Ashley Christensen named NCAIED 40 Under 40 Award Recipient

40 Under 40 Award Recipient, Ashley Christensen with President & CEO, NCAIED, Chris James

Annually, 40 American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiians under the age of 40 are recognized as emergent leaders, for their initiative, dedication and the contributions they have made to their business and/or their community. Recipients include leaders working in various fields from government contracting and the non-profit sector, to conservation and technology industries. This year, The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development held an award ceremony honoring the recipients on December 10, 2021 in Maricopa, Arizona.

Ashley has been at Chugach for 8 years, holding various positions throughout the organization. During this time, Ashley has taken on many challenges big and small. Ashley demonstrates exceptional leadership skills from the many projects she has led at CGS including managing a significant office remodel and coordinating COVID-19 protocol. Ashley values giving back to her community. Ashley serves on the Shareholder Advisory Committee for the Eyak Corporation, and is a co-developer of the Chugach Native Professionals (CNP) group; a group of shareholders and descendants who currently work at Chugach and are dedicated to professional growth and development. In addition to her work experience and community involvement, Ashley obtained her bachelor’s degree in Business Management and earned a Master Level Certification in the Alaska Native Executive Leadership Program.

Senior Vice President of Operations, Kathy Grimes shared “Ashley’s commitment to Chugach and her heritage is clear and demonstrates Chugach’s core behaviors on a daily basis.” She continued “Ashley is a proven leader who is an exceptional model for other Alaska Native Shareholders and employees of Chugach Government Solutions.”

Congratulations, Ashley on being named a recipient for NACIED’s 40 Under 40 Award.

 

From Left to Right: NCAIED President & CEO, Chris James; NCAIED Board Chairman, Derrick Watchman; 40 Under 40 Award Recipient, Ashley Christensen; NCAIED Board of Directors members, William Lowe and Lillian Sparks Robinson

Inside the Rise of Women Leading Alaska Native Corporations

Both milestones—becoming a mother and being elected as the only female board member at the time—represent significant points of pride for Buretta. They also reflect the multi-faceted gender and cultural identities that shape Alaska Native women in leadership roles today.

“Historically, Alaska Native women have played vital roles in shaping, defending, and strengthening their families and communities, and these traditional values translated to many of the same leadership skills that were necessary to thrive in the business world after the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act [ANCSA] was enacted,” explains fellow shareholder and Chugach’s Executive Vice President of ANCSA Lands and Community Affairs Josie Hickel. “Sheri brings the same strength, resolve, passion, and compassion to her work as she does to her community involvement and family.”

Both Buretta and Hickel are among the many Indigenous women serving in key leadership positions for Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs). They also reflect broader trends that show Alaska Native women collectively outpacing national gender equality statistics.

“Many countries and corporations today are setting their sights on gender diversity goals that are already happening relatively organically within Alaska Native Corporations and Native organizations at large,” explains ANCSA Regional Association Executive Director Kim Reitmeier.

In the United States in 2019, women represented just 21 percent of C-Suite positions, and women of color represented a mere 4 percent.Meanwhile, progress towards gender parity in ANC leadership roles is more promising. Five out of the twelve (42 percent) Presidents and CEOs at the helm of ANCs (as represented on the ARA Board of Directors) are women. At Chugach, five out of nine (55 percent) Chugach board members are women, while seven out of eleven (64 percent) of its executive team members are women.

Today, there is also a robust network of women across the state leading Alaska Native organizations, including Kim Reitmeier at the ANCSA Regional Association; Julie Kitka at the Alaska Federation of Natives; Hallie Bissett at the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association; and Emily Edenshaw at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, among others.

Many Indigenous tribes had matrilineal social systems, which may explain the strong data across Native organizations as a whole. According to the National Congress of American Indians 2015 report, the number of businesses owned by Native American and Alaska Native women has more than doubled since 1997, and women now represent 47 percent of Native owned companies. Nearly 25 percent of federally recognized tribes are led by women, which is higher than state leadership nationwide, with only 12 percent of the fifty states having female governors.

Yet another core tenet of many tribes is the communal governance structure, which places community over the individual. “One of the guiding ethos of our organization and our people is reciprocity,” explains Buretta. “We believe that today’s Alaska Native leaders have a responsibility to pass their knowledge, experience, and traditions on to the next generation of women and to create opportunities for them. Mary Gordaoff, Chugach’s only female founder, was just one of the many trailblazers who laid this foundation fifty years ago, and that vision to empower women to fill crucial leadership roles continues today.”

Higher education is certainly a major factor in breaking down gender barriers. American Indian/Alaska Native women enrollment in colleges and universities nationwide increased nearly 200 percent between 1976 and 2006. Chugach and other ANCs invest heavily in scholarship, training, and development programs, which are critical stepping stones towards leadership positions.

