The 55th annual Association of Village Council Presidents convention took place last week, September 24-25, 2019. At the convention, tribal members were honored for their contributions to their regions, villages, and families. Awards were given for Elder of the Year, Public Service, Youth Leadership, Culture Bearer, Healing Hands, and Parents of the Year.
Below are the award recipients for 2019.
James A. Charles
Award: Elder of the Year
James A. Charles was born to Emma Andrew and Willie Charles and his siblings are Anna Andrew Tuday, Katie Stewart, Lucy Lupie, Alice Andrew McIntyre, Johnny, Carlie, and Tommy. James is married to Nancy Charles and their children are Rosemary Charles White, late Willie Charles, Fritz, Jesse, and Dennis.
His mother taught James to “keep doing the job you are given until you can’t work anymore,” after they endured the TB epidemic in the 1950s. James’ mother and younger siblings all survived, he was 8 years old at the time. The Community of Tuntutuliak took care of them, with people sharing their subsistence catches. “Community was the community those years,” James said. Charles’ uncle taught him how to weave fish nets. They didn’t have fishing and hunting regulations, instead they had elders. James served on various committees/councils and helped guide the decision-making behind fishing and hunting regulations.
James supported restricting fishing on the Kuskokwim during the recent summers of low king salmon runs. “I come from the Kuskokwim,” said elder James, “and I have to think of people upriver too, so they can have salmon.” As James is helping to guide the management of the river, he is also being guided by the lessons learned from his mother, uncle, and community through the terrible winter of loss and generosity.
Martin B. Moore
Award: Public Service
Martin B. Moore Sr. was born in Emmonak to Willie and Natalia (Redfox) Moore. With the passing of Natalia, Martin was raised by stepmother Catherin (Echo) Moore and father, who raised a large family of 12 children.
Martin has been married to May Johnson for 56 years and they have 6 children, 23 grandchildren, and 17 great grandchildren.
Martin advocated for rural interests including Rural Head Start programs, construction of high schools in thirteen rural villages and longevity bonuses for elders as an Alaska State Representative. Through his service on boards, associations and volunteering, Martin has advocated for Alaska Native traditions and subsistence culture. He encourages elders to support youth, helping them to develop into strong Leaders. He supports improvements for tribal law enforcement and courts and works to enhance spiritual ties and subsistence activities.
Award: Youth Leadership
My name is Haley O’Brien, I am Yup’ik and grew up in Bethel. My parents are Paul and Jeanette O’Brien, and my grandparents are Kevin and Susan Murphy. I currently am attending college at Stanford University in California and will be graduating this year with a degree in Human Biology. After graduation, I plan on continuing my education to pursue a master’s degree in public health or environmental health sciences.
During my time at Stanford I have gotten the opportunity to serve in different leadership positions and improve my leadership skills. For example, I served as the financial officer for both my club basketball and rugby teams, where I was responsible for managing the club budgets and applying for funding.
I also served as the community outreach coordinator for a group that worked to destigmatize conversations surrounding mental health on campus. More recently, I staffed the Stanford Native Immersion Program, a pre-orientation program designed to give incoming native freshman a chance to meet each other and other native students. This upcoming school year, I will be serving as a staff coordinator for the Native American Cultural Center where I will both work as a student staff member but also assist other student staff in program planning, putting on events, and community building.
Award: Culture Bearer
Scott Sakar is the son of Johnny and Tamara Sakar of Aniak. Scott’s siblings are Colin Kvamme, Rhea Morgan, Marla Sakar, and Mataya Sakar. Scott was raised between the villages of Aniak and Crooked Creek. Scott is 14 years old and is the lead singer for the Angyaraq Dance Group and a trapper. Scott is a Nukalpiaq (successful hunter) for his family and community.
Scott is an elder in a young man’s body. He is always eager to learn about traditions and incorporates them into his everyday life. Whether he’s trapping, moose hunting, drifting for salmon, picking berries, chopping wood for elders or single moms, singing and Eskimo dancing, everything that Scott does is a benefit to others. He’s an outstanding role model to young kids in the community and a true Nukalpiaq to his family and community. He is a natural leader and a young man determined to live a good life, while holding a passion for traditions and passing them on to the younger generation. The community and dance group are lucky to have him.
