I met Marlene Watson about a year ago. A friend introduced us in hopes that I could help Marlene as she was moving up to Alaska. She is Navajo and hails from Oakland, California. Marlene moved to Anchorage at the end of 2012 to participate in the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program at Providence Alaska Medical Center as chaplain resident. I love hearing about people who want to live and experience Alaska. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Marlene throughout the year. There are some cultural similarities with Navajo and Athabascan people, like slight similarities with the languages.
I asked Marlene about some of the highlights of her year so far. She claims to have seen the world’s largest moose! Marlene knew she would eventually see a moose during her time in Alaska. Marlene was walking in Anchorage one evening, and came upon what looked like a statue or yard decoration of a moose in a yard. As she neared, she noticed its jaw moving and bobbing as it ate from top of a tree. “Ahhh, it’s alive!” she said to herself. Marlene says it was a black bull moose with legs taller than her. She kept walking and finally felt safe when she walked on the other side of a dumpster. That’s a big moose!
Marlene went on two cruises in Seward, Alaska this summer, a full-day and a half-day one. She saw porpoises, orcas, puffins, eagles, mountain goat, sea otters, stellar sea lions and a bear. I need to go on a cruise in Southcentral Alaska one of these days. I’ve lived down here for over 15 years. It is great to see someone enjoying Alaska. I think Alaskans need to do so more often.
Marlene appreciates the connections she has made through the First Covenant Church in downtown Anchorage. She has met some Alaska Native people and even another Navajo that lived in Oakland. What are the odds? Marlene has been invited to a few feasts of Alaska Native food, and is open to trying new foods. So far, she has eaten herring eggs, frozen white fish, dried caribou meat, seal oil, hooligan dried fish, Eskimo ice cream and smoked dried salmon. That made my mouth water when she was telling me about it.
Marlene is enjoying her time in Alaska and plans to stay here as long as she has a job. She loves chaplaincy work, architecture and engineering. Marlene has work experience on tribal projects as well as public and private design projects, she expects to continue to do these types of work, as well as chaplaincy work. She enjoyed Anchorage record high temperatures over the summer. She travelled all over Southcentral Alaska. Marlene first got the bite to go to Alaska after she applied to be on the design team of the ANMC, but was not selected. Later Marlene had the opportunity to go on a cruise to Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau, and Glacier Bay in 2007 with AISES members and she was hooked.
Marlene serves on the board for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). It is her third term serving on the board. The mission of AISES is to substantially increase the representation of American Indians and Alaskan Natives in engineering, science, and other related technology disciplines. Marlene serves on the board with Twyla Baker-Demaray, Ph.D, whom I know from Twitter. Twyla wasn’t surprised that Marlene was brave enough to move all the way to Alaska.
“Marlene’s a trailblazer though, I could very much so see that in her, and I couldn’t think of anyone else better suited to go. I know it’s been an adjustment for her, but I’m confident she’s going to do amazing things.”
-Twyla Baker-Demaray, Ph.D (@Indigenia on Twitter)
Marlene was recently a featured speaker at the 2013 Alaska Women’s Ministries 16th Annual Statewide Retreat at the North Star Bible Camp in Willow, Alaska. Women from Fairbanks, Wasilla, Kenai, Soldotna, Unalakleet, Mekoryuk and other communities attended the retreat. Marlene volunteers at the Alaska Native Medical Center ANMC as a chaplain. She says, “I’m glad I can be with patients and sit with them and listen in their time of need.” She prays and provides spiritual and pastoral care with patients at ANMC and at Providence. The hardships Marlene experienced while growing up helps her to help others. She says, “It’s not in vain that you go through all this suffering and hardship.”
I’m not the most religious person, but I appreciate people, like Marlene, who help others in need. I admire her strength of endurance while she helps people. It has been fun watching Marlene enjoy Alaska, and makes me grateful I live in this great state. It’s fun to learn about other indigenous cultures. There are so many unique tribes across the United States. I hope to learn more about this Navajo in Alaska!
ABOUT MARLENE WATSON
Marlene Watson is Navajo from Tohlakai, NM and Wide Ruins, AZ. She grew up in Oakland, CA. Marlene holds three (Yes, three!) masters degrees: Masters of Arts in Architecture, Masters of Science in Civil Engineering and Masters of Divinity. She received her Masters of Divinity from the Fuller Theological Seminary. Marlene is currently a chaplain resident in the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Providence Alaska Medical Center. She is working toward to becoming a board certified chaplain and needs to apply and meet work criteria for board certification. She hopes to teach Christian education classes in the future. Marlene volunteers at the Alaska Native Medical Center as a chaplain. Marlene attends the First Covenant Church in Anchorage and leads a covenant group. Marlene can be contacted on Facebook or at email@example.com.