Father, son, military veteran, business professional, recipient of a “Top 40 Under 40” award and Alaska Native culture bearer – CIRI shareholder Adam Leggett (Dena’ina Athabascan) wears many hats. At only 34 years old, he’s amassed an impressive resume that includes a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, and serving as Alaska Native program manager for engineering firm Stantec.
Adam’s family has strong ties to Southcentral Alaska, but he says his “path to culture was found as an adult.” According to Adam, “I knew I was Dena’ina, but due to the social stigma around Alaska Native people, it wasn’t something I talked about.”
Motivated by the 9/11 attacks, Adam joined the U.S. Navy in 2002. During his four years of service, including an eight-and-a-half-month ship deployment, he began to embrace his Alaska Native heritage. “Native American people serve in the U.S. military in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic group,” he explained. Inheriting CIRI shares in 2003 from his maternal grandmother, Marie Ondola Rosenberg, encouraged him to learn more about CIRI and its role in preserving and perpetuating Alaska Native culture.
“Around that same time, my brother started sharing culture with me,” Adam said. Adam’s brother, Aaron Leggett, serves as curator of Alaska history and culture at the Anchorage Museum. A former CIRI intern and 2014 CIRI Shareholder of the Year, Aaron has played a vital role in preserving and perpetuating the Dena’ina language and was instrumental in bringing the first exhibition of the Dena’ina Athabascan people to a major museum.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in 2009, Adam interned with First Alaskans Institute, an Anchorage-based nonprofit committed to developing the capacities of Alaska Native people, and then traveled to communities outside the Alaska Railbelt on behalf of the U.S. Census. From 2010 to 2015 he was employed as an account executive with Crowley Maritime where he dealt primarily with customers in the Yukon-Kuskokwim area. “I started realizing I wasn’t the only Alaska Native person who didn’t know a lot about his culture, much less about Alaska Native cultures outside the Alaska Railbelt,” he said.
As Stantec’s Alaska Native program manager, Adam oversees activities related to business development, client management and delivery of services. He is also responsible for marketing and implementation of the company’s Alaska Native program and developing and sustaining relationships with Alaska Native tribes and corporations, including 8(a) and set-aside opportunities. “Stantec is Canadian-owned so we have many aboriginal partnerships in Canada, as well as in Australia and New Zealand,” he said. “It makes good economic sense for Stantec to partner with aboriginal peoples – no one knows the areas in which we work and do business better than they do.”
In 2017, Adam was a recipient of a National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development “Native American Top 40 Under 40” award. The prestigious award recognizes 40 emerging Alaska Native and American Indian people who have demonstrated leadership, initiative and dedication and made significant contributions in business and/or in their community. “It’s about people working within Indian Country trying to advance development – striking the balance between cultural preservation and business opportunities,” Adam said.
Though Adam is a committed to sharing and working to preserve Alaska Native heritage for the future, “for us millennials, it’s tough,” he admitted. “I don’t want to say being a shareholder is the end all be all, but it helps. Being a CIRI shareholder has absolutely impacted me – it’s connected me to the Alaska Native community and given me a sense of belonging. If you’re not a tribal member, get involved with your tribe. Search out family; social media tools like Facebook are amazing for finding family and staying connected. Volunteer with an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters, which is in desperate need of volunteers for Alaska Native youth.”
Dividends, increased access to education, a shareholder hiring preference, discounts and cultural benefits are just a few benefits enjoyed by CIRI’s nearly 9,000 shareholders. Apart from dividends and the hiring preference, many of these same opportunities are available to CIRI descendants who are not themselves shareholders. CIRI also provides a variety of opportunities for CIRI youth.
To learn more about descendant and youth opportunities or apply for a CIRI descendant identification card, visit www.ciri.com/shareholders/descendants.