Sep 04, 2023


I am so excited to be your guide as we embark on a journey to learn as much as we can about Alaska Native people, cultures, businesses and organizations, life in rural Alaska, and best practices for business engagement!

There are two main reasons I am venturing to share more about these topics that are near and dear to my heart. I want to help:

  1. Alaska businesses collaborate with Alaska Native people, entities and rural Alaska not just for profit, but also to learn more about the rich and diverse indigenous cultures within the state to be a better neighbor.
  2. Fill a gap, dispelling untruths, prejudices and falsehoods, by offering information from an Alaska Native viewpoint. I hope to help by sharing my stories and experiences gained from working with Native-owned businesses and nonprofits, and living and working in rural Alaska.

Let’s get started!

Growing up in Nulato

I was born in Tanana, Alaska, at a time when the Bureau of Indian Affairs had a small hospital there. I was raised in Nulato, Alaska, by my parents, Eddie (late) and Annie Hildebrand. We have a large, blended family, with older and younger siblings. My parents raised us in a traditional manner, but we also owned a general store. So not only did we practice subsistence, but we also worked at my parents’ business.

At the time, Nulato had approximately 350 residents, most of whom were Koyukon Athabascan. Transportation to the community was limited to small commuter airlines, small boat (in the summer) and snowmachine (in the winter).

Nulato had one of the larger schools in the school district, with both a high school and an elementary school. Often times, high school students from other villages in the region traveled to attend our school. I went to school in Nulato until I was a freshman, then transferred to a small high school in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Life Dictated by the Seasons

Our lives were dictated by the seasons and what had to be done to be prepared for our long winters. The summer months were spent fishing for king, chum and silver salmon, berry picking, and gathering wood to burn throughout the winter.

In the fall months, we hunted and harvested moose, ducks and geese, and prepared our homes for winter.

The winter months’ activities focused on trapping different animals. We mainly harvested beaver for both food and clothing.

Trapping was also done in the springtime, when we also prepared for the busy summer fishing season by repairing nets, getting wood to burn in the smokehouse and poles to hang the salmon.

Every member of my family had a role with the various subsistence activities throughout the year. (Males and females had their distinct roles, but I’ll get into that in another blog post.)

A Tight-Knit Community

Even though we were isolated and didn’t have the conveniences that urban Alaska offered, I lived a rich life growing up in Nulato. I had a loving family, grandparents that played significant roles, a tight-knit community, and strong cultural practices.

Looking back on my experiences growing up, I am most grateful for having the community to help raise me, even when I was getting into trouble. One time, my younger sister and I were speeding through town on our parents’ red four-wheeler, kicking up dust and being completely unsafe. Before we arrived home, both mom and dad knew all about it because of the phone calls they received about their hellion children. We didn’t walk away without being grounded.

I knew everyone, so there were many opportunities for learning and participating in cultural activities. Not only was subsistence significant, but we also had the chance to sing, dance, listen to stories from a long time ago, and work with our hands by sewing, beading, carving and making different tools. The long, dark winter evenings were the perfect time to learn how to do all these things, especially since we were typically preparing clothing to wear in the cold or for an upcoming potlatch.

Shifting Feelings About Culture

I was secure in my love for my culture. I was proud of it … until I went to high school in Fairbanks.

In Fairbanks, I was one of a handful of Alaska Native students at the small school and I didn’t have the luxury of knowing any of the students (unlike many of my classmates that had been together since kindergarten).

Regularly, I heard racist remarks, was made fun of, and treated like an outcast. I wore a winter jacket my entire sophomore year because I was trying to make myself invisible. Going back to Nulato was not an option; all I could do was stick it out and learn to adapt. This was the time when my love and pride for my culture began to fade. I was beginning to be ashamed of where I came from and who I was at my core.

Thankfully, I lived with a loving family that took me in like I was one of their own children. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would have survived some of my experiences in school. They demonstrated love, compassion and acceptance of a 15-year-old girl from a small town on the Yukon River. Their home was my haven. Those early years helped to shape my perceptions and my future interactions with the world around me.

A Returning Pride

Fast forward, I attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks and earned a bachelor’s degree. I worked for large and small businesses in different capacities, working my way up to more responsibilities and pay in the human resources and communications/PR fields.

Slowly, my love for myself and my culture began to come back. Just like the years it took to erode my self-esteem, it took years for it to come back. A huge turning point was when I went to work for a Native organization. Working alongside others that looked like me and who had similar experiences and beliefs made all the difference. I watched, listened, practiced and learned, just as I had been taught growing up.

Going Out on My Own

After 20-plus years of working for others, I decided it was time to venture out on my own as a consultant to help bridge the cultural and economic gaps between Alaska Natives and others. In the past four years, I discovered that there is a widespread desire to learn more about Alaska Native people, our cultures, our business organizations, and what life is like in rural Alaska.

In this blog, you’ll learn more about Alaska Native cultures, strategies for improved engagement with Alaska Native audiences, and ways to collaborate. Join me as I share my passion for cultural understanding and appreciation of Alaska’s indigenous people.

If you have questions or would like to discuss anything in more detail, please get in touch

I also encourage you to learn more about Bloom Communications’ cultural training workshops and customized consultation services


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