Alaskan Indigenous Leaders: Visions for the Future | Women’s Day Panel

Date(s) - Tuesday, March 8, 2022
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Bear Tooth Theatre


Join Alaska World Affairs Council in honoring and celebrating the indigenous women leaders in our community.

Panelists include: Melissa Kookesh, Board Chair of Kootznoowoo; Marit Carlson, President of Far West; and Dena Pedebone, CEO of Gana A Yoo.


Melissa M. Kookesh was elected to the Kootznoowoo Board in 2016 and began serving as Board Chair. In addition to her role as Chairwoman, she also serves as ex-officio on all committees.

From 2005-2014, Melissa worked in the Office of the President at the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Currently, she is employed as a Legislative Aide for the Alaska State Legislature. Melissa holds an Associate of Arts and Sciences and certification in Tribal Management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Melissa is the daughter of Lena Woods and the late Floyd M. Kookesh and is the granddaughter of the late Matthew and Ramona Kookesh. Melissa is Raven Dog Salmon from the Central House in Angoon, and her Tlingit name is X’eetoow.

Dena Sommer-Pedebone, Chief Executive Officer of Gana-A’Yoo, Limited, is responsible for working with the Board of Directors to set the overall direction of the Gana-A’Yoo Family of Companies and provide leadership to its executive team.

Prior to joining Gana-A’Yoo, Dena was with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company managing Large Contracts, Supplier Performance, and Program compliance. Dena graduated with Leadership Honors from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing. She holds a graduate certificate in executive leadership from Alaska Pacific University and Alyeska Pipeline’s Alyeska University, a corporate leadership program designed to provide future executives with the foundational knowledge to excel in today’s competitive business climate and the know-how to build a holistic approach to identifying areas for improvement and strategies for change.

Märit Carlson-Van Dort, a born and raised Alaskan, spent over a decade salmon seining and forging a strong appreciation of Alaska’s fishery resources as a young woman. Ms. Carlson-Van Dort received her BS in Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduate work in Fisheries Science and Secondary Education. She has a background in both the private and public sectors, with experience in government affairs, environmental policy, permitting, development, and community outreach. Ms. Carlson-Van Dort currently serves as director of external affairs for Nana Regional Corporation.


Hallie Bissett has been the ANVCA Executive Director for 4 years. Bissett holds a Bachelor’s degree in Global Logistics Management and an MBA from the University of Alaska. She has held many executive roles throughout her career, including: Vice President of Business Development and Old Harbor Native Corporation, Team Leader of Procurement and Supply Chain Management and Supplier Diversity at BP Exploration, and Logistics and International Trade Director at the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation. In addition, Bissett was the youngest person yet to be elected to the Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI) one of Alaska’s 12 Regional Corporations created under ANCSA, a position she has held for over 10 years. 

Bissett has been honored as one of Alaska’s Top 40 Under Forty, University of Alaska College of Business Alumni of the Year, and NCAIED National Top forty under 40. 

This program is a part of the Evangeline Atwood Distinguished Speakers Series. Named after the the founder of the Alaska World Affairs Council, Evangeline Atwood, and with the generous support from The Atwood Foundation, these public programs feature world-class experts on a diverse range of topics.

Program Details
  • Check-in will begin at 11:30am with seating available on a first-come first-serve basis. The program will begin at 12:00pm.
  • Those with online reservations do not need to present ticket confirmation at the door, we will have all confirmed attendees on a list at check-in.
  • Lunch at this program will be available for individual order and purchase from Bear Tooth Theatre you wish to do so, plan on arriving early to ensure you receive your meal by the end of the program.
  • Online registration will close at midnight March 7, 2022 at 6pm. Remaining tickets will be available for purchase the day of the program at the door from 11:00am.

Get Tickets

Ticket Type Price Spaces
General Admission 3/8/22
General admission. Does not include lunch.
AKWorld Board Member - 3/8/22
Admission for current board members of the Alaska World Affairs Council. Does not include lunch.
Member Admission - 3/8/22
Admission for current members of the Alaska World Affairs Council. Does not include lunch.
Ambassador Members - 3/8/22
Admission for Ambassador level members & one guest. Thank you for your continued support of Alaska World Affairs Council. Does not include food.
Student Admission - 3/8/22
For current full-time students with valid ID. Includes voucher for lunch. Thanks to generous support from ConocoPhillips!

American Indian or Alaska Native
Asian/ Pacific Islander
Black or African American
Hispanic American
White/ Caucasian