AFN 2019 President’s Award Honorees

2019 AFN Parents of the Year award winners Ulric and Mary Ulroan. photo by Greg Lincoln

by AFN Staff

Every year AFN honors those who have made outstanding contributions to their families and the Native community. Please read on for a list of this year’s AFN President’s Awards honorees.

Ulric and Mary Ulroan

Parents of the Year

Ulric Ulroan’s parents are Harry and Lena Ferguson. Mary’s are the late Alphonsus Chiklak Sr. and Martha Chiklak. The family resides in Chevak and work as teachers. They have six children and three grandchildren. The two went to college together in 2000 with three children and obtained their degrees in 2006, graduating from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Working, praying, and eating dinners together are important to the family. They push their children in academics and sports, earning recognition as athletes locally and throughout the State.

Ulric and Mary teach their children the traditional subsistence way of life and to work together. Each summer, the Ulroan family travels on a 10-hour boat ride from Chevak to Mountain Village to help Mary’s mother catch, cut, and smoke salmon. One summer, the Ulric family picked 95 gallons of salmon berries and shared with Elders, family, and donated to gatherings.

Ulric’s advice to youth is, “Just do it,” to start something without hesitation. The first step is the hardest and Ulric advises his children and students to take the first step. His late grandmother’s advice, “No matter what anyone does to you, leave them alone and don’t do anything back.” His late mother taught him before she passed on, to pray for others who do harm to you. Mary’s advice to students and youth is, “To get things over and done with,” and to accomplish their goals and finish what they started.

Dorcus Rock

Della Keats Healing Hands

A traditional healer, Dorcus Rock, was born in Utqiagvik and raised in Fairbanks. She attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks where she studied education. She returned home to serve her community as an Iñupiat language teacher. While simultaneously serving as a wife and mother to nine, she served for many years as a board member of the Tikigaq Corporation. Being blessed with the gift of administering traditional healing methods, she served as a traditional healer relieving a wide array of ailments of all requiring her care.

Chief Gary Harrison

Public Service

Chief Gary Harrison was elected to Chickaloon Native Village’s Traditional Council in 1984 and was named Traditional Chief in 1994. He is the longest standing member of the Council and the current chairman. For the three decades, Chief Harrison has been a courageous leader and brings passion for promoting quality health services for all Alaska Natives, advocating for community and economic development projects and ensuring that the Tribal Government is recognized as a sovereign Nation.

His foundational work for Chickaloon Native Village marks its Tribal Government as a model for indigenous communities around the world. He has served on Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Tribal Justice Advisory Group, Office of Justice Programs, Justice Programs Council on Native American Affairs, Organization of The American States, Arctic Athabascan Council, Indigenous Peoples Secretariat, Arctic Council, the Sovereignty Network, United Tribes of Alaska, and the International Environmental Network.

He has been on the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s board since 2008 representing the Unaffiliated Tribes of Chickaloon Native Village, Eastern Aleutian Tribes, Inc., Eklutna Native Village, Kenaitze Indian Tribe, Ketchikan Indian Corporation, Knik Tribal Council, Mt. Sanford Tribal Consortium, Native Village of Chitina, Native Village of Tyonek, Ninilchik Village, Seldovia Village Tribe, and the Village of Salamatof. He also serves on Southcentral Foundation’s Joint Operating Board for the Benteh Nuutah Valley Native Primary Care Center.

Benjamin Young

Culture Bearer

Benjamin Young was raised and recently moved back to Hydaburg in Southeast Alaska. His Haida name is K’uyáang, he is Raven of the Yahgw’láanaas Clan and learned Xaad Kíl from his grandfather, Claude Morrison Kúng Skíis, a respected Eder who lived to the age of 100. Benjamin has held roles in language revitalization as a language mentor, researcher and curriculum developer.

As a teenager, he taught his first language class at Sealaska Heritage Institute’s (SHI) Latseen Leadership Academy. Through language projects and programs, he has worked with respected Elders Woodrow Morrison, Alma Cook, Annie Peele, and Erma Lawrence. He has served as a cultural specialist with SHI, the Xaadas Kíl Kuyaas Foundation, and Ketchikan Indian Community, among other organizations. He has been influenced by linguist Dr. Jordan Lachler and Gwich’in instructor Hishinlai’ Peter. He graduated from Butler University with a degree in secondary education and began teaching in 2014. He is married to Marita Young, who supports him in all of his language preservation efforts. They have two children.

