FORUM Magazine | Spring 2022

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Jovell Rennie Photographs | Best Beginnings at Twenty | Students and ANCSA | The Virgin of Guadalupe


On Local and Global Citizenship

421 W. 1st Ave., Suite 200, Anchorage, AK 99501 (907) 272-5341 |

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Judith Owens-Manley, Chair, Anchorage Ben Mallott, Vice Chair, Anchorage Laci Michaud, Secretary, Anchorage Aminata Taylor, Treasurer, Iowa City Jeffrey Siemers, Member-at-Large, Soldotna Rachael Ball, Anchorage

By Kameron Perez-Verdia

Kristina Bellamy, Anchorage Thea Agnew Bemben, Anchorage Stephen Qacung Blanchett, Juneau Keneggnarkayaaggaq Emily Edenshaw, Anchorage


was recently visiting the community of Hooper Bay, working on their new Yup’ik charter school. I was talking with an Elder about getting the community more engaged. We discussed what it meant to be an engaged and active community member. Then he asked my thoughts about the conflict in Ukraine. “What do you think it means to be a good global community member?” It was a question that got me thinking. At the Alaska Humanities Forum, we take action to build community in our state. That’s why I was in Hooper Bay. We bring together urban and rural youth; build leadership networks across different sectors; and connect teachers to their new home communities. I spend so much time engaging people here in Alaska that I hadn’t thought much about my responsibility to people worldwide. What is our responsibility to others I spend so much time across the world? What does it mean to be a global community member or a global engaging people here in citizen? These are startling questions during a time when simply addressing our Alaska that I hadn’t thought local and national challenges is daunting. much about my responsibility What’s more, digital culture offers us paradoxical opportunities: it’s never been to people worldwide. easier to make contact across borders, yet it’s equally easy to stay in our bubbles. I see global citizenship as a set of values and actions. The values are those that the Forum has been promoting and honing in our statewide work: respect; engagement with unfamiliar communities; curiosity to learn from them; acceptance of the differences that exist. Taken to an international context, the actions could start with something as simple as researching a new country or making friends with an immigrant neighbor. It could continue with traveling abroad and contributing to community efforts to advance education, health, or environmental conservation. The size, diversity, and cultures of Alaska have given our state a head start in the work of broadening horizons and notions of citizenship. The Forum’s deep investments in connection and engagement give us a model—and a sense of optimism—for expanding citizenship and community to a global scale. What does it mean to be a global citizen for you? Warmly, Kameron Perez-Verdia President & CEO


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Kitty Farnham, Anchorage Charleen Fisher, Beaver Peter Metcalfe, Juneau Francisco Miranda, Anchorage Don Rearden, Anchorage Carrie Shephard, Anchorage Sheri Skelton, Anchorage Jeannine Stafford-Jabaay, Hope Sharon Thompson, Anchorage Renee Wardlaw, Anchorage

STAFF Kameron Perez-Verdia, President & CEO Shoshi Bieler, Youth Program Coordinator Emily Brockman, Youth Curriculum Manager Megan Cacciola, Vice President of Programs Jazmine Camp, Education Program Manager Amanda Dale, Director of Cross-Cultural Programs Kim Fasbender, Operations Coordinator Kelly Forster, Education Program Manager Oliviah Franke, Conversation Programs Coordinator Olivia Garrett, Youth Program Manager Nancy Hemsath, Grants Officer & Board Liaison Helen John, Youth Program Coordinator Kari Lovett, Director of Operations Emily Lucy, Youth Program Coordinator George Martinez, Vice President of Communications and Community Engagement Rachael McPherson, Vice President of Development Aud Pleas, Workshop Coordinator Helen Poitra-Chalmers, Vice President of Operations Chuck Seaca, Director of Youth Programs Alejandro Soto, Youth Program Associate Taylor Strelevitz, Director of Conversation Programs Molissa Udevitz, Youth Program Designer Cheryl Williams, Leadership Programs Coordinator

FORUM MAGAZINE STAFF George Martinez, Editor and Publisher Dean Potter, Art Director Nancy Hemsath, Copy Editor Contributors: Gabriela Olmos, Ron Nicholl, Jovell Rennie, Lila Hobbs, Bill Hess, Will Elliott, Ben Baldwin, Madelyn Christiansen, Canyon Kokochuruk, Rachael McPherson, Christie George, Brianna Gray, Cisco Mercado, Sarah Mehl Histand, Fong Sai Wing, Samarys Seguinot Medina, Kendalyn McKisick, Capenruilnguq Jenine Heakin, Javeon Brigham, Rafael Bitanga, Chelsea Brigham, Carlos De La Torre



Martin Moore, a leader in both Calista and the local village corporation of Emmonak, became the first person to testify before the Alaska Native Review Commission. February 1984. See page 20. PHOTO BY BILL HESS, TUNDRA TIMES PHOTOGRAPH PROJECT, ACCESSION NUMBER TT.05086.



You Gotta Have Faith What does it take to start something big?


Start with a Connection Photographs and remarks by Jovell Rennie

14 Looking Upstream A collective community builds a future for Alaska’s children

18 How to Support the Forum 19 Shelly C. Lowe New Chair is first Native American to lead the NEH

20 Through New Eyes A student research project reflects on 50 Years of ANCSA

26 Cantar, Bailar y Orar por Nuestra Señora de la Piel Morena / Singing, Dancing, and Praying for Our Lady with Brown Skin

32 Program Updates Happenings at the Forum

34 We Welcome the Forum’s New Board Members Seven leaders take posts


The story of the Virgin of Guadalupe, from Mexico to Alaska

30 It’s Complicated Indra Arriaga Delgado’s painting is an act of thinking through the untold


I Am Going Outside

Alaskans consider how race and culture shape their relationships to the land



Hoonah’s Heroes Photo provides a cue to watch a Forum-supported documentary

FORUM is a publication of the Alaska Humanities Forum, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with the purpose of increasing public understanding of and participation in the humanities. The views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the editorial staff, the Alaska Humanities Forum, or the National Endowment for the Humanities. Subscriptions may be obtained by contributing to the Alaska Humanities Forum or by contacting the Forum. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission. ©2022.

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Leadership Anchorage: APPLY NOW for the Next Cohort Leadership Anchorage is the premier leadership development program for established and emerging Alaskan leaders seeking to expand their networks and community impact.

Transform Your Leadership For more information or to apply visit


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Celebrating 25 Years of Leadership in Alaska May 25 6–8 p.m. Anchorage Museum Atrium Join cohort 25, Alumni Award winner Ken Miller, and a special keynote speaker for a celebration of Leadership Anchorage.


Working together with the

Alaska Humanities Forum to connect our community

Thank you for being a great neighbor and helping to make this such a wonderful community to be a part of.


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You Gotta Have Faith From ANSCA to art to reconciliation, this issue asks: What does it take to start something big?



Jovell Rennie Photographs | Best Beginnings at Twenty | Students and ANCSA | The Virgin of Guadalupe

Cover photo by Jovell Rennie

‘A lot of people came together who had faith in each other and faith in Alaskans looking at what needed to be done.’

In the voices of this issue, you may hear some common notes: strains of faith and trust. In choosing the articles, we weren’t listening for harmony, necessarily, but for enlightening echoes and promising discords. Take a look at the photo on page 24, depicting the “Unified Action Plan” devised by Alaska Native leaders in the early days of ANCSA. It’s a Herculean to-do list of philosophical, administrative, strategic, and cultural tasks, set against a ticking legislative clock. To tackle it requires serious faith in yourself and your people, and trust in your negotiating partners. “I admire the bravery that they demonstrated,” writes Maddie Christiansen, part of a new generation examining the legacy and future of ANCSA. Another endeavor measured in decades is a promotion of early childhood literacy in Alaska, launched in 2003 and now known as Best Beginnings (page 14). Ira Perman, former executive director of the Forum, describes a strategy with a long horizon of success: “If you put the effort in the front end of developing children, it pays off well on the back end when they grow into adults.” Susan Anderson, president of partner organization CIRI, provides the key to that front-end effort: “A lot of people came together who had faith in each other and faith in Alaskans looking at what needed to be done.” Faith is most explicitly addressed in this issue by writings and artwork about the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the significance of her story in Indigenous and colonial contexts over 500 years (pages 26-31). “My relationship status with la Virgen de Guadalupe is complicated,” artist Indra Arriaga Delgado reflects. “Painting ‘The Creation’ was an act of thinking through the complex dynamics of reconciling the ‘stories’ that form my identity and that of my people.” Through images and words—through the humanities—Indra brings to faith a necessary measure of complication and complexity. Photographer Jovell Rennie (cover and next page) is another artist with something to say about a kind of faith: “Trust has to be established between myself and the persons I’m photographing,” he says. How does he do it? “My process has to start with a connection. Sometimes that looks like a common interest; other times, it’s a shared curiosity. Every time though, it has to feel like a collaboration.” That’s what we’re about at the Alaska Humanities Forum: start with a connection, establish trust, collaborate. We have faith in the process. We couldn’t have said it better.

