Get to Know your CIRI Board of Directors: Vice Chair Samuel Spangler

My name is Sam Spangler, and it is my honor to serve my fellow Shareholders and Descendants as vice chair of the CIRI Board of Directors.

I am Aleut and an original CIRI enrollee. I grew up in Pennsylvania with very little exposure to my tribal cultures. In fact, my first trip to Alaska didn’t occur until 2016.

My mother passed away when I was in my early teens. When I was in Anchorage for my first CIRI Board meeting, I decided to take a trip down to Ninilchik to visit my aunt. As I drove, I was awed by the incredible views and vastness of the terrain and stopped multiple times to take photos! Seeing the volcanoes across Cook Inlet from the vantage point of the Russian Orthodox church on the bluff above Ninilchik was indescribable. It helped me feel a bit more connected with my mother and a heritage that, at that time, I knew little about.

Since becoming a member of the CIRI Board, I have had the opportunity to attend Information Meetings, Annual Meetings, Friendship Potlatches and other cultural gatherings and events. I am always struck by the respect shown to Elders, from their meals being served first to the way others sincerely listen to the stories and lessons that they share. I continue to seek out the wisdom of the Elders I encounter in my own life and to show them the reverence and compassion they deserve.

Our Elders and ancestors fought for Alaska Native people’s right to vote. One way we can show our respect and honor their efforts is to exercise our right to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8! The right and opportunity to vote and participate in our government is fundamental to our democracy, and there is still much to do to improve the lives of Alaskan Native/American Indian people. Voting also helps ensure that the hard-won rights and opportunities afforded to us by our Elders are not lost.

Ironically, my most memorable voting experience is the time I failed to vote in a presidential election. I had just moved to a new state and didn’t know my polling location; I was tired after a long day and an early season snowstorm had set in. I rationalized that my vote wasn’t going to make a difference, gave in to these excuses and went home. I have thought about this experience many times in the years since and always make a point to vote, even if I’m busy or traveling.

If you already participate in elections, thank you! Your vote, and your voice, make a difference. If you don’t, I would ask you to consider that voting is more than just electing a candidate—it’s choosing the right policies and people who have your best interests in mind when making decisions. Voting decides how your tax dollars are spent and impacts everything from jobs, roads and schools in your community to broader issues like Social Security, climate change and defense spending.

Thank you for doing your part to Get Out the Native Vote. I’ll see you at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8!