Tanya Kirk is a PC CARES mentor in Noatak, Kiana, Shungnak, Kobuk, Kivalina, Noorvik, and Kotzebue. For facilitator support, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
My name is Tanya Marie (Sheldon) Kirk, my Inupiaq names are Masraun and Qaggun and I was raised my loving Grandparents, Fred and Alta Jack. I am originally from Noorvik but have made Noatak home for the past 15 years with my husband and 2 children who are now Seniors at UAF. I take great pride in being Inupiaq, practicing our subsistence living and involving anything within our cultural ways of being, and equally that we can encapsulate that in our work.
A little about my background: my first job here in Noatak was the Suicide Prevention Coordinator with the Native Village of Noatak in 2000 and between then and now I have worked with children and families with NWABSD for 6 years then with Maniilaq for 6 years (most recently) as the TANF Supervisor. Before that I had worked with Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage in their Dena A Coy Program and also held various other temporary jobs while raising my kids and taking classes. One thing that has always struck me was that in almost every job that I have worked in, there was always a wellness component -- and if it wasn’t there, I saw it and would delve into it. I know that is at the forefront and center of my work that I choose, which I recognize as my calling. Since I was a little girl I always wanted to help others mostly amidst the mental/emotional state of mind that I see kids and adults struggle with, because I struggled with finding my own identity, which later brought me to study in the Social Work/HUMS arena. I am also in pursuit of completing my degree from UAF.
With that being said, I was hired in June as the Native Connections Coordinator which has brought be full-circle and back to Suicide Prevention/Wellness work. I want to help make a difference.
As the SAMSHA-funded Native Connections Coordinator, my role will be to help produce a comprehensive suicide prevention/intervention/postvention protocol, or “playbook.” The beauty I see in this work is a core piece that needs to happen is that the “Playbook” will be determined and developed with the villages’ input and contribution. That is a great method of self-determination and ownership. In order for something to work -- collectively, we have to believe that it can and will work and also be sustainable; but on the other hand, communities in our region have to be willing to commit to making the decision to help eradicate suicides in our villages. We can do this if we work together – and we already are, we just have to take it a notch up. The backbone of this work will be created through an interview/assessment as well as taking circles such as the PC CARES model which we are implementing in each village.
I look forward to going to the villages to work with and meet all the wonderful people who will help us in bettering the lives of our future generation.
Native Connections Coordinator