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Start with a Connection Photographs and remarks by Jovell Rennie

My process has to start with a connection. Sometimes that looks like a common interest; other times, it’s a shared curiosity. Every time though, it has to feel like a collaboration. Trust has to be established between myself and the persons I’m photographing. Photography allows me to participate in moments that I might otherwise feel out of place in, in a manner that feels genuine and isn’t obtrusive.”


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Whether it’s people or places on the other side of my lens, each photo made reminds me to sit in a moment. One of my goals is to give the viewer a sense of place. I want them to feel like they’re there.”


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JOVELL RENNIE (b. 1992) is a Trinidadian-born, Anchorage-raised artist. Rennie’s early photographic work focused on sharing his experiences of Alaska with a global audience through social media (Instagram & Twitter), web (Buzzfeed, CNN, Complex, Highsnobiety) and print based outlets. He has continued to use photography as a means of expression and connection within his community.

In 2018, Rennie co-founded Akela Space, a gallery showcasing contemporary Alaska art. He is also the creative lead for the Black in Alaska storytelling project, supported by the Rasmuson Foundation; Vice-Chair of the Municipality of Anchorage Arts Advisory Council; and previously served as an advisor for Black Lives in Alaska: Journey, Justice, Joy, an exhibition at the Anchorage Museum

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Alaska is a photographer’s playground. Finding new ways to show off the landscape can be a challenge. I sought to create abstractions and focus on the minutia of certain scenes. It isn’t my intention to trick the viewer but to show them something familiar in an unfamiliar way.”


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My goal is always the same: maintain the dignity of my subject. For the series ‘Skatey & the OGs,’ I chose to make the images in black and white because it strips away all the ‘extra’ things about a moment and allows you to focus on the individual. Their expressions, the lines in their faces, their hands, etc. We see the jewelry, and we know it’s shining—color doesn’t add to its richness. The day was a great one. We weren’t going to let a lil rain slow us down. In the last photo, you see Skatey sitting on the trunk, letting you know where he’s from. Anchorage all day.” ■


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Looking Upstream

A collective community builds a future for Alaska’s children By Lila Hobbs


s the Alaska Humanities Forum celebrates its 50th anniversary, it has a unique opportunity to reflect on the programs it has helped foster. These programs have been inextricably connected to the people whose bold ideas and unwavering determination have strengthened our communities. Two decades ago, the Forum was best known for its two signature programs, Leadership Anchorage and the Rose Urban Rural Exchange. With the desire to further its work, Forum staff and board members posed a critical yet straightforward question, “What can a small organization like the Forum do to move the needle and make Alaska a better place?” They knew, as one of 56 state and territorial councils supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and as a member of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, their next venture would be deeply rooted in a humanities discipline. Ira Perman, Executive Director of the Forum at the time, explains the conclusion they came to: “The best tool of the humanities is literacy—being able to read, write, and communicate well with others.” The Forum began convening conversations with curiosity and


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an unshakable belief that a difference could be made in the lives of Alaska’s children. Then it reached out to potential partners with whom it could pursue early literacy work. In 2003, the Forum, along with United Way of Anchorage, The CIRI Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, and Alaska State Library, invoked a streamlined, coordinated apporach to early childhood literacy services in Alaska. Perman noted, “Intuitively, it seemed like the right way to go. We came upon a well-regarded study, which confirmed our sense: If you put the effort in the front end of developing children, it pays off well on the back end when they grow into adults.” The study, Early Childhood Development with a High Public Return by Arthur Rolnick and

Ira Perman, left, was Executive Director of the Forum when it launched its statewide early literacy initiative. Abbe Hensley, right, is the longtime Executive Director of Best Beginnings. PHOTO BY WAYDE CARROLL PHOTOGRAPHY


Rob Grunewald, gave credence to the notion that a state’s investment in early childhood development can yield high economic and social returns. At the time, a seminal book, Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, had recently been published, and its findings were quickly catalyzing action across the nation. Its data revealed that early experiences in a child’s life were critical for setting them on a sucyou put the effort in the front cessful trajectory. Equipped with an abundance of reend of developing children, it search, the Forum assembled early childpays off well on the back end hood literacy professionals from across the state. Such an undertaking would not have when they grow into adults.” been possible without generous backing and support from The CIRI Foundation and Rasmuson Foundation. Their funding enabled the Forum to host a summit in May 2005, which pioneered the Alaska Ready to Read, Ready to Learn Task Force. Diverse leaders from the business, civic, education, government, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors comprised the 27-member Alaska Task Force. President and CEO of The CIRI Foundation and former Chair of Best Beginnings’ Ear-

ly Learning Council, Susan Anderson, shared, “A lot of people came together who had faith in each other and faith in Alaskans looking at what needed to be done. That’s what we are good at… and we worked toward what would benefit our littlest Alaskans.” Together, Task Force members spent a year gathering input and data from early learning and literacy experts, both in Alaska and nationally. Their findings produced a report released in September 2006, which outlined recommendations. The report would serve as a blueprint for how Alaska could better prepare its children for learning and life. The science was clear: The period between birth and six years old is critical for a child’s brain development. Parents can pro-

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Best Beginnings’ “Seasons of Alaska” books tells stories of seasonal life in rural Alaska from a child’s perspective. They were written and illustrated by Alaska Native authors and photographers.

mote their children’s positive brain development by reading aloud and telling stories to them. Providing children with early learning gives them the opportunity to succeed and pays dividends in return. In particular, one economic statistic spoke volumes to Task Force members: for every dollar invested in quality early learning programs, the state would reap a $7 to $17 return. At that time, nearly half of Alaska’s children were entering school unprepared to learn to read. The report underscored that early literacy is the single most critical way to set children up on a positive trajectory in life. CEO of thread, Stephanie Berglund, points out: When we support our youngest children, we are setting a whole generation up for success. This success benefits all of us. With a healthy start, children are more likely to graduate, be employed, and have higher earning jobs, which means they can contribute to Alaska’s workforce and economy and give back to our communities. There’s an economic driver when we support early childhood. We see cost savings in things like special education or children who repeat a grade; those elements cost us a lot in our education system… Studies show how early child investments also contribute to long-term health outcomes. It’s a great investment, but the challenge is that we don’t always see those benefits for 10-20 years, but that goes by fast. Our kindergarteners of today are our employees in ten years. It is a worthwhile investment for a stronger Alaska. BECOMING BEST BEGININGS

Ready to Read, Ready to Learn transformed into Best Beginnings, with a clear framework, objectives, and goals in place. Per-


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man explained the shift, “We needed staff to help carry out our objectives, and that’s when Abbe Hensley came into the picture.” He unequivocally noted, “One of the best things I ever did was to hire her.” Before becoming the Executive Director of Best Beginnings, Hensley was the Director of Outreach Services/Ready To Learn for Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) in Washington D.C., where she focused on improving children’s early literacy and school readiness. From the start, Hensley, a Task Force member, was invested. She continues to lead Best Beginnings. Praise for Hensley comes easily from colleagues. Susan Anderson exclaimed, “Abbe is amazing! She and her team and board members, what they have been doing throughout these 15 years is a labor of love. They’ve done an amazing amount of work with not a lot of funding. They’ve leveraged, partnered, been creative in working together with other organizations, all to the benefit of our littlest Alaskans.” Demonstrating an inimitable focus and steadfast commitment to her work, Hensley unsurprisingly has kept the “End Results” of the Task Force’s report pinned to her office wall as a North Star for the past 15 years. At the top of the page, it states, “We’ll know we’re successful when…” Perhaps one of the most convincing measures of success says, “Early childhood learning is a societal imperative in Alaska.” Hensley explained, “The Task Force took a big leap of faith that we would get there someday. While the work isn’t finished, most Alaskans know the early years are a critical time of brain-building and setting a solid foundation for future growth and development.” CULTURE AND COMMUNITY

Best Beginnings has pioneered many successful programs throughout its tenure. A Task Force recommendation noted the need for culturally relevant books for Alaskan children, so Best Beginnings published its “Seasons of Alaska” board book collection. Each of the four books tells a unique story of seasonal life in rural Alaska from a child’s perspective. Alaska Native authors and photographers collaborated on the board books, which

Dolly Parton and Kindergarten Readiness BEST BEGINNINGS has successfully worked on all 11 of its Task Force recommendations. For example, to increase the engagement of families in their child’s learning, Best Beginnings supports affiliates of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library across the state, including Anchorage. Funded by affiliates at $30 per year per child, Imagination Library provides books to children from birth to 5 at no cost to their families. By connecting families to highquality, age-appropriate books, parents and caregivers are more likely to read and interact with their children, better preparing them for school. In 2009, when Best Beginnings began its support, there were Imagination Libraries in Hoonah, Nome, Fairbanks, and Anchorage, and 3,673 children were reached. Over a decade later, there are 30 Imagination Library affiliates in Alaska providing books in 138 communities, and more than 2.5 million Imagination Library books have been distributed. Alaska is regarded as a national exemplar of creative problem-solving across communities to overcome geographic and resource hurdles. In 2015, enrollment reached its peak at 23,378 (equivalent to 43% of Alaska’s children under the age of five). Inconsistent funding from the legislature has caused participation in Imagination Library to oscillate. Currently, there are 14,226 children in the program, leaving a formidable gap to close to serve the approximately 54,000 children under the age of five in the state. In 2020, Education Northwest conducted the first large-scale quantitative evaluation of the Imagination Library program in Alaska. According to the Alaska Developmental Profile kindergarten entry assessment indicators, participation in Imagination Library is associated with higher literacy skills and increased kindergarten readiness. Simply put, Imagination Library works.

garnered statewide and national acclaim. Taking on another recommendation, Best Beginnings produced activity guides in Spanish and Yup’ik to help parents understand Alaska’s Early Learning Guidelines that underpin policies and curriculum, and recently updated the English version and added “how-to” videos. Former Child Development Division Director at RurAL CAP and long-time Best Beginnings board member Debi Baldwin outlined the collective community building that reading and books produce for children: The more common connections we can see between children, the more opportunities they have to bond, expand, and create friendships. We can create an experience that all children, no matter what family they come from or their economic situation, can come together and have a shared experience around a book… It becomes ownership. When we introduce a book to children, that book becomes theirs. They find ownership in that story and start telling it out. Children start getting their parents involved.

