Alaska Native Fund – 2014 Grantees  

Advancing Alaska Native Priorities for Protecting the Land and Sustaining Our Ways of Life

ACF’s Alaska Native Fund (ANF) awarded sixteen grants totaling $173,484 for indigenous environmental priorities addressing food security, sustainable economies, holistic wellness, energy, and climate change issues in Alaska. We are pleased to present the following 2014 Alaska Native Fund grant recipients:

Statewide/International

  • Organization: Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska 
    Project:
    Food Security Workshop, Building a Conceptual Framework to Assess Food Security in the Alaskan Arctic from an Inuit Perspective
    Funding Amount: $10,000

Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska (ICC-AK) is a  non-profit organization that represents and advocates on behalf of the Inupiat, St. Lawrence Island Yupik, Central Yup’ik, and Cup’ik of Alaska and is a member of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. The purpose of ICC-AK is to advance Inuit culture and society at all levels, to ensure that Inuit thrive in their Arctic homeland by speaking with a united voice on issues of common concern to protect and promote their way of life.

With support from the ANF, ICC-AK will continue their effort to develop a conceptual framework for how to assess food security from an Inuit perspective in the Alaska Arctic. This project has been developed with an understanding that the Inuit possess a unique understanding of food security within the Arctic, viewing food security to encompass both cultural and environmental systems – systems which interlink and support each other. While many changes are occurring within Arctic ecosystems, primarily resulting from climate change and industrialization, food security is becoming a central topic of conversation. Throughout this multi-year project, information will be gathered from Traditional Knowledge holders to understand food security from an Inuit perspective and identify drivers of food insecurity.

Statewide/Southcentral

  • Individual: Drew Michael
    Project:
    “Aggravated Organizms”
    Funding Amount: $2,500

Artist Drew Michael has been promoting his latest work, “Aggravated Organizms” – a collection of ten large wooden masks carved by Drew Michael and painted by Elizabeth Ellis. Drew Michael’s goal with “Aggravated Organizms” is to spread awareness of the disparity of healthcare and the illnesses Alaska Natives continue to endure. With support from the ANF, Drew will be able to further document stories of Alaskans affected by disease and illness and analyze how geography and environmental degradation impact healthcare and the health of Alaska’s first people. He plans to further educate Alaskans about the gap in healthcare and the prevalence of various diseases connected to our environment through a video documentary.

Southcentral

Chickaloon Native Village (CNV) is a vibrant, innovative, and culturally rich Athabascan Tribe located in Sutton and Chickaloon along the Matanuska watershed. Dating as far back as 1900, CNV’s traditional territories have been subject to copper and gold mining, logging, and large-scale coal extraction. Currently there are three coal surface strip mines proposed in CNV’s traditional territory in various phases of the permitting process. With support of the ANF, the CNV will work to ensure the Chickaloon, Wishbone Hill, Jonesville, and other proposed areas around the state of Alaska are protected from coal extraction. CNV will work to address current legislation (HB77) which would strip Tribes of the ability to request in-stream flow protections, limit their participation in public comment processes, and grant the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources unprecedented authority to issue permits.

CNV will also work to incorporate Tribal sovereignty, Indigenous Knowledge, and indigenous rights of land stewardship into public policy at the local, state, and national level. CNV will do this by attending relevant mining partnership meetings including Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority meetings regarding mining investments, State of Alaska public hearings, and other governmental meetings on resource extraction and exportation on indigenous lands.

Koahnic Broadcast Corporation, which operates Anchorage public radio station KNBA 90.3 FM was founded in 1992 by Alaska Native leaders concerned about the lack of media participation in, and representation for, Alaska Natives and Native Americans. Koahnic’s mission is to bring Native voices to Alaska and the nation. With the support of the ANF, Koahnic’s public radio programming will examine critical climate change issues through an indigenous lens. “The Artic Series” will educate listeners about climate change’s impact on traditional Alaska Native cultural and subsistence practices. Through this series, Koahnic will be able to provide a forum for an ongoing dialogue about what actions are necessary to preserve Alaska Native subsistence traditions. “The Arctic Series” content will also be included on Koahnic’s national programs “National Native News” and “Native America Calling.”

