Q&A with 2022 Board Youth Advisor: Connor Ulmer

Each year Sealaska selects one shareholder descendant to be the Board Youth Advisor (BYA) for a one-year term. The Board Youth Advisor provides valuable input to the Sealaska Board and gains understanding of Sealaska’s operations and mission. The 2022-2023 BYA is Connor Ulmer.  

Ulmer was born and raised in Dzantik’i Héeni (Juneau). His Tlingit name is Deikeenaak’w (Little Haida), which was passed down to Ulmer from his grandfather George Obert. His mother is Annette Stevens Ulmer from Xunna (Hoonah). His father, Gary Ulmer, and his family come from the Seattle area. Ulmer is Kaagwaantaan from Kóok Hít (Box House); his clan originated out of Sheet’ká (Sitka).  Ulmer graduated from University of Alaska Southeast in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a concentration in management. He currently works for Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Tlingit & Haida) as an administrative assistant. 

Q: What inspired you to apply for the Board Youth Advisor position? 

A: It was an opportunity I have always heard about, and it always seemed interesting hearing that there is a voice for the youth at the board room where they can speak to items that are before the board and give a different perspective. This past year, the reason I decided to apply was I just finished up my bachelor’s degree in business administration and I thought this would be the perfect time experience the Board Youth Advisor position.  

If anyone is thinking about applying for this position, they definitely should because it will open up so many opportunities and you can learn so much about the corporation. I’ve already learned so much in the past two months. It’s insane!  

Q: Have there been any highlights while in your position as Board Youth Advisor so far? 

A: So far, it has been interesting to listen in on everything. There is so much that the corporation is doing that I had no idea about. There are so many cool and good things going on. It’s a lot more time than I expected, but it’s all really good work.    

Q: What are you hoping to gain as Board Youth Advisor?

A: I really want to learn more about Sealaska and everything they are involved in. Also being able to learn from the directors and being able to see their thought process and how they come to these difficult decisions sometimes of acquiring a new company or getting rid of one. It’s also really nice because as the Board Youth Advisor I have one director designated as my mentor. Jodi Mitchell is my mentor and it is so great to be able to openly ask her any question and she can answer it or get me in touch with someone who can.  

Q: Sealaska finds importance in holding onto Native Values. What valuable lessons have you learned from your elders?  

A: The values that were really instilled in me were having respect for everyone and everything, so people, the land, animals, everything. And still holding that respect even if you do have a difference in opinion, and just being able to recognize that we might not agree but I still respect you and your decision. Another value I’ve learned is listening well. I’ve always been told to really listen to what is said and pay attention to when it is the right time to bring up a point or ask questions.  

Q: How do you stay connected to your culture?

A: Right now, I do a lot of weaving, mainly Ravenstail. I’m currently working on an apron with the diamonds pattern. I started about two years ago. UAS was offering courses in beginning Ravenstail weaving with Kay Parker. I signed up for it and it was so much fun. I signed up for a few more classes and have made a bag, some leggings, and now I’m working on the apron. I also do a lot of beading, but I’ve pushed that aside to work on this apron.  

I’m also involved with my dance group, Yaaw Tei Yi (Herring Rock). I’ve been with them for about six to eight years now. We’ve been invited to do quite a few performances around Southeast. We’ve also been invited over to Hawaii a few times for cultural exchanges. It’s a really fun dance group to be a part of. I’ve also been part of the Juneau Kaagwaantaan since I was a baby.  

Q: How did you become interested in Business, and why was that your major? 

A: First I was interested in becoming a doctor, but I took one biology course in college and it was not for me. Then I took intro to business, marketing, and all that stuff and found it really interesting. My mom worked for Tlingit & Haida for several years in the Business and Economic Development Department so every now and then we would talk about what she was doing there and it was just more and more interesting the further I went into learning about business. 

Q: Are you interested in furthering your education?

A: My first goal is to get into some sort of graduate program. After that, I know I’d eventually like to come back to either work at the tribe or any of the corporations in Alaska, or really anything that involves our Native community. I love supporting the locallevel projects, anything that involves that core community because I have always seen it as a community.  

Q: What are your future goals after your position as Board Youth Advisor? 

A: My first goal is to get into some sort of graduate degree. After that, I know I’d eventually like to come back to either work at the tribe or any of the corporations up here or really anything that involves our Native community. I love supporting the local-level projects, anything that involves that core community. 

Random facts about Connor: 

  • He loves going to the movies.
  • One of his favorite places to relax is the beach. 
  • His favorite song to preform with his dance group is Kaalgaas, Kaagwaantaan song.