to name a few.

The seafood industry is an essential holding for many ANCs as it is an integral part of a diverse portfolio of investments and other business ventures.

xidingiłq’oyh | catalyze

Alaska’s ranked-choice system could boost Indigenous voting

Undeclared and nonpartisan voters—who make up most of the state’s voters—have been left out of the partisan primary system
Richard Perry (Yup’ik/Athabascan)
A

laska’s move to a ranked-choice voting system starting with the 2022 elections will give voters a stronger voice in final election decisions and could shift the power base from partisan fringes to moderate voters.

The new balloting system will eliminate partisan primary elections, boosting the chances for middle-of-the-road candidates such as Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican who has faced challenges from the right wing of her party.

“More choice, more voice, and more power to voters,” according to a statement by the nonprofit Alaskans for Better Elections on its website.

xinotthi tasoł | inspire

The
Great
Cedar
Tapestry

by Gavin Hudson
(Tsimshian)
The ocean feeds the salmon, the salmon feed the trees,
the salmon swim upriver depositing their seeds, 
they give their life to the forest in an exchange of energy, 
the promise of renewal becomes a lasting legacy.
The salmon eggs are kept safe in the waters beneath the trees, 
they will hatch and grow, when it’s time they’ll know, 
the river will carry them to sea.
Each depends upon the others, a fragile harmony, 
each one always giving so that all may receive.
by Gavin Hudson
(Tsimshian)
The ocean feeds the salmon, the salmon feed the trees,
the salmon swim upriver depositing their seeds, 
they give their life to the forest in an exchange of energy, 
the promise of renewal becomes a lasting legacy.
The salmon eggs are kept safe in the waters beneath the trees, 
they will hatch and grow, when it’s time they’ll know, 
the river will carry them to sea.
Each depends upon the others, a fragile harmony, 
each one always giving so that all may receive.
xinotthi tasoł | inspire

Reads and Reviews

An Alaska Native reader reviews Native-written books
By Erin Tripp (Tlingit)
50 Miles from Tomorrow
50 Miles from Tomorrow
By William L. Iggiagruk
Hensley (Inupiaq)
50 Miles from Tomorrow is a memoir about the fight for Alaska Native peoples’ rights from the perspective of an Iñupiat leader. The book spans over 50 years as we start with him as a child living and surviving in the Arctic through his experiences going to school and then adulthood as he works in politics. Hensley was a key figure in the creation of things that have benefited so many Alaska Native people, including the forming of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA)—which is an extraordinarily massive contribution! As an Alaska Native person, I was especially interested to learn more about this history as the foundation for where we are today. It made me want to seek out more texts about ANCSA, because there’s a lot I don’t know and everything I do learn makes me appreciate our leadership more. The hard work to make it happen, creating the foundation of the corporations from almost nothing, and so much more. None of it could have been easy. I’m still so in awe of those who had to start from scratch and build up to what we have today. It’s not perfect, and still exists within a colonial system, but I’m very proud of how far we’ve come. Hensley’s memoir is a great jumping off point if you’re looking to learn more about ANCSA history.

Back Cover

xinotthi tasoł | inspire

Xan’ilił | Imagine

While the Covid-19 pandemic still extends across the globe and disrupts our communities, the Alaska Native spirit has always been one of gathering and innovation. The 10th Annual Howard Rock and Ted Stevens Smokehouse Gala was once again held virtually, and Native ways of life celebrated across the state.

Masthead

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)

Albert Kookesh (Tlingit)

Sylvia Lange (Aleut/Tlingit)

Oliver Leavitt (Iñupiaq)

Georgianna Lincoln (Athabascan)

Morris Thompson (Athabascan)
In Memoriam

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

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

Melissa Silugngataanit’sqaq Borton (Sugpiaq), Indigenous Advancement Director

Eliabeth Uyuruciaq David (Yup’ik)
Financial Director

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

Kacey Qunmiġu Hopson (Iñupiaq)
Indigenous Knowledge Advocate

Colin Tass’aq McDonald (Yup’ik)
Indigenous Advancement Manager

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

Ayyu Qassataq (Iñupiaq)
Vice President
& Indigenous Operatons Director

First Alaskans Winter 21 Cover
ON THE COVER
Alaska Native land claims leaders Joseph Upicksoun (Inupiaq) and Eben Hobson (Inupiaq) in 1970. Photo from the Alaska State Library Historial Collection.
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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.
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First Alaskans Magazine is published by
First Alaskans Institute. © 2021.

EDITOR
Vera Starbard
(Tlingit/Dena’ina Athabascan)
ASSISTANT EDITOR
Kasteen–Katelynn Drake
(Tlingit/Inupiaq)
CONTRIBUTORS
Shehla Anjum, Gavin Hudson (Tsimshian),
Ayyu Qassataq (Inupiaq),
Richard Perry (Yup’ik/Athabascan),
Erin Tripp (Tlingit),
Willie Iggiagruk Hensley (Inupiaq),
Jacque Lambert (Inupiaq)
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: The Magazine of Native Peoples, Communities, and Ways of Life
Thanks for reading our Winter 2021-2022 issue!