Hometown Alaska: Native Heritage Month can bring complex emotions for Indigenous people. Here are three perspectives.

Taquka’aq B-Duk Took Drum Group at the Alaska Native Heritage Center (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Since 1990, federal, state, and local governments have recognized November as Native Heritage Month to celebrate and honor America’s Indigenous Peoples. November is such an interesting time for Native peoples, though, as it is right after Halloween when folks still commonly dress up in stereotypical Native costumes, and it is also when Thanksgiving happens, a holiday that is fraught with many problematic portrayals of history and Native Peoples. In this episode, we talk about these and many other relevant issues pertaining to Native Heritage Month.


E.J. David


Ayyu Qassataq is Iñupiaq from Uŋalaqłiq, currently residing on Dena’ina lands in Dgheyey Kaq’ with her four children. She is an activist for the self-determination of Alaska Native peoples, and currently serves as the Vice President & Indigenous Operations Director for First Alaskans Institute. She works closely with the leadership team to center Indigenous knowledge and wisdom, amplify the self-determination of Native peoples and unify the collective strength of our community. Recognizing a shared responsibility to contribute our individual gifts for the betterment of our community, Ayyu works to advance healing, awareness, and advocacy around the challenges and opportunities that face our Native communities.   

Samuel Johns is Ahtna and Gwich’in Athabascan with family from Copper Center and Arctic Village. Sam has lived in Anchorage with his family since 2005. Sam, also known as AK Rebel, is a rapper, father, motivational speaker and performer. Among the many things he has done in the community is starting “Forget-me-not”, a group that reconnects homeless individuals with their families, friends, and culture

Sondra Shaginoff-Stuart is Ahtna Dene of the taltsiine (water clan) and Pyramid Lake Paiute of the cui-ui ticutta (fish-eaters). Sondra is a Tribal citizen of Chickaloon Native Village. Sondra is wife and mother of three wonderful men and she currently lives at Kahtnu (Kenai). Sondra is a standing committee member on the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s Education Committee. Even though she is a language learner, she would like to develop ways for the Ahtna language to grow in our communities and the world. She hopes to honor her family and ancestors by sharing what she has learned, especially with the younger generations. Sondra graduated with a Masters degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Her project was focused on task-based language teaching which you teach Native language through cultural projects. She is currently the Chair of the Alaska Native Studies Department at UAA. 


UAA Alaska Native Studies

First Alaskans Institute


  • Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (10-11 a.m.)
  • Send e-mail to hometown@alaskapublic.org before, during or after the live broadcast (E-mails may be read on air).
  • LIVE (RECORDED) : Monday, November 1, 2021 at 10 a.m.
  • RE-AIR: Monday, November 1, 2021 at 8 p.m.

Ammon Swenson is Alaska Public Media’s Audio Media Content Producer. He was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He graduated from UAA in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and integrated media. He’s previously worked for KRUA radio, the Anchorage Press, and The Northern Light.

Previous articleCOVID’s endgame: Scientists have a clue about where SARS-CoV-2 is headed
Next articleWhat happened to the $2M a cruise ship company offered to Juneau?