Profiles of Our Graduates
Denise Wartes, MA Cross-Cultural Studies 2007
Denise Wartes, is currently the Program Manager of the Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The oldest of nine children, I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in a small town called DeTour Village. The day after I married Mark Wartes, we moved to the edge of the Arctic Ocean where we lived for the next several years on a homestead in the Colville River Delta. Mark had grown up in Barrow and along the Arctic coast, the son of a missionary pastor pilot and wife. He considers the Arctic to be home. I joined him there and together we’ve had many adventures since. While living in the Arctic, our two children were born.
We were very fortunate to live on Alaska’s North Slope prior to the development of the oil fields. The lifestyle we experienced really doesn’t, and can’t, exist anymore. We lived on a remote homestead, 40 miles west of Prudhoe Bay, 20 miles north of Nuiqsut, or 180 miles east of Barrow.
Our groceries arrived on a C-46 airplane once a year in the fall. Imagine the grocery list I had! What a learning experience. Mark shared with me the grocery list he had developed over the years. I learned to do my own food ordering, expanding it considerably as a bachelor’s idea of meal planning left room for improvement. If we started to run out of something, we slowed down on that particular item or switched to a similar one that could be substituted, or just went without. Then next year we looked at what we’d run out of and decide what changes needed to be made. We mailed our food and supply list to a grocery store in Fairbanks that supplied people in bush areas. They, in turn, took our list, knowing that if they didn’t have a particular item – that they should substitute something close to it, as there wasn’t any way to contact us and ask what we’d prefer. Several grocery carts and many, many cases of food and hundreds of pounds of flour and sugar later, they boxed up all of our food, put it on pallets and transported it to the Fairbanks charter airline company that flew our food north to us.
Since this was before cell phones, you may wonder how we found out when our food and supplies were to be shipped to us, so that we would have the runway all ready, smoothed out, and packed down, with lighted flare pots along its length? In Alaska, commercial radio stations send out twice daily messages to people living the bush, messages from families stating that they’d arrived safely in town, that grandma Susie says hello, that new baby Jonathan was born, that the tundra tires we’d ordered would be shipped by mail next week. We eagerly sat by our radio awaiting word of the long anticipated flight, sometimes to be disappointed when the weather was poor and they had to turn back because of fog or wind over the Brooks Range. Then came the day that we heard the drone of the C-46 in the distance. Everyone grabbed their parka and mukluks, jumped on their snow machines, and quickly drove to the runway so that the flare pots could be lit alerting the pilot of the runway.
Imagine, several trips with the snow machine sledding supplies up the house, where we would unload the sled, separating out the perishable supplies and bringing them into the house, along with checking the unmarked boxes that may contain catsup or mayonnaise or other items that couldn’t be frozen. Then there was the mail, such a welcome event. Over the next several weeks we would open more mail each day, read magazines or newspapers with what might seem to be “stale” news, but to us was news that had happened the day before. In addition, the Alaska public library has a system where they send out 10 books each month to us, keeping track of the books they’d sent, so there would be no duplication. When we finished reading the books, we would close up the mailbag and send it back to them on the next mail flight, usually every four months.
In the spring we traveled out onto the ice pack; summers we traveled the Colville delta hunting and fishing. We stacked and gathered driftwood for winter, which we would later retrieve with snow machine, as we heated our home by driftwood. The Arctic slope has no trees. We gathered the driftwood that collected along the shores in the Harrison Bay area, wood that had drifted down the Mackenzie River in Canada and floated over into Harrison Bay.
Come fall we would travel inland hunting ducks and geese, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep, preparing ourselves for the winter. From late September to mid-November we fished for Kaktak (Arctic Cisco) with nets under the river ice, fishing for our personal and commercial use. The sale of these fish helped offset the cost of the C-46 flight that was chartered each fall, bringing in our year’s supply of food, and things such as building materials, propane, and mail. Electricity was a luxury we used on an occasional basis from a small generator. Water came from a lake, snow, or ice (depending on the season).
Imagine my washday! Mark would spend the day before washday chopping a hole in the lake ice, a task of several hours, dipping five gallon cans into the water, and transporting these cans of water to the house by snow machine and sled, where I would transfer the water to large clean garbage cans to bring the icy water up to room temperature. The next day we would put as much water as we could into large cooking pots or containers and heating them on our barrel stove and wood burning kitchen range. Then we added this hot water to the cold water placed in our washer, so as to have a warm water wash. Next came the drying of all these wet clothes, wet laundry hung everywhere, especially with two babies in diapers. In between major washdays I washed clothes by hand in a big washtub.
