After graduating with honors from Dartmouth College
in New Hampshire last month, Doyon Foundation alumna
Agatha Erickson has returned to Alaska, where she
has accepted a job in Fairbanks. Erickson, who majored
in Native American studies, has her sights set on
attending law school in the future.
“Most schools want you to have some work experience,”
said Erickson, who is the new editor for Tanana Chiefs
Conference’s newsletter, The Council
Law holds a special interest for Erickson, who is
the daughter of Arne Erickson of Tok and Susan Erickson
of Kaltag. For her senior honor thesis, Erickson did
a legal analysis of subsistence rights in Alaska.
As part of that, she interviewed her mother and grandparents
to see how federal Indian law has impacted their rights
to access their homelands.
“When I interviewed them, I realized these laws have
a very real and lasting effect on our lives. The law
creates worlds in which we, as Alaska Natives, have
to live and work. To know and understand the nuances
of the law helps me to understand my life, my family
and our existence as Alaska Natives,” said Erickson,
who received the Daniel Simon award for outstanding
academic achievement for her senior thesis.
Erickson, who was born in Fairbanks and grew up in
Hoonah, said attending school so far from home was
a challenge for her.
“When I graduated from high school, I couldn’t wait
to leave. It took coming to the East Coast to help
me realize how much I love home,” she said.
Now, Erickson’s long-range plans involve living in
Alaska and working for Alaska Native peoples.
“I’ve done a lot of traveling and I haven’t found
anywhere I like better,” said Erickson, who studied
abroad in Berlin, Germany during her sophomore year.
One thing that helped Erickson overcome the challenges
of being away from home was her involvement in the
student group Native Americans at Dartmouth.
“It was one of the cornerstones of my experience here.
The East Coast is so radically different from growing
up in a village. Having other Native students to hang
out with has been amazing. It has been a really big
part of my life,” said Erickson, who was the co-president
of Native Americans at Dartmouth when she graduated.
In addition to Native Americans at Dartmouth, Erickson
was also editor-in-chief of First Voices
student publication at Dartmouth, and was a Rockefeller
Leadership Senior Fellow. In fall 2008, Erickson was
also cited for outstanding academic achievement. Members
of the Dartmouth faculty submit citation reports only
when a student’s work is sufficiently distinguished
to merit special recognition. Such citations are rare;
typically, only a few undergraduates receive citations
Erickson credits her successes to the fact she is
studying something that truly interests her and impacts
her life on a daily basis.
“Find your passion,” she advises other students. “It
makes doing schoolwork easier. Work ceases to become
work. It becomes something you enjoy. For me, federal
Indian law and Alaska Native law is so fascinating.
It’s fun because it’s a topic I enjoy learning about.”
Erickson is grateful for the financial support she
received from the Doyon Foundation, her village corporation
Gana-A’Yoo, Hoonah Indian Association and Dartmouth
“I’m graduating debt-free. The Doyon Foundation has
helped me extensively. Thank you to Doyon and all
who supported me,” she said. “I can’t imagine getting
through college, especially one of this caliber, without
the support of my family and everyone back home.”