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2012 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Honoree: Patience Andersen Faulkner

Patience Andersen Faulkner
Patience Andersen Faulkner
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Patience Andersen Faulkner, Chugach Eskimo, is honored as a 2012 Indigenous Leadership Award finalist for her grassroots leadership, teaching and fostering of native culture and community health in her hometown of Cordova, Alaska. She’s carried her experience and wisdom to native communities and local organizers across the country. Faulkner’s work centers on the idea that strong, revitalized native communities steeped in indigenous culture are the cornerstones for resilience in an ever-changing world. When the inevitable forces of change bear down on Cordova and similar communities around the country, she has been able to demonstrate that strong local ties and knowledge form a crucial safety net.

As a legal aid, Faulkner represented Cordova fishermen in successfully processing claims for damages after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. She then represented local fishing interests as the Cordova District Fishermen United designate to the Prince William Sound Region Citizen’s Advisory Council, which was set up to oversee the oil industry’s tanker practices in the sound. She was the council’s president from 2007 to 2009, and she successfully lobbied for a new federal law requiring that loaded oil tankers be accompanied by two escort tugs in Prince William Sound.

With sociologists, Patience developed an educational program to help communities cope with large-scale disasters, including a guidebook and a peer listener training program. Her materials were used by Gulf of Mexico communities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She then personally ministered to people on the Gulf coast after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blowout in 2010. Traveling to native communities, Faulkner spoke to packed community halls about how to cope with rising crime rates, family stress, and economic hardship and about how to navigate the legal channels for compensation. She soothed tribal members with workshops on traditional basket weaving and ethnobotany. “She gave our tribe hope when things were darkest,” said one Gulf coast tribal leader, who received a healing drum from Faulkner.

At home in Cordova, Faulkner works with Alaskan youth, instilling in them traditional knowledge and practices. Patience herself has learned through informal teaching and mimicking, and she offers widely accessible trainings on beadwork, basket making, drum making, herbal and edible plant identification and harvesting, fur sewing, knitting and porcupine quill artwork. “Anybody who wants to learn from me will walk away with finished product and be inspired to grow themselves,” she says. Each summer, she travels to a remote island village in Prince William Sound for the two-week Nuuciq Spirit Camp for native youth—held at a historic Chugach maritime village. She also helps at the Tatitlek Cultural Heritage camps with native students from around Alaska. And she’s a steady fixture at Ilanka Cultural Center in her hometown. Patience has led her people formally as an Eyak Tribal Council member and Cordova School Board member, and she is a member of the Chugach Alaska Native Corporation.

Faulkner has spoken internationally and built deep relationships with academics across the country, bridging the divide between traditional knowledge and science. In addition to her traditional knowledge base, she holds a B.A. in justice and sociology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage and a certificate in federal Indian law. She’s also a certified paralegal.

This summer, she joined a plenary panel at the 75th Rural Sociological Society meeting in Chicago, focusing on inter-ethnic collaboration to promote community healing and ecological stewardship.

Patience’s deep relationships run across generations, from bright-eyed school kids to congressmen and tribal elders. Descended from Chugach people on her father’s side and Scandanavian people on her mother’s side, Faulkner has an extensive family in both Cordova and Minnesota. She taught her son Martin to hunt and prepare game and coached her late daughter Cindy in the craft skills that have become Faulkner’s forte.  


2012 Honorees

Brian Cladoosby

Gail Small

Jonathan Andrew Waterhouse

Micah McCarty

Patience Andersen Faulkner



Astrid Scholz
tel: 503.467.0758
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Jason Pretty Boy
Indigenous Resilience Fellow
tel: 503.467.0803


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