Board Corner

Get to Know Your CIRI Board of Directors: Vice Chair Margaret Brown

I am Margaret Brown, but most people know me as Margie. It has been my privilege to serve on the CIRI Board of Directors from 1984 to 1987 and from 2002 to 2006. I was elected to the Board for a third time in 2016 and currently serve as a trustee and chair of the CIRI Settlement Trust (CST).

I am of Yup’ik heritage. Both my mother and father hailed from the lower Kuskokwim region, my mother from Napaimute and my father from Bethel. I spent my early childhood with my family in Takotna, Alaska, before relocating to Oregon. I am proud to be an original CIRI enrollee.

I became involved with the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) shortly after it was signed into law in 1971. I had recently graduated with a biology degree from the University of Oregon, but no jobs were available to me in my field of study. The passage of ANCSA—and the opportunity to work for Alaska Native corporations—presented itself at just the right time.

I spent two years at Calista Corporation before joining the CIRI family in 1976. I held various positions with increased responsibly within the company before becoming CIRI’s president and CEO in 2005. I held that position for eight years until I retired.

In many ways I grew up with CIRI, and I care deeply for the company and its mission. Becoming a Board member is a way I continue to contribute to that mission. My deep institutional memory, combined with a willingness to embrace new challenges, is what I feel I contribute.

Outside of my work on the CIRI Board, I enjoy reading historical novels—“The Sea Runners” by Ivan Doig is a favorite—and I am a fan of museums. I have also served on the national board of the Student Conservation Association, which combines teaching stewardship for the land with hands-on conservation work. It is a dynamic combination that can literally change young peoples’ lives.

I have always been proud of my Yup’ik and Saami heritage, and I benefitted from warm and loving shared family experiences growing up. However, being a CIRI shareholder is itself a touchpoint for me and many other Alaska Native people to our heritage. This is in part because of the circumstances of enrollment, where many Alaska Native people found themselves living in Anchorage and, through enrollment, became CIRI shareholders. CIRI has always recognized this dynamic and celebrates the diversity of its shareholders and descendants.

CIRI turns 50 years old on June 8, 2022. For an organization that was predicted to fail, the company has achieved remarkable success. CIRI has a dual mission: to be a successful business entity while preserving and perpetuating the Alaska Native culture and heritage of our shareholders and descendants. As we look toward the next 50 years, we will need to think carefully and be creative.

The passage of ANCSA gave CIRI a window of opportunity. I often encourage young people to watch for windows of opportunity in their own lives and step up when one presents itself. Windows of opportunity are like real windows—they open and close. I am confident CIRI will be watching for future “windows of opportunity” that will drive the company forward into the next 50 years of its remarkable history.