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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.

Nicole Borromeo headshot
photo courtesy of Nicole Borromeo

Nicole Borromeo

First Alaskans Institute Young Native Leader Award
This award is given to a young leader has shown through dedication they are working to help Native peoples and our community with significant and profound purpose.

Nicole Borromeo (Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan) serves as the Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the Alaska Federation of Natives. Born in McGrath, she now resides in Anchorage with her husband and four children. Nicole advises AFN’s board and president, and advocates on a wide array of Alaska Native legislative and litigation matters, including civil and voting rights, governmental affairs, business and infrastructure development. In addition to championing the Child Welfare Tribal Compacting process with the State under Governor Walker’s administration, Nicole most recently served on the Alaska Redistricting Board to protect and uphold a fair and just process for all Alaskans.

Rosita Worl headshot
photo courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute

Yeidiklasókw, Kaaháni
Rosita Worl, PH.D.

Howard Rock Alaska Native Leader Award
This award is given to a person who has shown through their quality of character and effort to be a leader of distinct caliber because they put their community and people before themselves.

Dr. Rosita Worl (Tlingit), whose Tlingit names are Yeidiklasókw and Kaaháni, is Ch’áak’ (Eagle) moiety of the Shangukeidí (Thunderbird) clan from the Kawdliyaayi Hít (House Lowered from the Sun) in Klukwan. Kaaháni has served as the president of Sealaska Heritage Institute since 1997, an organization charged with preserving and advancing the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Native cultures of Southeast Alaska. A highly accomplished anthropologist and researcher, Kaaháni centers fierce advocacy in protecting our ways of life in all she does for our Alaska Native community.

Dr. Herb Illisaurri Schroeder headshot
photo courtesy of the University of Alaska Anchorage

Dr. Herb Illisaurri Schroeder

Friends of First Alaskans Ted Stevens Award
This award is given to a person who has shown through their support of Native issues and partnership with our common cause that they are friends of the Alaska Native community.

In the 1990s, while working on an Alaskan public health project, Dr. Herb Illisaurri Schroeder realized how few public health engineers were Alaska Natives and went on to found the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) in 1995 to help a single Alaska Native student earn an engineering degree. Since that time, ANSEP has grown to include 500+ alumni with STEM bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees, and more than 2,500 additional students on track to follow in their footsteps. Dr. Schroeder currently serves as University of Alaska Anchorage Vice Provost of ANSEP.

A Decade of Leadership

smokehouse gala honorees, 2012 to present
Howard Rock Alaska Native Leader Award
Marlene Johnson (Lingít), 2012

Mary Jane Evans Fate (Athabascan), 2013

Dr. Paul and Martina John (Yup’ik), 2014

Eliza Jones (Koyukon), 2015

Roy S. Ewan (Ahtna), 2016

Poldine Carlo (Koyukon), 2017

Emil Notti (Koyukon), 2018

Nelson Angapak (Yup’ik), 2019

Melanie Bahnke (St. Lawrence Island Yupik), 2020

First Alaskans Young Native Leader Award
Jason Metrokin (Unangax/Sugpiaq), 2012

Evon Peter (Gwich’in/Koyukon), 2013

Tanana 4-H Club (Athabascan), 2014

Samuel Johns (Ahtna/Gwich’in), 2015

Raina Thiele (Dena’ina/Yup’ik), 2016

AlexAnna Salmon (Yup’ik), 2017

Barbara Blake (Lingít/Haida/Ahtna), 2018

Dr. Pearl Brower (Iñupiaq), 2019

Dr. Lance Twitchell (Lingít), 2020

Friends of First Alaskans Ted Stevens Award
Barney Gottstein, 2012

Diane Kaplan, 2013

Bill Van Ness, 2014

Bill Oberly, 2015

Gov. Bill Sheffield, 2015

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., 2016

Myra Munson, 2017

Lloyd Miller, 2018

Gov. Bill Walker, 2019

Dr. EJ R. David, 2020