The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska is pleased to announce that we are accepting applications for this year’s Joan Hamilton Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship offers up to $2,500 per academic year to fund a student in a post-highschool educational or vocational program in any of the following academic years: 2019-2020, 2020-2021, or 2022-2023. We invite applications from high school seniors or college and vocational students who wish to pursue a career related to the law, become advocates of Alaska Native rights, and defend the constitutional rights and civil liberties of the peoples of rural Alaska.
About the Joan Hamilton Memorial Scholarship
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, with the endorsement and full support of the family of Joan Hamilton, has established a scholarship program in her name. An impassioned proponent of Native culture and civil rights, Joan was one of the first Alaska Native people to serve on the ACLU board of directors.
A Cup’ik Eskimo, Joan was well known in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and throughout Alaska. Born Joan Bill in Qissunaq, near Chevak, on July 31, 1942, her Cup’ik name was “Pirciralria.” Joan said she “grew up in a hospital” as a result of childhood tuberculosis. She learned English from medical staff, who enjoyed her spunk and inquisitiveness. Joan attended boarding school at St. Mary’s Mission and Copper Valley School and earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She was equally comfortable speaking with Elders about traditional culture or negotiating with academic and government bureaucracies.
At a time when it was legal to discriminate against Alaska Natives, especially women, Joan became a licensed practical nurse, working at hospitals in Alaska and the Lower 48, as supervisor of the Northwest Free Clinic in Salt Lake City, program director of the Alcohol/Drug Abuse Prevention office of Rural CAP in Anchorage, administrator of the Tundra Women Coalition, chairman of the board for KYUK public broadcasting in Bethel, and the museum curator of the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center in Bethel.
It was during her time in Bethel that Joan became an active board member of the ACLU of Alaska. She was a tireless advocate for rural and Alaska Native rights, and was instrumental in ACLU recognition of Native rights advocates such as Willie Kassyulie and the Native Village of Nunapitchuk, Mike Williams, Sr., Natalie Landreth, and Eric Johnson.
By establishing this scholarship in her name, the ACLU of Alaska wishes to promote and support the education of Alaska students who wish to pursue a career related to the law, become advocates of Alaska Native rights, and defend the constitutional rights and civil liberties of the peoples of rural Alaska.