It is vital to honor Best Beginnings’ accomplishments and the Forum’s role in helping launch it. Our future as Alaskans relies on our vision and commitment to the next generation. We as a community must recognize that there is still much more work to do to meet the Task Force’s goals, systematically support children and families, and change adverse outcomes. Vice President, Community Advancement at United Way of Anchorage, June Sobocinski, observed, “A collaborative spirit is necessary, and all of us in the community need to lean into that. We need to come together around opportunities that arise to make change, and I have faith that those opportunities are coming.” Sobocinski elaborated: We are grappling with a lot of things in Alaska. People are concerned about homelessness, housing, and struggling families. We need to have the rigor to look upstream from that because we tend to focus our attention on fixing the problem in front of us. We do need to address those immediate challenges. However, we will always be dealing with dire issues of homelessness and struggling families if we don’t also look upstream to improve how we are supporting our children and families to thrive from the very beginning. That’s why Best Beginnings and all its partners’ work is so important.

What is needed? More people and the will to support, reinforce, and expand existing programs and services. Just like the reminder hanging from Hensley’s wall, we can and should make early childhood learning a societal imperative. When each of us participates, our collective momentum has the power to realize this goal. Here are a few ways you can get involved: encourage policymakers to make sustained investments in early childhood literacy, donate, or partner with Best Beginnings. To build a brighter future for Alaska’s children, visit ■ Lila Hobbs lives and works on Dena’ina Ełnena. She utilizes storytelling as a medium to build community, inspire activism, and enhance stewardship of a wilder world. Learn more about her work at A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 22



It’s Easy to Support Causes Through Everyday Actions The Forum’s mission of promoting connection can be supported in the age of remote consumption


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Times are changing fast and our daily lives are constantly evolving. We no longer need to run to the store for a forgotten item—or any item, for that matter. We can shop online and have it delivered directly to our door, anything from food to furniture to household items. Nowadays, we can just drive up, open our trunk, and have our order loaded. By shopping this way, we miss the coin jars on checkout counters. We miss walking by posters on bulletin boards. But there are still easy ways to indirectly support the local community, including the Alaska Humanities Forum and other groups you care about. FRED MEYER REWARDS. If you use grocery pick-up or delivery (or shop in person at Fred Meyer and have a Rewards card), you can easily support a community organization you care about. Once you link your Rewards account to the Alaska Humanities Forum at, every time you shop, you support connecting communities. It is a “set it and forget it” way of using your shopping cart to help the community. AMAZON. If you have an Amazon habit, start shopping at On your first visit, you’ll be prompted to pick your non-profit (we are on there!). Then every time you shop at, your purchases directly result in dollars back to us. You can also set your Amazon app to share support every time you shop. Enjoy that delivery, knowing your community can have more conversations. PICK.CLICK.GIVE. As Alaskans, we are well versed in

the Permanent Fund Dividend. Make sure you are also well versed in Pick.Click.Give. When you apply for your PFD (don’t forget!), you can elect to support Alaskan non-profits. Even if you don’t exercise that option when you’re applying for the PFD, you can go to and make a selection through September. This is a great way to introduce kids to philanthropy and let them pick causes they love.


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Support the Forum Directly Donate directly to the Forum online: Join a workshop, conversation, training, or event: Subscribe to FORUM magazine: Or send a check using the enclosed envelope.


Welcoming a New NEH Chair: Shelly C. Lowe Lowe is the first Native American selected to lead the federal cultural agency, and second woman

Lowe’s career roles have included: Executive Director of the Harvard University Native American Program Assistant Dean in the Yale College Dean’s Office Director of the Native American Cultural Center at Yale University Graduate Education Program Facilitator for the American Indian Studies Programs at the University of Arizona. University of Arizona Alumni Association Governing Board Challenge Leadership Group for the MIT Solve Indigenous Communities Fellowship National Indian Education Association board member National Museum of the American Indian board trustee Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, Master of Arts in American Indian Studies, and doctoral coursework in Higher Education from the University of Arizona

Earlier this spring, President Biden’s nominee, Shelly C. Lowe, was confirmed by the US Senate as the twelfth Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). We at the Alaska Humanities Forum are thrilled by the appointment of Chair Lowe, and we look forward to hosting her visit to our great state soon. Lowe is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Ganado, Arizona. From 2015 to 2021, she served as a member of the National Council on the Humanities, the 26-member advisory body to NEH, an appointment she received from President Obama. NEH Assistant Chair for Programs Adam “I am honored and privileged to serve Wolfson has served as the agency’s Acting the nation as Chair of the National Chair since January 2021. “We are thrilled to Endowment for the Humanities and am welcome Shelly Lowe as NEH’s new Chair,” said grateful for the bipartisan support of the Wolfson. “Throughout her six years on the NaSenate and of President Biden and Vice tional Council, Lowe has demonstrated a deep President Harris. commitment to supporting the study and presHaving grown up in a small rural ervation of America’s rich traditions, history, Navajo community in Northeast and culture. We know that her leadership will Arizona, I have personally seen how enlarge the agency’s ability to support excelthe humanities can help lence in the humanities and serve all Americans.” “Access to humanities sustain and strengthen “It is no wonder that Shelly Lowe individuals, communities, resources remains and institutions, yet I has been tapped to serve the public as Chair of the National Endowment unevenly distributed am alert to the fact that for the Humanities,” said Harvard across our country.” access to humanities University President Lawrence S. Baresources remains unevenly cow. “She is an individual of extraordistributed across our dinary experience, insight, and wisdom, and she country. I look forward to working with cares deeply about the humanities and the cenNEH staff and the network of state and tral role they play in all of our lives. Though we jurisdictional humanities councils to will miss her at Harvard, we know that her care expand opportunities for all Americans and skill will be put to their best use as she works to participate in and benefit from to enlarge and enhance the role of art, culture, humanities-centered research, education, and history in this country and elsewhere.” ■ and public programs.” — Shelly C. Lowe

Through New Eyes

A student research project supported by Alaska Pacific University and the Alaska Humanities Forum reflects on 50 Years of ANCSA By Ben Baldwin, Madelyn Christiansen, and Canyon Kokochuruk


his winter marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, or ANCSA. This historic piece of legislation has grown to impact far more than just Alaska Native communities, becoming one of the state’s leading economic drivers. Though many


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Evelyn Pete watches as her eldest son Louis, who missed benefits under ANCSA because he was one-sixteenth too low, swings her youngest son Matt Frankson, who missed benefits because he was born after December 18, 1971. April 1984. PHOTO BY BILL HESS. TUNDRA TIMES PHOTOGRAPH PROJECT, ACCESSION NUMBER TT.00377

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challenges remain, ANCSA and Alaska have both come a long way over the past 50 years. Amid all the anniversary celebrations, retrospectives, and critiques, one aspect that has received less attention is how the younger generation has received it. These people will see ANCSA through the next 50 years. As members of that generation, we know that many young people are disconnected from ANCSA, largely unaware of its history BEN BALDWIN and how it affects our lives today. In response, we looked deeper into ANCSA as part of a student research project supported by APU and the Alaska Humanities Forum. Our research focused on historic photos published by the Alaska Native newspaper The Tundra Times, now archived by the Tuzzy Consortium Library at Ilisaġvik College in Utqiaġvik, especially the work of Tundra Times reporter Bill Hess. His portraits and candid images record the positive changes as well as challenges that began to emerge after the passage of the act, such as uncertainty over how ANCSA’s initial benefits would be passed down to future generations. Between these firsthand images of ANCSA’s legacy unfolding and our interviews with other students today, we came away with a new perspective on ANCSA as a living document and better ideas of what we want it to look like in the future. —Ben Baldwin •


’m Canyon Kokochuruk. My mom’s family is from White Mountain, Alaska, and my dad’s family is from Hilo, Hawai’i. I didn’t get involved with my regional corporation until after high school when people told me to fill out scholarships. They were like, “Oh, you’re Native— just apply for the Native ones,” not realizing how those scholarships were really specific and regionally based. There are also tribal requirements that you have to go through, and I have different tribal affiliations, so the result was pretty challenging. At the time, what I knew of ANCSA was that Alaska was broken up into multiple parts, and the people were required to establish corporations. We get things from those corporations, and they help us in various ways, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I think as scary as it is, and as much as we’ve been told to be quiet, advocacy and self-advocacy are where the change will come from. When I asked how some of my friends feel about ANCSA, which directly affects our people, I was surprised with many negative responses and anxiety about whether its prom-

