Alaska Native Studies Student Biographies
“The Alaska Native Studies Minor not only dealt with educating students about Native History, but also focused on saving and preserving its heritage.”
- Jonathan Butler
Jonathan chose to finish his bachelor’s degree in Justice at the University of Alaska Anchorage when he heard that they offered a great program here. He realized that he wanted to learn more about Alaska Native history since he had been here for 13 years.
Jonathan saw that the Alaska Natives Studies program offered courses that put an emphasis on Alaska Native heritage and were taught by Alaska Native instructors. This allowed him to learn more about an Alaskan Native perspective on historical events from instructors who may have had firsthand experience with the historical events. He saw that these courses taught students about history, but they also are about preserving and saving the culture. Jonathan felt that it would be exciting to learn more about the culture and seeing these efforts helped him make the decision to add the Alaska Native Studies minor.
Mr. Butler hopes to use his Alaska Native Studies minor to gain more awareness and appreciation for the diversity in Alaska Native history and cultures. He hopes to be able to use his knowledge to recognize the differences throughout the regions that include various tribes and cultures in Alaska. Jonathan also wants to use his minor to create ways for the Anchorage Police Department to promote relationships with people who are Alaska Native.
He has seen that there may be barriers that could prevent relationships from being built, because there may be a lack of understanding of what has happened historically. Having learned about Alaskan Native history he feels that this could be the first step towards creating the opportunity to develop those relationships. Jonathan believes that sharing the value of acknowledging and knowing that it is important to restore and sustain Alaska Native cultures is a way to start those relationships with the Alaskan Native community.
Jonathan’s future career involves developing sustainable relationships with the Alaska Native community through the Alaska Anchorage Police Department. He hopes there will be an opportunity for each other to communicate and for the Anchorage Police Department to establish partnerships with Alaska Native organizations. Jonathan has already built a relationship with South Central Foundation and hopes to work with them in future.
“We are all elders in training.” - unknown
Audrey Leary is a UAA student who chose to be close to home, but far enough to grow. She’s decided that she is still here, because she loves the campus, people, Alaska Native Studies (AKNS), Native Student Services, and Native Student Council. When she took the Alaska Native Studies classes she noticed that she continued to network with other students who are interested in learning about Alaska Native cultures.
Audrey believes that the knowledge of our cultures is never ending and there is always something to be learned about herself in Alaska Native Studies courses. She wants to give back to her people and the more knowledge she has the more she can give back to Alaska Native peoples. Ms. Leary wants to give back by being a teacher in rural Alaska. As a teacher she will be able to form her lesson plans around cultural topics that she learned through AKNS courses. Including cultural lessons as a teacher will allow Audrey to stay connected to Alaskan Native culture and to connect with her future students in rural Alaska.
Audrey is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and she plans to get a master’s degree in Education Leadership. Her goal is to become a principal in rural Alaska and to achieve her goals she has to obtain a master’s degree.
“It allows you to leave the shame behind when you learn who our people really are from an Alaskan Native perspective.”
University of Alaska Anchorage student, Kyle Worl is studying Anthropology and earning his minor in Alaska Native Studies. After his parents convinced him to stay in state until he decided on a major he pursued his interest in learning about Alaska Native culture. At first Kyle did not realize that staying in Anchorage would allow him to become grounded in the Anchorage and Alaska Native community. The Alaska Native Heritage Center began to stir his interests in who he is and where he came from by teaching him about his ancestors.
The Alaska Native Studies courses he took instilled in him a respect for the Alaska Native people, land, and history. Kyle feels that learning about your culture and the history of your people becomes more than educational; it allows us to learn about lost traditions and historical events that affected Alaska Native people. The Alaska Native Studies minor supports his future career as an anthropologist, because it allows him to move forward by being grounded in history. Kyle believes that to help people in need the first step is to be educated about the history of the people to fully understand political, educational, and social issues.
Mr. Worl feels that the Alaska Native Studies minor allows people to gain a new perspective on Alaska Native culture and people, because it is taught through an Alaskan Native perspective in a respectful manner of all cultures. Kyle considers these insights to history may also tie into other cultures or Indigenous groups, because of the many similarities in traditions, values, or historical events. He also mentioned that even though indigenous groups may be divided geographically the ability to work together is reinforced through cultural ties. Through these cultural ties Kyle hopes to increase the language revitalization movement by sharing or teaching through language circles to people from all backgrounds. He is passionate about Native languages, because within a language is culture, traditions, and history. It is the core of a culture; it is a foundation of who Kyle Worl is as an Alaskan Native. He says it has become a personal concern as well as a community issue.