Voices of Young Alaskans Important as Ever on Arctic Issues

COVID pandemic underscores connections

I think one of the things that COVID has laid to bare in our rural communities…that you’re seeing more apparently, are the connections between things like food security, mental well-being, and cultural sovereignty.” — Arctic Youth Ambassador Samuel Uuyavuk Schimmel

young woman outside with sunset
Cassidy Maya Rose Austin of the 2020–2021 AYA cohort.
Duncan Ray Okitkun of the 2020–2021 AYA cohort.
Mercedes Kashatok of the 2020–2021 AYA cohort.
young lady receiving graduation materials from a gentleman with others clapping around them
2017–2019 Arctic Youth Ambassador Laurel Katchatag receives a Program Certificate from USFWS Regional Director Greg Siekaniec at the 2017–2019 AYA Graduation.
Samuel Uuyavuk Schimmel of the 2020–2021 AYA cohort.

“I remember going out as a little boy on these great big ice sheets…and I remember thinking about the strength of the ocean, and of the ice. I was struck by the fact that the ice always came back…it seemed like such a constant as a little kid, the fact that ice would always be there when it was time to hunt. But as times have gone on, that ice that was so ever present, and so powerful, has gone away. It has changed.”

young man pulling a boat in on shore at dusk
young man and woman senator in an office with Alaska Native Art decorating the walls
Arctic Youth Ambassador Samuel Uuyavuk Schimmel with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski
young woman on a bridge in the forest
Muriel Reid of the 2020–2021 AYA cohort.
Andrea Wagner of the 2020–2021 AYA cohort.

“My passion is to help create a just transition into a more equitable and greener world that is responsible for the health of everyone. I believe a step in the right direction is creating open conversations about the issues that we can see going on throughout our state, because I believe that a lot of understanding can be created with conversations that are started with genuine intentions, and not to prove a point.”

young woman shakes an older man’s hand in front of a sign that reads glacier and an american flag
Former Secretary of State John Kerry meeting with Arctic Youth Ambassadors at the GLACIER conference in 2015.
Arctic Youth Ambassadors with Sally Jewell and John Kerry.

“The Department of the Interior — and thus the Secretary who leads it — both play an outsized role in our state. Alaska has more federal lands, more mineral resources, and more natural hazards than any other state. We are set apart by unique laws and frameworks that Congress enacted and that Presidents signed, whether our Statehood Act or ANCSA or ANILCA. We are an Arctic nation because of Alaska. And we are a diverse state, with many Indigenous peoples and cultures who have lived there since, as they say, time immemorial. We are a state that is just different.”

Eve M. Downing, 2020–2021 AYA cohort.
young lady smiling
Gabe Canfield of the 2020–2021 AYA cohort.
young lady in the forest
Krystyn Marian Kelly of the 2020–2021 AYA cohort.
AYA logo — blue triangles reads “Arctic Youth Ambassadors”



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