Q & A with Shareholder Employees

A Conversation with Liz Cravalho, Vice President of External & Government Affairs, NANA Regional Corporation

This is part of a series of interviews with NANA’s shareholder-employees.

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Liz Qualluq (Moore) Cravalho, a shareholder living in Kotzebue, is the vice president of external & government affairs for NANA Regional Corporation.

 

What is your Iñupiaq name?

Qualluq. I was named after Mary Goodwin. The Goodwins are good friends of my family. My other atiqs (namesakes) are Janet Barr and Rachel Adams. I was told qualluq means “red, hot coals” or “sunshine” (depending on my mood).

Where is your family from?

My parents, Nellie and Greg Moore, met in Kotzebue. My grandparents were Ada (Gregg) Ward and Ed Ward, Sr. (from Kotzebue) and Aana (Grandma) Gloria and Richard Moore (from Ohio).

How did your dad end up in Kotzebue?

Dad was a biology student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). He came up to Kotzebue to study the denning habits of polar bears. Back then, Kotzebue was the place to be if you were in pursuit of polar bears. He ended up working on subsistence issues for the Department of Fish and Game.

What is your first memory of NANA?

Mom was a journalist. She always covered AFN (the annual conference of the Alaska Federation of Natives). I knew about the NANA caucus by following mom around.

When I was about five, our family moved to Fairbanks. Until then, I thought everyone was Iñupiaq. I thought my dad (from Ohio) was Iñupiaq, because he ate niqipiaq (Native food) and tutu (caribou) soup.

Mom and dad were the dorm parents at the NANA House on the UAF campus. We hung around students from the NANA region, like Robbie and Tanya Kirk, and Lance Kramer. It was cool to meet college kids from different parts of the state, like Dawn Dinwoodie (Athabascan) and Rod Worl (Tlingit). They all inspired me. I saw that college was hard, but I knew I could do it.

Who has inspired you?

Mom’s candor pushed her to ask hard questions, as a journalist. Her curiosity drove her to see all sides of an issue.

Dad, through his work in biology, always sought to benefit people.

Growing up, I was really lucky to be around a lot of Alaska Native people. Our Iñupiat Elders, like my Aana Ada, saw so much change. They went through some hard times. They also built so many things for the next generations. It’s our responsibility to remember and honor that.

What’s your favorite memory of your Aana Ada?

I didn’t get to grow up around my aana. We moved away when I was five. When I moved back, as an adult, the time I had with her was really great. She could be tough. She held people accountable. She was willing to tell me hard things, what I needed to hear at that time. I’ll always appreciate that.

Where did you study or train?

I graduated from Steller Secondary (an alternative school in Anchorage). Steller encouraged curiosity. You were expected to take responsibility for your own education. Alumni include Jewel (the singer), Trajan Langdon (the basketball player), and Mark Begich (the former U.S. Senator and Anchorage mayor). In school, I was a math and chemistry nerd, but it wasn’t automatic. My dad would tell you that it took me a while to get there.

I got my bachelor’s from Colorado College (a small, liberal arts school in Colorado Springs). I majored in history and studied math and chemistry. I joined the Native American Student Union and was also part of a group called “Sustained Dialogue.” We utilized discourse and relationship building for social change. For example, we discussed the challenges of racial inequality.

In December (2016), I received my Master of Science from American University in organization development. The program encourages broad, system-wide change in groups of people—through the study of behavioral and social science. As part of the program, I completed a residency in South Africa. I was part of a team of four assigned to a real client. We worked to bridge the divide between a manufacturer and its workers. 

What is your job?

I’m the vice president of external & government affairs. My job is to work with our team to build key relationships with partners in the public and private sectors. We represent and advance NANA’s interests in various areas of policy. These areas include arctic opportunities, indigenous representation, and initiatives that further business goals that align with NANA’s mission and vision.

How long have you been with NANA?

It adds up to about 10 years (as of January 2017).

What was your first job at NANA?

Right out of college, I was a business intern at TKC Management (a NANA company), which Stan Fleming led. I learned about the impact of policy on our people and our businesses. An example is the 8(a) Program—the Small Business Administration’s small business program which helps eligible NANA companies compete for federal government contracts. I became a program analyst and tracked legislation.

Before that, my very first NANA internship was under Kristina Patrick, who was then a paralegal.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I don’t know if there’s one best thing. The thing that gives me the most energy is working with our people (our shareholders) on opportunities and tough issues. I check in with them on resource development and infrastructure projects that may impact our lifestyle. That is one of NANA’s strengths, engaging with the community.

Another thing that energizes me is collaborating with other organizations when it’s appropriate. An example might be the Cape Blossom Regional Port, south of Kotzebue, which would open up opportunities in the Arctic. In the region, it’s working with NWALT—the Northwest Arctic Leadership Team (NANA, Maniilaq, the Northwest Arctic Borough, and the Northwest Arctic Borough School District). Statewide it’s AFN, the Alaska Federation of Natives. Internationally, it’s ICC, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference.

What lessons have you learned?

I’ve learned that conflict can be constructive. Conflict is a way to find common ground to move forward. Everyone has a role (in conflict), whether it’s intentional or not.

The avoidance of conflict is an Iñupiaq value.

I interpret this as the avoidance of unnecessary conflict.

Conflict can make you slow down and expand your view. It’s like that story of the blind men and an elephant. Each feels a different part (the trunk, the tusk, the tail, the belly). When they compare notes, each thinks the others are wrong. They’re not wrong; their observations are incomplete. It’s important to listen, and to pay attention to the common vision that emerges.

What advice do you have for younger shareholders?

Out of college, people can be very eager. There may be a lot of unfocused energy, going in all different directions. I’ve learned to slow down to speed up. When you hit an obstacle, slow down and listen. Then, with a clearer mindset, you can complete that task and speed up again.

What are your strongest beliefs about what you do and hope to achieve?

I believe very strongly that NANA is a tool for our people, but it’s only one tool. To be successful, to do good work, multiple tools are needed. We need to find a way to work together for the next generation.

What do you want people to know about NANA?

We may be going through real challenging times, but I have unwavering confidence that we can figure this out. We have a foundational strength, a lot to build off of.

The Alaska Native corporations have economic and political power. How are we using that to be successful?

Tell us about ways outside of work that you’re involved with the community.

The Kobuk 440 is a dog sled race from Kotzebue to Kobuk and back, a distance of 440 miles. I volunteer, as a way to help keep dog mushing alive in the region. I inadvertently squashed it in my own family. Mom and dad kept a dog team until they had a second kid, me.

I also serve on the board of the Alaska Humanities Forum. All of us make up the state, and I think the Forum builds bridges by sharing diverse stories. As a way to expand the board geographically and demographically, Jerry Covey recommended me. (Jerry had been the superintendent of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District and a Forum board member.)

What are you most grateful for?

I love spending time in our villages, especially in Noatak and Kivalina, and getting to know the people again. When I was little, I spent time in Noatak. Elders babysat me while my mom worked on a segment for Sesame Street. (Here’s a link.) I want to keep learning, especially from our Elders. It’s been a gift.

I’m really grateful for my family, to have Anthony and Alika—my husband and stepson—in my life.

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Liz Cravalho was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.