To date, Alaska Native education foundations, including Chugach Heritage Foundation (CHF), have awarded more than 54,000 individual scholarships to shareholders and descendants, totaling more than $100 million for Alaska Natives to pursue higher education goals and vocational endeavors.

Chugach’s board believes education is the key to empowering shareholders and invested $36 million in the CHF Endowment Fund, which provides a perpetual source of funding for CHF scholarship and cultural programs.

Chugach shareholder Katherine Carlton is just one of the beneficiaries of these programs. She was awarded a scholarship from Chugach to earn her bachelor’s degree and to graduate from the Alaska Native Executive Leadership Program. She was appointed as Assistant to the Chugach Government Solutions President, Chugach’s largest federal government contracting arm. Today, she serves as President of one of its subsidiaries, Chugach Education Services, Inc. More importantly, she is a visible success story to other female shareholders looking to shatter the glass ceiling.

“Federal government contracting is traditionally a male-dominated industry, and although that dynamic is shifting, it’s still not uncommon to be the only woman at the table,” says Carlton. “My education and experience through Chugach have given me the confidence and tools I need to succeed. More importantly, I have both mentors and colleagues who recognize the value I bring to the table and have played an important hand in my development.”

Today, Carlton is paying it forward as co-chair of the Chugach Native Professionals Group, which strives to educate and empower shareholders and descendants employed with Chugach.

Keeping the female leadership pipeline flowing through the pandemic presented a unique set of challenges, as mothers balanced their children’s remote schooling with their own work.

“As a mother and grandmother, it’s remarkable to see corporations like Chugach step up to support employees during the pandemic, at a time when many women felt pressured to ‘downsize’ their careers or leave the workforce altogether,” says Hickel. “Having women at the table means those leadership conversations are brought to the forefront and ensures that we’re addressing needs for balance and flexibility.”

The journey is not over. There is still much to overcome. But thanks to Indigenous female leaders, we’re taking steps towards living in a fairer and more equitable world.

 

Team Chugach Joins Race Against Breast Cancer

We are proud to support this important work and run in solidarity with our own breast cancer survivors including Rachael Harvey, who leads the team each year, and Chugach President Dan Fenza’s wife, Melissa Fenza. All of our runners did awesome, and in the spirit of friendly competition – our team’s top three racers were:

  1. Zora Govedarica at 24:05
  2. Nurten Davis at 31:55
  3. Scott Davis at 31:57

Chugach Board Director Julie Kitka honored with Walter J. Hickel Award for Distinguished Public Policy Leadership

The award recognizes outstanding Alaskans and policymakers during the annual Hickel and Egan Awards for Excellence in Public Policy Leadership. These honors go to individuals who have helped to shape and apply public policy in Alaska and the nation through their leadership and dedication to public service.

Kitka is the long-serving president of the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) and has served on Chugach’s Board for more than two decades. In both roles, she has served as a tireless advocate and champion for Alaska Native peoples, tribal and village entities, and Alaska Native Corporations. For more than three decades, Julie has been at the forefront of seeking sovereignty, self-determination, and social justice for Alaska Natives. She has taken this work to international forums, the halls of governance in Washington DC and Juneau, and across Alaska.

“Julie’s work offers a voice to the collective Alaska Native community when it comes to regional, state and federal policies that impact Alaska Natives and Alaska Native Corporations,” says Chairman and Interim CEO Sheri Buretta. “She has been a driving force behind a number of important initiatives, including partnering with the FBI on crime prevention and missing persons in rural communities, and fighting to ensure our communities received much-needed COVID-19 relief funds. Julie established a forum for AFN members – called “Alaska Days” – to connect Alaska Natives to the military, federal lawmakers in Washington D.C. and progressive industries such as satellite companies and oil companies critical to the Alaska economy. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of ANSCA, it’s important to recognize how Julie’s leadership has advanced Alaska Natives and helped them to succeed in the global economy, while also maintaining their ability to preserve their culture and traditions.”

The virtual award ceremony will be held Nov. 4 from 6-8 p.m. AKDT, and will feature special guests, a remembrance of leaders and public servants, and a celebration of our honorees including a look back at their contributions to Alaska. Tickets can be purchased online.

Chugach Government Solutions Appoints Chris Crosta to Vice President of Business Development

Crosta brings over 13 years of experience dedicated to leading business development (BD) for Alaska Native Corporations and Tribes. He has supported Chugach in a BD capacity for over seven years, including his most recent position as Senior Director of Business Development.

CGS President, Scott Davis, shared of Crosta, “I’m excited to see how Chris will develop and continue to grow our BD team. Chris exemplifies a leader that brings people together as a collaborative team working toward a common goal – it’s just that kind of leadership that will help CGS be successful.”

