2022 NANA Award Honorees
Every year , we honor members of our NANA family with awards that recognize their contributions to our people , communities and corporation . We thank them for modeling Iñupiat Iļitqusiat values and working hard to make a difference . Congratulations to the award winners .
ELDER OF THE YEAR Mary Maqik Schaeffer
SHAREHOLDER OF THE YEAR Cheryl Argagiaq Edenshaw
YOUTH OF THE YEAR Walter Qusagruk Gregg III
The Elder of the Year is a respected individual who models and practices Iñupiat Iļitqusiat values in their daily life , is active in teaching language and culture and demonstrates leadership among our people .
Mary Maqik Schaeffer was born in Kotzebue and raised in Noatak and Sisualik , where in spring and summer they cut enough beluga , fish and seal to last through the winter . In winter , they checked snares for ptarmigan and rabbit . When she was 12 , they relocated to Kotzebue .
She married John Qipqina Schaeffer Jr ., NANA ’ s first president and CEO . They raised nine children and have many grandchildren and great-grandchildren . From its infancy , Mary has been involved with NANA , working alongside John , gathering people together to discuss what leaders had planned .
In the 1970s , Mary recognized that many young people had lost their spiritual values — the sense of self that she had growing up . She helped form Iñupiat Ilitqusiat , the spirit movement . She stresses that learning our language is an important part of reclaiming ties to our cultural roots and knowledge of our language is essential to our survival as Iñupiat .
A strong advocate for our people , language and way of life , Mary has served on local , regional and state organizations , including the Tribal Council , the Northwest Arctic School Board , the Alaska State Board of Education & Early Development and the Maniilaq Board . She has been a part of the Iñupiaq Language Commission since its beginning and is the current president .
The NANA Shareholder of the Year award is given to a shareholder who shows leadership , contributes to their community and the NANA region and helps preserve Iñupiaq culture and heritage .
Cheryl Argagiaq Edenshaw was born and raised in Kotzebue , a daughter of Sally and the late Frank Gallahorn . She says her inspiration comes from our people and particularly from the hard-working women in her life .
Cheryl retired recently from her 39-year career at the Alaska Technical Center ( ATC ), with over 30 years as its director . She has dedicated her professional life to creating opportunities for our people . She paved the way for community members to earn the training and certifications they needed to reach their goals and support their families . She fostered partnerships to ensure that a diverse array of vocational and technical programs can be offered at ATC .
Cheryl currently serves as a director of Kikiktagruk Iñupiat Corporation . She was the vice mayor of the Kotzebue City Council and vice chair of the Maniilaq Association board of directors . She served on the Native Village of Kotzebue ’ s Tribal Council , the Alaska Workforce Investment Board , the Alaska Commission of Education , the Kotzebue Advisory School Board , the Northwest Arctic Borough Economic Development Commission , the Northwest Higher Education Consortium , the Alaska Commission of Postsecondary Education , the Chukchi College Advisory Council and the Alaska Native Health Board .
The NANA Youth of the Year award is given to a young person who demonstrates leadership , models Iñupiat Ilitqusiat values , excels academically and contributes to the benefit of all NANA youth .
Walter Qusagruk Gregg III was born in Fairbanks to Belynda and Walter Gregg Jr ., who raised him in Kotzebue . Walter is an engaged learner , teacher , listener , hunter and provider . He is a role model who demonstrates that “ it ’ s cool to be Iñupiaq .”
Walter ’ s father , uncles and cousins taught him how to hunt . He learned to hunt with a bow and arrow and is working on getting his bowhunter education certification . Walter taught himself how to carve and has made ulus , earrings and knives out of antlers and walrus ivory . He taught himself how to make string for the bow and arrows that he uses for hunting .
Walter is a dancer , drummer and teacher with the Northern Lights Dancers . He attended Nikaitchuat Iļisaġviat , the Iñupiaq language immersion school where he now volunteers , teaching younger children how to drum and dance . He also works with children at the Boys & Girls Club and helps take care of his nieces and nephews .
Iñupiat Iļitqusiat at NANA
The need to take immediate steps to revitalize the Iñupiaq language was the message that Mary Maqik Schaeffer delivered to the NANA board of directors at their February 2022 meeting . Magik is the president of the Iñupiaq Language Commission ( ILC ).
We are a unique culture on the planet ,” Magik testified . “ No one else with the same dialect , customs , traditions , plants , songs , history , lands , foods , etc . that our language explains in ways English or other languages cannot . They cannot understand us . That is why our language connects us to our culture . Our language defines us . It is our identity , our culture . When you know our language and you know who you are , it guides you to become a full human being in a good way .”
The ILC was formed in 1981 and is under the leadership of the Regional Elders Council . The ILC ’ s mission is to be the driving force to revive the Iñupiaq language . Their vision is " Iñupiaraaġupta ataramik naluruat iḷitkisirut ," which translates to " Speak Iñupiaq and they will learn ."
Iñupiat Iļitqusiat continued on next page .
4 The Hunter | 2022 April