2011 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award
Honoree: Wayne Warren Don
Wayne Warren Don (Cup’ig/Yupik tribes of Alaska) is honored as a 2011 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award finalist for his work leading his people to financial profitability by creating new, innovative, and successful programs. Wayne has been recognized for his visionary leadership in Alaska, as well as nationally and internationally, and for his professional achievements as a tribal and business leader, soldier and international ambassador. Wayne is chief executive of NIMA, the Nunivak Island Mekoryuk Alaska Corporation, a private, for-profit Alaska Native-owned corporation, representing the interests of the Nuniwarmiut people, or Cup’ig Eskimos, of Nunivak Island. Wayne is a former combat army officer, and currently is serving as a major in the Alaska National Guard. He has combined his exceptional negotiating and managerial skills with a desire to provide opportunity for Native youth. The innovative programs he directs are recognized widely.
Wayne Don was raised on Nunivak Island, an island forty miles off the coast of southwestern Alaska in the Bering Sea, within the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. He received both a Western and a traditional cultural education. He completed a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a Masters in Business Administration from the same institution. From 1994 until 2005, Wayne was a commissioned officer in the United States Army, serving in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and responsible for supervision of personnel, including multinational armies. Trained in planning, logistics, and materials management, Wayne became a primary military representative to and trainer of the Mongolian Armed Forces. He has led negotiations to bring former warring ethnic groups together for treaty compliance, to settle boundary disputes, and to accomplish complex de-mining operations. He has taught upper level courses in military science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and currently continues to serve as a Major in the Alaska Army National Guard.
In 2007, Wayne Don was elected as the youngest chairman of his Alaska Native village corporation, NIMA, and has worked to bring progress and change to his village, and to the expanded community. NIMA is committed to the preservation of Cup’ig traditions and culture, to the protection of ancestral lands, and to the development of human and financial resources. Under Wayne’s leadership of NIMA, five subsidiary companies have been established, including an innovative culture and tourism camp that is serving as a model for other communities. This camp, NICEA, Nunivak Island Culture, Education and Adventures, in partnership with the University of Alaska, offers alternative education and outdoor adventures on Nunivak Island. It has a cultural, educational, and business component, offering a core curriculum that blends Western academic science, technology, archaeology, and traditional indigenous subsistence sciences. The program recognizes high performing students from the region and the staff includes Native elders in residence.
Wayne Don has received prestigious honors recognizing his leadership. He was selected in 2011 to represent the United States in Europe as an American Marshall Memorial Fellow. He was selected by the state of Alaska to serve as the state’s director for the Alaska Mongolia State Partnership, representing Alaska and the United States in their formal relationship as partner countries. He has been recognized by the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska State Legislature, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, the German Marshall Fund and the United States Army. He volunteers his time for the Boy Scouts of America, Native American Business Leaders, and the Native Youth Olympics.
Equally at ease on the sea ice, where he was trained to hunt and fish in one of the harshest climates in the world, as he is with diplomats, ambassadors, and politicians, Wayne Don has dedicated his career to economic progress for his community and to teaching younger generations the early childhood lessons he learned in fish camp with his parents, grandparents, and elders. Wayne lives in Eagle River, Alaska with his wife Alicia and children; Phylicia, Gannon, and Delaina. He is second of three brothers and his parents are Fred and Annie Don of Mekoryuk and Quinhagak, Alaska.