Ilakucaraq means "being together" in Yugtun, the language of the Yup'ik people of Southwest Alaska.

(Pronounced: Ee-la-cou-jaw-ga-ck)

Ilakucaraq participants build confidence in their cultural identities while forming a supportive community with other Alaska Native youth from around the state. Understanding culture as a source of strength helps students navigate high school and find success in post-secondary opportunities and beyond.

Key program components include:

  • Personal reflections
  • Positive self- and cultural identity formation
  • Cross-cultural experiences
  • Peer-to-peer learning and discussions
  • Elder and culture bearer teachings
  • Art and storytelling
Ilakucaraq Students

Ilakucaraq is a partnership between the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and Mt. Edgecumbe High School.

The Alaska Humanities Forum’s Ilakucaraq youth programs are open to all Alaska Native high school students located anywhere in Alaska. Both rural and urban students are encouraged to participate.

Stand Alone Programs
Year-Long Cohorts

The Alaska Native Heritage Center’s Indigenous Awareness and Culturally Responsive Teaching Professional Development course for Alaska educators is also part of Ilakucaraq.


Helen John

Youth Program Manager
Email Contact

Stand Alone Programs: Exploring Our Identities

Ilakucaraq facilitates free educational programs for Alaska Native youth in grades 9-12 to build confidence in who they are and where they come from.

Students and schools value our programs.

I learned what culture shock was, and I had not known what that was. I didn’t know I had experienced it a lot. - Sealaska Heritage Institute Summer Camp student

I learned to never give up; you'll always find a way. - Kusilvak Career Academy student

They have made my week really enjoyable and fun which helped me go and get up for school. - Deering student

The Ilakucaraq Intensive was exactly what our students needed as they started their year at Ket’acik and Aapalluk Memorial School. Students were able to discuss the strengths of their culture as something real to them today. So often they are told about “traditional” Yupik culture as being something different than the culture they experience on a daily basis. The Ilakucaraq program allows students to take an active role in defining who they are and identify sources of strength in their daily lives. Students were excited to share their Ilakucaraq experiences with their teachers and enjoyed being able to learn more about themselves and the community of Kuiggluk. The staff at Ket’acik and Aapalluk Memorial School would highly recommend this program to other schools throughout the state. - Rachel Kohl, teacher

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About "Exploring Our Identities" Programs

Students gain a better understanding of themselves by considering the following questions through cultural activities, reflections, and discussions:

  • Who am I?
  • What makes me, me?
  • How can I navigate new situations?
  • What story do I want to tell about who I am?

Our team works with schools to identify and invite local community members to participate, share stories, and lead cultural activities as part of the programs. 

Program Length: 2 hours - 8 hours (ideally spread over 2-3 days)

Group Size: 10-25

Contact our team at or 907-717-1256 to discuss how we can bring these programs to your students or events.


Year-Long Cohorts

IP Cohorts bring rural and urban Alaska Native youth together to explore their heritages, share their cultures, and find strength in being Indigenous. The year-long experience allows each cohort to become a tight-knit community that supports one another as participants build confidence in who they are and their relationship to their cultures.


Mt. Edgecumbe High School Partnership

The Forum also leads Ilakucaraq programming for Mt. Edgecumbe High School’s Junior Advisory class. This class guides high school juniors through the process of identifying their values and post-high school aspirations.

Through multi-day intensives and virtual sessions, Junior Advisory students talk with Alaska Native role models about their experiences after high school, learn how a strong sense of cultural identity is related to college success, and further their understanding of how their identities are shaped.


Indigenous Awareness and Culturally Responsive Teaching Professional Development 

ED 55500: Indigenous Awareness and Culturally Responsive Teaching is an Elder Instructor-led course approved by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development for teacher certification in Alaska. This 3 credit course for K-12 educators, including veteran teachers seeking recertification, is offered through a partnership between the Alaska Native Heritage Center’s Ilakucaraq Project and the Alaska Pacific University.

For more information, contact Alice Hisamoto at 907-802-0250 or

The Ilakucaraq Project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Alaska Native Education Program.


Meet the Team!


My name is Helen Panruk Apaliq John. My dad's side of the family is Yup'ik from Nunakauyaq (Tooksook Bay), AK, and my mom's side of the family is Iñupiaq from Unalakleet, AK. I was raised in Bethel and have lived in Anchorage for about 10 years now. I get joy from trying new foods/restaurants, being outside in the summer, and spending time with good company.


My name is Molissa Udevitz. My ancestors are European, and my parents moved to Alaska before I was born. I grew up in Eagle River playing outside, taking dance classes, and performing. I left Alaska after high school but chose to come back and now call Anchorage home. Outside of work, I enjoy hiking, cross-country skiing, dancing, and listening to podcasts.


My name is Gordon Aghqunqaq Iya. I am of Siberean Yupik descent, from the communities of Nome and Savoonga Alaska. Family is currently living and working in Anchorage. My hobbies and passions include anything and everything to do with St. Lawrence Island drumming and dancing, spending time outdoors with my fur babies and wife, along with TV/video gaming (also with wife).

Alaska Humanities Forum

The Alaska Humanities Forum is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that designs and facilitates experiences to bridge distance and difference – programming that shares and preserves the stories of people and places across our vast state, and explores what it means to be Alaskan.

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