  • Organization: Port Graham Village Council
    Project:
    Port Graham Ethnobotany Web Page Project/ Traditional Knowledge & Gathering of Local Plant Lore
    Funding Amount: $10,000

Port Graham is a small community located in southcentral Alaska overlooking Cook Inlet. It is predominately of Alutiiq (Aleut) heritage, comprising approximately 85 percent of the community. The Port Graham Village Council (PGVC) has realized the importance and value of nutritional and medicinal plants and the need to preserve the traditional subsistence knowledge of such local plants for youth and future generations. With support from the ANF, PGVC will utilize modern technology to document Traditional Ecological Knowledge. PGVC will create a coordinator position to work with the elders and youth with the intent to develop a Port Graham Ethnobotany Interactive Web Portal which will be accessible through the council’s website. This project will preserve the traditional subsistence knowledge for the harvesting of nutritional and medicinal plants and promote the lasting conservation of these plants and the stewardship of other subsistence species important to PGVC.

Seldovia Village Tribe (SVT) is located in Seldovia, Alaska, situated on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula facing Cook Inlet. It is nestled on the south side of Kachemak Bay, across the water from Homer. Seldovia is accessible only by air and sea. With support from the ANF, SVT proposes to develop support for Alaska Native crafters and host traditional skin sewing classes using sea otter pelts. SVT will host a skin sewing workshop in Seldovia, taught by world renowned elder June Pardue. Ms. Pardue is of Alutiiq and Inupiaq descent. She has been designing and sewing garments of animal hide for several years and her artwork can be seen throughout Alaska shops and museums. SVT will host two workshops within the twelve month grant period. Sea otter pelts will be utilized as their species is overpopulated and considered a threat to other marine life. The workshops aim to encourage traditional arts and crafts and to stimulate rural economic development in a sustainable way.

Tyonek Tribal Conservation District (TTCD) was the first tribal conservation district in Alaska created in 2006 with a mutual agreement between US Department of Agriculture, Tyonek Native Corporation, and the Native Village of Tyonek. The ANF will support Tyonek’s Outdoor Science Education Program, a year round program for the youth in the community. To have long-lasting impact, this project focuses on connecting environmental and traditional education for the purpose of protecting land, water, plants, and wildlife for future generations. Near the end of the program, TTCD will bring community residents together for a potlatch to celebrate student success and growth. During this gathering, TTCD will bring together multiple state agencies and conservation partners, and help facilitate in educating youth to ensure they have tools, resources, and capacity to continue the responsible stewardship of the land taught by the elders.

  • Individual: Lucas Rowley
    Project:
    “Chinook”
    Funding Amount: $8,000

Lucas Rowley is a recipient of a Rasmuson Award for literary work (2012), an award from the Alaska State Council on the Arts for literary work (2013), a recent Connie Boochever Fellow (2013), and has had readings in Anchorage, New York City, Los Angeles, and Albuquerque in the last two years. Lucas won the 2012 Imagining Indigenous Futurisms Writing Contest through Portland State University with his story “Catch and Release” which is based on the conservation of fish. His first film “Urban Gatherers: Subsistence Hunting and Fishing in Alaska” premiered at the First Nations Film and Video Festival in Chicago in May of 2013. With support from the ANF, Lucas Rowley will work to produce “Chinook” – a novel addressing the risks of genetically engineered salmon or “Frankenfish” and will be completing a documentary on the decline of king salmon runs in southcentral Alaska. He has been working to increase awareness of the importance of responsible stewardship of Alaska’s salmon and the dangers of overfishing, environmental pollution, and genetic manipulation of fish, including the risk of allowing them to invade wild fish populations.