“We need to be making sure that people aren’t getting left behind or falling through our system.” 22

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ises have been kept. To those dissatisfied people, I would say that their feelings are valid. Their experiences are theirs, and I wouldn’t know that’s not what they’re going through. But I would also say that our communities’ challenges will not get easier to deal with. I think it’s valuable that critics bring those perspectives to the board of directors and Elders councils, letting people know, “Hey, I don’t feel supported as a Native person by the people that I’m supposed to; how can I get that support I need?” If there is one thing that I could tell a board of directors of one of the corporations, based on what I’ve heard and seen from the people I reached out with, I would say that we need to be making sure that people aren’t getting left behind or falling through

Participants at the Venetie hearings, December 1984. PHOTO BY BILL HESS. TUNDRA TIMES PHOTOGRAPH PROJECT, ACCESSION NUMBER TT.00387

our system. It’s not that we’re not doing a good job; it’s just that some people are left out. For example, I think a lot of contention comes from people who weren’t here when ANCSA was signed or descendants who don’t get what shareholders get. How do we move forward and heal some of these divides? I think just making sure everyone feels like they’ve got someone that’s got their back, someone’s looking out for them. Just as we’re diverse people, we have diverse opinions, and that’s valuable. It’s an integral part of our people’s history. I had so much to learn, and I still have so much to learn, and this has shown me how complex our history is. With a better idea and understanding of what people had to go through to make ANCSA a reality, we could respect and understand where our Elders are coming from and what they did for us to be here today. And I hope people who aren’t Native can appreciate how hard we’ve worked to be acknowledged and ask for respect instead of revenge. I think that’s powerful, and it’s something that not many people recognize.

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A meeting about ANCSA in Minto. Roscoe Bill and Joe Lawler are among those present” Circa 1965–1980. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER, TUNDRA TIMES PHOTOGRAPH PROJECT, ACCESSION NUMBER 00547

Howard Rock (left) looks on while Harry Carter, executive director of the Alaska Federation of Natives, talks about the tasks and challenges after the passage of ANCSA. PHOTO BY JIMMY BEDFORD. TUNDRA TIMES PHOTOGRAPH PROJECT, ACCESSION NUMBER 00891

Eben Hopson (L) and Joe Upicksoun (R) testifying before a panel conducting hearings on land claims in Barrow.” Circa 1965-72. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. TUNDRA TIMES PHOTOGRAPH PROJECT, ACCESSION NUMBER TT.00913


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am Maddie Christiansen. I’m from Old Harbor, Alaska. My parents are CJ and Angie Christiansen, and my grandparents are Darlene and Carl Christiansen. I would like to thank my regional corporation for funding some of the guiding experiences I have had in my life. Growing up, I participated in Alutiiq dance, and in high school, I learned how to speak Alutiiq. I went to cultural camps, which helped me connect to my culture and other Native youth in the area, significantly impacting my life and how I interact with the world. Although I wasn’t always aware of the link between those opportunities and my corporation—now I appreciate that I was taught to be proud of being Sugpiaq/Alutiiq from a young age. I am reminded of the difference in support and encouragement between my experiences and my father’s and grandfather’s generations. Looking deeper into the history of the Settlement Act, I liked going through all the historic pictures in the Tundra Times archive at Ilisaġvik College. I especially felt drawn to the peoples’ faces. I try to keep close contact with my family members, but I feel disconnected from my culture because of where I’m currently living. While I feel a deep connection to my culture in Kodiak and Old Harbor, I only feel it when I am there. It is something I am trying to work through. All the ANCSA pictures brought joy into my heart because they reminded me of the gatherings in my village. It is inspiring to see the faces of the people who impacted my life and many other Alaska Natives’ lives •


by asserting their land claims. I admire the bravery that they demonstrated. As I continue to reflect on ANCSA, I believe some changes could be made to represent better who we are today. I think the regional corporations have fulfilled their economic development mission for shareholders. But I hope to see all regional corporations invest more in their village economies in the future. I’d also like to see corporations invest more in shareholders’ mental health and cultural well-being. Mental health services are not adequate in villages, and we need to do a lot of healing together. Historical trauma in Alaska Natives is not being addressed or talked about appropriately on a community basis. Finding a way to address the trauma as a community is what I would ask for the corporations to focus on for the next 50 years. ■ The authors were undergraduate students at Alaska Pacific University at the time of writing.

“I’d like to see corporations invest more in shareholders’ mental health and cultural well-being.”

With the help of her son Sean (right) and nephew Travis Hess, Georgiana Lincoln pulls in King Salmon. 1984. PHOTO BY BILL HESS, TUNDRA TIMES PHOTOGRAPH PROJECT, ACCESSION NUMBER TT.02625

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Cantar, Bailar y Orar por Nuestra Señora de la Piel Morena


Singing, Dancing, and Praying for Our Lady with Brown Skin


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The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe La historia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe


n Indigenous Mexican young man experienced a miracle on December 12, 1531. He was poor and felt that dignitaries often set brown people like him aside. But he learned that people forgotten by society could have agency, too, and inspired generations of Mexicans to follow suit. His name was Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, but history remembers him simply as Juan Diego. He lived near Tepeyac Hill in what is now northern Mexico City. A poem known as Nican Mopohua recounts the miracle in the tongue of the Aztecs, Nahuatl. It narrates how Juan Diego was walking on Tepeyac, listening to the birds sing when he perceived that the hill, too, was singing. The music was bright and uplifting, and he thought it was part of a dream. But then he paid close attention and heard the hill calling his name: “Little Juan, little Juan Diego.” Juan Diego climbed Tepeyac to discover it was not the hill calling him but a majestic lady “of astounding perfection.” Her dress was as bright as the sun; the rocks where she stood resembled jade, and the cacti surrounding her were equal to quetzal feathers in their beauty. Juan Diego bowed down and listened. “Where are you going, my youngest son?” the lady asked. The young man explained that he was going to catechism. The woman of the vision introduced herself. “I gave birth to the giver of Life, the people’s Creator, the owner of what is near and far, of the sky and the land.” The lady told Juan Diego she wanted a temple where she could pour her blessings on those who entrusted themselves to her. She urged him to visit the bishop and ask that it be built. That same day, Juan Diego visited Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, the head of Mexico’s diocese, and told his story. But Zumárraga did not believe him. The bishop thought that the woman Juan Diego described resembled Our Lady of Guadalupe, but why would the Virgin Mary appear not to a dignitary but to a poor, Indigenous man? Juan Diego left disappointed, but on his way back, he saw the lady again. Believing himself too humble for her message, the young man tried to persuade the Virgin

By / Por Gabriela Olmos

Why would the Virgin Mary appear not to a dignitary but to a poor, Indigenous man?

¿Por qué la Virgen María se aparecería a un pobre indígena y no a un funcionario de alto rango?


n joven indígena nacido en México vivió un milagro el 12 de diciembre de 1531. Él era pobre y sentía que las autoridades a menudo hacían de lado a la gente morena como él. Pero aprendió que las personas olvidadas por la sociedad también pueden tener cierta influencia, e inspiró a generaciones de mexicanos a seguir su ejemplo. Su nombre era Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, pero la historia lo recuerda simplemente como Juan Diego. Vivía cerca del Cerro del Tepeyac en lo que ahora es el norte de la Ciudad de México. Un poema conocido como Nican Mopohua narra el milagro en la lengua que hablaban los aztecas, el náhuatl. El poema cuenta cómo Juan Diego caminaba por el Tepeyac escuchando el canto de los pájaros cuando se percató de que el cerro también cantaba. La música era muy hermosa y parecía flotar en el aire. Así que Juan Diego pensó que aquello era solo un sueño. Pero luego prestó atención y escuchó que el cerro decía su nombre: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito”. Juan Diego subió al Tepeyac para descubrir que no era el cerro quien lo llamaba sino una majestuosa dama “de admirable perfección.” Su vestido era brillante como el sol; las rocas donde se encontraba parecían hechas de jade, y los cactus que la rodeaban eran tan bellos como plumas de quetzal. Juan Diego se inclinó y escuchó: “Hijo mío, el más pequeño, Juanito, ¿a dónde vas?” preguntó la señora. El joven le explicó que iba al catecismo. Entonces, la mujer se presentó. Soy “la madrecita del dador de la vida, del inventor de la gente”, del dueño de lo que está cerca y lo que está lejos, de los cielos y de la superficie terrestre. Ella le dijo a Juan Diego que quería un templo donde pudiera derramar sus bendiciones sobre quienes se encomendaran a ella. Y lo instó a visitar al obispo y pedir que se construyera. Ese mismo día, Juan Diego se presentó ante el obispo Juan de Zumárraga, quien estaba a cargo de la diócesis de México, y le contó su historia. Pero Zumárraga no le creyó. El obispo pensó que la mujer que Juan Diego describía se parecía a Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, pero ¿por qué la Virgen María se aparecería a un pobre indígena y no a un funcionario de alto rango?

