Molly Hales

Healthy Families: Re-imagining Sovereignty for Alaska Natives

In the Yukon-Kuskokwim of southwestern Alaska, the regional tribal nonprofit has begun offering a program called Healthy Families that uses cultural knowledge gathered from Yup’ik elders to rehabilitate native families. Healthy Families is a challenge to colonialism “from below”—an attempt to use indigenous knowledge rather than medical expertise to address the range of difficulties that Yup’ik native families face in the wake of a century and a half of disruptive colonial management by US government and the State of Alaska.

I am interested in theorizing Healthy Families as a site of indigenous political resistance distinct from the ongoing struggles for tribal sovereignty. In my research I seek to answer: What spaces of resistance are opened up by indigenous program such as Healthy Families? What barriers is Healthy Families coming up against, and how do they seek to break through these barriers? What are the program directors’ and the participants’ visions for a healthy family, and how does this compare to the state’s vision for native families? How is the efficacy of the program understood and evaluated by both the native program directors and their state and federal funding agencies?