MISS Woman of the Week
Greta Schuerch, Kiana Alaska
There is a woman from the Lower Kobuk River who was raised by the knowledge of hard work, unconditional love, and good laughter. As a young girl, she was taught and influenced by her grandmother to be an independent woman with the ability to drive her own boat, to hunt, and to fish on her own. This Katyaakmii grew up learning how to hunt for caribou and moose, seine for whitefish, set nets for salmon, pick berries, and boat up and down the Kobuk River. She is the aunt of 30 nieces and nephews and has a 5-year old son to whom she teaches these same skills and the values of the Inupiaq identity to on a daily basis.
During the process of building the Kiana Lodge between 1996 and 1998, she was offered to go to Kotzebue to collect more supplies with her father. While they were loading steel studs into the boat before leaving, a young man passed by and made a teasing remark about her strength. Her dad dropped what he was doing to go to the young man and said “You’re goddamned right she is tough! And if you were tough, too, you’d come over here and help her load the stuff!”
“I was so mortified at the time and completely embarrassed my dad would do that,” she says. “But now that I am a parent and working to instill hard working skills in my son’s life and values, I can appreciate and understand where my dad was coming from. I can relate to how my dad was protective and how important it is to generate these values into my child’s life.”
Greta Schuerch is the daughter of Lorry and Nellie Schuerch of Kiana, Alaska. Her grandparents are the late Robert and Esther Curtis of Kotzebue and Pauline and Lorenz Schuerch Sr. of Kiana. Schuerch currently works as a consultant to the North Slope Borough. With this job, Schuerch manages the partnership between the North Slope Borough and the Northwest Arctic Borough and works with the administrations to implement the plans from the Arctic Economic Development Summit. Schuerch is currently a candidate for the State House in District 40 seeking to represent the communities and families of the district at the Alaska State Legislature.
In 1998, Schuerch graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe High School where she played varsity basketball and discovered her interest in civic engagement through her courses in Government and Alaska Issues. Since then, she has advocated for quality of life in Rural Alaska through her past and current employments and volunteerism. In 2010, Schuerch was awarded the Alaska Journal of Commerce and Anchorage Chamber of Commerce’s “Top Forty Under 40” Award recognizing Alaska’s top professionals. Her 13-year career of focusing on rural Alaska helped build her foundational skills in being an equipped and effective candidate for the Legislature.
Schuerch has named three influential people who have helped her steer her values, beliefs, and strengths in the direction she chose to follow today. Her grandmother Pauline demonstrated to her the characteristics of being a strong, independent woman. “I have a vivid memory of her at our camp on the Kobuk,” Schuerch says. “She was checking the net, pulling salmon out of the river when she noticed there was a moose crossing the river. She quickly finished up checking the net and took the boat out to the moose and shot it.”
Along with Pauline, Schuerch mentions that Mary Sattler of Bethel has also been a great, positive role model for her. Sattler is the mother of 4 children and began serving in the Legislature when she was 24 years old. After serving 10 years, she decided against seeking re-election. “Mary helped me realize that it was possible to be a young and effective leader while being a good mother,” Schuerch explains. “She balances a career, motherhood, and a subsistence lifestyle.”
Schuerch also recognizes Lee Staheli of Kiana as a big influence in her life. Despite his inability to walk, he demonstrates the value of hard work. He’s showed Schuerch that anything is possible and you can do anything as long as you are persistent. Staheli taught his kids how to fly at young ages and gave Schuerch opportunities and responsibilities through jobs while she was growing up. “He made things seem limitless and showed me that there are no limits to anything,” Schuerch stated.
When asked what motivates her to be successful, Schuerch mentions that it’s her personal experiences and first hand understanding of the issues that pushes her to improve the quality of life in her home area. These issues that she has worked on and continues to work to improve upon are very personal to Schuerch. If she hasn’t had the experiences of the issues, she has a family member or a close friend who has. Schuerch believes that God never gives us more than we can handle. She encourages the youth to: read often, eat well, exercise, be proud of who you are, take pride in your community, travel to new places when the opportunity arrises, be helpful to your parents and people in need, and to be curious.
I personally nominated Greta Schuerch for the MISS Woman of the Week because she has been a positive role model for me to look up to as an auntie. While growing up, she taught me simple mannerisms, encouraged me to give my all into everything I do, and always made it a point to be in my life to show her support and pride. As a niece, I have seen her strengths of navigating a boat throughout the NANA region, sharing a charismatic story, raising her son as a single parent, knowing her responsibilities in the roles that she plays both at home and at work, and always standing up and speaking for what she believes in.
Remember, if there are any influential women of the Arctic you would like to nominate to be featured as the MISS Woman of the Week, you can e-mail us the name and a way of contact to firstname.lastname@example.org We would love to feature women from all over the region to celebrate their lifestyles and accomplishments.
MISS Quote of the Week
"I am only one but I am still one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do." -Helen Keller, American Author and Political Activist
MISS Song of the Week
Fighter - Christina Aguilera
Cause if it wasn't for all that you tried to do, I wouldn't know
Just how capable I am to pull through
So I wanna say thank you cause it
Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter