Nathaniel Withers

My father and grandmother are original CIRI shareholders, and for the longest time, I didn’t understand why this was significant. I myself am not a shareholder, but a descendant.

For much of my youth, I didn’t take my heritage seriously; to me it was just a footnote in my family’s history, an invitation to sit in a meeting when my 5-year-old self would rather be playing, and a reason for my grandmother, Melva, to tell me stories or build up a supply of books about my family’s Alutiiq history. It was not until I was older that I finally began to understand what these stories, and by extension, my culture, meant to me.

When I entered high school, I decided to explore my heritage. I attended events, most notably the CIRI C3 Experience, where I met other young shareholders and descendants, learned cultural traditions, and was taught the significance of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and more about the different Native tribes and cultures of Alaska. As I learned about our history and became more involved, I gained a new appreciation for CIRI.