Northwest Arctic Institute by Tagnak and Talu

This is a short reflection from the first Northwest Arctic institute, published by the Arctic Sounder, click HERE to view online.

There's a quiet revolution happening in rural Alaska. More and more people are making a conscious effort to live well, make healthy choices and cooperate to help others. They are practicing ways of being connected to the land, to each other and to the strong lineage of ancestry that has enabled us to thrive in some of the most beautiful and remote lands in the world.

Often, our small choices and practices are overlooked. But small efforts every day add up and make a significant impact over time. We choose the stories we will tell our children and grandchildren. The skills and knowledge we have is a gift we are able to share. Our choices, actions and values will be what make our coming generations succeed as so many of our people are succeeding today. There is a growing movement of people who are pursuing these positive changes.

The first Northwest Arctic Institute hosted 17 such people from April 14-19, 2013, Iñupiaq of the Northwest Arctic and Bering Straits regions. This unique gathering, hosted by Maniilaq Wellness, Gwanzhii, and the Indigenous Leadership Institute provided an opportunity for people in these two northern regions to share stories and strategies for community wellness and personal well-being.

"We were honored to bring people together from Kotzebue, Buckland, Selawik, Kiana, Noatak, Deering and Nome," said Evon Peter, NWAI facilitator and Maniilaq Wellness Director. "The Institute offers a unique cultural space to build healthy relationships, further our healing, and learn from one another."

Melissa Brown of Selawik affirmed about the Institute, "all the information shared here is valuable. An experience that will last a lifetime."

NWAI Participants had an opportunity to share their thoughts about wellness, challenges our communities face, delve into the history of Alaska Native peoples and strategize ways to bring support to those who are seeking healthy living, healing and positive changes. Also it was a time to reflect, to laugh, to enjoy a break from the everyday pressures of parenthood, work responsibilities and household chores.

"This whole experience has been both valuable to my personal life and my role as the ICWA/Wellness Coordinator for our Tribe. Many ideas, emotions and spirits were shared. We all have a better understanding of our roles in life in helping to promote wellness," said Naomi Munick Chappel of Kiana.

The Institute was also captured on film as one of the final locations for the documentary "We Breathe Again," planned for release in early 2014. The film is focused on suicide prevention and wellness among Alaska Native communities.

These 17 NWAI participants join a larger network of Arctic Institute for Indigenous Leadership Alumni, which include approximately sixty young Alaska Natives from across the state.