Ahtna roots lead Yatibaey to career in education

Published January 2017

Yatibaey Evans.PresidentOne of Alaska’s leading Native educators credits her Ahtna roots for her lifelong love of her profession.

And now Ahtna shareholder-owner Yatibaey Evans is settling in her new role as president of the National Indian Education Association (NIEA).

“Being Ahtna is very central to why I pursued education, growing up with the teachings of my grandma, Molly Galbreath, Katie John and all the Elders in Mentasta, Chistochina and Copper River area. They were great mentors and great leaders,” she told Ahtna Corporate Communications Coordinator Brianne Island.

Growing up Ahtna was special, Evans says. “To have a whole community of love and support, especially from those who have gone through the trials and the fires and came out on the other side to see a positive result in their lives. My Uncle Fred John, along with many other Elders and Elders in training, often telling me to ‘Go and get your education and come back and serve your people.’

Despite all the challenges we may face as a people, we rise above them. We have so many shining stars, so many amazing people who are a part of the Ahtna family. Aunties and uncles and those who have passed. And all that they stood up for, all the battles that were fought on our behalf. It is incredible, the strength of our people.”

Evans took over as president of NIEA a month ago. The association was formed by Native educators in 1969 to encourage a national discourse on Native education.

“It is a lot of fun working with so many professionals who have dedicated their lives to education. There are so many really brilliant and smart people working on behalf of Native children. I am grateful for having the privilege and honor working alongside them and being on a team with them,” she said when asked about her first month in office.

She said she is pursuing an aggressive agenda as NIEA president.

“We are trying to encourage tribes and tribal organizations to get in engaged with meaningful consultation under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The school districts that have the title programs are obligated to reach out to every tribe that has a student in their school and invite them to these meetings and have conversations about how school districts should run the program. It is not just the Indian Education programs, but all the different title programs. This is a first time for this sort of consultation.”

“After hearing so many concerns over the years, from families, parents and communities, about what they want to see, now is their opportunity to really weigh in and be creative in working together with school districts throughout the nation.

“We are also starting a Native Teachers Campaign, strategizing to get Alaska Native and Native American teachers to stay in education, and encouraging them to stay or return to their Native communities to teach our young people. By thinking outside of the box, and as well as looking at other models like Indian Health Services for student loan forgiveness programs. Thinking about ways to get to kids in school now, to get them excited and interested in careers in education, help them develop that passion at an early age.”

Evans oversees the Title VII program, Alaska Native Education (ANE), in Fairbanks, and is an adjunct professor for the Department of Alaska Native Studies at Rural Development at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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