His prior experience includes increasing responsibilities at other Native firms, both establishing and growing Federal Government contracting services business lines. Crosta has a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Economics from the University of Idaho.

About Chugach Government Solutions:

As a federal division of Chugach Alaska Corporation, Chugach Government Solutions and its subsidiaries offer small business flexibility and 8(a) eligibility, coupled with industry-leading techniques, process, and innovation. We distinguish ourselves from competitors by delivering uncompromising quality at a fair price. We seek consistency in quality and actively innovate, finding new ways of doing business that add value to our government customers.

Chugach Government Solutions Promotes Bill Rogers to Senior Vice President of Administrative Services

Rogers started at Chugach in 2015 joining the ranks of the CGS Executive Leadership Team as Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer. In that capacity he has managed all legal matters for CGS and its subsidiary companies. During his tenure he’s proven himself not only an exceptional legal counsel, but also an invaluable strategist and leader.

CGS President, Scott Davis, shared of Rogers, “Bill’s extensive experience speaks for itself. The leadership, seasoned perspective, and strategic insights that he’s brought to CGS have been beyond measure. We count ourselves fortunate that he’s continuing his commitment to Chugach, its customers, employees and shareholder by accepting this role.”

Prior to his time at Chugach, Rogers has served as legal counsel and provided legal services in  various capacities including for the District of Columbia Courts, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Veterans Affairs, and as the Principle for the Law Office of William Rogers.  Additionally, he served as Judge Advocate during his Active Duty for the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. He received many accolades and career achievements during his military services including serving as Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the Air Force Space Command, receiving the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with 2 Devices, and the Air Force Judge Advocate Outstanding Career Attorney Service Award, to name a few. Rogers earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Maryland, his Juris Doctor from Delaware Law School, his Master of Science in Information Systems from George Washington University, and completed the Strategic Executive Development Program at Kenan-Flagler Business School.

About Chugach Government Solutions, LLC:

As a federal division of Chugach Alaska Corporation, Chugach Government Solutions, LLC, and its subsidiaries offer small business flexibility and 8(a) eligibility, coupled with industry-leading techniques, process, and innovation. We distinguish ourselves from competitors by delivering uncompromising quality at a fair price. We seek consistency in quality and actively innovate, finding new ways of doing business that add value to our government customers.

EVOS Trustee’s Decision Supports Alaska Native Communities

More work needs to be done to better serve Alaska Native Communities impacted by the Exxon Valdez tragedy.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS) Trustees voted yesterday to utilize the remainder of the original $900 million in settlement funds allocated for the restoration of damaged ecosystems in spill-impacted communities. In the past 27 years, very little EVOS Trustee Council funding has gone to local, Native communities and organizations impacted by t

Camp participants collect bidarkis during Chugach;s annual Nuuciq Spirit Camp. Among other projects, the EVOS Trustee Council voted to fund $2.4 million to support subsistence resources through Chugach region culture camps.

he spill. Now, nearly 30 years after the spill, a portion of the approximately $200 million in remaining funds will be used to benefit the spill-affected communities.

 

“The economic and cultural impacts of the spill are irreversible. While there’s still work to do to help communities impacted by the spill, we applaud the EVOS Trustee’s decision to fund museum revitalization projects that will preserve and protect invaluable cultural and archaeological resources impacted by the oil spill,” said Koniag President Shauna Hegna.

“The EVOS Trustee Council was intended to provide support for those affected by the spill,” said Chugach Alaska Corporation Executive Vice President of Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) and Community Affairs Josie Hickel. “We’re pleased with the Council’s recent decision to honor their mission to restore spill-affected areas, and to help support and grow local cultures, economies and communities.”

On March 24, 1989, the environment in Prince William Sound was forever changed when the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean, contaminating over 1,300 miles of coastline. Countless generations of Chugachmiut (Chugach Alaska Corporation) and Alutiiq (Koniag) people who have lived and learned to fish, hunt and celebrate their culture in the area have been impacted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Koniag and Chugach Alaska Corporation shareholders comprise approximately 26% of the population within their region. In terms of land holdings, when combining surface and subsurface estate, Koniag holds titles to approximately 39% of their region’s land, while Chugach Alaska Corporation owns 9% of their region’s land.

The EVOS Trustee Council was established through a memorandum of agreement (MOA) and consent decree (Decree) between the State of Alaska and the United States. The Council includes representatives from Federal and State departments including the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, Alaska Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Alaska Dept. of Law, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of the Interior. The MOA and Decree resolved how to manage and spend the $900 million settlement fund.

About Koniag, Inc.