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to appear instead to a noble who would have a voice in the highest levels of the Church. No one, he said, would listen to a peasant sitting at “the tail or the wing” of society. But Our Lady of Guadalupe answered, “Prominent people cannot deliver my message,” and so she had chosen Juan Diego to carry out the task. Juan Diego visited Zumárraga the following day and delivered the Virgin’s message again. In disbelief, the bishop asked for proof of her divine nature. When the young man left Zumárraga’s office, the bishop ordered his men to follow Juan Diego. They tried but lost him at Tepeyac. The young man was to return to the bishop’s office the next day, where Zumárraga planned to have him arrested. But this was not to be Juan Diego’s fate: his elderly uncle Juan Bernardino fell sick, and that night the young man left for the city, seeking a priest who would give Bernardino his last confession. As he crossed Tepeyac, Juan Diego changed his route. His uncle was gravely ill, and in his haste, he wanted to avoid “the noble lady.” But his efforts were in vain; the Virgin appeared before him on the path. When he saw her, Juan Diego felt fearful and ashamed. He promised to resume her quest once he had cared for his uncle. The Virgin reassured Juan Diego that she was there to help him as a mother would and then performed a miracle: she healed Juan Bernardino. She told Juan Diego to climb Tepeyac and gather the flowers growing where she first appeared. Flowers barely grew on that arid hill, but Juan Diego found a garden in full bloom at its peak. He gathered the flowers in his robe, and the Virgin instructed him to deliver them to the bishop’s office as the proof he had requested. When Zumárraga received him, the young man unfolded his robe, and the bishop bore witness to another miracle of the Lady from Tepeyac: her image painted itself on the robe as the flowers fell to the ground. Zumárraga cried for the Virgin Mary to forgive his disbelief and ordered the construction of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Basilica on Tepeyac.


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Choir and parishioners at the Las Manañitas service, paying homage to Our Lady of Guadalupe. December 12, 2021, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Anchorage. Coro y feligreses en la celebración de Las Mañanitas cantan en homenaje a Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Diciembre 12, 2021, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe en Anchorage.

A message of empowerment beyond Mexico OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE’S

story does not end there. When she appeared to Juan Diego, the Virgin Mary had brown skin and spoke his language. For the first time, a people unheard, unseen, and disenfranchised felt that someone was paying attention to them and faithfully visited Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Basilica. Her empowering message made her a religious icon in Mexico, and the Church declared her the country’s patron saint. To this day, millions of Mexicans venerate her and celebrate the miracle on December 12. Nearly 11 million believers joined the last pre-pandemic pilgrimage to her Basilica for the 2019 festivities. Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe knows no borders, and Mexicans living in the US join the celebration from their adopted homeland. Each year, hundreds of devotees gather in the Los Angeles Cathedral to sing for her the Mexican birthday song. Hundreds of runners relay a torch from the Guadalupe Basilica to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York for the Antorcha Guadalupana Race since 1997. Mexicans in Denver stage a play that intermingles the stories of the miracle and the daily lives of immigrants in a fictional town. And more than

200,000 devotees attend Chicago’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Sanctuary every year. Some make pilgrimages from nearby churches or neighboring states, making this the second-largest celebration of Guadalupe in the world. The Virgin also watches over Mexicans living in Alaska. Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Festival in Anchorage dates back to the 1970s. Believers gather at 5 a.m. to serenade Our Lady of Guadalupe in her church. They also celebrate her during the Sunday mass. Parishioners share a language that connects them beyond words: that of empathy, kindness, and compassion. During the festival, people from all walks of life join their voices to remember that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego as a brown woman, speaking a native tongue. And they celebrate the miracle that has empowered millions of Mexicans by singing, dancing, and praying.

Juan Diego partió desilusionado, pero en el camino de regreso volvió a ver a la Virgen. Juan Diego pensaba que él era demasiado humilde para llevar su mensaje. Así que trató de persuadirla de que se le apareciera más bien a un noble que tuviera voz en los más altos niveles de la Iglesia. Nadie, dijo, escucharía a un campesino sentado en “la cola o el ala” de la sociedad. Pero Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe respondió: “No son gente de rango mis servidores”, y por eso eligió a Juan Diego para llevar a cabo la tarea. Juan Diego visitó a Zumárraga al día siguiente para reiterar el mensaje de la Virgen. Incrédulo, el obispo pidió pruebas de su naturaleza divina. Cuando el joven salió de la oficina de Zumárraga, el obispo ordenó a sus hombres que lo siguieran. Lo intentaron, pero el muchacho se les perdió en el Tepeyac. El joven debía regresar al día siguiente a la oficina del obispo, donde Zumárraga planeaba que se le arrestara. Pero ese no sería el destino de Juan Diego: su anciano tío Juan Bernardino enfermó, y esa noche tuvo que partir para la ciudad en busca de un cura que le diera a Bernardino su última confesión. Al cruzar el Tepeyac, Juan Diego cambió de ruta. Su tío estaba gravemente enfermo y, en su prisa, el muchacho quería evitar a “la noble señora”. Pero sus esfuerzos fueron en vano; la Virgen se le apareció en el camino. Al verla, Juan Diego sintió miedo y vergüenza, y le prometió retomar su tarea una vez que se hubiera hecho cargo de la salud de su tío. La Virgen le aseguró que ella estaba allí para ayudarlo como lo haría una madre y luego hizo un milagro: sanó a Juan Bernardino. La Virgen le dijo a Juan Diego que subiera al Tepeyac y recogiera las flores que crecían donde ella se le apareció por primera vez. Apenas crecían flores en aquel árido cerro, pero Juan Diego encontró en la cima un jardín en flor. El joven recogió las flores en su túnica, según lo había indicado la Virgen, y las llevó a la oficina del obispo como la prueba que él había pedido. Cuando Zumárraga lo recibió, el joven extendió su tilma y el obispo fue testigo de otro milagro de la Virgen de Guadalupe: su imagen se pintó en la tilma mientras las flores caían al suelo. Zumárraga clamó a la Virgen María que perdonara su incredulidad y ordenó la construcción de la Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe en el cerro del Tepeyac.

Danza azteca durante la misa de 11:30, con el arzobispo Belisario. Diciembre 12, 2021, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe en Anchorage. Aztec dance during the 11:30 Mass with Archbishop Bellisario joining. December 12, 2021, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Anchorage.

Un mensaje de empoderamiento más allá de México PERO LA HISTORIA de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe no termina ahí. Cuando se le apareció a Juan Diego, la Virgen María tenía la piel morena y hablaba su idioma. Por primera vez, las personas que no tenían voz, los invisibles y los olvidados por la sociedad sintieron que alguien les prestaba atención y empezaron a visitar fielmente la Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Su poderoso mensaje la convirtió en un ícono religioso en México y la Iglesia la declaró santa patrona del país. Millones de mexicanos la veneran en la actualidad y celebran el milagro cada 12 de diciembre. En 2019, casi 11 millones de creyentes se unieron a la última peregrinación a la Basílica antes de la pandemia. La devoción a Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe no conoce fronteras, y los mexicanos que viven en los Estados Unidos también la celebran desde su patria adoptiva. Cada año, cientos de feligreses se reúnen en la catedral de Los Ángeles para cantarle Las Mañanitas. Un buen número de corredores hacen relevos con una antorcha desde la Basílica de Guadalupe hasta la catedral de San Patricio en Nueva York durante la carrera de la Antorcha Guadalupana, que se celebra desde 1997. Los mexicanos

radicados en Denver presentan una obra de teatro que entremezcla la historia del milagro y la vida cotidiana de los inmigrantes en un pueblo ficticio. Y más de 200,000 devotos asisten al Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe en Chicago cada año. Algunos peregrinan desde iglesias cercanas o incluso desde los estados vecinos, lo que la convierte en la segunda celebración de Guadalupe más grande del mundo. La Virgen también vela por los mexicanos que viven en Alaska. La celebración de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe en Anchorage se remonta a la década de 1970. Los feligreses se reúnen a las 5:00 a. m. para dar una serenata a Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe en su iglesia. También la celebran durante la misa dominical. Quienes asisten a la celebración comparten un lenguaje que los conecta más allá de las palabras: el de la empatía, la bondad y la compasión. Durante la fiesta de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, feligreses de todas las clases sociales unen sus voces para recordar que ella se le apareció a Juan Diego como una mujer morena, que hablaba una lengua indígena. Y cantan, bailan y oran para celebrar el milagro que ha empoderado a millones de mexicanos. ■

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“The Creation” Mixed media on wood, by Indra Arriaga Delgado

It’s Complicated Indra Arriaga Delgado’s painting is an act of thinking through the untold


“The Creation” is a story I tell myself about the now almost-inseparable bond between the Virgen de Guadalupe and Tonantzin, about the creation of the world through an Indigenous womb.

