Friday Focus: Honoring our women – past and present

March 18, 2021

Tori Tragis

Charlene Stern. Photo by Rachel Saylor, Tanana Chiefs Conference.
Charlene Stern. Photo by Rachel Saylor, Tanana Chiefs Conference.

— by Charlene Stern, interim vice chancellor for rural, community and Native education

Happy spring to all of those throughout the UAF community. March is a special time of year for us Alaskans. In the Interior specifically, it marks a time when the snow starts melting, the birds begin migrating north, and villages kick off their annual spring carnivals celebrations. March also holds special significance because of its official designation as Women’s History Month. 

As an Alaska Native woman, I am extremely proud to carry on a legacy of so many strong, female figures who came before me. Our culture is a matrilineal one where women are situated centrally in the structure and fabric of our society. Some of the earliest and most important roles of my life were those that I was born into — as a daughter, a granddaughter and a sister. Along my journey, I also assumed the roles and responsibilities of an auntie and then as a mother, two roles which I consider to be sacred.  

Throughout my professional career, a large part of my work has been dedicated to upholding other women whether they be family, friends, colleagues, employees or students. I have personally benefited from the mentorship of many amazing women leaders along the way and feel a strong relational responsibility to extend that same support and encouragement to the women around me.  

As the current vice president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference (a consortium of 37 federally recognized tribes), I feel incredibly fortunate to live during a time where we bore witness to the election of the first female vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris. Additionally, earlier this week, Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) became the first ever Native American to be appointed to the office of United States secretary of the interior. Such historic moments as these carry a great deal of meaning to many people including myself, my students as well as the tribal nations that I serve.   

It is an exciting and appropriate time for us to reflect upon and honor the contributions of all the notable women in our lives, past and present. 

Friday Focus is a column written by a different member of UAF’s leadership team every week. On occasion, a guest writer is invited to contribute a column.