First Alaskans Institute honors Barbara Blake

Published January 2019

Barbara Blake

Barbara Blake with her children.

Barbara ‘Wáahlaal Gidáak Blake was named this year’s Young Native Leader by the First Alaskan Institute (FAI), a statewide Alaska Native nonprofit organization.

“This young leader has shown through dedication that she is working to help Native peoples and our community with significant and profound purpose,” the Institute wrote in a press release.

The award was presented November 17 during the seventh annual Howard Rock & Ted Stevens Smokehouse Gala. “Named in recognition of Howard Rock (Iñupiaq) and Senator Ted Stevens, the Gala celebrates the significant contributions of Alaska Native peoples and our friends in advancing our collective wellbeing,” the Institute said.

Barbara is from Prince of Wales Island and currently lives in Juneau. She served as director of Native and rural affairs during the Walker Administration.

Of Ahtna Athabascan, Haida and Tlingit descent, Barbara belongs to the Káat nay-st/Yahkw ’Láanaas (Shark House/Middle Town People) Clan. Her maternal grandparents are Franklin and Frances (Peele) Demmert. Her mother is Sandra Demmert of Klawock. Her paternal grandparents are the late Irene and Walter Johnson. Her father is Kenneth Johnson of Chistochina.

A woman of many accomplishments, Barbara is a member of the Xaadaas Dagwii Dancers, Alaska Native Sisterhood, Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Heinyaa Kwaan Dancers. She earned her master’s degree from University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in Rural Development, focusing her thesis on fisheries development in rural Alaska. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Rural Economic Development and an associate degree in Tribal Management from UAF, and a certificate in Tribal Governmental Business Law from Seattle University.

‘Wáahlaal Gidáak formerly served as government affairs liaison for Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and also assistant professor for UAF Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development. In addition, she has worked as the technical assistant specialist for Intertribal Agriculture Council and program assistant in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Office of Tribal Relations.

The Smokehouse Gala Awards “remember those who have helped us, show our young people that we believe in them, and share the pride in our cultures,” said Willie Iġġiagruk Hensley (Iñupiaq), FAI board chair