It was a Unalakleet Elder who encouraged Francine Hopson to become Kawerak’s Tribal Land Management Services (LMS) program director. “Someone needs to help our people,” the Elder told her.
Alaska Native people hold deep ancestral ties to the land, and having a legal acknowledgment and system to steward that land is critical. Hopson’s department is there to help: with veterans’ land allotment claims, realty services such as land advertisements and lease agreements, wills, and more. Also, in the wake of ex-typhoon Merbok, they are providing a disaster-relief grant.
If it weren’t for Hopson’s position, tribal members in the Bering Strait region would face more barriers to legal access than they already do.
“We’re able to one on one conduct our probate hearings, have people come into
our office, be able to sit with Elders and explain things to them, where they’re actually interacting with somebody that is from the region, somebody they know, rather than somebody they do not know, and somebody that’s not from our region and does not understand,” Hopson said.
Thanks to Kawerak’s weekly radio program, Suwat, and host Danielle Slingsby, listeners can hear updates from local leaders like Hopson each Wednesday morning.