Bringing my Alaska Native heritage into the summer internship experience

At my grandma’s fish camp in Nome. This is how we make dried fish from salmon and is a common Inupiaq preservation technique.

During Native American Heritage Month (also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month) this November, we’re highlighting the lived experiences, cultures, traditions and histories of Native people. The following story is from Charlotte Flynn, an Alaska Native and a 2021 summer intern for Alaska who worked on the corporate communications team.  

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with Alaska Airlines in Anchorage through First Alaskans Institute (FAI), an Alaska Native nonprofit working to advance the capacities of Alaska Natives and their communities. I applied for the FAI internship program to learn more about my culture and history and gain valuable professional experience. Throughout the internship, I participated in seminars and learned from community leaders and elders about language revitalization, Alaska Native tribal governance, Native representation in media and arts, and dialogues about racial equity. It has been an incredibly enriching experience.  

On my boat in Seward, fishing for silver salmon.

I spent my first two years of college at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, which was quite a change for me, but I learned a lot being in a new environment. A class in indigenous studies and tribal government spurred me to learn more and realize how important it was to understand my history. My grandma, who is Inupiaq, always told me to be proud of who I am and where I come from, and I’ve realized the importance of that as I’ve gotten older. I have always felt a responsibility to give back to my people and to make a positive impact. It has been a journey of reconnecting with my culture and embracing it.  

During my internship, I worked on a meaningful project empowering me to use my voice and Alaska Native values. I created a flyer to bring awareness of career pipelines and opportunities at Alaska Airlines for young people and Alaska Natives in rural communities. I’m so proud to feature a Yup’ik language translation on the flyer; it says, “Tengluten Ciunerkarvneq Alaska Airlines – Akun,” which translates to “Fly into your Future.” When I visited King Salmon for subsistence fishing this summer, I spoke with a Yup’ik culture educator about the region’s languages. It meant a lot to me because Alaska Native language representation and revitalization are so important, and I hope it resonates and inspires young people. It’s been an amazing experience to learn about corporate communication and human resources while connecting them to support Alaska Native communities. 

I’m continuously trying to connect with my Alaska Native culture and how I can serve my community. That looks like: conversations with my grandma about growing up in Brevig Mission and traditional ways of life, learning how to introduce myself in the Inupiaq language, understanding the land and waters I’m from, listening to podcasts about contemporary indigenous life, and much more. After attaining my degree and pursuing a career, I look forward to continuing my culture and practicing my traditions. 

A photo of Charlotte pulling up the set net with red salmon in Naknek.  
Learn more about internship opportunities at Alaska and Horizon Air via alaskaair.jobs.

Related: How Alaska’s internships show students they can be whoever they want to be

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