Amber Webb

Dr. Walter Soboleff “Warriors of Light”

Amber Webb is the daughter of Inez Bielefeld, Mark Bielefeld, and Mark Webb. She was born and raised in Anchorage and spent most of her summers in Dillingham. She has worked to bring awareness to the devastating statistics of the overlooked Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in our nation.

Amber created a six-foot qaspeq made from recycled sheets which features 47 Alaskan MMIWG. In 2018, she received an Individual Artist Award from Rasmuson Foundation to create a 12-foot-high qaspeq that will exhibit over 200 Alaskan, Canadian, and Native American MMIWG portraits. Amber creates apparel that celebrates the Yup’ik language and subsistence activities, and is a strong advocate for social justice and water protection.

Caitlynn Hanna

Lu Young Youth Leadership

Caitlynn Hanna graduated from South High School with a GPA over 3.0. At graduation she proudly wore an atiqluk, mukluks, and a teal-colored rope to indicate that she is an Alaska Native student. The South High Title VI Counselor asked Caitlynn to design their logo, which is now on their school shirts. This last summer, she worked for Teck Alaska at the Red Dog Mine where she gained experience in the engineering field. Currently, she is a Civil Engineering student in her second year at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), where she joined the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program group.

Nina Nasruq Harvey

Elder of the Year

Nina Nasruq Harvey’s father died when she was four years old. She went to school at two different times, but her mother, Kitty, needed her help at camp. In 1955, her family, including her mother, brother, uncle, sister, and niece moved to Kobuk to build a cabin. They were unable to finish it, her brother and uncle built a place to live under a fish rack. They collected logs, peeled bark off trees held by rocks and wood. The walls were branches and leaves. They had no light, kerosene, coffee, sugar, or tea. Her sister sewed isiktuuqs (caribou mukluks) by the light of the wood stove. The family had only fish and berries. Today, her 85-year old sister from Shungnak travels by boat to help Nina harvest subsistence food. Nina said it was a hard life, but they had everything they needed, especially each other.


Parents of the Year Award

This award recognizes Alaska Native parents who exhibit many of the qualities and values important to the continued physical, social, and cultural survival of Native people. These values may include sharing and teaching of Native culture, love of children, respect for Elders, spirituality, cooperation, responsibility, and involvement in the community.

Della Keats “Healing Hands” Award

The Della Keats “Healing Hands” Award was named for the late Dr. Della Keats, an Inupiaq healer who served as a tribal healer within the Northwest Alaska area for over 50 years. This award recognizes an Alaska Native who has demonstrated strong commitment, competence, and sensitivity as a tribal healer or health care provider whose accomplishments have most directly affected Native people in their home communities.

Public Service Award

The Public Service Award recognizes an Alaska Native who has demonstrated dedication, competence, and sensitivity in the area of public service. This award recognizes individuals who have promoted and assisted in the development of their community, or whose accomplishments and leadership qualities have most directly affected and benefited Native peoples.

Culture Bearer Award

The Culture Bearer Award recognizes an Alaska Native who demonstrates strong involvement in the arts. Individuals nominated for this award may be involved in theater, music, dance, painting, sculpture, and storytelling. This award can also recognize an artist, an arts administrator, or a preserver of Native culture.

Dr. Walter Soboleff “Warriors of the Light” Award

The Dr. Walter Soboleff “Warriors of Light” Award, which was named for the late Dr. Walter Soboleff, recognizes individuals who uplift our people, enrich our spirits, and unify our people.

Lu Young Youth Leadership Award

The Lu Young Youth Leadership Award, named for the late Lu Young, who encouraged young people to expand their horizons and challenge themselves to become future leaders recognizes young women in high school or in college, who demonstrate leadership qualities.

Elder of the Year Award

The Elder of the Year Award recognizes an Alaska Native Elder who exemplifies the highest of values and qualities important to Native people. This individual is recognized as a leader, an educator, and preserver of the Native culture whose contributions have benefited Native peoples throughout his/her life.

The 2019 AFN Convention took place from Thursday, October 17th through Saturday, October 19th at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks, Alaska. More event details and a LIVE webcast of the event are available online by visiting