Health award: Dr. Christina Darby
The health award is given to an Alaska Native who has improved health care for Alaska Natives. This year, the award was given to Dr. Christina Darby, a sleep medicine physician who helped start the sleep clinic and sleep lab as the medical director at the Alaska Native Medical Center. Prior to this, she worked as a sleep medicine physician and neurologist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. Darby completed her Sleep Medicine Fellowship at Stanford, her Neurology Residency at the University of Arizona Tucson and received her medical degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. Darby’s family is from Unalakleet.
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Hannah Paul Solomon Woman of Courage award: Carol Seppilu
Carol Seppilu is a long-distance runner who survived a near-fatal suicide attempt when she was 16 years old. She says she found running as a way to battle obesity and depression, and runs long distances to share a message of hope for others. She is St. Lawrence Island Yupik born in Savoonga and now resides in Nome.
The Hannah Paul Solomon Woman of Courage award recognizes an Alaska Native woman who demonstrates strength in cultural values and courage.
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Katie John Hunter-Fisher award: Donna Folger
In 1994, Donna Folger and her friend Patti Hyslop coordinated the first 16 Mile Spirit Camp, a weeklong culture camp that still runs today, located upriver from Tanana. Folger served as mayor of Tanana for more than 15 years and works with the Tribal Family and Youth Services. She is a beading artist and seamstress, as well as a traditional song maker.
The Katie John Hunter-Fisher award recognizes an Alaska Native who exemplifies and preserves the spirit of successful subsistence hunting, trapping and sharing.
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Roger Lang Youth Leadership award: Samuel Schimmel
Samuel Schimmel is St. Lawrence Island Siberian Yupik and Kenaitze Indian and grew up subsistence hunting and fishing. He served on the State of Alaska’s Climate Action Leadership Team and continues to support climate awareness and education as an Arctic Youth Ambassador for Alaska. He is in his second year at Stanford University.
This award is given to young men in high school or college who demonstrate leadership qualities.
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Small Business award: Nikki Corbett
The small business award, recognizing success and commitment to community, was given to Nikki Corbett, owner of Sew Yup’ik. Corbett was born and raised in Bethel. She has donated over 350 masks to health care workers in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region and across the United States.
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Gin’tith (Richard Frank) Military Service award: Walter Hotch-Hill
This award recognizing an Alaska Native with a strong commitment to serving in the U.S. Armed Forces was given to Walter Hotch-Hill, who has been with the Alaska Army National Guard since 2002. He has held ranks including infantry battalion action officer and battalion operations officer. In 2003 he was named Alaska Soldier of the Year. He is a an Iraqi Freedom veteran.
Under his leadership, his company soldiers won Soldier of the Year, NCO of the Year and 1st Sergeant of the Year. Hotch-Hill was born and raised in Sitka, is a foster parent and volunteers with the Boy Scouts of America.
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Glenn Godfrey Law Enforcement award: Anne Sears
Anne Sears got her start in law enforcement with the Juneau Police Department. She was the first Alaska Native female trooper and served as a trooper for 19 years.
Named for the late Glenn Godfrey, colonel and director of the Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Commissioner of Public Safety, this award recognizes an Alaska Native law enforcement officer who has shown outstanding dedication to the safety of the Alaska public.
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Eileen Panigeo MacLean Education award: Paałuk Reid Magdanz and Qiġñaaq Cordelia Kellie
Paałuk Reid Magdanz and Qiġñaaq Cordelia Kellie started Iḷisaqativut, a grassroots collective of people learning Iñupiaq as a second language and volunteers. Along with some friends, they started a self-funded a two-week language intensive study. Magdanz was raised in Kotzebue and Kellie’s family is from Wainwright and Washington.
Named for the late state Legislator, elementary and bilingual teacher Eileen Panigeo, this award recognizes Alaska Natives who have demonstrated strong commitment, competence and sensitivity in the field of education.