 Southwest

  • Organization: Igiugig Village Council
    Project:
    Igiugig Village Council Airport & Tourism Support Facility Hanger Lighting Upgrade
    Funding Amount: $10,000

The Igiugig Village Council (IVC) is the governing body of the Alaska Native Village of Igiugig. The village is located in southwestern Alaska where Lake Iliamna empties into the Kvichak River. IVC recognizes the exorbitant amount of energy costs associated with living in rural Alaska and the need for energy efficiency projects to support sustainable, self-sufficient communities. With help from the ANF, IVC will replace existing Metal Halide light fixtures with LED high-bay lighting to significantly reduce energy consumption at the IVC Airport Tourism Support Facility. In addition, motion and light sensors will be installed to capitalize on energy savings. The facility serves as the main office for village council activities and is sometimes the only Yupik cultural interaction for tourists visiting Alaska, beyond Anchorage. The project will include an educational component that will allow students from the Igiugig School to explain to visitors how electricity is made at the Igiugig powerhouse, how it is transported to local homes, and why environmental conservation is valued and needed in order to support cultural lifestyles. The educational component will empower students to express themselves either through digital media or paintings to tell their story of electricity consumption and conservation in the village. This project will be the first large scale LED installation in the community.

  • Organization: Nunamta Aulukestai
    Project:
    “Sayak, Mary Olympic’s Story”
    Funding Amount: $12,000

Nunamta Aulukestai is a consortium of ten local Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act village corporations and ten tribes from the Bristol Bay region. Formally organized as a non-profit in 2006, Nunamta Aulukestai is very active in the fight to protect the renewable resources of Bristol Bay from extractive industries and specifically from development of the Pebble Mine. With help from the ANF, Nunamta Aulukestai will edit video footage of an Alaska Native activist from the community of Igiugig and her fight against big industry. Like many of the elders and ancestors of the region, “Mary Olympic’s Story” will showcase the respected elder as a staunch conservationist. The film will convey to youth and adults that indigenous identity as Alaska Native people is coupled with the environmental stewardship and protection of our natural resources.

  • Organization: United Tribes of Bristol Bay
    Project:
    Strategic Plan Development
    Funding Amount: $10,000

The United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB) is a consortium of federally recognized tribal governments from Bristol Bay. UTBB’s membership consists of ten tribal governments in the Bristol Bay region. With its delegated governmental authority, UTBB is able to engage the federal government in direct government-to-government consultation on behalf of its member tribes. UTBB will utilize the ANF grant to develop a collaborative strategic plan to protect the region from outside resource extractive industries. The strategic plan will promote cultural stewardship ensuring the long-term sustainability of the red salmon the tribes so heavily depend on for their identity and cultural integrity.

West/Interior

  • Organization: Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association
    Project:
    Promoting Food Security by Reducing Salmon Bycatch
    Funding Amount: $10,000

In 1991 traditional fishermen on the Yukon River organized together to form the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association (YRDFA) in response to declining salmon runs. YRDFA works to promote healthy, wild fisheries and cultures for the forty two primarily Alaska Native communities in the Alaska portion of the Yukon River drainage. YRDFA’s long term goal for the Yukon River is to restore a healthy and sustainable ecosystem with wild salmon fisheries which support the nutritional, cultural and spiritual needs of the people of the Yukon River. The overarching goal of the project is to minimize impacts from bycatch, enhancing food security, by reducing Chinook and Chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea.

West

  • Organization: Kawerak Incorporated
    Project:
    Bird Skin Parka Making, Preservation and Documentation of an Important Subsistence and Artistic Tradition on St. Lawrence Island.
    Funding Amount: $15,000

Kawerak is an Alaska Native regional tribal consortium incorporated in 1973 and consisting of 20 member tribes. Nearly 200 employees provide services to approximately 7,000 tribal members throughout the Bering Strait region including educational, social, infrastructure development, natural and cultural resource preservation, and employment services. Kawerak’s vision is, “building on the inherent strength of our cultural values, we shall assist our tribes and residents to create a positive future.”