Koniag, Inc. is one of the 13 Alaska Native regional corporations established in 1971 by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Koniag represents the Alutiiq people from Alaska’s Kodiak Island region. Koniag manages a diverse portfolio of operating companies and real estate holdings.  For more information, visit www.Koniag.com.

About Chugach Alaska Corporation

Chugach Alaska Corporation is one of the 13 Alaska Native regional corporations established in 1971 by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Chugach Alaska Corporation represents the Chugachmiut, Alutiiq (Sugpiaq), Eyak (Athabascan) and Tlingit people from the Kenai Peninsula and the coast of Prince William Sound region. Chugach Alaska Corporation has a portfolio of complementary businesses and investments across a range of industries. For more information, visit www.Chugach.com.

2021 Board Election Announcement

Congratulations to Brenda Dukart and Sheri Buretta on being reelected to the board, and congratulations to newly elected Board of Director Sheila Borer.

The Chugach board, the executive management team and all of the Chugach shareholders thank Vincent Mulcahy for his time on the board and for his service to the Chugach community. The election results and annual meeting prize winners can be found on the Shareholder Portal.

Executive Vice President & General Counsel Melanie Osborne named 2021 Woman of Achievement

The award recognizes the exceptional leadership of women and youth in Alaska. Ten women and five youth are selected each year based on their demonstrated leadership professionally and/or personally, and their service to the community that aligns with the YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

“Melanie has been a steadfast force for good here at Chugach, and is well-deserving of this award,” says President and Chief Operating Officer Daniel Fenza. “She is committed to uplifting and empowering others, whether through her leadership and mentorship at Chugach, or her community service and generosity in the Alaska community.”

Osborne joined Chugach as General Counsel in 2014. She is a member of the executive team, which drives the company to provide meaningful programs and benefits to more than 2,800 Alaska Native shareholders. In addition to providing legal and compliance support, she leads human resources, risk management and facilities services.

Osborne is also a lifelong Alaskan with a passion for advocating for her fellow community members. Melanie sits on the Boards of the Anchorage Association of Women Lawyers (AAWL), Alaska Legal Services Corporation, and the The Nature Conservancy Alaska. She is also actively involved in supporting community organizations and events through the Covenant House Alaska Sleep-out, AAWL’s mentorship program, ALSC donations and annual Jammin’ for Justice fundraiser, Chugach Heritage Foundation’s Barney Uhart Scholarship Intern program, Alaska Run for Women and more.

Chairman and Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sheri Buretta added, “Chugach is blessed to have her strength, determination and brilliance to help guide us through challenges and successes.”

YWCA Alaska will host the 32nd Annual Women of Achievement & Youth Awards during the week of November 1-5, 2021. This will be a virtual event designed to celebrate these 10 phenomenal women and 5 incredible youth. (The Young People of Achievement Awardees will be announced soon.) The 2021 Women of Achievement will join the distinguished women of influence and exceptional leadership in The Academy of Women Achievers, because of receiving this honor.

For information on all of this year’s winners, visit: https://ywcaak.org.

Chugach Alaska Corporation ranks sixth among Alaskan-owned businesses

In order to be considered for the annual Top 49er list, a company must be:

  • A for-profit or not-for-profit organization;
  • At least 51% Alaskan-owned;
  • Headquartered in Alaska; and
  • Operating in Alaska.

Alaska Business began the Top 49er list in 1984, and Chugach has made the list 31 times. While Chugach’s inaugural appearances on the list were closer to the 49th position, rapid growth and diversification in business lines has allowed Chugach to rise to the top of the list, consistently ranking in the top 10 or top five positions.

Chugach is also proud to be in good company with fellow Alaska businesses. The collective gross revenue of the 49 companies who made the list dropped by less than 1%. This is the smallest year-over-year decrease in revenue in the past decade – even during the midst of the pandemic and a struggling economy.

“This year’s list is a reminder of the resilience and fortitude embedded in the Alaska community,’” explains Chugach Chairman and Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sheri Buretta. “2020 was a challenging year for everyone, but when our collective businesses succeed, we all win. I am confident that by working together and supporting one another, the Alaska community and economy will continue to recover and eventually thrive again.”

As with many other organizations forced to re-imagine business events, this year’s event was held virtually, and included an Executive Question and Answer (Q&A) panel featuring remarks from Buretta.

During the panel, Sheri touched on the challenges and opportunities faced during COVID-19; how Chugach has supported its shareholders, employees and community; and how Chugach’s diversification has allowed us to remain resilient despite headwinds. She also left attendees with a heartfelt note for community members, emphasizing the importance of kindness, gratitude and collaboration during these divisive times.

Check out Alaska Business’ article here for the full list of winners. You can also watch the Executive Q&A here.