News Release

First Alaskans Institute

First Alaskans Institute (FAI) is pleased to introduce our 2021 Summer Internship Program (SIP) cohort. This year marks 18 years of placing Alaska Native, American Indian, Indigenous, and rural community members into organizations around Alaska to provide cultural, personal, and professional leadership growth and employment experience. Since 2004, 377 interns have completed the 10-week internship with 137 Employer Partners.

This experience strengthens our Indigenous leaders by harmonizing Native knowledge and history, transferable business skills, and community-based advocacy training while providing hands-on experiential learning in career fields relevant to each intern’s pursuits and employer’s interests. The cohort engages together through leadership enhancement and capacity building retreats and seminars that allow them to further their learning, grow their network, and strengthen their relationships with each other to aid them in their future successes.

Our 2021 Employer Partners make the program a success by investing critical time to mentor growth within each intern, providing meaningful employment experiences, and role modeling with caring and supportive supervision practices while requiring challenging leadership responsibilities and project management opportunities. Our Employer Partners also invite and value Indigenous knowledge and perspectives to inform their work. Alex Sallee, Host & Producer of Indigefi, wants their interns to learn the importance of relationship building through storytelling. “We are not telling peoples stories we are helping them tell their stories. Not all we have learned in the Western world is what you need to bring [to this internship]. Bring your Indigenous self, bring what you learned from Elders and relatives.”

The numerous Alaska Native Elders and community leaders who volunteer their time to share their knowledge with the cohort adds to the Indigenous richness of the intern experience. During orientation week, Elders Doug and Amy Modig discussed traditional healing and promoting community wellness and healing. “[We] want you to be better prepared to experience life. Our interns will change the world. You must share our voice and experience,” said Doug Modig. First Alaskans Institute Board of Trustee, Sven Haakanson, Jr., PhD, shared about his work in cultivating relationships overseas to return Alutiiq masks and artifacts to Alaska. “Never take ‘no’ as an answer for things that are right. When you know something is right for your community, find a way to do it,” said Sven Haakanson, Jr.

“This cohort has embarked on a deeper understanding of who they are and their responsibility to others. By disciplining themselves to think critically, be solution minded, and have higher expectations of themselves and others they are preparing for a stronger future that will serve us all well. I look forward to seeing the development of our interns and what the remainder of their summer experience holds for them,” said Karla Gatgyedm Hana’ax Booth, Indigenous Leadership Continuum Director, First Alaskans Institute.

Pictured: Summer Internship Program Cohort: 2021 First Alaskans Institute Summer Internship Program Cohort. Top (left-right): Averie Wells, Charlotte Tooshulk Flynn, Hannah Bissett, John Kisaq Lowndes, Julee Douglas, and Kayla Kashevarof. Bottom (left-right): Kira Tayaġana Fagerstrom, Michael Bulgunits Braun, Miranda Kaagweil Worl, Shani Yeenahjyaa Ahtr’aii Fisher-Salmon, Stacey Kangipneq Lucason and Tiana Chiklak.

Pictured: Summer Internship Program Cohort: 2021 First Alaskans Institute Summer Internship Program Cohort. Top (left-right): Averie Wells, Charlotte Tooshulk Flynn, Hannah Bissett, John Kisaq Lowndes, Julee Douglas, and Kayla Kashevarof. Bottom (left-right): Kira Tayaġana Fagerstrom, Michael Bulgunits Braun, Miranda Kaagweil Worl, Shani Yeenahjyaa Ahtr’aii Fisher-Salmon, Stacey Kangipneq Lucason and Tiana Chiklak.

 2021 First Alaskans Institute’s Summer Interns and Employer Partners

  • Averie Wells (Tsimshian/Iñupiaq/Yup'ik) of Metlakatla/Anchorage is placed at First Alaskans Institute’s Alaska Native Policy Center
  • Charlotte Tooshulk Flynn (Iñupiaq/Koyukon) of Nome/Galena/King Salmon/Anchorage is placed at Alaska Airlines
  • Hannah Bissett (Dena'ina) of Wasilla/Talkeetna is placed at Koahnic Broadcast Corporation – KNBA News
  • John Kisaq Lowndes (Iñupiaq) of Selawik/Maitland, FL is placed at Southeast Alaska Conservation Council
  • Julee Douglas (Tlingit) of Juneau is placed at Alaska Children's Trust
  • Kayla Kashevarof (Aleut) of St. George/Anchorage is placed at First Alaskans Institute’s Indigenous Leadership Continuum
  • Kira Tayaġana Fagerstrom (Iñupiaq) of Wasilla is placed at Outer Coast
  • Michael Bulgunits Braun (Dena'ina Na-Dene) of Tyonek/Anchorage is placed at Koahnic Broadcast Corporation – Indigefi
  • Miranda Kaagweil Worl (Tlingit) of Juneau is placed at Alaska State Museum
  • Shani Yeenahjyaa Ahtr’aii Fisher-Salmon (Gwich’in) of Beaver/Chalkyitsik/Fairbanks is placed at Tanan Ch’at’oh
  • Stacey Kangipneq Lucason (Yup'ik) of Fairbanks/Chugiak is placed at Sealaska
  • Tiana Chiklak (Yup'ik) of Dillingham is placed at Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

First Alaskans Institute is a statewide Alaska Native nonprofit focused on advancing Alaska Natives for the next 10,000 years. It is through our people and their leadership that this vision will be achieved. Programs like the First Alaskans Institute Summer Internship are focused on strengthening our peoples' inherent abilities and skills, help to ignite their personal vision and drive, and amplify the responsibility we collectively hold for the well-being of our distinct and diverse cultures. For more information about programs offered at First Alaskans Institute or to learn how to become an Employer Partner for the next cohort, please call 907-677-1700 or email leadership@firstalaskans.org.

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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