Alaska Native/Indigenous People

A Conversation With Esther McCarty

Pat and Esther McCarty met First Lady Sandy Parnell in 2008 in Ruby. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Pat and Esther McCarty met First Lady Sandy Parnell in 2008 in Ruby. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

I recently had a chance to visit with my cousin, Esther McCarty. Esther is from Hughes originally. She is married to Pat McCarty of Ruby where they raised a family. Esther is known throughout the region for her business experience, cultural knowledge and ability to speak and make songs in the Koyukon Athabascan language.

Esther and Pat are both leaders serving in a number of local and regional boards and committees. They are both very active with the purpose of serving people.

I asked Esther about serving on the board of Doyon, Limited, of which she was recently re-elected. She shared the following leadership tips and advice.

  1. Work hard. You’re not going to get anywhere by being lazy.
  2. Get educated.
  3. Treat everyone with respect. Be nice.
  4. Always be honest.
  5. Be yourself.
Esther McCarty and her daughter, Alitha, attended a wedding in Fairbanks in 2012. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Esther McCarty and her daughter, Alitha, attended a wedding in Fairbanks in 2012. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

Esther was fortunate to grow up around elders. For a period of about 18 months, her late mother, Alice Ambrose, was sick and was not able to care for her children. Esther and her siblings moved around to different homes. She remembers learning how to stick up for herself when she was two and a half years old.

Esther remembers an old grandma telling her to listen to people, but make up your own mind. Esther says, “A lot of people are going to give you advice, but you have to be the one to make up your own mind.”

Esther feels that her elders prepared her to be who she is today. At a certain point, she felt ready to go ahead and step up to leadership challenges. She says, “I want to do it for the people.”

I admire Esther for stepping into leadership positions and spending so much of her personal time on things that benefit the wider community. She’s a classy Alaska Native woman who I’ve always looked up to. I especially appreciate her efforts to practice and preserve the Denaakk’e (Koyukon Athabascan) language.

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