Kéex Kwaan Cultural Icon Recognized with 2021 AFN President’s Award
Monday, December 13, 2021

Ruth Demmert (Kaanak) presented with Dr. Walter Soboleff “Warriors of Light award.

Ruth Demmert Kaanak of Kake, Alaska is well known for her dedication and inspiration to the Tlingit language and culture. At this year’s Alaska Federation of Natives convention, Demmert was presented with the AFN President’s Award, Dr. Walter Soboleff “Warriors of Light”. The award is presented to people who uplift people, enrich spirits, and unify people. 

Ruth Demmert was raised traditionally, living and learning from her grandparents and Kake Elders. Today she is a respected Elder and Tlingit language teacher. Even in the face of opposition she has been a strong advocate for Tlingit culture and education. She has dedicated her life to perpetuating the Tlingit culture not only for her community but the Native community. Future generations will be positively impacted by her teachings.  

“This award recognizes an Alaska Native Elder who exemplifies the highest of values and qualities important to Native people,” said Sealaska Chair Joe Nelson, who also serves as AFN co-chair. “She understands that knowledge transfer is how a people and culture thrive. Gunalchéesh Kaanak.” 

Demmert is Tlingit, Yéil (raven), Kaach.ádi 

Ruth Demmert’s Legacy  

  • Ruth is the dance group leader for Keex’ Kwaan dancers.  
  • She sits on the Council of Traditional Scholars at Sealaska Heritage Institute.  
  • She has worked on curriculum with Sealaska Heritage Institute and Goldbelt Heritage Foundation. 
  • 2018 Language Summit – “Take courage, young people, guard yourselves very well. Guard being Tlingit, Tsimshian and Haida. Take courage, all of you. And if you’re a mother, a father, or a grandparent, stand behind them.” 
  • 2018 Language Summit – “Thank you Sealaska Heritage Institute. You opened the box of knowledge, our way of life. Our teachers are very lucky that Sealaska is backing them.” 
  • 2019 Interview with edible Alaska – “First of all, to have respect for yourself, also respect for the land, respect for the animals, respect for the elders, respect for others’ property—these values are important.” 
  • In 2016 she was honored by Tlingit & Haida with a Presidents Everyday Hero Award, Culture Bearer. 
  • She was bestowed another honor during Voices of Our Ancestors language summit, held in Juneau and sponsored by Sealaska Heritage Institute in 2018. A new language scholarship, in Ruth’s name, will award grants to language learners. 
  • Ruth Demmert taught Tlingit in the Kake City School District for more than 40 years and retired in 2016. 
  • Ruth was a founding member of the Keek’ Kwáan culture camps beginning in 1988. She was the subsistence coordinator and served as coordinator and teacher for the Organized Village of Kake’s (OVK) Culture Camp. 
  • She is a lifetime member of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp #10. 

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