Native American Heritage Month student Laura Deloodeneenła Ekada

woman in traditional dress
Photo by Selina Sam

Nov. 5, 2021

Laura Deloodeneenła Ekada (she/her) is a senior at UAF studying biology with a concentration in biomedical sciences and a goal of becoming a physician serving rural villages. After working at Chief Andrew Issac when she was 15, Ekada became passionate about becoming a doctor and working to decrease the health disparities Native people experience.

Ekada’s family is from Koyukuk, Nulato and Minto, where she has taken part in the cultural traditions of each place. She was raised in the small village of Minto by her grandparents and has memories of staying up late on potlatch nights singing and dancing in the community hall. She helped her grandma set up a memorial potlatch for both of her parents in Koyukuk and prepared gifts to pass out. She also enjoys spending holidays in Nulato and participating in activities like the washtub dance. In Minto she enjoys sewing mets'egh hoolaanhs and cooking Native foods with her grandma and following her grandpa to the dog yard. Her favorite cultural activity is gathering with her family and eating grandma's moose soup and blueberry buckle and drinking tundra tea.

Ekada graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe High School in 2018. she wrestled, ran cross country and competed in track and field for Umpqua Community College for two years. She was also the 2021 first runner-up Miss WEIO at the World Exhibition of Indigenous Events.

At UAF, Ekada hosts a podcast called the Urban Auntie Show, where she talks with guests about Indigenous life and culture. As a BLaST scholar she does research with Dr. Jacques Phillip and the community of Huslia. Her research interests explore fostering resilience in Native youth. She is the president of the UAF beading club and also works as a peer educator at the Nanook Diversity and Action Center where the mission is to uplift people of color and promote diversity and inclusion on campus.

When asked how she uses her cultural values to help her succeed at UAF, Ekada said, “I use humor to get me through tough times, like finals week. My grandparents raised me with a strong work ethic. Now I use that same work ethic to get me through the end of my degree. I respect all the different people and ways of thinking that are present on campus. I bring my knowledge home and teach my family new things. I help anyone who needs help with classes. I am connected to the people around me, and I want to see them succeed. Spending time outdoors refreshes me so that I have more energy for studying. I want to make my grandparents and dad proud. I am motivated to do well in school because I really want to go to medical school.”

Stay tuned for more Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Native Education student highlights commemorating Native American Heritage Month. If you have any questions, please contact Tia Tidwell at