The late Cynthia Ahnvah Ahwinona, a BSNC shareholder, dedicated her life and career to serving Alaska Native people, American Indians and those in her community. In early adulthood, Ahwinona became involved in politics, working for U.S. Representative Don Young and the late Senator Ted Stevens. She used her voice to elevate Alaska Native and Native American concerns in Washington, D.C.
Ahwinona was the key staff person behind the drafting of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a national act to protect the interests of Indian children and promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families, and she continued to make ICWA a top priority during her career.
She worked extensively on the draft language of the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act, which both allowed tribes and tribal organizations to exercise greater control over their own health and welfare. Ahwinona spent years advocating for a new hospital in Nome, which came to fruition in 2009 and is now a source of pride in the community and the Bering Strait region.
She also worked on the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act, which provides grants to tribes and tribal organizations for housing. She fought to raise awareness of Alaska’s rural water and sewer needs. Ahwinona worked to secure funding for port improvements and shoreline erosion measures in the Bering Strait Region.
Ahwinona was a strong advocate for heritage preservation and supported the National Museum of the American Indian, proudly marching in full tribal regalia during its opening. She served on the Board of the Institute of American and Alaska Native Art in Santa Fe, N.M., and helped pass and secure funding for the Education Through Cultural and Historical Organizations program, which provided funding to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. She oversaw delegation efforts to implement the Native American Graves Restoration Act.
For many years, Ahwinona fought for increased funding for the Violence Against Women Act and its tribal set-asides in an effort to help Alaska Native and American Indian victims who are disproportionately affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. This funding provided support to the Alaska Native Justice Center.
She served as a Director on the Koahnic Broadcast Corporation Board and was the Alaska Region Vice-President for the National Congress of American Indians. She was a Norton Sound Health Corporation Representative for Nome Eskimo Community and Board President for Nome Eskimo Community. In 2010, Ahwinona received a National Impact Award from the National Indian Health Board for her efforts to improve Indian Health.
Ahwinona was born and raised in Nome, Alaska. She is the daughter of Jacob and Hannah (Anagick) Ahwinona.