CIRI shareholder Jaclyn Sallee’s interest in broadcasting and developing relevant programming for Alaskans was set early. As a child, Sallee only spoke English and wanted to connect with her grandmother who only spoke Inupiat. One of Sallee’s childhood memories was of her grandmother Lena Ahnangnatoguk listening to the radio or watching television programs she could not understand because they were not available in her Native language.
Lena Ahnangnatoguk was a strong influence in Sallee’s life as a storyteller and culture bearer. After sharing with her granddaughter a lifetime of knowledge as a renowned skin sewer, midwife and reindeer herder, Lena Ahnangnatoguk passed away in 1992 at 102 years old. By then, Sallee had started her career in public radio and was on her way toward bringing meaningful programming and educational programs to indigenous people across the nation.
Sallee started in public radio in 1986 through The CIRI Foundation internship program, working part-time for the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN) while pursuing her undergraduate degree full-time at the University of Alaska Anchorage where she studied business and fine arts. Soon after, APRN introduced “National Native News,” the first daily news service offering Alaska Native and Native American perspectives on current events and coverage of Native social, economic and cultural issues.
“Growing up in the Anchorage school system, it wasn’t always the most popular thing to be Native,” Sallee said. “National Native News was a great atmosphere to be engaged with an organization that supported Native arts, culture and news.”
Once Koahnic Broadcast Corp., a CIRI-founded nonprofit, began broadcasting in the fall of 1996, the news program and training center that Sallee directed moved to the new station. In 1997, Sallee became president and CEO. Koahnic’s headquarters are in Anchorage, with a satellite office in Albuquerque, N.M.
Koahnic is now the nation’s leading producer of award-winning Native public radio programs including “National Native News” and “Native America Calling.” Among other media enterprises, Koahnic operates a distribution service named “Native Voice One,” the nation’s only urban Native public radio station-KNBA 90.3 FM and other educational programs. Sallee has been instrumental in developing such award-winning programs as “Earthsongs,” “Native Word of the Day” and “Stories of Our People.”
Sallee received the Media Excellence Award at the Eighth Annual Native Media Summit in Santa Fe, N.M. in July. The award celebrates innovators in Native media, from their use of cutting-edge technology to producing creative programs that feature Native voices.
Sallee continues to oversee the network of more than 400 radio station. Under Sallee’s leadership, Koahnic has strengthened its support base through fundraising and capital campaigns and has built two state-of-the-art radio broadcast facilities. Sallee said, “With the incredible leadership of the Board of Directors and great team of professionals and volunteers working on a growing Native public radio network, the future remains bright for advancing programming for the indigenous peoples of the world.”
Sallee has served on numerous boards and committees including The CIRI Foundation, the Center for Native Public Radio, The Foraker Group and the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. Previous honors include a YWCA’s Women of Achievement award and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce’s “Top 40 Under 40” award.
When not working or volunteering, Sallee often heads to Nome or the Kenai peninsula to visit family and friends and enjoy outdoor and sporting activities. As an artist, Sallee donates paintings to the coveted Alaska Native Art Auction, an annual benefit for Koahnic’s programs. For this year’s auction, she collaborated with her mother CIRI shareholder Mary Sallee and CIRI Senior Vice President Barbara Donatelli to create a modern sealskin ottoman adorned in glass and hematite beads.
Of her many accomplishments, Sallee is most proud of transforming a local radio station with a large deficit into a national broadcasting network with diverse funding. Sallee says, “In the beginning, we were broadcasting from a converted two-car garage and apartment in a tough Anchorage neighborhood in an alley. Now we offer multiple platform media products from two state-of-the-art broadcast facilities at Cook Inlet Tribal Council and in New Mexico.” Sallee is thrilled with her international broadcast work resulting in four language programs heard not only throughout the United States, but in countries such as Greenland as well. She is especially proud of her daughter Charlotte, a seventh grade student who also shares her mother’s love of culture and outdoor activities.