To explore what it means to be colonized, and how or why this has been detrimental to Alaska Native life; to explore the Alaska Native history with colonization; and to explore Alaska Native resiliency and how we can mend relationships with ourselves and with non-Natives, Coffee & Quaq interviews Ayyu Qassataq and Megan Alvanna-Stimpfle.
"That’s part of the awakening that needs to happen is that the world that we’re living in right now, in the United States the white western paradigm that we're in is not neutral. That’s part of the collective lie that we’re living under. It's that all things are equal and this is neutral and unbiased. But it is not neutral and unbiased to this Inupiaq girl, growing up never, ever seeing or hearing about our brilliance our contributions to the world. That just fed my feelings of invisibility. That fed my feelings of not being of value, not being important. Hearing things like wow you’re really pretty for a native girl or wow you’re really smart for a native girl. Those double-edged compliments that cut at your spirit. And you don’t even know it. The system that we’re in is certainly not neutral or unbiased. And it understanding that most people don’t know that and it’s finding loving ways to help them see what we see."
Ayyu Qassataq (Iñupiaq) is from Uŋalaqłiq (Unalakleet) and is the daughter of Doug and Vernita Herdman and granddaughter of Stanton and Irene Katchatag. She is named for her great-grandmother Ayyu (Edna Eakon). Born and raised between Anchorage and Uŋalaqłiq, Ayyu grew up spending summers with her family in Uŋalaqłiq and upriver at camp in the Whaleback Mountains. Ayyu serves as Vice President & Indigenous Operations Director for First Alaskans Institute, where she supports FAI’s work to unify the collective strength of our community to amplify the self-determination of our peoples.
“That’s what the power of our culture is and our identity it brings so much joy and strength that we can be experiencing the toughest of poverty and third-world conditions but we still so are blessed and rich with where we live and how we live and how we carry responsibility for each other. We really try to let these lawmakers see that. Because if we’re going to address some of the toughest challenges before us they have to understand why culture is so important and empowerment through culture is the only way we are going to make our communities sustainable because it’s our culture that gives us the relevance to where we live.”
Megan Alvanna Stimpfle is the Founder and Principal Strategist of Arctic Geopolitical Consulting. She currently serves as the Self-Governance Liaison for Norton Sound Health Corporation, focused on governance and sewer and water issues in the Bering Strait region of Alaska. She has served as Chief of her tribe, the King Island Native Community in Nome, Alaska, is a former Commissioner of the Port of Nome, and was the Alaska Federation of Native’s 2016 Keynote speaker. She served as a legislative assistant for Senator Lisa Murkowski in Washington D.C. responsible for policies addressing infrastructure & sanitation, housing, health delivery, public safety and justice, land management, as well as fish & wildlife management for Alaska Natives and rural Alaskans. She was as the lead staffer in establishing the Senate Arctic Caucus. She assisted in organizing the Arctic Imperative Summits in Girdwood, Alaska to bring arctic and coastal Alaskan issues to the forefront of American policy. She was involved in the historic 2010 election of Senator Lisa Murkowski and the election of Senator Dan Sullivan. Megan was born and raised in Nome, Alaska and takes pride in Eskimo dancing and learning her Inupiaq language. She holds a Master’s in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University and a B.S. in Economics from George Mason University.