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Alaska Native

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Bringing Native Values to Work Sophie Minich and Sheri Buretta were both little girls in Alaska when, 51 years ago, on December 18, 1971, President Richard Nixon signed the landmark Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). The act was the first of its kind in the United States’ long history of settlements with Native Americans. ANCSA created 12 Native regional economic development corporations in which the stockholders are the Native people who traditionally lived in these regions. The corporations were formed to provide economic, educational, social service, and cultural benefits to their shareholders.  Today, Minich and Buretta lead two of these Native corporations. Buretta is the chairman of the board for Chugach Alaska Corporation. Minich is the president and CEO of Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI).  Sheri Buretta Growing up between Tatitlek and Anchorage, Sheri Buretta and her family drove from Anchorage, where she lived, to Valdez, where an uncle…

Loss beyond years and miles I’ve just checked my box at the Ambler post office on a mid-August afternoon; Sarah Tickett might have smiled and handed me my mail; instead, it’s someone else. Just across the trail stands Nelson and Edna Greist’s plywood cabin. The door is open, an armload of wood on the stoop; a familiar, fireweed-framed clutter fills the yard. But there’s no sign of Nelson sitting in his spot to the right of the door, working on a piece of spruce or jade; no huge, squinting, gap-toothed smile as he invites me in with his signature “Gonna coffee!” and he and Edna welcome me like a long-lost relative; no Inupiaq legends or tales of his youth, living from the land in the wind-raked Killik River country, his family sometimes on the edge of survival. Another couple hundred yards toward my place on the downstream edge…

Communication is Key I grew up in the Lower 48, and over the last decade, I’ve come to realize the differences between people who live in Alaska versus those who don’t. My clients, who I take on Alaska tours, also note these distinctions and point them out—usually with amusement, and other times with shock akin to having entered a foreign country with a different language and culture. Of course, these are generalizations—but indulge me for my years on the ground in the north and attempts at self-deprecating humor. One of the first things you need to know about Alaskans is that they prefer to communicate by phone or in person. Many businesses don’t publish their email address for correspondence, not even a general one or automated form. Because I have social anxiety and will always choose to write rather than call or meet in person, I have spent hours searching…