2024 Shareholder and Descendant Programs

Creating meaningful connections, experiences and opportunities unique to the CIRI family

CIRI Shareholder Caleigha Gotthardt leads a sewing activity at 2024 Next Gen Day. Photo by Jenny Miller.

A 10-year-old tries akutaq (Eskimo ice cream) for the first time. His brow furrows, then relaxes. A smile stretches across his lips. “It’s good!” he declares. Next to him, a 12-yearold samples fried salmon skin. “My uncle is a fisherman, and he always shares what he gets with our family,” she says. “I’ve had salmon, but never the skin. It’s interesting—crispy and salty. It reminds me of bacon.”

Taste-testing traditional foods is a favorite activity at Next Gen Day, a program for young Shareholders and Descendants (ages 10-17) that immerses them in culture while offering a behind-the-scenes look at CIRI.

“Next Gen Day is a longstanding program at CIRI, but it’s evolved so much the past few years,” said Darla Graham, director, CIRI Shareholder and Descendant Programs. “Attendees still hear about scholarship opportunities and interact with CIRI staff, but we also bring in Native artists to lead hands-on craft activities. We play games, share food and really get to know one another.”

In 2023, CIRI, the CIRI family of designated Tribal organizations, and Cook Inlet villages and Tribes established “revitalize Alaska Native culture and identity” as one of three region-wide priorities. “One of the ways we accomplish this is through emphasizing traditional ways of life and culture in our programs,” Darla said.

While 2024 Next Gen Day was held at the CIRI Fireweed Business Center in Anchorage, a virtual option was made available for out-of- area attendees. All participants received electronic cultural resources and a custom culture box. “Nearly 50% of our Shareholders and Descendants live outside Alaska,” Darla emphasized. “Fostering a sense of belonging within the CIRI family—regardless of age, location, or Shareholder status—is something we’re really focused on.”

Recent and upcoming changes to CIRI’s core programs include:

Art Contest: Formerly the Youth Art Contest, CIRI expanded the contest in 2023 to include ages 5 to adult, with cash prizes awarded to the first- and second-place winners in each of four age categories (grades K-5, 6-8, 9-12 and ages 18+). The 2024 Art Contest will kick off this spring, with a new photography contest to follow mid-summer.

CIRI Participation Committee: In 2024, instead of one in-person and one virtual meeting, all meetings will be held in person. CIRI will pay travel and accommodation expenses for out-of-area members. In the past, CPC members served staggered, one-year terms. Beginning in 2024, members will serve non-staggered, two-year terms, “which will allow us to go more in depth on certain subjects and give members more time to network and really get to know one another,” Darla said.

Next Gen Day: The 2024 event was held Jan. 15 and included both in-person and virtual attendance options. Activities included a trivia game with prizes, a coloring contest, sewing caribou-tufted keychains and Athabascan-style moccasins, a TikTok challenge and conversations with CIRI leadership.

Summer Internship Program: In 2023, interns fished with the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s educational fishery program, visited the villages of Seldovia and Ninilchik, and engaged in cultural activities such as beading, sewing and preparing traditional foods. “In 2024, we’ll focus on customizing cultural experiences based on the backgrounds and interests of our interns,” Darla said. CIRI offers interns a stipend and accommodation assistance; depending on their school’s policy, interns may earn college credit for their internship. Interns may be placed at CIRI’s offices in Anchorage or with one of our partner organizations in or outside Alaska.

Virtual Mentoring: A two-fold recruitment process was launched in 2023, with mentors being selected first, followed by mentee recruitment. “This allows prospective mentees to view and request mentors based on their areas of interest and career goals,” Darla said. CIRI offers both mentors and mentees program orientation, custom monthly workshops, mid-program check-ins and support as needed. The 2024 mentor recruitment process will begin in August, followed by mentee recruitment shortly thereafter.

LOOKING AHEAD

Additional opportunities in 2024 will focus on leadership development; Elders’ programs; apprenticeships and Shareholder and Descendant job opportunities; and gathering stakeholder feedback for long-term strategic planning.

“Preserving and sharing culture, strengthening the CIRI family, and offering education and leadership opportunities is at the heart of what we do,” Darla said. “We are excited to provide innovative programs in 2024 and beyond!”

For more information about Shareholder and Descendant Programs, visit the CIRI website. Questions and feedback may be directed to [email protected].