Representative-elect Mary Peltola touched down in Bethel on Wednesday to spend a few nights in her hometown before she heads to Washington D.C.
Peltola will serve as Alaska’s sole U.S. Representative and become the first Alaska Native in Congress when she’s sworn in on Sept. 13.
A small crowd circled Peltola next to the baggage carousel at the Alaska Airlines terminal, as Alaska’s soon-to-be Congresswoman pulled a green roller bag behind her as she hugged family and friends and took photos with supporters.
Some had signs to welcome Peltola home. Kathy Hanson’s homemade posterboard sign simply said “Rep. Peltola.”
“I am so excited that we have actually elected a U.S. representative who is from here and she’s a woman. Oh my gosh,” Hanson said. “And she’s Alaska Native.”
Other supporters, like Alice Jung, just happened to be catching flights, but were excited to be swept into the welcoming committee even if they weren’t there specifically to greet Peltola.
“It’s just good to see an Alaska Native in there,” Jung said. “She knows all our problems in the bush.”
Gracie Nelson was also at the airport to catch a flight out of town, and she and her two nieces hopped into a group picture with Peltola and a crowd of supporters, family, and friends.
“Just so proud of her,” Nelson said. “She’s come along so well for herself and she’s done so much, I feel like. And everybody’s going for her.”
Bev Hoffman helped organize the event. She’s known Peltola since the congresswoman-elect was a child, and she cried last week when the election results were announced.
“I yelled, and screamed, and jumped up and down, and I just was overwhelmed with joy,” Hoffman said.
Peltola’s family members were at the airport to greet her as well, including her sister, Margaret Fitka, who Peltola wrapped in a long hug.
“We’re just so excited and proud of her,” Fitka said. “To just put yourself out there. And to see her win? It’s just awesome.”
Ana Hoffman stood near Fitka. Ana is the president and CEO of Bethel Native Corporation and the co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives. She’s also a close friend of Peltola’s.
“I think she’s just ran a great campaign. And throughout she’s just really stayed true to her values. And so I have confidence that that will continue to carry through to her success,” said Ana.
Once she’s sworn in, Peltola will serve the last four months of late Rep. Don Young’s term. She’s running in November to serve the seat’s next full, two-year term.