Victoria Hykes Steere, lawyer and APU assistant professor, wins award for advancing Native environmental justice

Liberal Studies Assistant Professor Victoria Hykes Steere has won the 2013 Caleb Pungowiyi Award presented by the Alaska Conservation Foundation.

In an announcement Aug. 2, the Anchorage-based nonprofit cited Hykes Steere for a career dedicated to advancing Alaska Native people.

“Her influence is far-reaching,” ACF said. “She clearly follows the wisdom of her grandmother, Martha, who liked to say, ‘Everything you do must be to the best of your ability.’”

An Iñupiat from the Norton Sound community of Unalakleet, Hykes Steere holds degrees from Colby College and the University of Iowa College of Law. She completed a master’s degree at the University of Washington School of Law, concentrating on law and policy involving the environment, natural resources, human rights and public land.

She participated in 2001 as an expert at a United Nations workshop on resource development and its effects on indigenous peoples. In 2011, she joined the APU Liberal Studies Department where, among other course offerings, she designed a class that explores social responsibility using biographies of Alaska Native leaders.

“I want to thank ACF for honoring Caleb Pungowiyi by naming this award for him,” Hykes Steere said. “And I want to thank my family for urging me to be alive in each moment.”

The Pungowiyi Award recognizes outstanding achievement by an Alaska Native individual or organization. An awards ceremony is scheduled Sept. 19 at the Alaska Native Heritage Center

University President Don Bantz noted Hykes Steere’s capacity to inspire her students and colleagues to see opportunities in challenges. “Victoria richly deserves this award,” Bantz said. “Her efforts as a scholar and advocate literally span the world.”

Nonprofit Alaska Conservation Foundation provides grants to foster protection and management of Alaska natural resources. Pungowiyi is a former leader of the Inuit Circumpolar Council who died in 2011. He is remembered today for advocacy of traditional science and sustainability of Arctic cultures and peoples.

In nominating Hykes Steere, retired APU Professor Carl Hild cited scholarly research they have completed jointly over the past decade as well as her ability to maintain a global network of peers.

“I gained tremendous respect for her knowledge and her deep-rooted cultural foundation,” said Hild, an expert in traditional knowledge used to advance circumpolar health. “APU is very fortunate to have Victoria on its faculty.”


Accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, Alaska Pacific University is committed to experiential learning that incorporates Alaska as our classroom.