On Tuesday evening, July 29, 2008, the First Alaskans Institute hosted a reception for the public at the Kodiak Fisheries Research Center. The reception was to introduce the First Alaskans Institute staff and Board of Trustees to members of the Kodiak Community, and also to recognize the Alutiiq Heritage Foundation (the governing body of the Alutiiq Museum) and Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) for the awards they received from the Institute.
The First Alaskans Institute is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, formed out of the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) for the purpose of advancing Alaska Natives. The Institute’s mission includes community engagement, information and research, collaboration, and leadership development. Chairman Willie Hensley, in his address to the group on Tuesday evening, indicated that the Institute’s particular focus this year was on development of leadership among youth. Hensley then introduced representatives from the two local entities, who gave presentations on their programs which had benefited from the awards.
KANA received a monetary award for their rural preschool enhancement project in the villages around Kodiak. KANA used the funding to help develop the curriculum, in concert with the Alaska Region of U.S. Fish & Wildlife and local Elders, as well as age-appropriate materials that will be distributed through their well baby literacy program. They have also earmarked funds to work with tribal councils to upgrade clinic and preschool facilities around the island.
The second local award from the Institute went to the Alutiiq Heritage Foundation which sponsored the Future Masters Workshop. The workshop, which runs from July 28-August 6, is being led by accomplished carver Perry Eaton. The class is for youth ages 14-18, and has ten students enrolled. The group is using a shop class at Kodiak Community College. The students have visited the Alutiiq Museum to study the Alutiiq masks currently on exhibit, and will complete their own mask out of white spruce. They will work with Elders to create a song and story to represent their mask, and then give a performance wearing their creation.
To learn more about the First Alaskans Institute and the programs they provide, visit their website at www.firstalaskans.org .