To start the week off, we are highlighting Fairbanks Intern, Birk Albert. Birk is one of four interns working at Native Movement this summer and we are happy to have him as part of the team!
The summer interns at Native Movement are passionate about social and environmental justice and are interested in building grassroots organizing and nonprofit management skills. We hope you enjoy reading their blogs as much as we do!
Stay tuned for our last feature, coming later this week.
I’m Birk Albert, named for the birch tree, which provides the warmth needed in Interior Alaska’s winters. Birch is a hardwood which bends to form snowshoes my dad builds as well as sleds and other tools essential for life in the Interior. My Alaskan roots grow deep as my paternal grandparents are Phillip Albert Sr. of Kokrines and Justine Demoski of Nulato. My father, George, is the last active snowshoe maker of our people and a practitioner of all the subsistence skills one needs to survive in the Interior. My mother, Eileen, found her way from the west to live in Alaska almost twenty years and is the reason I exist carrying not just Koyukon Athabascan roots but the complicated legacy of the ‘Mayflower mix.’
I was raised along the Yukon River in Ruby, Alaska until age twelve when my parents decided I would be better prepared for college if I finished my education at a larger public school. I flew alone that first year to Lake Placid, New York. My uncle helped me with my transition to a school three times larger than in my village. I adapted and thrived. I took up soccer, Nordic skiing, track and community involvement with a slideshow about the immoral impacts on rural subsistence lifestyles by climate change. In Ruby, I grew up in a log home with only wood heat and no plumbing. In my new home, I took daily showers and enjoyed life in the Lower 48, although I missed my Alaskan home and family, I trusted I was preparing for my future.
I’m entering my third year at Wells College in Aurora, New York as a history major. This summer I’m back in Alaska to visit my family and work for Native Movement through First Alaskans Institute’s Summer Internship Program. I recently returned from the Society of American Indian Government Professionals conference youth training. In the past, I was lucky to serve as a United National Indian Tribal Youth inc as an Earth Ambassador and a 25 Under 25 honoree. I was also a White House Tribal Nations Conference youth delegate.
I have collected donated books to fill a Ruby Little Free Library which my father built. I hope this new project I created for Fresh Tracks which is a program through the Center for Native American Youth and the Aspen Institute will educate and inspire the youth and elders of Ruby to live in balance. The land where my home village sits was “Tlaa’ologhe’” for thousands of years before it was misnamed by miners for rubies which were never found in our streams. Yet, we had garnets and the riches of our natural food, our lands, waters, and culture to sustain us for millennia. Native peoples traditionally were grounded in reality and many of us still are. We have the obligation to protect what sustains all life even as we interact in the larger world. I’m grateful to be home and assisting in the important work of Native Movement.