The rapid expanse of oil development was fast changing our subsistence lifestyle. We moved to Fairbanks and enrolled our children in school. While raising our family and working, I continued to take the occasional course, eventually attaining my certified professional secretarial rating. This certification transferred into university credits on my transcript, and I continued, frequently one course a semester, occasionally three courses, to attain a college degree. In 1996, I earned an associate’s degree, and in 2001 I earned an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in Alaska Native Studies and Business at UAF, eventually obtaining a masters in Cross-Cultural Studies.
I have a life-long interest in working with Indigenous peoples, personally and professionally. Presently I work at UAF with the Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI), a college preparatory bridge program for rural and Alaska Native high school students. In the past I have worked with UAF Alaska Native studies, Festival of Native Arts, and the Elder-in-Residence class. In addition, I have taught Federal Indian Law at UAF. I have also served as a teaching assistant for a number of classes, including Alaska Native Education, Comparative Aboriginal Rights & Policy, Native Self-Government, and Alaska Native Elder-In-Residence.
I have been fortunate enough to travel occasionally to Native villages, many Alaska Federation of Natives conventions, Bilingual Multi-Cultural Conferences, participate in, assist with, and attend the Festival of Native Arts for the last 35+ years. I have assisted with the World Eskimo Indian Olympics, along with numerous other events such as potlucks at UAF and throughout the community, such as the Presbyterian Church Eskimo Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas feasts, Christmas Nativity Program, and many funeral potlatches.
Life has been a wonderful adventure! And, my Masters in Cross-Cultural Studies helped me along the way.
Dr. Yvette Running Horse Collin, PhD Indigenous Studies 2017
Dr. Yvette Running Horse Collin received her doctorate in Indigenous Studies from UAF in May 2017. She is of Lakota, Nakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Mayan descent on her mother's side, and Cherokee, Choctaw and Scottish descent on her father's side. Dr. Collin acknowledges the Native Elders, equine preservationists, and the ancient-line horses she caretakes as having helped to provide the “indigenous education” she received during her decade of pre-research. She credits her Doctorate Committee, professors, and UAF staff for providing the culturally respectful educational environment and curriculum that she needed to successfully conduct the Western academic portion of her research.
Her experience merging these two distinctly different educational approaches solidified her belief that combining Indigenous traditional knowledge systems with the best of Western academic scholarship is the key to creating an inclusive and sustainable educational model. This approach will result in more accurate scholarship that is free of Eurocentric bias, and it offers a path to true compassion and wisdom. Such a system has the power to ensure a healthy future for the next seven generations.
This bifurcated approach led to the creation of her dissertation titled: The Relationship Between the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and the Horse: Deconstructing a Eurocentric Myth. In this work, Dr. Collin deconstructed Western academia’s version of the history of the horse in the Americas, and reconstructed it to include: cross-cultural translation, the TK of many Indigenous Peoples, Western scientific evidence that did not support the dominant cultural claim, and historical records. This dissertation proves that data from the latest Western technology combined with information from our Indigenous Peoples has the power to reconstruct more accurate and unbiased histories.
Today, Dr. Collin and her family manage Sacred Way Sanctuary (SWS), a research and educational facility located in Florence, Alabama that focuses on the following: preserving the Ancient Horse of the Americas; sponsoring cutting-edge Western scientific research; providing top-quality education on local Native heritage; offering a foundation for youth/elder traditional knowledge exchange; and creating an indigenous learning experience for those who visit. Sacred Way Sanctuary is an official interpretive center for the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area and the National Park Service. Dr. Collin is also a founding member of the Native American Horse Trail, which links like-minded horse preserves across the United States to present a more accurate history of the horse in the Americas, as well as introduce the public to Americas ancient horses.
Dr. Collin is currently the Executive Director of Sacred Healing Circle, a non-profit organization that focuses on healing Native individuals and communities. In this capacity, she works closely with Native Elders and Youth for the preservation and protection of traditional knowledge systems, sacred sites, and ceremonial and spiritual ways of knowing. She also proudly serves as part of the Administrative Team for the Black Hills Sioux Nation Council of Elders, which is centered on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. All of her present work is focused on correcting inaccurate portrayals of Native Peoples, freeing sacred sites from the prisons in which they are currently held (due to improper “management” by the dominant Western culture), and helping Indigenous Elders to safely transmit their traditional knowledge to youth who are prepared to receive it.
