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 and scroll to the bottom of this email for brief overviews of each award.
Dr. Christina Darby, Health
The Health award goes to Dr. Christina Darby, a sleep medicine physician at the Alaska Native Medical Center. Dr. Darby completed her Sleep Medicine Fellowship at Stanford, her Neurology Residency at the University of Arizona Tucson and received her medical degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. She grew up in Anchorage and returned home to help start the sleep clinic and sleep lab as the Medical Director at the ANMC. Prior to this, she worked as a sleep medicine physician and neurologist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. Her mother is Ella Anagick and her grandmother is Betty Anagick of Unalakleet.
The AFN Health award goes to an Alaska Native who has demonstrated strong commitment, competence and sensitivity in the health field, whose accomplishments have improved health care for Alaska Natives. Nominees may be in the health profession involved in the areas of health advocacy, program administration, and professional care.
Carol Seppilu, Hannah Paul Solomon “Woman of Courage”
The Woman of Courage award goes to Carol Seppilu. She is a long-distance runner who encourages people to keep going in life. At 16 years old, she survived a near-fatal suicide attempt. Today, Carol found running as a way to battle obesity and depression, and now runs long distances to share a message of hope for others. She is St. Lawrence Island Yupik born in Savoonga, and now resides in Nome.
The Hannah Paul Solomon “Woman of Courage” is named for the late Hannah Paul Solomon, recognizing an Alaska Native woman who demonstrates through their life and work the strengths of our culture and values and tremendous courage.
Donna Folger, Katie John Hunter-Fisher
This award goes to Donna Folger. In 1994, Donna and her friend the late Patti Hyslop coordinated the first 16 Mile Spirit Camp, a week-long culture camp that still runs today, located upriver from Tanana. The attendees at the camp participate in many activities such as subsistence fishing, beading, learning survival skills, and practicing traditional songs.
Donna has served as the Mayor of Tanana for more than 15 years. She is passionate about her work for Tribal Family and Youth Services, ensuring safety for the children of the tribe. She is a talented beading artist and seamstress, as well as a traditional song maker. Donna understands the importance of living a healthy, alcohol and drug-free lifestyle. To this day she continues to honor Patti Hyslop by volunteering to select and recognize those living a healthy lifestyle. Donna symbolizes leadership through her daily actions.
The Katie John Hunter-Fisher award goes to an Alaska Native who exemplifies and preserves the spirit of successful subsistence hunting, trapping and sharing, and our way of life. Nominees acknowledge and ensure that the next generations of providers will carry on the traditions and customs in harmony and peace to sustain their extended families.
Samuel Schimmel, Roger Lang Youth Leadership
This award goes to Samuel Schimmel. Sam is St. Lawrence Island Siberian Yupik and Kenaitze Indian. Growing up subsistence hunting and fishing, Sam experienced firsthand how climate change impacts Arctic communities. Sam was appointed by Governor Bill Walker and served on the State of Alaska’s Climate Action Leadership Team. He continues to support climate awareness and education as an Arctic Youth Ambassador for Alaska. He is in his second year at Stanford University.
The Roger Lang Youth Leadership is named for the late Roger Lang, former AFN President, who encouraged young people to expand their horizons and challenge themselves to become future leaders. Nominees must be young men of high school or college students, who demonstrate leadership qualities.
Nikki Corbett, Small Business
This award goes to Sew Yup’ik, a small sewing business owned by Nikki Corbett. She was born and raised in Bethel. Her parents are Daniel Osentoski and Nastasia Nick. Her grandparents are the late Nick O. Nick Sr. and Elena Nick, and Louis and Louise Osentoski of Ubly, Michigan. Nikki says, “When COVID-19 began to affect the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, I saw a need for masks for the healthcare providers.” She has donated over 350 masks to healthcare workers in the YK Delta region and the United States.
The Small Business award goes to an Alaska Native business owner who has demonstrated success in business as with a commitment to their community, which has improved economic opportunities for Alaska Natives.
Walter Hotch-Hill, Gin’tith (Richard Frank) Military Service
The award goes to Walter Hotch-Hill. He has been with the Alaska Army National Guard since 2002. He has held numerous ranks including infantry battalion action officer, battalion operations officer, and obtained requirements as a jumpmaster. In 2003 he earned the distinction of the Alaska Soldier of the Year. He is a proud Iraqi Freedom veteran.
A testament to Walter’s leadership is the fact that his company soldiers won Soldier of the Year, NCO of the Year, and 1st Sergeant of the Year. He completed the 2016 Mayor’s Marathon race in Anchorage. Walter holds a Bachelor of Science and a Masters in Human Resources Management from Webster University—George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology. He was born and raised in Sitka and enjoys being a foster parent and volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America.
The Gin’tith (Richard Frank) Military Service is awarded to an Alaska Native who demonstrates a strong commitment and willingness to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in the defense of the United States of America. Individuals nominated for this award may be involved in the U.S. Armed Forces in active duty, reserves, National Guard or as a veteran who was honorably discharged from active duty or reserves.
Anne Sears, Glenn Godfrey Law Enforcement
This award goes to Anne Sears. She got her start in law enforcement with the Juneau Police Department. On her first day, Sears realized she had found her niche. Anne has served as an Alaska State Trooper for over 19 years and most notably, she was the first Alaska Native female trooper hired. Anne has been married to her husband Jay for 20 years; he was a fellow Trooper and they were lucky enough to work together for 15 years as Alaska State Troopers. They have two sons. Anne likes long walks, hikes, short runs, reading, hanging out with her kids and grandkids and flying around the state with her husband in their plane.
The Glenn Godfrey Law Enforcement award is named for the late Glenn Godfrey, Colonel and Director of the Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Commissioner of Public Safety. This award recognizes an Alaska Native law enforcement officer, federal, state or local, who has shown outstanding dedication to the safety of the public in any location(s) within Alaska, often requiring heroic courage in the face of danger.
Paałuk Reid Magdanz and Qiġñaaq Cordelia Kellie, Eileen Panigeo MacLean Education
This award goes to Paałuk Reid Magdanz and Qiġñaaq Cordelia Kellie. Iḷisaqativut started when they had coffee at AFN. They both were learning Iñupiaq and struggling with the postbases and endings. They came up with the idea of a two-week intensive Iñupiaq working session. Along with some friends, they started a self-funded two-week language intensive study of Iñupiaq. Through this, they have empowered Iñupiat to learn and teach our language.
Paałuk was raised in Kotzebue and his parents are Susan Georgette and Jim Magdanz from California and Nebraska. He graduated from Kotzebue High School and went to college at Yale. He worked in the Alaska legislature and taught in China before returning to Kotzebue. He has one brother.
Qiġñaaq’s family is from Wainwright and Washington. She grew up in Wasilla and graduated from UAF. She has been learning and teaching Iñupiaq since 2014. Her parents are Patik Aggie Kellie, originally from Wainwright and John Kellie from Washington State with his roots being from Scotland. She has two sisters.
The Eileen Panigeo MacLean Education award is named for the late State Legislator, elementary and bilingual teacher, Eileen Panigeo, this award recognizes an Alaska Native who has demonstrated strong commitment, competence and sensitivity in the education field, and whose accomplishments have improved educational opportunities for Alaska Natives. Individuals nominated for this award may be involved in traditional education, preschool, elementary, secondary, or postsecondary education, the nominee can be cultural educator, parents, committee members, school board members, administrators, teacher aides, or other education related professionals, who have been a positive role model for the Alaska Native community.
The 2020 AFN Convention took place virtually October 15th through October 16th. More event details are available online by visiting nativefederation.org.