Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl received the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Tlingit and Haida Tribal Assembly. Worl has a long and varied history as an authority in tribal matters.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized by your tribe and your people,” said Worl. “My mother always taught us that we don’t need to speak about ourselves because if you’re worthy of being known, people who you are. I guess I’ve arrived at that point in my life.”
This point comes from a lifetime of exemplary work, and even adventure. In Alaska, she served as Special Staff Assistant for Native Affairs to Gov. Steve Cowper when he formulated the first state-adopted policy on Native people. It was titled “The State of Alaska’s Policy on Alaska Natives.” She also served on the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indians of Alaska Economic Development Commission, and she chaired the Subsistence Committee while working to amend the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
Worl is also on the Board of Directors for the Alaska Federation of Natives and Sealaska. In addition, she’s on the Alaska Native Brotherhood Subsistence Committee.
She also served as a special advisor to Thomas Berger of the Alaska Native Review Commission, studying the impacts of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and was also a social scientific researcher at the University of Alaska’s Arctic Environmental Information and Data Center while teaching at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Worl received her Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University, a subject she taught at the University of Alaska Southeast.
Worl has been published on a number of Native topics from subsistence to women’s issues. She and her children founded the Alaska Native News Magazine in the 1980s.
At the national level, Worl was a member of President Bill Clinton’s Northwest Sustainability Commission and a founding member of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. She remains a member of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History Arctic Committee.
She was appointed to the National Census Board in 1990 to focus on American Indian issues. She continues to serve her second term as the Chair of the National Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee and is on the boards of the Indigenous Language Institute and the National Alliance to save Native Languages.
Worl’s accomplishments started before her professional life when she became one of the few Tlingit females in the 1950s to fish commercially. She is also a recognized feminist.
Worl is an Eagle from the Shangukeidí Clan and the House Lowered from the Sun in Klukwan. Her Tlingit names are Yéidiklats’okw and Kaahaní. She credits her success to her mother, Bessie Quinto; children, Celeste, Rod and Ricardo Worl; Native rights leader William Paul Sr. and scholar Walter Soboleff.
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