My name is Leeanne Smoke and I hail from the Athabascan tribe of Tyonek, Alaska. I recently graduated from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, where I received my bachelor’s degree in business administration.
I am connected to CIRI through my grandfather, Stan Mishakoff, who is also the one who encouraged me to apply for the CIRI Summer Internship Program. I’ve been working summer internships for seven years, and I have to say, this one with CIRI has been special.
Through a CIRI-funded external placement, I have been assisting the Tyonek Tribal Conservation District (TTCD) with its community garden program. So far, I have helped establish a point-of-sale system and trained employees on how to use it, researched how to better care for existing perennial fruits and explored the possibility of adding apples to our garden.
Other highlights have included accompanying my younger sisters to the YEAH! Summit, a program of RurAL CAP that empowers, engages and inspires Alaskan teens and youth to fight for healthier communities.
I have also learned about a culvert-replacement project happening right here in Tyonek. Culverts are structures that allow water to flow under a road system. But many are undersized and block salmon from moving upstream. So far, TTCD has opened up 36 miles of upstream habitat and 548 lake acres to salmon for spawning, rearing and overwintering through culvert replacements.
I can’t be more thankful that I’ve been afforded this chance to work with CIRI and the people of Tyonek. Everyone I’ve met has been helpful and welcoming, and I couldn’t ask for a better work environment.