The Alaska Federation of Natives on Friday awarded its highest honor, the Citizen of the Year award, to Juneau Resident Rosita Worl, president of Sealaska Heritage Institute.
AFN President Julie Kitka lauded Worl, an Eagle from the Shangukeidí Clan and the House Lowered from the Sun in Klukwan whose Tlingit names are Yéidiklats’okw and Kaahaní, for her lifelong dedication to helping Native people throughout the state during the AFN annual convention in Anchorage.
“I venture to say there’s probably nobody’s life that has not been touched by the efforts that she has put into her work helping the Native community over her lifetime,” Kitka said in a statement.
Regionally, Worl has served in many capacities, including her present position with Sealaska Heritage Institute, the nonprofit arm of Sealaska Corp. that administers cultural and educational programs for the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. She was elected, and still serves, to the Sealaska Board of Directors, and has previously served on the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indians of Alaska Economic Development Commission. She also still currently sits on the Alaska Native Brotherhood Subsistence Committee.
Statewide, she is known for being an accomplished lecturer, author and anthropologist, who for many years was assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska Southeast. She has served as chairwoman of the Subsistence Committee of the AFN Board of Directors.
“You are my source of inspiration,” Worl told the audience at the convention. “You are the ones who give me strength. You are the ones who make me believe that our way of life is worthy of protection. It is from you — my family, my friends, my colleagues — that I receive the strength that I have.”
Worl also made her mark nationally. She becoming a member of President Bill Clinton’s Northwest Sustainability Commission and an instrumental founding member of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. She worked 12 years trying to build NMAI.
Worl was appointed to the National Census Board in 1990 to help with American Indian issues, and to this day, she continues to serve on the national Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee and on the boards of the Indigenous Language Institute and the National Alliance to save Native Languages.
AFN Co-chairman Albert Kookesh, who went to college with Worl, admired her desire to educate herself. He noted she went to two schools to earn her bachelor’s degree more quickly, before earning her Ph.D. and M.S. in anthropology from Harvard University.
Rosita is one of the most educated people that we have in our midst,” Kookesh said during the ceremony.
Worl has a B.A. from Alaska Methodist University. She has been the recipient of a multitude of awards and honors from various organizations, including the Solon T. Kimball Award from the American Anthropological Association for her pioneering work in applied anthropology and the Gloria Steinem Award for Empowerment.
She has three children and six grandchildren.
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