The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska has selected longtime Alaskan educator Patsy Shaha as its 2019 Joan Hamilton Memorial Scholar. This annual scholarship, established by the ACLU of Alaska in the memory of former board member Joan Hamilton, promotes and supports the education of Alaskan students who wish to pursue a career related to the law, advocate for Alaska Native rights, and defend the constitutional rights and civil liberties of the peoples of rural Alaska.

Shaha, an Alutiiq woman, just completed her first year at Willamette University College of Law after serving for over 15 years as an educator in Alaska schools, including three years as the principal of the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School. 

“Like Joan Hamilton, I've felt the weight of discrimination for my ethnicity and culture,” she said. “And, like Joan, I intend to be a strategic advocate and continue the charge for changing the ease that society (specifically Alaska) allows in discriminating against our people, our culture and our ways. I’ve already had a successful, and meaningful career as an educational leader. I will now shift my passion, focus, energy and abilities toward forwarding the future of our People.”

“The ACLU of Alaska was blown away with Patsy’s demonstrated commitment to improving educational opportunities for Alaska Natives,” said Joshua A. Decker, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska. “She has an undeniable passion for the issues Joan Hamilton cared about so deeply. We are proud to help her continue on her path towards a law degree and the great contributions that achievement will allow her to make for Alaska Native rights.”

More information about Joan Hamilton and this scholarship can be found on the ACLU of Alaska’s website at

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