here's a story in my family of when I was about 9 years old, and I was a badly behaved child—extremely badly behaved. I suppose my rebellion and inconformity had something to do with being uprooted from my home in rural Mexico, where I ran around free, and was then taken to Texas where we lived in a one-bedroom apartment, I had no friends, didn't speak the language, and wasn't allowed out because the city presented dangers I wouldn't know how to handle. My mother had reached a point where she was ready to take me back to Mexico to stay with my grandmother because I was insufferable. On the way home, we accompanied my great-aunt, Tia Melo, to the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City, the heart of our faith. The story goes (and it is a true story because I remember it) that we went inside the basilica and Tia Melo said a prayer asking the Virgen de Guadalupe to take me into her care. I rolled my eyes and went out to explore, with my mom and my aunt following behind me. There was quite a distance between us because they walked slowly, and I ran off. As I was spiritedly walking, someone slapped me on the back of my head. I was thrust forward in one fell swoop and my scalp burned where I had been hit. I thought my mother had slapped my head and I turned around angrily and yelled, “Why did you hit me?!” but there was no one there. My mother and my great-aunt observed what happened at a distance and stood quietly still. My mother reports that I was a different child after that incident. She calls it a miracle. I refer to it as getting bitch-slapped by the Virgen. My relationship status with la Virgen de Guadalupe is complicated. Like many Mexican children, I was taught and even memorized Juan Diego's trek up, down, and around the Tepeyac, how he navigated the racist clergy and brought forth the miracle of the roses and a newly-minted image of Mary in brown-face. But I was never told about the Spaniards’ colo-

nization practices of building their churches over ceremonial sites to bury the Indigenous religions and keep the people coming back to the sites. Conversion was all about location, location, location. I was never told that the Virgen de Guadalupe was Tonantzin’s doppelganger. Tonantzin is our Indigenous deity whose name means “our holy/sacred mother.” I was never told that the image of the Virgen is believed to be painted by an Indigenous artist. I was never told that many of the ancient dances were forbidden; in fact, I was never told a lot of things. Painting “The Creation” was an act of thinking through the complex dynamics of reconciling the “stories” that form my identity and that of my people. Five hundred years of colonization, or invasion, has resulted in a lopsided sense of history, especially if you have Indigenous or Black roots because you are told again and again that is better to be White; that you’re of a higher class, more beautiful, and smarter if you can say you have blood ties to Europe. Well, I don’t. And if I do, I don’t know it. “The Creation” is a story I tell myself about the now almost-inseparable bond between the Virgen de Guadalupe and Tonantzin, about the creation of the world through an Indigenous womb. Because if the colonizers can tell me a story to belittle my brownness, then I can tell a story to usurp their creation—a religious icon—and I can honor my mixed heritage without compromising my Indigenous roots and contribute maybe just a little to 500 years of ongoing resistance. The Indigenous deity in the painting is not Tonantzin, it’s Coyolxauhqui—but that is a different story. ■ —­Indra Arriaga Delgado Indra Arriaga Delgado is a Mexican artist, research analyst, and community organizer living and working in Anchorage, Alaska. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 22





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Willie Iggiagruk Hensley is one of the subjects of the next round of Magnetic North films. ASL-HENSLEY-WILLIE-2, ALASKA STATE LIBRARY

More Magnetic North films in production Magnetic North is a documentary film project produced by the Alaska Humanities Forum in partnership with Rasmuson Foundation. The series explores the personality and character of Alaskans, whose actions and ideas have shaped the history, spirit, and values of our state. Collectively, they challenge preconceived notions of the Last Frontier, promote a richer understanding of its unique identity, and speak to our shared experience of life in contemporary Alaska. Six films were completed in 2020 in the first phase of the project, with three new films slated for release in 2022, including Ed Rasmuson, Vic Fischer, and Willie Hensley. For more information, contact George Martinez at





Toolkits available

Continuing to create cultural competence


Are you ready to get people in your community talking? The Forum’s Kindling Conversation Program was built to help you do just that. It provides themed toolkits, host support, and $250 TAKE WING in funding to Alaskans ALASKA interested in hosting short, thoughtful community conversations tailored to connect people across differences and foster inclusive conversational spaces throughout the state. Each toolkit has a focused conversation guide, a springboard to launch discussion, community agreements for the shared space, and participant surveys so that you’ll have everything you need to host. For more information, contact Oliviah Franke at

The Governor’s Arts and Humanities Awards is an annual partnership between the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation, and the Office of the Governor to recognize and honor noteworthy contributions to the arts and humanities in Alaska. Each year, these partners select awardees in several distinct categories. This year’s GAHA will air on KTOO on April 28, 2022, at 8 p.m. Check your local listings.

The Alaska Humanities Forum partners with communities, Alaska Native organizations, and school districts across three rural regions to provide the Creating Cultural Competence (C3) program. Newly hired teachers participate alongside Elders, culture bearers, local youth, and peers in a cultural immersion during the summer under the structure of a university-level multicultural studies course. For more information, contact Amanda Dale at


Ken Miller Leadership Anchorage’s 25th cohort



Save the date: May 25 This year’s Celebrating Leadership event is also the silver anniversary of Leadership Anchorage and the graduation of our 25th cohort. Hear from our alumni awardee, Ken Miller, and a keynote speaker. For more information or to sponsor the event, contact Rachael McPherson at

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We Welcome the Forum’s New Board Members! Alaska Humanities Forum board members are active change-makers and community leaders, listeners and storytellers, fundraisers, and friend-raisers from across the state. All of our board members serve as volunteers, and they receive no compensation for their service to our organization.


“These past couple of years, it’s been stories that have really sustained and nourished me. I’m really

looking forward to connecting with folks from across Alaska who are committed to the idea that humanities and our human connections are what offer us hope for a sustainable future.”

Dr. Rachael “Ray” Ball

Associate Professor of History, University of Alaska Anchorage Originally from Oklahoma, Dr. Ball is a Fulbright Scholar, an award-winning teacher, and the author of four books. Teaching at UAA has made her particularly conscious of issues of equity and access, as well as the challenges and benefits of dialogue and communication with people from diverse experiences. Selected affiliations and leadership roles: the literary magazines Coffin Bell, Juke Joint , and Alaska Women Speak . DR. KRISTINA BELLAMY

“I look forward to my service with the Alaska Humanities Forum. Sharing our greatness through our lived experiences and stories is foundational and critical to bridging divides and healing as a state-wide community. I’m humbled and excited to serve such an amazing organization”. Dr. Kristina Bellamy

Director, K-12 Teaching & Learning, Anchorage School District Born and raised in Anchorage, Dr. Kristina Bellamy wears many hats. An educator with more than 22 years of experience, she has been engaged in shaping policy, practice, and culture in public school systems. Dr. Bellamy holds a Doctorate of Education Leadership and Policy Studies. Selected affiliations and leadership roles: Simply Stunning, LLC; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Jack and Jill of America, Anchorage Chapter; Anchorage Opera; Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. KATHERINE “KITTY” FARNHAM

Katherine “Kitty” Farnham


“Alaska is my home, our place, and our future is deeply important to me. I believe we have tremendous opportunities to create a healthy and vibrant place on the planet, primarily through caring and quality relationships. Serving on the Alaska Humanities Forum board is an honor and a distinctive way to be a contribution to this future.”

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Principal, Catalyst Consulting Kitty Farnham of Anchorage has a career spanning four decades in Alaska, with leadership roles in corporate, public, private, and non-profit sectors, including the Forum, where she led Leadership Programs. Her passion is discovering and catalyzing possibility and results with people, organizations, communities, and networks. She has served on several Alaska boards where her areas of expertise include network building, board development, and strategy.


Assistant Professor, Alaska Native Studies, University of Alaska Fairbanks Dr. Daazhraii Charleen Fisher has experience in primary, intermediate, and secondary education and maintains current teaching and principal endorsements. She worked to incorporate Indigenous values and practices into the operations of Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments. Dr. Fisher writes grants for multiple organizations in the area of Indigenous language revitalization. Selected affiliations and leadership roles: Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute of Alaska; Doyon Ltd.; Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments (CATG)

Dr. Fisher hopes “Alaskans can continue to live their culture and learn their Indigenous languages. The United Nations has declared 2022-2032 the International Decade of the Indigenous Language, and it is my hope that the Forum will continue to contribute to language revitalization efforts.”


“I am looking forward to making Alaska Humanities Forum programming reach and engage more diverse members of our communities. I would also like to keep fostering deep conversations in the civic and cultural programs that the organization has already created and is in the process of expanding.”

Associate Professor of Spanish, University of Alaska Anchorage In addition to Dr. Miranda’s instruction in Spanish language and composition, he serves as the Chair of UAA’s Department of Languages and Faculty Director of Major Scholarships. For more than 20 years, he has supported the aspirations of UAA students coming from traditionally underrepresented, underserved, and academically underprepared backgrounds. He has worked to create safe spaces within a shared social environment.

