Education No Matter the Challenge

Tiana Unat’aq Lupie, Calista Shareholder and Scholarship Recipient

Storyknife, May/June 2023 edition

Tiana Unat’aq Lupie, Calista Scholarship Recipient from Tuntutuliak seeking her Master’s in Social Work

Tiana Unat’aq Lupie, Calista Scholarship Recipient from Tuntutuliak seeking her Master’s in Social Work

Tiana Unat’aq Lupie, a Calista Shareholder from Tuntutuliak, is studying to become an interpreter while overcoming some major hurdles. She has graduated with an Associate of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from the UAF Kuskokwim Campus. She speaks both Yup’ik and English, but she learns differently out of necessity.

“I was not born blind, but became blind when I was young,” Lupie says. “I would like to earn my bachelor’s in Yup’ik along with a master’s in social work. I want to help my people navigate the Western system without someone taking advantage of them.”

Being blind is not an excuse—or a barrier—for Lupie to continue her education

“I want to help both the younger and older generations connect with the Western world, and make sure they understand what they are responding to in both English and Yugtun, or vice versa,” Lupie says.

She has interpreted for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC) in Bethel, but decided to volunteer at the Bethel 4-H Youth Center as a VISTA after struggling to find work.

Lupie says she is grateful for her brother and the teachers she had in Tuntutuliak who motivated her to pursue her degree right out of high school. Her early aspiration was to become a teacher, but after experiencing discrimination in middle school, her passion became social work and interpreting.

“You can accomplish your goals if you put in the will to strive for a better life,” Lupie says. “You have to realize what your goals are and what you want to improve. Follow that and then give back to the community.”

Lupie lives in Bethel with her mother, and they take care of each other. Her mom helps her get around town. Still, she has not forgotten her roots from the village.

“We depend on a subsistence lifestyle,” Lupie says. “We gather what we need, but we do not over take. That’s what my grandparents and parents would always say.”

Her family would follow the seasons and pick berries and subsistence fish. She enjoyed fish camp the most because it would prompt people to make time to be together and connect. Lupie says the strength from her family and past experiences motivates her to move toward her future.

“I am blind, and I experienced situations growing up. Vulnerability is scary,” Lupie says. “My experience in life makes me want to help people who feel they may not have their own voice, or who feel vulnerable. They can approach situations in a different way to find their confidence and strength.”

The CECI scholarship program awards scholarships two times each year. The application deadline for the next Spring Term scholarship is due December 1, and the next Fall Term scholarship application is due June 30. Apply today!

The mission of Calista Education & Culture, Inc. is to celebrate and promote Yuuyaraq, the traditional/cultural way of being in the Calista Region which inspires and encourages our people to achieve their dreams through education.