• Self-determination, sustainability, and wellbeing in the Alaska Native community of Ninilchik

      Gordon, Heather Sauyaq Jean; Koskey, Michael; Topkok, Sean Asiqłuq; Hirshberg, Diane; Sekaquaptewa, Patricia (2019-05)
      Alaska Natives are a diverse group of people with different language groups and over 200 tribes. We have a history of colonization and are still a colonized people, but through all this, we strive for wellness for our people. This paper begins with an explanation of historical trauma, development, and the lack of fate control Alaska Native people experience. The literature review explains how colonization can negatively impact the colonized and details international, federal, and Alaska state law and court cases having to do with Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. In this project the researcher works with the Ninilchik Village Tribe of Ninilchik, Alaska, to explore how community members utilize self-determination, either individually and/or as a group, to achieve individual, community, and tribal sustainability and wellbeing. This project uses the method of ethnographic futures research to conduct scenarios about the future. The researcher conducted 30 interviews about three possible futures: the optimistic, pessimistic, and most likely, and followed the interviews with four focus groups to discuss the interview results. The results were coded through grounded theory in NVivo analysis software and compared with: (a) the Capabilities Approach, (b) Self-Determination Theory, (c) social science development theories of Dependency and World Systems, and (d) the Elements of Development Model. The Capabilities Approach and Self-Development Theory explain the links between self-determination and wellbeing. Dependency and World Systems Theories explain the importance of local self-determination for development. Finally, the Elements of Development Model provides an outline for different types of self-determining actions. The project analyzes Arctic wellbeing indicators and developed indicators of sustainability and wellbeing. The project results demonstrate what community members think that individuals, the community, and the tribe can do to improve sustainability and wellbeing in Ninilchik, and how to achieve those goals through self-determining actions. The dissemination document serves as the start to a 20-year strategic plan. This type of research demonstrates how tribes can address the results of historical trauma and take control of their fate through self-determination. The next steps in research would be asset mapping and capacity-building projects to work with the data and benefit the community.