On May 26, the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council held a graduation ceremony at its Ya Ne Dah Ah (YNDA) School, Alaska’s only tribally-owned and –operated, full-time K-8 school and preschool facility. Along with western educational standards, the school teaches the language and stories, songs and dances and cultural values of the Ahtna Athabascan people.
“The school is special and the heart of our community,” said CIRI shareholder Penny Westing, whose grandchild was graduating from the eighth grade. “YNDA teaches traditional Ahtna values such as love and care for each other, respect for Elders and each other, cooperation and unity, perseverance, environmental stewardship and the importance of humor.”
The graduation ceremony included traditional Ahtna songs and dances, a barbecue lunch and ceremonial recognitions. The community of Chickaloon is located along the North Glenn Highway between Palmer and Glacier View, Alaska. YNDA is located at Moose Creek, about 56 miles northeast of Anchorage.
As YNDA is tribally owned and operated, it receives no state or federal funds. To help offset the cost of operations, the school charges a monthly fee of $100 per student. However, parents or guardians may receive a $50 credit to their monthly fee for every 20 hours or more they volunteer at YNDA in one month.
Chickaloon is also home to Ahtnahwt’aene’ Nay’dini’aa den (“Ahtna People, Chickaloon Place”), an 8,100-square-foot health and wellness center that opened in 2015. A Federally Qualified Community Health Center, it serves Indian Health Service beneficiaries, non-beneficiaries and veterans – an estimated 1,400 potential customer-owners from Palmer to Eureka. The clinic accepts insurance and also offers a sliding fee scale for community members.
In addition to exam rooms, the center houses X-ray services, a telepharmacy, a room for minor procedures and a wellness center with a gym, locker rooms, saunas and showers. The clinic is operated in partnership between the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council and CIRI-affiliated nonprofit organization Southcentral Foundation.