News Release

First Alaskans Institute

First Alaskans Institute (FAI), a statewide Alaska Native nonprofit focused on advancing Alaska Natives for the next 10,000 years, is pleased to announce the selection of our 2021 Indigenous Leadership Continuum Fellowships. Three distinct fellowship opportunities will facilitate the learning of tribal, federal and state political processes and governance structures and strengthen Indigenous knowledge and advocacy in these critical areas. Our 5th Al Adams Fellow is Bonnie Morris (Haida). Our 14th Public Policy Fellowship cohort includes Delaney Thiele (Dena’ina/Yup’ik), Ch’aak’tí Shawaan Jackson-Gamble(Tsaagweidi), Amy Igri Lowndes (Iñupiaq) and Pakak Sophie Boerner (Iñupiaq). Our Alaska Native Policy Center Fellow is Averie Wells (Tsimshian/Iñupiaq/Yup’ik).

The Al Adams Young Political Leader Fellowship launched in 2013 to honor the late Iñupiaq statesman from Kotzebue who exemplified genuine and culturally connected political leadership throughout his life. He served as a Trustee of First Alaskans Institute and continues to have a presence in memoriam through this fellowship program, inspiring a new generation of leadership through his legacy. The fellow honors the namesake as well as First Alaskans Institute by living up to the high expectations of hard work, exemplary behavior, performance, and engagement in this fellowship and all of the opportunities it affords, while supporting the advancement of the Native community. This unique opportunity builds leadership capacity while supporting a commitment to one’s culture, peoples and home community. The fellow is placed in Washington D.C. to become familiar with the federal legislative process and the workings of the Alaska delegation.

The Public Policy Fellowship is based in the Alaska State Legislature. The Fellows are immersed in the state lawmaking process, contributing to their host offices while deepening their understanding of Alaska’s issues. They will strengthen their knowledge, and sharpen their leadership skills and advocacy, while serving as ambassadors of their communities. The Public Policy Fellowship has placed 37 Fellows since 2008 in 15 Legislative and Executive offices. First Alaskans Institute selects Native leaders who can jump right in and swim upstream through the fast-moving waters of the legislative session. Many alums have gone on to pursue careers and leadership roles, and are involved in high level policymaking, community organizing, and in political affairs at the tribal, federal, state, local and international levels.

The Alaska Native Policy Center Fellowship is based in First Alaskans Institute’s Alaska Native Policy Center, whose work involves Alaska Native leaders, Elders, Youth, culture bearers, policy makers, and other partners to co-create and advance a vision that sustains Alaska Native peoples far into the future. The Fellow will work with the ANPC team to nourish strong relationships, leverage Indigenous truths and narratives, and keep a pulse on critical issues that impact Alaska Native peoples. They will develop strong skills in advocacy and are expected to bring a passion for serving the communities that perpetuate our ways of life. In return, Fellows will emerge from the Fellowship with a stronger understanding of the layers of governance, law and policy impacting Alaska Native peoples, along with the tools and solutions available to us to advance and protect Alaska Native ways of life and wellbeing into perpetuity.

Please join us in welcoming our 2021 Fellows:

2021 Al Adams Young Political Leader Fellowship

Bonnie Morris (Haida) is of the Eagle moiety and Ts’eehl Laanaas clan from Hydaburg. Her great-grandparents were Louisa and Hugh Cogo, and Peter and Lena Bell. Her grandparents were the late Rosalind and Donald Bell, Sr. Her mother is Mary Morris (Bell) of Hydaburg. Bonnie recently obtained an Associate of Arts degree in Tribal Management from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Before that she completed a three-year Haida language program and was the Hydaburg community liaison for Sealaska Heritage Institute. She supported the Prince of Wales Wellness Coalition grant by planning the framework and hosting community events as the Project Coordinator. She is passionate about sustaining Haida education, language, culture, heritage and values for youth, families and her community. She also served as a school board member for her community. Bonnie is an alumna of the 2020 First Alaskans Institute Public Policy Fellowship placed with Representative Dan Ortiz, 2019 First Alaskans Institute Summer Internship Program placed with Rasmuson Foundation, various First Alaskans Institute dialogues, and our Alaska Native Civic Engagement Training. Bonnie is placed with U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan.

2021 Public Policy Fellowship

Delaney Naruyaq’ Thiele (Dena’ina/Yup’ik) was born and raised in Anchorage. Her parents, Valia Ardaiz and Georg Thiele, met through their fathers who were pilots for Wien Air Alaska. Her maternal grandparents are Richard and Ramona Ardaiz and paternal grandparents are Gloria and Reinhold Thiele. Naruyaq’ earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Alaska Native Studies from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) in 2020. She owns Cloudberry, a small jewelry business, featuring hand woven beaded accessories. Cloudberry was the catalyst for her reconnection with her culture and traditions and has significantly contributed to her ongoing journey of reclamation. Naruyaq’ served as a secretariat member for the Model United Nations of Alaska, which provided her the opportunity to work closely with the outgoing chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. In 2019, she was a First Alaskans Institute summer intern in the Alaska Native Policy Center. Indigenous issues related to sovereignty, land settlements and self-determination are where Delaney’s true passions lie. As such, Delaney is actively laying the groundwork for a professional career in policy related to sovereignty and Indigenous justice. She is placed with Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson to learn how to carry legislation, write speeches, read bills and statutes. She will also have the opportunity to share her viewpoint that will assist with developing legislation.