Dr. Charleen Fisher

Dr. Francisco Miranda


Community Engagement Coordinator, Cook Inlet Housing Authority Born and raised in Valdez, Carrie Shephard is an Anchorage resident and seasoned volunteer board member who brings business acumen and a passion for programming and fundraising/friend-raising. She is working on a biography of her mother, an immigrant from Hong Kong who became the first Alaskan Deputy Magistrate of Asian descent. Selected affiliations and leadership roles: The Nave at CIHA; Toast of the Town Event Marketers

I look forward to inviting people who aren’t familiar with the idea of humanities to join the

conversations. I’d love to offer storytelling and communication workshops to every school kid in our state. I’m motivated by the thought of how harmonious and equitable Alaska may be with when people are engaged, informed, and connected.”

Carrie Shephard


Vice President, Compliance and Administration, Bristol Bay Native Corporation Renee Wardlaw of Anchorage serves as Vice President, Compliance and Administration, for BBNC. She holds a BA in history and political science, a law degree, and an MBA. Ms. Wardlaw previously served as an associate attorney for a private firm in Juneau and as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alaska Division of Banking and Securities. ■

Ms. Wardlaw lives by the famous Shirley Chisholm quote, “‘If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’ I look most

forward to creating opportunities, spaces, and safety for people who traditionally have had to create (and sometimes drag) folding chairs into rooms. Every Alaskan deserves to have a seat at the table.”

Renee Wardlaw

A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 22



I Am Going Outside

How do race and culture shape our relationship to the land? Alaskans share their perspectives.


A L A S K A H U M A N I T I E S F O R U M S P R I N G 2022

FOR MANY, the outdoors poses a threat. Not because of the natural elements, not because of the threat of bears or moose, but because of the long history of environmental racism in the United States. A report by the Center for American Progress, The Nature Gap, calls this “nature deprivation,” stating, “The inequitable distribution of nature’s benefits in the United States is not the result of a consenting choice of communities of color or low-income communities to live near less nature, to allow more nature destruction nearby, or to give up their right to clean air and clean water.” Rather, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) have been targets on the land and inequitable land use. Thus, race and the land are intimately tied. Despite this, or at times because of it, many BIPOC people have specific relationships to the land, finding it to be a place of solace, survival, and sustenance. In Alaska, this is especially true, with 231 federally recognized tribes occupying Alaska Native lands from time immemorial, living off the land. How, then, do Alaskans make sense of this tension? When the Forum began this conversation about race and the outdoors, we fumbled over vocabulary. From the very start, the English language creates a divide between the inside and the outside. For this reason, we first asked our interviewees, “Which word or words do you feel most connected to: wilderness, the land, the outdoors, nature, the environment, or something else?”



Which word or words do you feel most connected to?

Which word or words do you feel most connected to?

The Land.

The word I prefer to use is outside.

What do you see as your responsibilities to it?

How has your race or culture shaped your relationship to it?

I was raised to take care of the land, take care of the sea/ocean, and that subsistence is sustenance for life. Therefore, I am very intentional in ensuring that I am not only practicing respect for the land and sea but encouraging and educating others around me. And I will continue to use my voice to advocate in protecting our sacred lands.

As a child growing up in the crack era of New York City, I would always tell my Grandmother, “I am going outside.” Going outside meant a number of things to us, like going to the corner store, to the park, or just hanging out with your friends on the block. We never thought about our race when we were outside because we were all the same; no matter what color we were, we were all poor. Going outside was all about our culture, because we brought something of ourselves to the outside, from men and women playing dominoes on the block or us playing handball in the local playground while we were listening to loud music on the radio. There were no woods or mountains, it was just a concrete jungle as our form of nature, sprinkled with some trees. What do you see as your responsibilities to it?

How has your race or culture shaped your relationship to it?

I grew up in a village called King Cove on the Aleutian Islands. We lived off of the land and worked hard to protect our land. One of our values as Unangan people is to live with and respect the land, sea, and all of nature. When I am out on the land and sea I feel more connected to who I am as a person. And I continue to share these values with my children, community, and family. What words do you prefer to use when describing your race?

I consider myself a black Unangan woman.

My responsibility to the outside is to pass it on to the next generation and protect it from police brutality. With gentrification occurring in most major cities, we are losing the culture of the outside. We have outsiders coming into the community and redefining what the outside should be and look like. We are losing a major part of our culture. I want my nieces and nephews to experience the culture of the outside. While we were outside, we were always bothered by the police. Most of the time, we were just kids trying to have a fun time outside. We had guns pulled on us. We were spit on and cursed at by the people wearing blue. We lived in a state of fear. We just accepted it as the way it was. I never want the next generation to feel the pain and sadness we experienced on a daily basis. What words do you prefer to use when describing your race?

I am a Latino (Hispanic) and Black male. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 22




Which word or words do you feel most connected to?

Which word or words do you feel most connected to?


The sea.

How has your race or culture shaped your relationship to it?

How has your race or culture shaped your relationship to it?

I am a white Alaskan, and I come from a Mennonite family. Hiking, fishing, ice skating, and canoeing were central to my youth on the Kenai Peninsula. Growing up, I felt very connected to the land, and though I’ve often had imposter syndrome related to being a woman outside, my race was rarely on my mind. Growing up, race felt like a non-issue; nearly everyone I saw on my outdoor adventures was like me: white or white-passing. As an adult, I began to recognize what a privilege it had been to not have to think about my race, and I’ve been reflecting on those implications ever since. Finally, I call on my family’s Mennonite value of simplicity whenever I’m packing for a backcountry trip, and our value of service in my relationship to the land and to the outdoor recreation community.

Hong Kong, the city I was born and grew up in, was a developing world manufacturing hub on the southeast China coast. It was ruled as a colony, part of the British Empire, bordered by communist China to the north. I grew up in the remnants of a dynastic feudal, patriarchal environment. Our daily lives were ruled by tradition, subservience, and silence. Questioning and self-expression were discouraged, yet expectations to achieve material wealth and recognition were intolerably high. The sea is my escape, my companion, my life—a place where I find peace, strength, and solace. It has provided a means of living in this material world since my teens and continues to this day.

What do you see as your responsibilities to it?

Having grown up and lived nearly all my life in Alaska, I feel keenly aware of how incredible it is to live close to nature’s wild places and how easily we could lose our wild land to development and climate change. I feel a responsibility to support Indigenous leaders in the protection of the land from these threats. I also feel a responsibility to help others connect with nature in their own way, as being outside can be empowering, healing, and fun. I’d like to see outdoor recreation in all its forms be accessible and welcoming for all, and I’d like to see wild places protected from development so that we humans can live in healthy relationship to nature. What words do you prefer to use when describing your race?


What do you see as your responsibilities to it?

All aspects of my life depend on the sea. Without it, I would not be the person I am today. The sea flows through my veins. It is a source of sustenance and nourishment for not only for my body and soul but the rest of humanity, whether they are cognizant of it or not. As a beneficiary of the sea, and with my role as an information provider to those who rely on it to make a living in a capitalistic society, it is imperative that I also stress the importance to my audience to respect, preserve, and sustain the resource that they take from. What words do you prefer to use when describing your race?

Endure, hardship, resilient, strength, survival.

SAMARYS SEGUINOT MEDINA (SAMA/UMYUUGALEK) Which word or words do you feel most connected to?

The Land. How has your race or culture shaped your relationship to it?

I am a Boricua from the Archipelago of Borikén islands of Puerto Rico. I was born and raised between the greenery of the countryside and the turquoise Caribbean Sea. When my feet and hands touch the earth or are submerged in the ocean, I feel an immediate connection to some-thing profound, a feeling of joy and belonging, a sense of peace that I cannot find in anything else. To me, my land is my first mother (Madre Patria), the one that gave birth to my ancestors and their stories, the one that gave me the first taste of plátanos, the one that showed me the sounds of our ancestral music, bomba, the Caribbean breeze and waters that gave me the typical sing-song of the Boricua spoken language and the poetry of Julia de Burgos. Boricuas are a direct representation of our land and waters, colorful, happy, giving, diverse, and with an abundance that comes from the heart. What do you see as your responsibilities to it?

As a daughter of the land, Caribbean Sea, and sun, I have taken the responsibilities to care for her as an environmental activist and environmental health scientist. Always sharing with others the importance of being good stewards of the land and waters that have provided everything we need to live and thrive. One of my main responsibilities is to continue connecting the Boricua youth to their lands and the sea. To connect with the natural world through the senses, feelings, sciences to help inspire understanding of how precious, interconnected, and unique these treasures are. To spark the imagination on how we can better the care and protections they need for the happiness and well-being of all the present and future children of the Caribbean Sea. To help them understand that Borikén is our motherland, that we are brothers and sisters, that we belong to her and she belongs to us, and that without her, we wouldn’t be who we are. What words do you prefer to use when describing your race?

Boricua, Puerto Rican, Caribbean, Caribeña, Latina.


A L A S K A H U M A N I T I E S F O R U M S P R I N G 2022



Which word or words do you feel most connected to?

Which word or words do you feel most connected to?

I feel equally connected to both “nature” and “the land.”

The outdoors and the environment.

What do you see as your responsibilities to it?

To contribute by nurturing and preserving it while inspiring others to do the same. How has your race or culture shaped your relationship to it?


Kendalyn McKisick: “I am reclaiming land and labor through my relationship to them each day.” BOT TOM : One of Samarys Seguinot Medina’s favorite places of Borikén is Jobos beach.

