Alaska Native leaders, friends, honored at gala
November 24th | Carey Restino
Throughout Alaska, Alaska Native leaders are helping to cultivate positive impacts on their communities. This week, three such individuals, including one from the Lake and Peninsula Borough, were honored at a gathering celebrating the significant contributions of Alaska Native peoples to the state's "collective well-being."
Each year, Native leaders from across the state are honored by the First Alaskans Institute at the annual Howard Rock and Ted Stevens Smokehouse Gala, held last weekend at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage.
Among those honored was AlexAnna Salmon, of Igiugig, who received the First Alaskans Institute Young Native Leader award, which is given to a young person or organization that works to help Native peoples and communities with "significant and profound purpose."
Salmon was raised in Igiugig, the granddaughter of John and Mary Olympic and the second-oldest of Dan and Julia Salmon. After graduating from high school, she went on to earn dual bachelor's degrees in Native American studies and anthropology from Dartmouth College. She returned home to her village after graduating. She currently works with the Igiugig Tribal Village Council as the president and project director for a language preservation and maintenance project.
In addition to her "day job," Salmon serves as a member of the Igiugig Native Corporation board, a commissioner on the Lake and Peninsula Borough planning commission and helps manage several local businesses. And in her spare time, award presenters noted, she is raising six children, participates in subsistence activities and does cultural activities with elders and youth.
Also honored last weekend was Myra Munson, attorney in the law firm of Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller and Monkman, LLP, where she specializes in representing tribal interests throughout Alaska and the United States. Munson has worked on the effort to emphasize tribal self-determination and self-governance and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, a dynamic and challenging arena that is changing daily in the state of Alaska. Most recently, she assisted in the drafting of the Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact, signed by Alaska Governor Bill Walker. For these and other efforts, she received the Friends of First Alaskans Ted Stevens Award, given to a person who has shown their support of Native issues and partnerships with Alaska Native common cause that they are friends of the community.
The Howard Rock Alaska Native Leader Award was given this year to Poldine Carlo, originally from Nulato and currently a Fairbanks resident. Carlo is an original founder of the Fairbanks Native Association and active member of the Denakkanaaga board of directors, the University of Alaska Chancellor's Advisory Committee and the Alaska Native Education Advisory Board, as well as many other committees and commissions. She wrote "Nulato: An Indian Life on the Yukon," a novel describing life in the 1920s and '30s growing up in an Athabascan village. She has received many honors and awards over the years, including a University of Alaska Fairbanks honorary doctorate of law degree. For her many contributions to Alaska Native causes and culture, Carlo was honored for "putting her community and people before" herself.
Organizers of the event say they offer the awards with deep respect and gratitude to the contributions these individuals have made.
"(The awards) remember those who have helped us, show our young people that we believe in them and share the pride in our cultures," said Willie Iggiagruk Hensley, board chair of the First Alaskans Institute.