Award: Culture Bearer
Julia was born to Jack and Irene Wassillie in Bethel, AK and raised by her grandparents Nicholas and Mary Stevens. She is the first among four siblings Jack Jr., Fr. Andrew, Alexia and Adrianne. Julia is married to Teddy Sipary and together they have five children: John, Jakob, Theodora, Teriana, and Jackson James.
Julia and her family live in Napaskiak where she is a dual-language teacher at Zacharias John Williams Memorial School, K-12. Julia has been an educator in her home village of Napaskiak for more than 20 years. She is passionate about Yup’ik language preservation, singing, and dancing.
Julia along with her husband Teddy typically hold Yup’ik dance sessions every Friday for the elementary students, and have been leaders of the Napaskiak School Dancers for over 10 years. She is one of the Russian Orthodox Parish Council members and volunteers as a choir leader.
Julia loves berry picking and fishing.
Evan Polty Sr.
Award: Elder of the Year
Evan Polty Sr. was born to the late Noel and Agnes Polty in Pilot Station. His siblings are the late Paul Polty, late Charlie Polty, late Nicholai Polty, and the late Nastasia Edwards. His paternal grandparents were Massa and Jacob Polty.
Evan is a Vietnam veteran. He worked with the Lower Yukon School District as a Home School Coordinator for 40 years, helping families with their children’s attendance and enrollment. He always talked to students about furthering their education and respecting parents.
Evan is an elder who truly loves and cares for Yukon River communities. As a sub deacon in his Orthodox church, Evan helps comfort, counsel, and encourage families suffering from the loss of a family member. He travels with the priest to other villages at times to help grieving families.
Evan speaks out during potlatches, gatherings, Yup’ik dances and whenever asked. Mr. Polty says, “Someday our parents won’t be around to guide us anymore, honor your father and mother.”
Award: Healing Hands
Juanita Treat was born to Wyman Land of Mississippi and Mary Petka Kohl of Bethel. Her siblings are James Kohl, Henry Kohl, and Karole Kohl. She is married to Leon Treat and their children are Leon Treat Jr., Gloria Christenson, Anya Treat, and Michael Treat.
Juanita worked as an interpreter for 52 years in a hospital setting. Juanita learned how to cut fish when she was 34 years old from Lucy Jacobs.
Juanita says, “Don’t ever be afraid to fail at anything, to keep trying and work hard. If you’re good to people, they will be good to you.”
Ulric and Mary Ulroan
Award: Parents of the Year
Ulric Ulroan’s parents are Harry and Lena Ferguson (of Chevak). Mary Ulroan’s parents are the late Alphonsus Chiklak Sr. and Martha Chiklak of Mt. Village.
Ulric and Mary Ulroan live in Chevak, Alaska and work as teachers. Together they have six children: Aaron, Summer, Jaden, Haley, Kendall, and Leyna.
Ulric and Mary teach their children the traditional subsistence way of life and most importantly to work together as a family. They went to college together in 2000 with three children and obtained their degrees in 2006, graduating from UAF. They now have six children. Working, praying, and eating together is important to the family. Mary and Ulric push their children in both school academics and sports. Their children are earning recognition as athletes both locally and in the State.
The Ulroan family travel on a 10-hour boat ride from Chevak to Mt. Village every summer to help Mary’s elderly mother, Martha Chiklak, to catch, cut, and smoke salmon. One summer the Ulric family picked 95 gallons of salmon berries and shared with elders, family members, and donated to community gatherings.
Ulric’s advice to children and students is “Just do it.” telling kids to start something without hesitation. The first step is always the hardest one and Ulric advises his children and students to take the first step. His advice given to him from his late grandmother, “No matter what anyone does to you, leave them alone and don’t do anything back,” and teaches his children to pray for others who do harm to you just as his late mother Lena Ferguson taught him before she passed on. Mary’s advice to students and young adults is “to get things over and done with.” Her message is to accomplish their goals, to finish what they have started.