Ch’aak’tí Shawaan Jackson-Gamble (Tsaagweidi) was raised in Kake and Sitka. His name translates to watchman of Hamilton Bay, and he belongs to the Tsaagweidi Clan (killer whale) of Keex Kwaan (Kake). His parents are Dawn Jackson and Tom Gamble. His maternal grandparents are Mike and Edna Jackson and paternal grandparents are the late Anita Wright and Art Gamble. He is both Tlingit and Haida. Ch’aak’tí is pursuing a Native Environmental Science degree from Northwest Indian College because he is passionate about protecting and managing lands, waters, animal relatives and resources for future generations. He enjoys hunting, fishing and gathering with family and friends, exploring his homelands, sewing seal and sea otter, and working in the smokehouse. Ch’aak’tí was the 2019-2020 Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Tlingit & Haida) Emerging leader and 2019 AFN Southeast Regional Village Alternate. He currently serves as the Youth Commission Advisory Committee Chair. His goal for the future is to earn a graduate degree in fisheries and oceanography focusing on traditional knowledge and management of our resources. He is placed with Representative Dan Ortiz and will experience participating in work that will support mariculture legislation and establishing a sustainable fiscal plan.  

Amy Igri Lowndes (Iñupiaq) is from Anchorage with roots in Selawik. Her parents are Julie Petro Lowndes (Migiaq) of Fairbanks and John Lowndes of Maitland, Florida. Her grandparents were the late Esther Knox and Joseph Petro of Fairbanks. Amy finished her junior year at Pomona College last spring where she studied Politics and Studio Art. She wrote for the Pomona school paper and taught third-grade classes at the Benton Museum of Art. Amy is a 2020-2021 Pomona College Humanities Studio Fellow and serves as a mentor for the Indigenous Peer Mentoring Program. She is currently taking a break from school to pursue professional experience and plans to graduate in the spring of 2022. Most recently, she was a Graphics Coordinator for Alaskans for Better Elections Yes on 2 campaign. She enjoys reading, sewing and drawing. She is an alumna of the 2018 First Alaskans Institute Summer Internship Program and was placed with Nautilus Impact Investing. For this session Igri is placed with Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and will engage in work that will support the promotion of Alaska Native language programs and teachers in school, enhance voting access, ensure public access to lands and the creation of a balanced budget.

Pakak Sophie Boerner (Iñupiaq) was named after her Aana and Daata, Pakak and Nuuyuukan. Her great grandparents are Henry and Lucy Jackson and grandmother is Marie Pakak Jackson. Her parents are Verne and Tassilo Boerner. Pakak’s heritage plays a significant role in how she identifies herself and her direction in life. She holds a double Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Languages, with a focus on German from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is working to earn a master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from Leipzig University located in Germany. Her hopes for the future include working in public health advocating for Indigenous rights and continuing to learn about her cultural heritage and traditional arts. She enjoys beading, skin sewing, hiking, berry picking, cooking traditional meals and spending time with family. Pakak is placed with Representative Ivy Spohnholz and will have the opportunity to share her world view and what she has learned about the challenges facing rural Alaska. She will also engage in work that supports legislation, response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and address the fiscal crisis.  

2021 Alaska Native Policy Center Fellowship

Averie Wells (Tsimshian/Iñupiaq/Yup’ik) was born and raised in Anchorage. Her parents are Karla Weise and Clinton Wells. Her maternal grandparents are Eileen and John Weise with roots in Bethel and Metlakatla. Her paternal grandparents are Rhoda and Harold Wells with roots from Kotzebue. Averie was a junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Ethnic Studies with an emphasis in American Indian Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder before coming home due to COVID-19. Currently she is enrolled at the University of Alaska Anchorage and engaging in Model UN. Averie enjoys being outside and engaging in political conversations. She loves her family dog, Stevie, who has been a source of strength during this pandemic. While working in the Alaska Native Policy Center Averie will have the opportunity to strengthen her advocacy voice by engagement in racial equity dialogues, expand her network by connecting to statewide communities, and deepen her understanding of the legislature by monitoring legislation that will effect rural Alaska and Alaska Native peoples.

About First Alaskans Institute (FAI): 

At First Alaskans Institute we know we are responsible for carrying more than 10,000 years of ancestral knowledge into the future with rigor, humor, resilience, vigilance, and love. To learn more visit our website at www.firstalaskans.org, contact us at 907-677-1700 or email info@firstalaskans.org.

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