We are very excited to launch our brand new Storyteller profile series, which highlights the dreams, journeys and achievements of our students, alumni and supporters. Profiles are available to read, watch and listen.
An environmental scientist with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, Danielle Stickman is the daughter of Karen Evanoff of Nondalton and Danny Stickman of Galena. Danielle’s maternal grandparents are Gust and Gladys Evanoff of Nondalton; her paternal grandparents are Donald and Jessie Stickman of Galena. Danielle was born in Fairbanks and lives in Anchorage.
In 2021, she was named Alaska State Deputy Director of The Wilderness Society, a role that combines her experience as a liaison between tribes and state and federal entities with a commitment to Indigenous communities and sustainable, science-based policy. Her recent consulting work has included facilitating meetings, events and workshops, along with co-developing and co-teaching a course on Indigenous-Led Land Stewardship offered at Alaska Pacific University.
Danielle teaches yoga and also runs a small business, Dena’ina Dreams, featuring her beadwork. With her mother and a family friend, she is involved in a cultural tourism start-up operating in the Lake Clark area.
Doyon Foundation: Danielle, your position with The Wilderness Society (TWS) in Anchorage sounds like a great fit because it brings together so much of your background in science, policymaking and land protection through an Indigenous worldview. How are you approaching the role of TWS deputy director for Alaska?
Danielle Stickman: I’m guided by my cultural values of conservation and community. There was a time in my career when I didn’t want to be in a leadership role, but all my experiences and trainings have led me to where I am today. I want to protect areas of Alaska for future generations to enjoy. Part of thinking of the future includes reflecting on the past, on how my grandparents took care of the earth, and how they practiced sustainability. As I prepare for the future and the unknown, I remember those who came before me, those who walk with me, and those who will be here long after I’m gone. I am excited and grateful for this new opportunity at The Wilderness Society and I plan to bring new ideas, from my cultural upbringing and holistic trainings, to the amazing work at TWS.
DF: How did you come to environmental science as a college degree?
DS: I tried several other majors before landing on environmental science and I’m so happy I chose this field. It’s broad enough to do basically anything I could have imagined.
I grew up in rural and urban areas of Alaska with deep cultural values of interdependence and respect for the earth and all living beings (respect meaning I treat the animals, earth, waters with the same love I bestow to my family). My parents shared stories of how to be in nature during different seasons and times of day, how to be a part of community, how to pay respect to the mountains, animals and waters, and how to behave in nature. Those stories taught me how humans play a role in the ecosystem and how we can either help keep the balance or tip the scale, based on how we treat the environment, animals and each other.
Growing up with these values – along with subsistence practices and an ingrained love of the outdoors – I knew I wanted to work in the environmental field. I had done fisheries internships in high school with the Hutton Junior Fisheries Program through the American Fisheries Society, but I wanted options that were broader than fisheries science.
DF: Offering scholarships for vocational and career training is a key part of Doyon Foundation’s work. Since earning your college degree in 2010, how has Doyon Foundation helped you continue to advance?
DS: Doyon Foundation provided scholarships throughout my college education and in my professional career through yoga teacher training and facilitation training. In 2021, I was granted a scholarship to complete a six-month course as a mindfulness facilitator, which is similar to life coaching.
Ana baseé, Doyon Foundation, for all of your support over the years. I wouldn’t be where I am today without this help.
DF: Students sometimes are unsure how to turn an interest into a meaningful college major or a career. Any suggestions when options seem overwhelming?
DS: Take time away from school and work to reflect on what inspires you to act. Reflect on what lights you up in the world, when you feel in tune with all of life. Our intrinsic intelligence is always guiding us if we take time to listen. I’m grateful for all my experiences, but the parts that truly helped me were the quiet times in communities or out on the land. Those were times when I knew I was in line with my true calling.
DF: What would you tell other students who may be considering your field?
DS: Among my favorite things about environmental science is the chance to travel and meet new people from different backgrounds. I’ve been to nearly 40 communities throughout Alaska and I continue to be surprised by the diversity of cultures, environments and ways of life in each place.
My experience has included helping document Traditional Ecological Knowledge on polar bears in northern Alaska, water quality monitoring on the Yukon River, and whitefish studies in the Bristol Bay region. I’ve been involved with Bristol Bay and Yukon River fisheries projects, outdoor youth programs in the Anchorage area, landscape scale conservation and so much more … the opportunities really are endless.
DF: Your experiences have combined scientific training along with a chance to witness people going about their lives.
DS: In college, I thought my future job would be fieldwork and then sitting in an office analyzing my data, but I was wrong.Human-to-human interaction and the ability to listen and build connections are the things that I’ve found to be most interesting in environmental science.
This field is highly social, especially when you’re working with a rural community. It’s so important to have good communication skills, listening skills, and awareness of various cultures and traditions.
DF: What have you learned from life’s challenges? What advice comes to mind?
DS: Entering the environmental field as an Indigenous woman, I faced a lot of subtle racism and inequity that I wasn’t prepared for, especially when I worked in fisheries. My knowledge was doubted constantly and my experience was challenged often. College didn’t prepare me for systemic inequities that exist in many settings today.
To overcome the feeling that I didn’t fit into the environmental field in Alaska, I engaged in various therapies, mindfulness practices, and hundreds of hours of yoga. Sometimes I still find it challenging to be in a room where I’m the only person of color but then I remember my practices and the truth that I am not my story.
Inequities are present in everyday life, but I am more grounded in how I approach situations. This allows others to hear me better and helps in finding solutions to some inequities. And I remember my truth: That I am a whole, imperfect, beautiful person doing the best I can, and whatever is going on outside of me is out of my control but everything inside my head and heart is in my control.
DF: You believe in treating stillness as a kind of practice and not as a rare indulgence.
DS: Yes, practicing stillness through yoga, beading and writing is necessary to the health of my well-being. Stillness, for me, doesn’t mean sitting still; it means meditation through movement. I am both Dena’ina and Koyukon Athabascan and my Grandma Jessie Stickman on my Koyukon side was an expert beader; her artwork was skilled with detail and color. She believed in the importance of sitting still and being able to bead. On my Dena’ina side, my Grandma Gladys Evanoff was skilled in knitting and storytelling. She valued our language and family and instilled in me the desire to title each beaded piece I make with a Dena’ina word.
DF: What do you think is the connection between learning to listen well and good decision-making?
DS: I encourage taking the time to listen to Elders and children without comment. Our world can be so overbearing with words and questions that we forget how to truly listen to each other. I value the time I had with Elders who have passed; they taught me to listen to the land, the weather, and my internal compass. When we know how to listen well, we know how to make good decisions.
I invite those reading this to take the time to write down your dream job or your dream life. What does it look like and feel like? What would it take to get there and sustain it? Anything is possible. Everything I could have imagined in my life always came true when I put the intention and work into it. Let your version of success be your compass and remember that you never need a reason to smile.
If you are interested in being featured in an upcoming Storyteller profile, or would like to nominate a Doyon Foundation student, alumni or supporter, please contact us at email@example.com or 907.459.2048.