Yatibaey Evans (Ahtna Athabascan) is from Mentasta, Alaska. I met her a few years ago when we served on a committee together. Yatibaey struck me as a friendly, outgoing and capable person. I recently learned she served on the board for the National Indian Education Association (NIEA). I caught up with her this month to find out more about her and her work with NIEA.
From the Head Waters People, Yatibaey is the daughter of Donna Galbreath from Mentasta and Jeff Mann from Massachusetts. She is the granddaughter of Molly Galbreath from Mentasta and Don Galbreath from Michigan. Yatibaey and Lewis Evans are celebrating their 16th year of marriage, and together they have four wonderful boys. Her research while at University of Washington explored the preconceived ideas held by students in Tacoma, Washington. The research prompted Yatibaey to pursue her Master of Arts in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University in order to assist in the field of education.
I’ve always dreamt in Indian. Vivid, lucid, in color and shaded with symbols. On one evening night quest, my body was carried in a stream. The water above and below me flowed horizontally from my head toward my toes. However, my body was carried in a current of its own and moving me ahead. As I approached a steep hill, I began to struggle. My brief panic subsided when I chose not to lose my strength fighting the elements I could not control. I reached deep in cool water with both hands. Wading below were fish that sucked on my fingers and pulled me the rest of the way home. I think I am a Salmon. Instinctively, I was called home.
In the year of 2014, I located my cousins and my Koyukon Athabascan tribe. I was welcomed with tears. Even my first cousin, Barb, felt like she needed to have a baby shower for me. When my tax return came in February 2015, the first thing I did was make reservations from Los Angeles to Fairbanks, Alaska and a second reservation with a bush plane to fly me to the village of Koyukuk. The Native Village of Koyukuk lies where the Koyukuk River meets the Yukon River. Koyukuk is about 300 miles from Fairbanks. There is no running water to the cabins and are no roads in and out.
James Roberts (Athabascan) of Tanana is on the cast of the Yukon Men television show. I caught up with James recently to ask him about what it is like to be a part of the show and to find out more about him. James and his wife, Cindy, live in Tanana with their children.
James just finished wrapping up the fifth season of Yukon Men. He has gained a new appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes of TV shows and movies. James says, “I’m always trying to figure out camera angles and lenses.” It has been exciting for him to participate on the show and has gained a better understanding of how they make it. Continue reading “James Roberts – Yukon Man”→
During the holidays, there are many opportunities to give. I’ve given to a variety of charities and fundraisers over the years. This year, I chose to contribute a gift to a child in need. I picked a star of a child who wanted winter clothes with a budget of $25. It was a challenge to stay under budget. I was only able to get one item that was close to $20, and even that was on sale.
It made me realize the hard choices parents have to make not only during the holidays but throughout the year. I really wanted to just buy the next item, but I had to stay under $25. It made me see the hard reality of people in need. It made me think about what it must be like to choose between things you need like food and warm clothes in Alaska during the winter. I am grateful for this eye-opening experience.
It gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation of the struggles many of us go through on a daily basis. It also brought me back to my childhood. As the old saying goes, ‘We didn’t know we were poor.’ That’s how it really was. I have fond memories of Christmas time. We considered ourselves fortunate if we got new yarn socks for Christmas.
I’m glad I’m able to contribute a little. It also reminded me of what the holiday season is all about. When I was a young kid, we lived in Huslia. I remember the excitement of seeing Santa at the community hall. The kids received gifts from Santa. I remember eating mandarin oranges. They were so delicious. The whole community came together.
I used to sleep by the Christmas tree. We had live spruce trees in the village. On Christmas morning, people stopped by to shake our hands to wish us Merry Christmas. We also visited people all around town too. Nowadays, we mostly make those wishes on Facebook. Plus it is hard to go door to door when you live in the city.
I remember watching fireworks during New Year’s eve. Sometimes there was a violin dance. At midnight, the men shot their guns in the air. It was an exciting time.
On December 17th, the Fairbanks Four (Marvin Roberts, Eugene Vent, Kevin Pease and George Frese) celebrate their first day together as free men. It began unfolding on social media after lunch as reports of them being in a closed hearing was happening. People were on pins and needles waiting for word of the potential release. I was watching it unfold on Facebook and Twitter. Finally, Eugene Vent, Kevin Pease and George Frese walked out of the court as free men. Marvin Roberts was released earlier this year.
It took a tremendous amount of unwavering support from people around the state to set them free. Search “Fairbanks Four” online for news and information regarding their release. One staunch supporter, April Monroe, said, “These are the first Native American men to ever be exonerated, and the first Alaskans as well, but more importantly, eighteen years later these guys are home.”
Yes! They are home just in time for the holidays. Their family and friends will be able feed them and take care of them. They will be able to eat Native food and share in traditions. Freedom is not something to take for granted, and I wish all four of the guys well as they transition to normal life. It is truly amazing what can happen when the entire statewide community comes together for a cause.
Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) set up a donation account for the Fairbanks Four. TCC President Victor Joseph “Once this chapter of their lives has come to a close, they will face a new set of challenges as they begin their re-entry into society. These men have been imprisoned for most of their adult lives.” He goes on to say, “The road ahead for the Fairbanks Four is going to be a long one and Tanana Chiefs Conference will be there to support them every step of the way. We ask that the rest of the Fairbanks community and even the nation join us in support of these men.”
I’m looking forward to spending time with family and friends and will definitely not take it for granted. It is also a time for reflection as we enter 2016. It’s a time for giving and receiving and to appreciate the people in your life.
Tatiana Ticknor is Yup’ik, Tlingit and Dena’ina Athabascan. She is 16 years old and lives in Anchorage. I’ve watched Tatiana grow up through the eyes of her mother, Jean Sam-Kiunya. Jean is the daughter of my former co-worker, David Sam. Jean’s mother is Marilyn Balluta, an Athabascan linguist and educator. Tatiana had some powerful role models in her life. This year, Tatiana was selected as a 2015 Champion for Change by the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY).
CNAY posted, “Tatiana Ticknor is a high school sophomore and serves as a “Community Doer” for First Alaskans Institute. In this position, Tatiana engages and motivates her peers to get involved in community action, promotes culture and language preservation, and identifies opportunities to incorporate elder participation in community activities.”
“Native Youth should be confident of their identity. I want to help knock out stereotypes. These outcomes need to and will change in my community, even if it takes years.” – Tatiana Ticknor
I sat down with Tatiana to learn more about her. She is a very poised young lady with a welcoming smile. Tatiana is a member of a number of Alaska Native dance groups in Anchorage, including East High School dance group, Acilquq, Alaska Native Heritage Center youth dance group and Rafael Jimmie’s dance group. Tatiana says dancing is “fun and relaxing and a way to free your mind.” She enjoys dancing and appreciates that no one will judge you for how you dance. Her younger brother, Samuel, also dances in some of the same groups. It took her a while to learn some the Yup’ik dances, but it became easier once she got the hang of it.
Tatiana created a Facebook page to teach Dena’ina Athabascan words and phrases. It is called, Dena’ina Word of the Day. She posts videos about once a week. I’m impressed with her willingness to teach as she is learning. Tataina mostly learns Dena’ina words from her cheda grandmother, Marilyn, and the rest is self-taught. She and her grandmother can have conversations in Dena’ina. She used to attend languages classes held by her cheda.
Tatiana participated in a language game at the First Alaskans Institute’s Elders and Youth Conference. They played a game of musical chairs and you had to follow Inupiaq words for go, hurry up and sit down to participate. Making language learning fun is a great way to get the younger people to participate. Tatiana also understands a little bit of Yup’ik from her dad. While she doesn’t speak the language, she understands it. Tatiana’s nickname is Udla, which means older sister in Dena’ina.
Sports also keeps Tatiana occupied. She played softball and enjoys meeting old friends from when she was younger. Tatiana is also involved in the Native Youth Olympic games. She practices through the winter and competes in the Eskimo and Indian stick pulls, kneel jump and other games.
As you can see, Tatiana keeps herself occupied with many things throughout the year. I asked her for some advice to share with her peers and parents.
Tatiana’s Tips for Youth
If you have an idea, strive to do it.
If you want to do something, make sure you have the time and motivation.
Ask for help.
Networking is key to getting your word out there.
Try for opportunities. If you don’t get accepted into something, keep on trying. Don’t give up.
Tatiana’s Tips for Parents
Try not to let your children down. Parents give kids their self-confidence.
Always support them.
Let them be themselves. Each kid has their own way and how they do things.
Strive to keep their culture alive.
First Alaskans Institute’s Community Doers conference was a great way for Tatiana to get connected with others and she has found the staff to be great mentors. Staff gave her tips on public speaking.
When she attended the Center for Native American Youth event in Washington, DC earlier this year, she learned about youth in Indian Country. She also became friends with other youth and wants to keep making changes in Indian Country. Tatiana serves on CNAY’s Youth Advisory Board and participating in the White House Tribal Nations Conference hosted by President Barack Obama. The CNAY leaders are serving as Native Youth Delegates for the conference and will join elected leaders of the 567 federally recognized tribes and for nation-to-nation dialogues with members of the President’s Cabinet on critical issues affecting Native American tribes.
Tatiana plans to attend college and maybe study to be a biochemist or computer engineer. She is a role model for youth and truly an inspiration. Tatiana’s final thoughts were, “You don’t really know you are making a difference, but you are. Anyone can make a difference. Make an action plan and start to make a difference.” I know Tatiana’s family, friends and supporters could not be more proud of her.