Dr. Running Horse Collin is an award-winning journalist, and has held various executive positions at non-profit institutions around the United States. She has advised state, federal and Fortune 100 organizations on Native American policy. She lectures extensively throughout the United States and internationally on her people’s traditions and the history surrounding the horse. Dr. Running Horse Collin has presented at conferences such as: The World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education (WIPCE), the Canadian Indigenous/Native Studies Association (CINSA), the Alaska Native Studies Conference, and Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s Prophecy of the Grandfather’s Conference, as well as for American Indian-themed forums hosted by private organizations, educational institutions, and state and federal governments. She practices the traditional ways of her Ancestors and is a wife, mother, and grandmother.
Sacred Way Sanctuary: www.sacredwaysanctuary.org
Sacred Healing Circle: www.sacredhealingcircle.org
(Elder and Youth work) “Earth Mother Protection Movement” Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNBWpLcRFhU&feature=youtu.be
The Relationship Between the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and the Horse: Deconstructing a Eurocentric Myth
Dr. Jacqueline Rahm, PhD Indigenous Studies 2014
Dr. Sean Asiqłuq Topkok, PhD Indigenous Studies 2015
Dr. Sean Asiqłuq Topkok is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His family comes from the Seward Peninsula in Igloo and Teller, Alaska, and is Iñupiaq, Sámi, Irish, and Norwegian. He began his career in Alaska Native education since 1987, working in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Dr. Topkok is the leader of the Pavva Iñupiaq Dancers of Fairbanks founded in 1999, a local community dance group inviting Native and non-Native people interested Iñupiaq dance, cultural heritage, and cultural values. He received his B.A. in Humanities, M.A. in Cross-Cultural Studies, and Ph.D. in Indigenous Studies – all from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His dissertation was entitled: Iñupiat Ilitqusiat: Inner Views of Our Iñupiaq Values. He has authored numerous peer-reviewed academic articles and chapters focusing on Indigenous values, methodologies, and well-being. Dr. Topkok presents worldwide about his academic research and has given a Tedx Talk about Iñupiaq Stories: Past, Present, and Future. He has been a keynote and plenary speaker at several conferences. He works closely with the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies as an Indigenous education faculty member. Dr. Topkok is active in various Indigenous organizations and research at the local, national, and international level. He is the chair for UAF’s Graduate Advisory and Academic Committee and Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Native Education. He is one of the co-chairs for the Alaska Native Studies Council and serves on the University of Alaska Teacher Education Council. He serves on the Alaska Board for the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium and collaborates with various international universities for UArctic Thematic Networks.
Dr. Theresa Arevgaq John, PhD Indigenous Studies 2010
Dr. Pearl Kiyawn Brower, PhD Indigenous Studies 2016
B.A. Anthropology and B.A. Alaska Native Studies from University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2004. Masters in Alaska Native and Rural Development from University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2010. Ph.D. in Indigenous Studies, with an emphasis in Indigenous Leadership from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, of May 2016.
Dr. Brower is currently the President of Iḷisaġvik College, Alaska’s only Tribal College. She has been with the College since 2007 working in External Relations, Institutional Advancement, Student Services, and Marketing. She has served as President since 2012. Prior to working for the College Dr. Brower managed an education and culture grant for the North Slope Borough for three years and worked as the Museum Curator of the Iñupiat Heritage Center.
Dr. Brower grew up in both Barrow, Alaska and in northern California practicing a subsistence lifestyle in both areas. She has a daughter, Isla, who is 5 and along with her husband, Jesse Darling, lives in Barrow, Alaska where she loves to be close to her culture and community. Brower was named one of Alaska’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2015.
Brower is active in her community in Barrow, on the North Slope and statewide. She is Board Member of the Friends of Tuzzy Library and is a co-founder of Leadership:Barrow. She serves on the Wells Fargo Community Advisory Board, serves as the Vocational/Tribal representative on the Alaska Postsecondary Access and Completion Network, serves on the Alaska Airlines Community Advisory Board, on the Foraker Group’s Operations Board, and as a Commissioner for the State of Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education.