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2021 Q1 Letter from the Chair
Monday, April 12, 2021

The following letter from Sealaska Board Chair Joe Nelson was published in the Q1 newsletter, which mailed to shareholders in early April. To view the full newsletter, click here

Dear Shareholders,

For many of us, the first signs of spring are a welcome change. The increase in daylight lures us outdoors. The fresh air and physical activity improve our state of mind. We start gearing up for our busy summers. The change in the season brings work, but it is good.      

Sealaska Chair Joe Nelson

We hope shareholders and communities have been feeling the change occurring at Sealaska over the last handful of years. Our shift to more of a values-driven company has led to profitable partnerships. The increase in profitability has led to an increase in shareholder benefits and new programs, like the bereavement program and the language revitalization fund. 

The Deishú Memorial Fund (bereavement program) is intended to help shareholders get through that difficult time when we lose close family members. This last year has been especially tough. We are thankful that the program was up and running before this pandemic swept the globe.

We are also thankful that the language fund was able to come together during this critical moment, while we still have a few first language speakers able to help keep our precious languages alive. We plan to spend $500,000 annually on our languages, working with partners like Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, to increase our pool of dedicated language teachers.   

Our focus on ocean health will continue to grow and evolve, as the challenges we face as a species continue to multiply. There is a lot of common sense built into our traditional way of life. We cannot go back in time, but we can put those commonsense values to work in a modern context. At Sealaska, we know that traditional ecological knowledge can foster healing at individual, community and global levels. 

Chair Nelson with his son.

We also know that healthy communities require a lot of cooperation between all of the players at local, state and federal levels. Restoration of balance and diversity in our ecosystems is going to require leadership with a strong sense of place — Indigenous leadership.  

Indigenous leadership is not about titles and roles. It is about connectedness and purpose. It is about doing the work and focusing on solutions, rather than problems. It is about putting the collective good before individual self-interest. It is about respecting and holding up your opposites. It is about taking the long view and always learning.   

At Sealaska we will continue  

  • Focusing our business development around ocean health 
  • Partnering with like-minded organizations and people who care as much about people and the planet as they do their bottom line
  • Supporting our affiliates: Sealaska Heritage Institute and Spruce Root, Inc.
  • Supporting the Sustainable Southeast Partnership
  • Investing in our people, culture and homelands

As the brown bears start climbing out of their dens with their cubs this spring, we hope that you start climbing out of this pandemic carefully and return to our extended family routines safely.

Gunalchéesh, Háw’aa, T’oya̠ xsut ‘nüüsm!

Joe (Kaaxúxgu) Nelson, Chair

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