The Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) recognized Alaska Native individuals and families during the annual President’s Awards ceremony on Friday (Oct. 20). The awards are divided into seven categories that highlight a variety of fields, including exemplifying Alaska Native values and public service.
Two of the awards went to Nome residents.
Etta Tall received the “Della Keats ‘Healing Hands’” award for her efforts as a Tribal Healer. She began serving in the medical field when she graduated high school in 1988.
According to the AFN website, the award recognizes an Alaska Native who has demonstrated strong commitment, competence, and sensitivity as a tribal healer or health care provider and whose accomplishments have most directly affected Native people in their home communities.
The award is named in honor of Dr. Della Keats, a pioneer for tribal medicine in Northwest Alaska.
In a speech following her award, Tall said she became inspired to pursue healthcare after an Iñupiaq doctor, Dr. Ted Mala, visited her home community of Little Diomede.
“When I was a teenager, Dr. [Ted] Mala came to Little Diomede and I was so inspired by a Native doctor who came to [Little] Diomede and talked about Della Keats. And I was even more inspired by Della Keats because she was a tribal doctor. And that’s why I wanted to go into the medical field.”
Her interest in herbal medicine came when she visited a clinic for a chest cold and wasn’t given any medication. She said she tried boiling stinkweed, putting the juice in a jar, and would eat a mouthful twice a day.
“I was amazed how it really helped me feel better. I would look at every plant and wonder if it’s medicinal and how it would help people with elements like skin or pain.”
Tall has worked as a traveling health aid, certified nursing assistant, phlebotomist, and a family health navigator.
Brothers Oliver “Tusagvik” and Wilson “Mungnak” Hoogendorn received the Walter Soboleff “‘Warriors of Light’” award. The award recognizes individuals who unify, uplift, and enrich the spirits of Alaska Native peoples.
In his speech following the award, Oliver said the support from their friends, family, and girlfriends motivates them to represent their people well.
“When I was a kid I would see successful people and think they did it all by themselves. But as I grew older, I quickly learned that’s not the case.”
Wilson said he’s young and still has more to learn, but said “he’s the way he is” because of his brother, Oliver.
“I think we just try our best to represent our people the best we can and say to the heart you know we want to represent our people well. And that’s to the heart.”
Etta Tall and the Hoogendorn brothers were nominated by Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC).
Award Categories and Winners:
- Cultural Bearer: Nita Yuurliq Rearden
- Della Keats “Healing Hands:” Etta Tall
- Elder of the Year: Dr. Edna Paniataq Ahgeak Maclean
- Parents of the Year: Jerica “Niayuq” and Wilbur “Qaiyaan” Leavitt
- Public Service: Carol Gore of Anchorage
- Walter Soboleff “Warriors of Light:” Wilson and Oliver Hoogendorn of Nome
- Lu Young Leadership: Kaitlyn Angayaq Hanson of Alakanuk
Photo at top: Oliver and Wilson Hoogendorn beam with pride as they receive a standing ovation from the crowd. (Matt Faubion/AKPM, used with permission)