Embracing My Koyukon Culture: A Journey of Rediscovery and Advocacy

Nov 29, 2023

As a proud Koyukon with roots deeply embedded in the Indigenous cultures of my home, my life journey has been a testament to the richness and resilience of Alaska Natives’ cultural heritage.

Growing up in Nulato, Alaska, a small, rural community on the banks of the Yukon River, my upbringing was steeped in the traditions and beliefs of our Koyukon way of life. I was surrounded by people that held tremendous pride in our culture. And they continued to live their culture, in spite of their own struggles: being separated from family to attend boarding schools, subjected to forced religious practices, and attempts to wipe out generations of language, traditions and culture.

Despite the challenges they faced, they still found joy and meaning and identity in their culture. It was a powerful and inspiring display of resiliency – and it set an example for me as I traveled my own rocky road.

The Journey from Pride to Shame – and Back

Nulato was more than just a small town; it was a close-knit family where everyone had a role to play in our seasonal existence. From subsistence living, fishing, hunting and trapping, to crafting tools and clothing, each activity was intertwined with a cultural thread that bound us together. We worked and played together as a community.

However, my love and appreciation for my heritage faced challenges when I moved to the “big city” of Fairbanks for high school. Years of enduring racial prejudice caused a wide rift in my pride for my culture. I slowly went from being proud of who I was – to being deeply ashamed. I wasn’t sure if I would ever make my way back to that place of pride.

Rediscovering My Roots, Rebuilding Cultural Pride

Rebuilding my cultural pride was a gradual process, nurtured by positive experiences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and later through professional work in various capacities. Working in settings that mirrored my heritage, alongside people of shared cultures, reignited a passion for my identity and culture.

It took years of struggle and finding solace in supportive environments to reignite my love and respect for my roots. It wasn’t an easy path, but I also learned more about myself. And today, I have an even deeper appreciation than I may have had if I hadn’t faced those hard times.  

Advocating for Understanding and Appreciation

My journey eventually led me to establish Bloom Communications, a platform dedicated to bridging the gap between Alaska Native communities and the wider world. It's an initiative aimed at fostering cultural understanding and appreciation, engaging with Indigenous communities, and creating avenues for mutually beneficial collaboration.

Join the Journey with Bloom as Your Guide

 Let's celebrate, learn and connect with the remarkable heritage of Alaska's Indigenous cultures together. I invite you to spend some time in our blog, Hahul’eeh, the Learning Corner, where you can delve into the stories, explore strategies for cultural engagement, and experience the essence of life in rural Alaska.

 If you’d like to journey further, reach out to learn more about our cultural training workshops and consulting services designed to help businesses and organizations connect with Alaska Native communities effectively and respectfully.

Join me in this journey of understanding and appreciating the Indigenous heritage of the Last Frontier. Feel free to reach out for more information and insights!




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