“When we teach [the Ahtna language to] all of the people, then they all can appreciate where they live,” said Kari Shaginoff, the school’s language teacher.
The Tribe also has implemented a variety of initiatives to keep children safe and connected to their families and their community, for example by working to change state policy to preserve and increase contact between biological parents and children in the foster system, which sparked an overhaul of the training curricula for Office of Children’s Services case workers.
Chickaloon Native Village highly values connections across communities. Whenever possible, the Tribe designs its services—from its school to transportation to healthcare—to be available not only to its own 350-plus citizens but also the area’s more than 5,000 Alaska Native and Native American peoples and its broader non-Native community.
A key service available to all is the Tribe’s clinic, C’eyiits’ Hwnax or Life House Community Health Center, which opened in 2016 and offered primary care and urgent care services to many people in this remote area for the first time. The clinic focuses on personalized care and relationship building, and behavioral and mental healthcare are part of routine visits.
In another step toward healing, the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council set a policy to protect and restore their ancestral lands, honoring their traditional role as stewards of the local environment. An ongoing project since 2005 has been their work on Tsidek’etna, or Moose Creek, a salmon-bearing tributary of Ts’itonhtna’ and traditional center of Tribal life. The Tribe first removed coal-mining infrastructure to restore salmon passage to the stream’s headwaters, and later cleaned up and maintained a disused state campground that had become a dangerous illegal dumping area.