With support from the ANF, Kawerak will be able to employ staff to work to preserve and promote the traditional knowledge, skills, and process of making a St. Lawrence Island-style bird skin parka. In the past, St. Lawrence Island Yupik skin sewers were renowned for this skill and their beautiful parkas were perfectly suited to seasonal wear in the arctic environment. Bird skin parkas are rarely made today and the skill is quickly disappearing among skin sewers in their region, also resulting in more consumerism in western style clothing. Kawerak believes promotion of this vanishing artwork among the indigenous people of the region will promote more astute stewardship of the land and resources while also supporting rural economic development projects. Kawerak staff will document the skills needed to make a bird skin parka and arrange for workshops and an exhibit to preserve the knowledge and share it with artists who want to learn this disappearing cultural tradition.

 Southeast

The Organized Village of Kasaan (OVK) was formerly established in 1938 under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and later amended in 1936 to include the Territory of Alaska. Prince of Wales (POW) Island is the 4th largest island in the U.S. and is located in southeast Alaska. The POW Tribal Sea Otter Commission, established in 2012 with sponsorship of the ANF consists of four federally recognized Tribes including the Organized Village of Kasaan, the Klawock Cooperative Association, the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, and Craig Tribal Association.

With support from the ANF, the POW Tribal Sea Otter Commission (TSOC) will continue government‐to‐government consultations by utilizing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972 (and its amendments) in an effort to co-manage sea otters in their region. The POW TSOC is working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to execute a Section 119 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) under the MMPA, serving as a Tribally Authorized Co-management Body. This MOA could create projects that involve sea otter population studies, sea otter bio-sampling, ecosystem sustainability research, and ensure coastal Alaska Natives are aware of rights and regulations regarding the MMPA. The ANF will allow the POW TSOC to host a 2014 Sea Otter Conference on POW Island to further advance their stance with the Federal government.

  • Organization: Sealaska Heritage Institute
    Project:
    Development of a Pilot Herring Restoration Plan using Local and Traditional Knowledge (LTK)
    Funding Amount: $15,000

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) is a regional non-profit organization serving the Native peoples of Southeast Alaska with a mission “to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures and promote cross-cultural understanding.” Since 1981, SHI has grown into the organization it is today, implementing programs in arts, culture, history, education, media, and publications.

With support from the ANF, SHI will work to restore Pacific Ocean herring stocks in Southeast Alaska out of a concern for the decrease in herring biomass. The planned result will be subsistence opportunities in the region. SHI’s project plan is to complete a preliminary study of the herring restoration project. The initial strategy is to develop a pilot herring restoration plan for a spawning area in the Sitka vicinity based on historical herring spawning areas. Using a recent study of Local and Traditional Knowledge (LTK), SHI will apply transplantation and spawning enhancement techniques based on the LTK. Herring and herring eggs are highly valued subsistence commodities among the Alaska Native community statewide. They are considered a delicacy in many areas and continue to be traded between tribes today.

  • Individual: Della Cheney
    Project:
    “Xaygwaay (Weaving our World)”
    Funding Amount: $8,000 

Since 1993, Della Cheney has been practicing weaving and has the ardent passion to preserve the traditional way of harvesting natural resources for weaving. With support from the ANF, she will work to document her knowledge through writing, photography, and ultimately creating a short film on ‘Xaygwaay’ (Weaving our World). Della plans to travel to Haida Gwii, Ketchikan, Kake, Sitka, and Juneau documenting weavers and their talent to create beautiful regalia and jewelry. Della also plans to develop a Weaver’s Charter with chapters in Haida Gwii, Ketchikan, Kake, Sitka, and Juneau. Her long term goal is to have all the compiled information published into a reference curriculum for weavers, teachers, and others interested in traditional weaving of the tribes of Southeast Alaska. By creating a document of the connection of indigenous peoples to the environment using weaving as an example, Della will help foster further conservation practices and resource sustainability among the future generations.