My grandfather was a farmer. In the early 90s, I grew up in Forest City, Arkansas, helping my grandmother shuck corn, peel purple hull peas, and wash collard greens. There was a cottonfield right in our backyard. I acknowledge and realize that my upbringing, as well as the historic past of Black people in the US, has shaped me into the person I am today. While I love spending time in nature and growing my own food, I have simultaneously reckoned with the fact that people who look like me are not represented in many spaces where agriculture and the outdoors are topics of discussion. By continuing to show up in these spaces (or creating new spaces) and empowering other POC to do so, I am pushing back at this erasure. I am reclaiming land and labor through my relationship to them each day. What words do you prefer to use when describing your race?

Mixed Race, African American, and White.

How has your race or culture shaped your relationship to it?

My culture had a special influence with the outdoors. Growing up in a small town of Mexico, we weren’t exposed to a line between nature and home. We saw the land as a resource and home at the same time. During my childhood, our backyard, “el corral,” was my favorite place to spend time with my siblings. Climbing the tree and wandering in creeks built a fundamental connection with nature. Culturally, Hispanics enjoy the outdoors through social gatherings, some of which I’ve been a part of as an adult. Recent movements made by Park Service initiatives have provided a more welcoming feeling for everyone to enjoy a wider variety of activities in the outdoors. Those special initiatives helped diversify my connections with nature. I now enjoy long treks, hikes, skiing, biking, photography/film, among others. It may seem as though I went in a circle from my childhood, or maybe it’s where I belonged all along. What do you see as your responsibilities to it?

After choosing a career in conservation, I have the duty and pleasure to facilitate stewardship via multiple opportunities. Through my past jobs as a volunteer coordinator, park ranger, and park naturalist, I’ve created opportunities for visitors to connect with their public lands and establish an enhanced meaning between them and the natural and cultural resources. Helping volunteers and interns has been my most impactful experience. In-service learning provides a stronger connection to a park than short visits, it provides ownership and a sense of belonging. These experiences create personal memories for the public that are cherished individually or with others. Knowing that I helped make that happen takes me to a point of fulfillment. What words do you prefer to use when describing your race?

Mexican, Hispanic, Latino.

A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 22


JAVEON BRIGHAM Which word or words do you feel most connected to?

Nature. How has your race or culture shaped your relationship to it?

I feel most connected to nature as an African-American in my specific neighborhood in Augusta, Georgia. My connection to the land was fostered mostly during my early childhood. I remember seeing vast swaths of Georgia clay behind the apartment complex and being mesmerized by it. When I reached my early 20s, I had a mentor teach me Tai Chi, and I connected to the trees using Chinese grounding principles. What do you see as your responsibilities to it?

Now that I am 26, I have had a spiritual mentor for about half a year, and she has taught me about connecting to the land in a spiritual way and trusting my guides, who are mostly in the form of animals. In a divine sense, I respect the land I walk upon, I never litter, and I try my best to put bugs outside instead of killing them. I’m still learning about nature, and I always will in my lifetime, especially in Alaska! What words do you prefer to use when describing your race?

When describing my race, I tend to say Black people, my brothers, and sisters. If it’s my wife speaking, she would say, “Look at all my melanin!”

CAPENRUILNGUQ JENINE HEAKIN OF EEK, ALASKA Which word or words do you feel most connected to?

Ella (weather), Nuna (land), Meq (water), Yuilquq (nature). How has your race or culture shaped your relationship to it?

My earliest memory of working on king salmon with my family was when I was about six years old. I remember holding an uluaq (traditional knife) and cutting slabs to make dried fish, just the way my grandparents had taught me. Growing up in a small Yup’ikbased community with close family ties, subsistence hunting, and gathering was always a big part of our lives. Awareness for the seasons were taught naturally by our grandparents through stories when gathering seasons approached. We did everything with care and caution as the weather was a main factor for gathering. From a young age, we were taught to respect the land, water, animals, and our surroundings. Everything that was taught was spoken through our native tongue, Yugtun. From the early morning rise, we were spoken to in Yugtun to have self-awareness, to be thoughtful of our surroundings; not only of the people but our world around us. What do you see as your responsibilities to it?

From the spring arrival of birds and gathering of wild eggs, the salmon in the rivers, and gathering of wild plants, gathering wild berries, to fall hunts of moose and caribou, my ancestors lived fruitful, healthy lives many times before us. They gathered off the land the water and adapted to the weather. They were healthy people. My culture has taught me and my family to appreciate all the gifts from the land and water that has fed us through many seasons. In return, we give thanks to the land that has provided through many unforeseen seasons. Our ella (weather) is changing, but we are adapting people, and we are strivers. My culture has taught me to take care of the land as it has cared for us. To share those same values to my children and the future generations to come has been most rewarding.


A L A S K A H U M A N I T I E S F O R U M S P R I N G 2022

Capenruilnguq Jenine Heakin



Which word or words do you feel most connected to?

Which word or words do you feel most connected to?

I feel most connected to the word nature.


How has your race or culture shaped your relationship to it?

How has your race or culture shaped your relationship to it?

My family is from Jamaica. So, being from the islands, my family has always enjoyed trips to the beach. We used to sing songs about animals, and I remember listening to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” often. As a child, I did not understand what his songs were about. However, because one mentioned birds and we listened to him often with the windows open, letting the outside in, the thought of animals, in general, made me happy. Seeing animals in their element always excited me as a kid. As a child, we were also always playing outside or taking long walks as a family. We took walks on trails where we could find flowers that we could suck the nectar out of, and often, I used to wander off and come across ponds and large trees that I could climb. It all felt natural.

I’ve spent my whole life living in rural areas, and Alaska’s nature is unique. The Alaska nature has allowed my background as a Filipino-American to thrive. In the Philippines, I spent time in the farms with my grandparents, and while this is not Alaska, I’ve been able to enjoy nature through hikes and camps during the summer. Additionally, while photography is not a part of my race or culture, I’ve grown to become fascinated with photography, and I currently serve as a portrait photographer in Kodiak, Alaska. I do not have a photography studio, so nature serves as the backdrop of my photo sessions. Every time I enter the outdoors, I am immersed in the blue waters followed by a small gust of wind that wraps me to feel comforted as I watch the birds fly from one towering Sitka Spruce to another. As I begin to wind down in the evening, I remember the vastness of the ocean that the fresh salmon and cod swim in, which I am connected to because my parents work fishing cannery processors, and the blend of purple, pink, orange, and yellow sky that hides behind the grand mountains that surround my home.

What do you see as your responsibilities to it?

I believe it is my responsibility to respect nature and either teach others to do the same or lead by example. I believe I have a responsibility to protect the untouched lands that are left and, when I find myself immersed in nature, to tread lightly and not disturb the life there. What words do you prefer to use when describing your race?

I am Black.

What do you see as your responsibilities to it?

As a leader of the next generation, I am responsible for protecting, developing, and sharing the nature that we have. Being an immigrant to the land of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq people, I have a duty to pay respect to nature and the land. And in my line of work as a photographer, it is educating my clients about the land that we enter that we use as backdrops and leaving these spaces undisturbed, especially because they are inhabited by other species. Developing, maintaining, and sharing nature are other responsibilities I have. In high school, I participated in trail building to create accessible paths and allow people to access and see the beauty that Alaska nature has to offer. ■

Rafael Bitanga

DIG DEEP AND HOST YOUR OWN CONVERSATION Are you interested in bringing these conversations to your community? kindling-conversation In our experience, the conversations that are the most difficult are often the most important to have. That’s why we’re offering a Kindling Conversation toolkit and funding to host community conversations about race, culture, and the outdoors. The toolkit uses the perspectives shared on the following pages as a springboard for conversation around the questions, How do our race and culture shape our relationship to the land? How does that shape the decisions we make about it? Then, it’s your turn to share your point of view.

A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S P R I N G 20 22


Proud Supporter of the Alaska Humanities Forum







A L A S K A H U M A N I T I E S F O R U M S P R I N G 2022



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Hoonah’s Heroes TEN YEARS AGO, this photo appeared on page two of the first issue of FORUM magazine. It pictures James Lindoff of Hoonah during a break in the filming of “Hunting in Wartime,” a documentary by Samantha Farinella. The film, which was supported by two grants from the Alaska Humanities Forum, profiles Tlingit veterans from Hoonah who saw combat during the Vietnam War. They talk about surviving trauma, relating to Vietnamese communities, readjusting

to civilian life, and serving a government with a record of oppressing Native people. Filmed in Hoonah in 2012 and released in 2015, the documentary won awards, appeared nationally on PBS, and was screened widely, including at the Hoonah Indian Association Community Center and the Hanoi Cinematheque in Vietnam. Lindoff was a key advisor during the making of “Hunting in Wartime.” He is

Tlingit Kaagwaantaan (Eagle-Wolf) from Klukwan and grew up in Haines, Juneau, and Hoonah. Lindoff served as Sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division from 1966 to 1968. He made 69 jumps, 8 of them over 15,000 feet. He was awarded the Purple Heart. More about the project, and links to watch the film, may be found at

421 West First Avenue, Suite 200 Anchorage, AK 99501 (907) 272-5341



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