Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC) is pleased to announce the awardees of its 2022 Young Providers Award and Youth Culture Bearer Award. BSNC shareholder Hayley Weyiouanna Topkok of Teller will receive the Young Providers Award in honor of the late Dora Iyapana Ahkinga. BSNC descendant Nyche “Skavaq Sivulliuqti” Tyme Andrew of Anchorage will receive the Youth Culture Bearer Award in honor of the late Emily Ivanoff Brown. These awards annually recognize young people who contribute on a daily basis to the health and well-being of their families, communities and culture. Topkok and Andrew will be recognized during the 2022 Annual Meeting of Shareholders which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 in Nome, AK.
Originally from Shishmaref, shareholder Hayley Weyiouanna Topkok now resides in Teller with her husband and children. At the age of 6, Topkok had a strong interest to help her great grandmother sew slippers. She began sewing gifts for friends and family and today she shares her talents in making parkas, seal skin hats, booties, mittens and kuspuks. Her beautiful work can be seen on her Facebook page Bering Sea Stitches.
In Teller, Topkok took on the roles of athletic director and Headstart teacher’s aide. Halfway through the basketball season, the boys team unexpectedly needed a coach and Topkok stepped in. Although she was a young mom and expecting her second child, Topkok brought structure, discipline and instilled pride in the team. The team worked their way up to the championship, where they placed 2nd and Topkok was awarded Coach of the Year. Her parents are Donna Barr and John Weyiouanna.
Topkok will be recognized in honor of Dora Iyapana Ahkinga. Ahkinga was born on Little Diomede Island to James Iyapana of Big Diomede and Annie Omiak Iyapana of Teller. Ahkinga enjoyed living on Diomede with her husband and boat captain Orville Sr. and their children. She taught her children traditional subsistence skills, which included gathering greens and berries, and storing foods prepared from walrus, bowhead whale, beluga, polar bear, oogruk, birds and crab. Sewing was a passion Ahkinga mastered, and her skills included making parkas, mukluks, kuspuks, sealskin pants, gloves, mittens, hats and all other types of clothing. Without ceasing, Ahkinga enjoyed splitting and sewing walrus skins for her husband’s boat crew. Singing, dancing, and the history of each traditional song were a joy to Ahkinga. If anyone wanted to learn subsistence skills, traditional knowledge, or the many Inupiaq dialects spoken in the Bering Strait region, they went to Ahkinga.
For 36 years, Ahkinga served as the head cook at the BIA and Diomede school. She also served as the Bering Air agent for the island and for ten years she worked with the Bering Sea Women’s Group. Additionally, she served on the Diomede Tribal Council, was mayor of Diomede for seven years and was an active member of the Diomede and King Island Dance Groups. Ahkinga passed away on March 7, 2019.
BSNC descendant Nyche “Skavaq Sivulliuqti” Tyme Andrew was instrumental in the Anchorage School District’s (ASD) Title VI Indian Education Native Advisory Committee’s efforts in advocating for students to be allowed to wear traditional regalia or objects of cultural significance at graduation ceremonies. Because of her efforts in rallying support and successfully testifying in front of the ASD Board, Anchorage graduates now have the option to wear cultural regalia during graduation ceremonies. As a junior in high school, Andrew founded the Indigenous Student Union at Service High School. The purpose of this club is to connect Native youth at Service, to create a welcoming environment, while at the same time uplifting Native cultures in school and encouraging academic excellence.
In March of 2021, Andrew spoke with key district officials who allowed her to be an exception and wear her Yup’ik headdress when she graduated. With this inspiration, she championed a resolution to the graduation regalia policy titled, “Tribal Headwear”, which has passed in the ASD’s NAC and currently under review by the Anchorage School Board.
Andrew is involved in many groups, committees and programs. She has been recognized by many for her work to eliminate racism and advocate for equity in education. She has received the Yale Bassett Award for Community Engagement, Princeton Prize in Race Relations, Alaska Delegate United States Senate Youth Program, YWCA Alaska Young People of Achievement Award, Calista Native Corporation Culture Bearer Award, 3rd in chapter Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen, Prudential Spirit of Community Certificate of Excellence, and President Volunteer Service Award: Silver 2021. Andrew graduated high school as summa cum laude with a 4.12 GPA, in the top 5% in her class. This fall she will continue to study political science at Yale University as a sophomore in hopes to come back to Alaska to continue helping her people. Andrew is the daughter of Jacqueline Dawn Morris, Tigran Anthony Andrew and Maynard Clay Morris Jr. Her grandmother, Janet Walluk Hubbard was from Shishmaref and her grandfather John Anthony Andrew is from Bethel.
Andrew will be recognized in honor of Emily “Ticasuk” Ivanoff Brown. Brown was dedicated to perpetuating Alaska Native languages and recording and passing on traditional Inupiaq oral history and knowledge. She was born in Unalakleet in 1904 to Amelia (Malquay) and Stephan Ivanoff. She taught as a grade school teacher for 30 years at schools in Kotzebue, Unalakleet, Shaktoolik and Meade River, advocating for bilingual education and developing a curriculum for the instruction of Inupiaq in elementary schools. She also helped produce a dictionary for her own Malimiut dialect and organized the Alaska Heritage Writer’s Association.
During her lifetime, Brown earned two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree. She wrote several books and received many awards throughout her lifetime, including a presidential citation from Richard Nixon for her “exceptional service to others, in the finest American tradition.” She was working toward earning a doctoral degree when she passed on at the age of 78 on May 3, 1982. The University of Alaska awarded her an honorary doctor of humanities degree on May 9, 1982.