Every year NANA honors four members of our NANA family with awards that recognize their contributions to our people, our communities and our company.
The Elder of the Year is a respected Elder who models and practices the Iñupiat Ilitqusiat, stays active in teaching our language and culture and demonstrates leadership among our people. The 2017 Elder of the Year Award goes to Aaquuraqpauraq Lawrence “Larry” Westlake Sr. of Kiana, Alaska.
Larry was born and raised in Kiana. His parents are the late Teddy and Jenny Westlake of Kiana. From an early age, Larry has shown commitment to the Iñupiat Ilitqusiat by living our traditional ways and passing on the knowledge of his Elders to future generations.
As a young man, Larry raced sled dogs and was a competitive sprint racer. He ran the first Iditarod which was a relay race. Today, he is returning from the Iditarod trail where he served as a race judge.
He and his family enjoy all subsistence activities. Larry is often asked to share his knowledge about traditional ways of hunting, fishing and trapping. He teaches anyone who asks, and his natural storytelling ability helps others understand how to do something and why to do it a certain way.
Over the years, he has served on the Kiana City Council, Kiana Traditional Council, Northwest Arctic Borough (NAB) Assembly, Northwest Iñupiat Housing Authority (NIHA) board, Maniilaq board, the Regional Search and Rescue board, and the Alaska Mineral Commission (AMC).
His knowledge of the land is well known. When it comes to building ice roads that are safe for winter travel, people call Larry. He never hesitates to be available for search and rescue and is recognized for his expertise of the land. He was a spotter and is renowned for how he uses a grid system for searches.
Larry served in the Eskimo Scouts, National Guard, and Army Reserves for 18 years. He has demonstrated a strong commitment to his community, region and country.
Those who have worked with, and learned from Larry, will say he has mastered the art of patience.
Larry and his wife Christina of almost 58 years have raised five children, have 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
The Youth of the Year Award is given to a young person who demonstrates leadership, models our values, excels academically, and contributes to the benefit of all NANA youth. The 2017 Youth of the Year Award goes to Aŋasuk Erin Nelson of Kotzebue.
Aŋasuk Erin Nelson is the granddaughter of August Sr. and the late Diane Nelson. She is the daughter of August Jr. and Cheral Nelson. She is the eldest of five siblings.
Aŋasuk was raised in Kotzebue and excelled in her studies. Currently working on her master’s in public health, Erin works with her adopted community in Arizona on community outreach for HIV testing and counseling. During her time in Arizona, she has taken courses in Navajo culture and language, and in return, has taught her co-workers about her Iñupiaq heritage, even having niqipiaq sent all the way from Alaska so they can experience traditional Iñupiaq foods.
Erin has recently accepted a position at Maniilaq health center in Kotzebue under the environmental health program and RuralCap/Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) program. We look forward to her return home and sharing all that she has learned with us. She leads future generations through example by pursuing an education and helping everyone around her.
The Richard A. Baenen Award showcases a non-shareholder who shows an untiring commitment to our people and works hard to make a difference in our region, and for NANA shareholders. The 2017 Richard A. Baenen Award goes to Sałiq Roger Franklin.
Roger has been the principle in Shungnak for four years and worked for the Northwest Arctic Borough School District (NWABSD) for over eight years. Every morning when he makes his announcements on the VHF, he makes sure to be inclusive with the parents and community. He is always welcoming and encourages parents to participate in school activities.
Since arriving in Shungnak, student attendance has improved along with morale. Roger encompasses the Iñupiaq Il.itqusait in everything he does and teaches. The students learn positive behavior, respect for each other, themselves and Elders, and to be motivated in their studies. Whether it is helping the community pack water from the river for Elders or his encouragement to speak Iñupiaq daily in their classrooms, Roger makes sure that his students embrace their Iñupiat culture.
Roger is known for his quote “it is a we” and “education comes first.” Taikuu Roger for all you have done for the community of Shungnak and the region.
The NANA Shareholder of the Year Award is given to a shareholder who shows leadership within the community and the NANA region, contributes to the community, and helps preserve Iñupiaq culture and heritage. This year’s Shareholder of the Year is Aulvik Sophie M. Foster of Kotzebue.
Sophie is the daughter of the late Vernon Sr. and Ida Richards of Kotzebue. She is married and has six children.
Sophie is well known within the region for her selflessness and a big heart. Every Sunday, you can find her at the St. George Episcopal Church, where she cooks and hosts meals for residents in need and the elderly, free of charge.
Sophie embodies the Iñupiat Il.tiqusiat values of the NANA region and is a source of hope for many. She shows commitment and responsibility to her tribe by making sure that no one goes hungry, especially the elderly. Her volunteerism is revered by many.