INTERN-al Affairs

My name is Autumn Olson. I am a CIRI shareholder of Inupiaq descent, and this is my second summer as an intern in CIRI’s Human Resources department.

I am connected to CIRI through my grandfather, Andrew Kalerak Jr., who moved from the Nome, Alaska, area to Anchorage and enrolled his family – which included his daughter and my mother, Vickie Kalerak – in CIRI at the time of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).

Growing up, I knew of my family’s connection to CIRI; my mother even worked in CIRI’s Shareholder Relations department for a time. But having lived mostly in Washington State, I wanted to forge my own connection.

This CIRI summer internship gave me the experience I was looking for. I have been given the opportunity to try traditional foods, harvest ingredients to make bread and jam, take an Alaska Native languages class, learn traditional dances and games, and I’m in the process of making my first kuspuk. These experiences have taught me respect for the land, environment and resources around us, and how important it is to care for, share with and learn from our Elders. From our Elders, I have learned about ANCSA, CIRI’s history and all that they fought for so that I can take advantages of the myriad opportunities CIRI has given me.

As part of my internship in CIRI’s Human Resources department, I get to help connect the next generation of CIRI shareholders and descendants with their corporation. The largest project I worked on was the CIRI C3 Experience. This inaugural program helped root 15 shareholders and descendants – the majority of whom reside outside Alaska – in their heritage, taught them about CIRI and equipped them with the tools, resources and skills they need to pursue post-secondary education and future careers.

The CIRI C3 Experience encouraged these young participants to see themselves as leaders and agents of change in their communities. In sharing their newfound knowledge, skills and experiences, they can inspire others to reach their own goals and dreams.

As summer comes to a close, the five CIRI summer interns will return to our respective colleges – or, in my case, to pursue post-baccalaureate studies, as I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in 2016. But one thing is certain: we’ll never forget our time here at CIRI. And who knows – maybe one day, I’ll settle into a permanent position here at the company. Until then, I’m signing off on our final 2018 INTERN-al Affairs article.

Autumn Olson