What drew you to the Caleb Scholars Program?
As an Inupiaq student from NW Arctic, I was drawn to the Caleb Scholars Program by its commitment to the preservation of our culture and subsistence ways of life. By providing financial assistance for higher education, the Caleb Scholars Program is investing in future leaders.
What does Inuit-led environmental conservation mean to you?
To me, Inuit-led conservation advocacy means that our Inupiaq people must have a seat at the table for every discussion that affects our way of life, and to use this voice to lead our sovereign Tribal Nations to determine our own future, while also preserving our heritage for future generations. This self-determination movement will require a multifaceted approach using traditional knowledge, as well as western knowledge, to create strategies and solutions for the betterment of our people. Our oceans & lands are rich in resources that others want to extract for their benefit. As Inuit, it is our duty to preserve the habitat which sustains our way of life. We are the Elders that the next generation depends on.
Do you have a personal story about meeting Caleb, a connection to his legacy and impact, or are you a family relation?
I have previously worked as the Education Director for the Aqqaluk Trust, where I had the honor of working with Caleb Pungowiyi. As President of Aqqaluk Trust, Caleb provided me with the opportunity to serve our NANA shareholders, and aid in their pursuit of higher education. Caleb’s kindness and wisdom were instrumental to my personal and professional development.
I still recall Caleb’s story of making blueberry jam. He said that he and his wife, Gladys, removed the stems from each & every berry prior to starting the jam recipe. He said it was so much work, but it was the best jam they ever made. When I pick & clean blueberries, this memory often comes up to remind me to be patient and hardworking, for the rewards will be worth it in the end.
I am also very good friends with his daughters, Cana Itchuaqiyaq & Shayne Schaeffer. We have shared our lives, the good and the bad, with each other. I consider both to be like sisters to me. I can see Caleb’s touch in their personalities, as he left his strong legacy of love for family and culture in them.