Elder of the Year
Virginia Wolf (Athabascan) serves as a tribal court judge for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, where she presides over a range of cases in a culturally appropriate manner, including cases involving child protection and custody, domestic violence, and protection of Elders and vulnerable adults. An original CIRI enrollee, she has dedicated her life to caring for and helping her family and community.
Wolf has worked for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s educational fishery, instilling in younger generations an understanding of the importance of salmon and food sovereignty by teaching traditional methods of harvesting, filleting, processing and smoking salmon. She has helped youth learn about and honor tribal values, including contributing salmon to Elders and other tribal members in need.
Consistently stepping up when her community needs her, Wolf recently donated more than 600 hand-sewn face masks to the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s Elder and Na’ini Family and Social Services programs, the Dena’ina Wellness Center and others in need of protection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shareholder of the Year
Tammy Ashley (Aleut and Inupiaq), an original CIRI enrollee and lifelong Anchorage resident, currently serves as the director of program operations for the Alaska Native Justice Center (ANJC), a nonprofit organization that addresses Alaska Native peoples’ unmet needs within the Alaska civil and criminal justice system.
Under Ashley’s leadership, ANJC and the Alaska Federation of Natives partnered on two resolutions advocating for more rigorous sexual-assault laws and greater equality for victims, which prompted Alaska lawmakers to pass legislation to rectify sentencing loopholes and provide more protection against predators. In 2019, ANJC was selected as one of six organizations nationwide to be honored with a Paul H. Chapman Award from the Foundation for the Improvement of Justice.
Ashley has served on the boards of Alaska Native Heritage Month and the Alaska Native Professionals Association and as a committee member of ANCSA at 40. She currently serves on the board of Girl Scouts of Alaska and earlier this year was inducted into the Anchorage ATHENA Society.
Youth Recognition Award
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Aleshanee Nikita (Athabascan) has long embraced dance as a way of expressing culture, including performing with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and successfully auditioning for the prestigious New Mexico School for the Arts, where she is enrolled in the gifted program, serves as an admissions ambassador and is regarded for her strong, focused and inspirational leadership style.
Nikita is connected to CIRI through her father, the late Daniel Nikita, and her grandmother, the late Katherine Theodore, both originally from Eklutna, Alaska. Along with exploring the cultures of her American Indian friends, Nikita shares what she has learned of her own Alaska Native heritage, including starting work on a documentary about Native culture. She has previously been honored for academic and athletic excellence by Native American Student Services, a program of Santa Fe Public Schools.
Having recently battled leukemia herself, Nikita displayed profound courage and drew on an unwavering connection to her culture as a source of strength.