Besides having distinguished guests and broadcasting many inspirational speeches, this year’s Alaska Federation of Natives Convention also featured its own award ceremonies. One specific AFN award went to a Nome resident, Franklin Buddy Okleasik, Jr.
Last week on the AFN stage, one AFN presenter announced that Okleasik would receive the Parent of the Year award:
“And the parent of the year award recognizes Alaska Native parents who exhibit many of the qualities and values important to the continued physical, social, and cultural survival of Native people. These values include sharing and teaching of Native culture, love of children, respect for elders, spirituality, cooperation, and responsibility and involvement in the community.”
The emcee went on to say that Buddy Okleasik has been playing the role of two parents to raise four of his children since his wife passed away in 2012. Following up the presenter’s long list of Okleasik’s qualities and responsibilities to all of his six kids, Buddy was also recognized by Sitnasuak Native Corporation’s Chairman, Bobby Evans.
Evans spoke at the Dena’ina Center about why SNC nominated Okleasik for the award:
“In addition to the everyday parenting duties, he has positively (been) involved his children(’s) education and their activities. He has coached their softball teams, volunteered in their schools, and supported many of their sports from swimming to basketball to NYO. Every community has a Buddy Okleasik, and we thank AFN for recognizing our friend Buddy.”
Once Okleasik stepped up to the mic, he starting saying his thank you’s to many people, but he didn’t have a speech prepared. What Okleasik did have to share, was some words from his father:
“Well, I was thinking of things to say, but I don’t really know what to say right now other than I just thought of my dad. And somebody else mentioned it and reminded me of it, that he would always say ‘support is number one.’ That’s definitely what I believe in, of course, so thank you!”
Buddy Okleasik left the AFN stage to thunderous applause with his framed award in hand. He has since returned to his home community of Nome.
Image at top: Okleasik receives the AFN Parent of the Year Award at the 2017 Alaska Federation of Natives Convention. Photo Credit: Amber Otton (2017).