Eva Dawn Burk
Nenana Native Association
Science Post Graduate Scholarship Fund
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Natural Resources and Environment
Eva Dawn Burk grew up practicing her Denaakk’e (Koyukon) and Dene’ (Lower Tanana) Athabascan traditions of harvesting salmon, moose, waterfowl and berries and trapping with her family on their ancestral lands and waters. Her family lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle along the Tanana, Tolovana, Kantishna and Nenana Rivers, eventually settling in Toghotthele (Nenana) to attend school.
Eva Dawn earned a B.S. from UAF in Civil Engineering (2007) and worked for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation’s subsidiary ASRC Energy Services as a Senior Project Engineer from 2007 to 2013. She worked on many projects involving pipelines, roads, broadband infrastructure, environmental studies, logistics, stakeholder engagement and renewable energy.
Currently, she is working on a Master of Science in Natural Resources Management with a focus on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. Her interests include Indigenous food sovereignty, security and health justice, traditional song and dance, language revitalization and healing through food and culture. Her research project uses digital storytelling and community outreach to increase awareness of potential impacts to Indigenous food sovereignty and possible adaptations to build community capacity and foster resiliency.
Most importantly, she is a mother to four, dedicated to realizing her family’s dreams of returning to their traditional lifestyle and opening ethno agriculture farms on their lands near the villages of Nenana and Manley Hot Springs. She spent the last few years volunteering and working for her villages as a Wellness and Culture Camp Leader, Fisherwoman, Cook and Laborer. Eva Dawn is a community activist and leader focused on developing resilience and capacity, fostering leadership and teamwork, and learning through doing. She leads several Indigenous food sovereignty and security working groups across the globe, graciously providing insight on co-production of knowledge, community engagement and the role of scientific research in advocacy. Eva Dawn envisions a future of culture, community and collaboration.
Through Eva Dawn’s involvement in Indigenous-led organizations, she strengthened ties to the Navajo Nation, especially with some of their Elders. As an Athabascan, they are her relatives and welcome her with love and encouragement.
She is also reconnecting with her Inuit friends from across the circumpolar North. The Inuit are exceptional in their ability to protect their traditional harvesting rights and work across nations to monitor the health of marine mammals. As climate change is a global epidemic, Eva Dawn believes we all need to work together to address its impacts through advocacy and adaptation. This past year, she focused on community engagement and presented at several regional, national and international conferences on Indigenous food sovereignty and security.
Through this work, Eva Dawn formed collaborative partnerships between youth, Elders, community leaders, scientific researchers and regulatory agencies. She is most passionate about traditional foods and practice harvesting, preparing and preserving them every season, honing her skills so that one day she can eventually teach others. She spent last summer in the village building a fish wheel with her father, other Elders and community members. It was a bonding experience for all of them and also eye-opening for her. Similar to her previous fish camp reconstruction experience, people suffering from addiction faithfully came to help out. Eva Dawn said you could see the pride they felt as they learned new things and watched their project come to life.
The group also had an influx of tourists, as her village is on a main highway and we have a cultural center near the river. Eva Dawn is working with her fellow Tribal members to explore the opportunities for cultural tourism and traditional food processing. As Tribal members, landowners and corporate shareholders, they have unique opportunities to manage their own natural resources. Eva Dawn said they can develop projects that sustain the communities, socially, economically and environmentally.