Calista Corporation Announces the 2019 Shareholder Awards Winners Exemplify Our Alaska Native Values

Pete Kaiser of Bethel-based Kaiser Racing Kennel, 2019 Calista Shareholder Business of the Year

by Thom Leonard

Evan Polty, Sr., 2019 Calista Elder of the Year, of Pilot Station
Julia Sipary, 2019 Calista Culture Bearer of the Year, of Napaskiak
Alaska State Senator Lyman Hoffman, 2019 Axel C. Johnson Distinguished Shareholder of the Year, from Bethel
Nathan Sidell, 2019 Calista Youth of the Year, of Washington D.C., with his mother Karen Samuelson and grandmother Mary Fitka Samuelson

Calista (cha-lis-tah) Corporation is pleased to announce the 2019 recipients of the annual Calista Shareholder Awards. Nominated by fellow Shareholders, these awards recognize exceptional efforts by Shareholders and Descendants to uphold the cultural values of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and its communities.

“As Shareholders, we value respect, teamwork, and dedication to the people of our Region,” said Calista Corporation President/CEO Andrew Guy. “The Shareholders we are honoring with these awards have inspired all of us to live our values and support each other. We are grateful for their service and leadership.”

Calista Elder of the Year: Evan Polty, Sr. (Pilot Station). Evan is an elder who truly loves and cares for Yukon River communities. As a subdeacon in his Orthodox church, Evan helps comfort, counsel, and encourage families suffering from the loss of a family member. This includes spending time with them, praying with them, assisting the priest with Yup’ik/English translation, and helping with church burials. He sometimes travels with the priest to other villages to help grieving families.

When Evan talks to young people, he encourages them to further their education and training, and respect their parents. “Someday our parents won’t be around to guide us anymore. I tell (the youth) to honor their father and mother.”

Raymond C. Christiansen Business of the Year: Kaiser Racing Kennel (Bethel). Pete Kaiser founded Kaiser Racing Kennel in 2003 as part of a busy, seasonal schedule of running dogs in the winter and working on a tugboat in the summer. This year, Pete became the first Yup’ik musher in history to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and the kennel has become a supporter of important community causes, including suicide awareness across the YK Delta. Pete hopes some of his success can help motivate youth to chase their own dreams.

“I’m inspired by the relationship and bond I have with my dogs, the competition and challenging aspect of training and racing, and representing my family, sponsors, and Region at the highest professional level,” Pete said.

Calista Culture Bearer: Julia Sipary (Napaskiak). 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. She teaches in Yup’ik at the dual-language K-12 school in Napaskiak, and for the last decade, she and her husband Teddy have led dance activities for local youth.

“There’s so much I like about Yup’ik dancing. It gives the kids something to do. I get to teach them our words, what the songs mean. It helps the kids appreciate our culture,” Julia said.

Axel C. Johnson Distinguished Shareholder: Lyman Hoffman (Bethel). Alaska State Senator Lyman Hoffman is the longest-serving member in the history of the Alaska Legislature, with 32 years in the House and Senate combined. In addition to championing funding for rural education, Hoffman has been a strong defender of the Power Cost Equalization (PCE) Fund, which is critical to the viability of electrical utilities throughout rural Alaska.

Calista Youth of the Year: Nathan Sidell (Washington, D.C). Nathan is a May 2019 college graduate and former Calista intern/scholarship recipient who will commission shortly as a Field Artillery officer in the U.S. Army. While pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Studies at American University, Nathan participated in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program and developed multiple language and leadership skills by traveling abroad and doing volunteer work in the Middle East and France.

After serving, Nathan said he plans to return to Alaska and learn the Yup’ik language.

The award recipients will be recognized on July 5 at the 45th Annual Meeting of Shareholders in Toksook Bay. They will receive an award plaque and financial reward.

Calista Corporation has over 29,000 Shareholders and is the parent company of more than 30 subsidiaries in the following industries: military defense contracting, construction, real estate, environmental and natural resource development, marine transportation, oil field services and heavy equipment sales, service and rentals. Since 1994, Calista has provided more than $4.6 million in scholarships to its Shareholders and Descendants. Since inception, Calista has declared more than $64.7 million in dividends and distributions, and $6.5 million in Elders’ Benefit Program distributions to Shareholders.

Thom Aparuk Leonard is the Director of Communications & Shareholder Services for the Calista Corporation.