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I owe my personal and academic growth to the faculty that has shaped my experiences, and the mentorship from staff members at UAS that have helped me build a positive and supportive community.

2015 Outstanding Graduate

Bachelor of Liberal Arts, Alaska Native Languages and Studies

Heather Dawn Burge

My UAS Experience

Yakʼéi haat yee.ádi, ldakát yeewháan. Gunalchéesh! Iʼve had an incredibly unique opportunity to learn, engage, and change within the context of the Lingít thought world on Lingít aaní. I owe my personal and academic growth to the faculty that has shaped my experiences, and the mentorship from staff members at UAS that have helped me build a positive and supportive community. I owe my continued fluency development to elders that I have had the privilege to work with, and whose stories and speeches we review within the Tlingit courses on campus.

Iʼve been able to participate in a study abroad program in Nanchang, China. Iʼve participated in the Flying University project, taking UAS students into the Lemon Creek Correctional Facility and offering opportunities for students both within and without Lemon Creek to share perspectives. I am also an honors student here on campus. Itʼs these experiences among my participation within the student leadership club Wooch.een that Iʼll be taking with me as I enter into graduate school at the University of British Columbia this coming fall.

Gunalchéesh ḵúnáx̱ ldakát yeewháan!

About Heather Burge

Éedaa Heather has shown natural abilities when it comes to research, leadership, and advocacy in the university and beyond. She was one of the key players in the passage of HB 216, which made Alaska the second state in the U.S. to officially recognize indigenous languages as equivalents to English. Her abilities to solve problems, work creatively with others, rely on indigenous knowledge, and to lead with heart and vision have been invaluable to our university, our language program, and to the State of Alaska.

What impresses us most about Ms. Burge is her willingness to stand up to injustice and to approach everything with equal parts of courage and intelligence. She has advanced her proficiency tremendously in her studies of the Tlingit language, which due to linguistic complexities and social injustices is one of the most complex languages on earth. Her ability to comprehend the language and the concepts we are exploring are remarkable, and she can interact in the language in the classroom, at ceremonies, and in public. She has shown an amazing ability to think in the language and to understand what is being communicated without having to switch to English, which puts her at the top of her class and in the top 1% of all of the world when it comes to comprehending and speaking the Tlingit language.

Éedaa has been in leadership positions since arriving at UAS, and is a true language warrior. We feel privileged to have interacted with her as a student, and think she represents the very best that the UAS student body has to offer.

Yéi áyá gunalchéesh

  • Robin Walz, Professor of History
  • Lance A. Twitchell, Assistant Professor of AK Native Languages
  • Andrea Dewees, Assistant Professor of Spanish
What impresses us most about Ms. Burge is her willingness to stand up to injustice and to approach everything with equal parts of courage and intelligence.
  • Robin Walz, Professor of History
  • Lance A. Twitchell, Assistant Professor of AK Native Languages
  • Andrea Dewees, Assistant Professor of Spanish