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November 15, 2021
Contact: Silugngataanit’sqaq Melissa Marton, [email protected], (907) 677-1710


Dgheyey Kaq’; Dena’inaq ełnen’aq’ qilan (Anchorage, Alaska; lands of the Dena’ina) – First Alaskans Institute (FAI), a statewide Alaska Native nonprofit, is proud to announce the awardees of our tenth annual Howard Rock & Ted Stevens Smokehouse Gala finale, to be held in our unceded virtual space on November 20th. Named in recognition of Howard Rock (Iñupiaq) and the late Senator Ted Stevens, the Smokehouse Gala celebrates significant contributions of Alaska Native peoples and our friends in advancing our collective wellbeing, and the essential role being good relatives to one another plays in keeping Alaska a special place. Please join us as we uplift and honor our peoples, cultures, communities and friends, while raising critical funds to benefit the work of First Alaskans Institute year-round. Our theme for this year’s Gala is presented in the Eyak language: ahnuu dAXunhyuu AXAkihya’ iLka’ GAdAqeeLinuu (side by side in the same direction, the people go by canoe) – very fitting for uplifting the tremendous work of our awardees for advancing our Alaska Native community. With deep respect and gratitude, the FAI Trustees and staff are honored to uplift the following people and their families:

Yeidiklasókw Rosita Worl. Photo courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute.
Kaaháni Rosita Worl, photo by SHI

Howard Rock Alaska Native Leader AwardYeidiklasókw, K̲aaháni Rosita Worl, Ph.D. (Tlingit)
This person has shown through their quality of character and effort to be a leader of distinct caliber because they put their community and people before themselves.

Dr. Rosita Worl, whose Tlingit names are Yeidiklasókw and K̲aaháni, is Ch’áak’ (Eagle) moiety of the Shangukeidí­ (Thunderbird) clan from the Kawdliyaayi Hít (House Lowered from the Sun) in Klukwan. K̲aaháni has served as the president of Sealaska Heritage Institute since 1997, an organization charged with preserving and advancing the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Native cultures of Southeast Alaska. A highly accomplished anthropologist and researcher, Kaaháni centers fierce advocacy in protecting our ways of life in all she does for our Alaska Native community.

Nicole Borromeo. Photo by Nicole Borromeo.
Nicole Borromeo, a selfie in Utqiaġvik

First Alaskans Institute Young Native Leader Award:  Nicole Borromeo (Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan)
This young leader has shown through dedication they are working to help Native peoples and our community with significant and profound purpose.

Nicole Borromeo serves as the Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the Alaska Federation of Natives. Born in McGrath, she now resides in Anchorage with her husband and four children, Ms. Borromeo both advises AFN’s Board and President and advocates on a wide array of Alaska Native legislative and litigation matters, including civil and voting rights, governmental affairs, business and infrastructure development. In addition to championing the Child Welfare Tribal Compacting process with the State under Governor Walker’s administration, Nicole most recently served on the Alaska Redistricting Board to protect and uphold a fair and just process for all Alaskans.

Herb Illisaurri Schroeder. Photo courtesy of University of Alaska Anchorage.
Herb Illisaurri Schroeder, photo by UAA

Friends of First Alaskans Ted Stevens Award:  Dr. Herb Illisaurri Schroeder
This award is given to a person that has shown through their support of Native issues and partnership with our common cause that they are friends of the Alaska Native community.

In the 1990s, while working on an Alaskan public health project, Dr. Herb Illisaurri Schroeder realized how few public health engineers were Alaska Natives and went on to found the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) in 1995 to help a single Alaska Native student earn an engineering degree. Since that time, ANSEP has grown to include 500+ alumni with STEM BS, MS & PhD degrees, and more than 2,500 additional students on track to follow in their footsteps. Dr. Schroeder currently serves as UAA Vice Provost of ANSEP.

Howard Rock Alaska Native Leader
Marlene Johnson (Lingít) – 2012
Mary Jane Evans Fate (Athabascan) – 2013
Dr. Paul and Martina John (Yup’ik) – 2014
Eliza Jones (Koyukon) – 2015
Roy S. Ewan (Ahtna) – 2016
Poldine Carlo (Koyukon) – 2017
Emil Notti (Koyukon) – 2018
Nelson Angapak (Yup’ik) – 2019
Melanie Bahnke (St. Lawrence Island Yupik) – 2020

First Alaskans Young Native Leader
Jason Metrokin (Unangax/Sugpiaq) – 2012
Evon Peter (Gwich’in/Koyukon) – 2013
Tanana 4-H Club (Athabascan) – 2014
Samuel Johns (Ahtna/Gwich’in) – 2015
Raina Thiele (Dena’ina/Yup’ik) – 2016
AlexAnna Salmon (Yup’ik) – 2017
Barbara Blake (Lingít/Haida/Ahtna) – 2018
Dr. Pearl Brower (Iñupiaq) – 2019
Dr. Lance Twitchell (Lingít) – 2020

Friends of First Alaskans Ted Stevens
Barney Gottstein – 2012
Diane Kaplan – 2013
Bill Van Ness – 2014
Bill Oberly – 2015
Gov. Bill Sheffield – 2015
Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. – 2016
Myra Munson – 2017
Lloyd Miller – 2018
Gov. Bill Walker – 2019
Dr. EJ R. David – 2020

2021 Smokehouse Gala Awards made by Drew Michael (Yup’ik)

For sponsorship opportunities for the Smokehouse Gala, please contact [email protected].

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At First Alaskans Institute, we know we are responsible for carrying more than 10,000 years of ancestral knowledge into the future with rigor, humor, resilience, vigilance, and love. To learn more, please visit www.firstalaskans.org, or contact us at [email protected].

Download a PDF version of this release.

Learn more about the 2021 Smokehouse Gala.