After a break in the handshakes, hugs and back pats, Shawaan Jackson-Gamble was a little overwhelmed.
The 21-year-old from Kake, currently a student at Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington, was voted emerging leader Friday morning during the last day of Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s 84th annual Tribal Assembly.
“I can’t really explain it,” Jackson-Gamble said in an interview with the Capital City Weekly. “I’m at a loss of words almost because I’m so excited.”
The emerging leader position, formerly known as the youth representative position, is an Executive Council position that provides young adults with hands-on opportunities to learn about Tlingit & Haida’s processes and structure.
During a brief speech after finding out he had won the position, Jackson-Gamble said taking a leadership role is not his natural disposition, but he was honored to have it.
“I really prayed hard to our ancestors for taking a big step out of my comfort zone, but really, they were praying for me to take that step out of my comfort zone for standing up for our people. I want to thank you, and I’m looking forward to serving my people.”
Jackson-Gamble is studying Native Environmental Science at college and said he expects to graduate with a bachelor degree next spring. After that, he may pursue further education in fisheries sciences, he said.
Protecting traditional food sources is something that keenly interests the newly elected emerging leader. Jackson-Gamble said he and his family prefer the term traditional food to subsistence food.
“I want to help protect our traditional foods, so our future generations can enjoy traditional food, and I also want to look more into the issue of herring,” Jackson-Gamble said.
He is also a member of American Indian Science and Engineering Society, an organization for indigenous science, technology, engineering and math professionals and Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science.
Other candidates for the position were Kevin Allen, Colton Welch and Miguel Contreras.
The candidates were visibly supportive of each other during and after voting.
Jackson-Gamble said they knew each other fairly well, and he was not surprised by the support.
“Tlingit communities are close like that,” he said. “We treat each other with respect.”
Delegate/citizen of the year
Ballots were also cast for delegate/citizen of the year —delegates are elected every even-numbered year in March, and a new executive council, including president, is elected every two years, too.
The delegate/citizen of the year award was won by Patricia Alexander, who was not in attendance, but had been present earlier in the week and helped organize the Violence Against Women Awareness Rally and March.
Other candidates were Jan Peele, Ella Bennett and Thomas Skultka.
This year, delegates cast electronic ballots using newly issued tablets.
President Chaylee Éesh Richard Peterson said it was hoped the new method would expedite the process. Ultimately, results were known within 30 minutes of voting.
There was a silly round of voting beforehand to make sure people were comfortable casting digital ballots.
The sample categories were hero of the year and CEO of Warner Brothers complete with funny, fictitious candidates.
“The winners are Moana and Daffy Duck. I’m very proud of you for recognizing the only indigenous one up there,” Peterson said to laughs.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.