Lt. Gov. Davidson delivers first public speech in new position

Valerie Davidson at the APU 2018 Indigenous Peoples Day celebration. Davidson was appointed as Lt. Gov. of Alaska following Byron Mallott’s resignation. (Photo courtesy of the office of Gov. Bill Walker)

The state’s new Lt. Gov. gave her first public speech today. Valerie Davidson is the first Alaska Native Woman to hold statewide office in Alaska. She spoke at the annual tribal conference, held today at the Egan Center to kick of the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, which starts tomorrow.

Davidson began by acknowledging the troubling circumstances that led to her being sworn in as Lt. Gov. yesterday, when Byron Mallott abruptly resigned after admitting he made inappropriate comments.

Listen now

This speech has been cut down and transcribed for length. 

DAVIDSON: Quyana for allowing me to be here today and I just want to acknowledge that, while I’m really honored to step into the role of lieutenant governor, this is not really a situation that any of us could have predicted. And I’ll just be honest, yesterday was a really tough day for all of us.

But today is a new day, and today is our opportunity to move forward, to work together, to continue to heal the past so that we can move forward in strength and together and that’s what we do as Native people, and we will continue to do that today. I know actually a lot of you in the room today, but there are some of you who I don’t know.

So let me do a proper introduction. My Yup’ik names are Nurr’araaluk Amillamarnan. My English name is Valerie Davidson. If you forget my Yup’ik names, we Yup’iks have this wonderful word which basically means hey you. So do take care to practice it carefully though because if you say something else it’s something else entirely and we don’t want to go there.

I’m originally from Bethel. I grew up in Bethel and also upriver in Aniak. My mother’s family is Yup’ik from [a village that] literally means “Village With no River” because it’s located on the ocean. If you’re ever in Bethel and you head downriver, once you hit the ocean hang a right, and you will run into my mother’s home village. Her English name is Tilly Davidson. She’s a Mount Edgecumbe graduate.

My father’s family is kass’aq, which basically means “not Yup’ik” and they’re from Port Orchard, Washington. And in the fine Yup’ik tradition, my mother made my dad move completely from his home community and move to the Bethel area.

I was also recently adopted by the Jackson family in Kake and they are both Tlingit and Haida and I was given the Haida [a] Haida name which I’m told means “noisy lady.” And I was named after my late aunt, and I like to think that I was given that name because I have a really loud authentic Native laugh.

So the other things that you should know about me; probably the most important thing, I’m a mother of four children. I also have a godson. They are my greatest accomplishments in my entire life. They make me better than I really am and I love them dearly.

You should also know that I’m a village girl. And I’m proud to be a village girl because when you grow up in a village you learn from a really early age, it doesn’t matter whether it’s 40 above or 40 below. If it’s tough weather outside, it doesn’t matter. We get up, we put on our clothes, we pack water, we chop wood and we do what needs to get done to face the day and that’s where we are today.

Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson, speaking at the annual tribal conference organized by Alaska Federation of Natives and the National Congress of American Indians. The speech was recorded in a Facebook Live video from the Anchorage Daily News.

Annie Feidt is the Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace.
Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon.
afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie

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