+SPOTLIGHT | Deenaalee Hodgdon
What are your tribe(s): Deg Xit’an Athabaskan, Unangax, Yupik
Whats your age: 23
Ndn Name: Nikidza, which means Owl
Name: Deenaalee Hodgdon (The Long One)
What are the first 3 words that come to mind when you hear the word healing?
Accountability. Growth. Resilience
Bio/ backstory, tell us what you DO and a bit about how you came to
I first and foremost am a fisherwoman. My summers from the beginning of June to middle of August are consumed by fishing in Bristol Bay for red (sockeye) salmon. Though drifting is a fairly recent development in my life, my being is tied to the life cycles of this animal that brings abundance, healing, longevity, and vitality to Alaskan Native peoples across our many tribes.
Growing up, I learned how to head and gut reds and kings on the banks of the Yukon River and how to fillet and make strips when I came of age in Bristol Bay. I was recently asked to apply to a prestigious program that would happen in June and I had to turn it down; Participating and protecting the tradition of fishing whether with a small gill net on the Yukon or on a large drifter, is and will be a top priority in my life and largely what I define myself by.
Outside of Alaska, I am currently finishing my B.A. degree in Anthropology and Public Policy from Brown University. Through Brown’s Washington Program, I am in Washington D.C. for the semester completing two courses while interning at the Wilson Center’s Polar Institute. Having the opportunity to work at Polar allows me to finish my degree and learn how to navigate the United State’s governmental stuctures and think tanks while also working on issues that relate to the Arctic. This work is inclusive of the impacts of climate change on Alaska, the relocation of villages, addressing issues of food and land insecurity, and helping to ensure that the United States considers and includes the Indigenous People of the Arctic while creating and implementing policies and proceedures.
My passion activities and projects include climbing, backpacking, skiing, rafting, biking, camping as a way of connecting to the land, building relationships to decolonize the outdoors, and running for Miss World Eskimo Indian Olympics in 2020. I am also an activist by nature and try to push the narrative of decolonization, revitalization, generational healing, and resurgence to build voices across communities.
How do you heal?
I find healing in spending time on the land. Growing up in Alaska, the land is an extension of my being, as I know it is for many Indigenous peoples. When I was younger, my mom said something along the lines of, “I don’t need to go to church to feel the Creator, I know I can talk to him when I walk, when I am outside,” and this has stuck with me. This summer when I needed to realign myself after a difficult experience on a fishing boat, I thru-hiked Resurrection Trail in a day and went on a few backpacking trips in Denali National Park because I had to touch the mountains, feel their wholeness, and take time to just listen to what the larger world in which we operate was telling me.
When I am on the land, I can feel my body relax, the muscles in my face become a little less tight, and lightness entering my spirit. Cultivating that feeling and learning how to tap into it, especially when I am visiting other areas across Turtle Island is what has kept me balanced and provided healing when I am not in my ancestral lands.
I am still learning how to heal. It is a daily practice that I have to intentionally engage in. To constantly remind myself that it is a process is part of an hour by hour ritual.
What is your calling rn?
It feels so good to say that I feel like I am fulfilling my calling right now! It has taken a long while to get to this point with road bumps of loss, grief, transitions, depression, and anxiety reminding me how easy it would be to give into them. My calling, I believe is to be a connector, a translator, someone that can ask vital questions about the current systems that be then offer a space to discuss how we build each other and our communities up, especially at the political and cultural tipping point we are in right now.
To do this, I know that my calling is to continue the deep excavation of the intention behind my actions and to engage in everyday healing so that I can show up for myself and others in the best way.
Do your ancestors affect what you do, how you live? If so, how?
Carrying and being in touch with my Ancestors is like carrying my native names. There is a weight to this responsibility that grounds me when I am floating in a world that often tells me, that as an Indigenous Womxn, my existence is a phenomenon. This weight also challenges me to continue to raise our collective voices so that, as they fought to persist, our future generations may do so and thrive.
Who are your Mentors/ role models?
My mentors are a collective of strong Indigenous Womxn within my communities in Alaska and across Turtle Island. My singohn (mother) and an extended network of aunties built a structure of vulnerability, compassion, healing, fortitude, tenacity, and independence for me to cultivate my strengths. I am forever grateful to for my mother and this extended kin network to fall back to when I am having a hard time holding myself up.
I also look to and find strength in the womxn that I have interacted with whether in person or in their written work since entering school. Anila Daulatzai, Elizabeth Hoover, Jennifer Weston, Adrieene Keene, Winona LaDuke, Eve Tuck, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson have taught me ways to think and navigate these world we live in in profound ways.
What inspires/ drives you to keep going?
The Land and People. I know the healing power that the land has and I know we have the capacity to give back to the places that have been so desecrated. Experiencing the red rock in the southwest, the river systems of Alaska, the deep forests of the Northwest, the varying mountain systems across this continent, and the oceans that surround us is a relationship that we must protect.
If you could relay a mantra, message, wisdom, ism, food for thought to Indigenous 20 somethings from the US and abroad what would you say?
Make you voice heard. There is space for you at the table. Learn what your communication style is and then seek to find mastery in it. Each communication style is different and once you find it, cultivate it, pour yourself into its nourishment, you will feel the shift and people will will notice your shining. You are wanted and needed.