Profile: Meet Jolene John

Story by – Donna Bach, YKHC Public Relations

May 11, 2012 - 4 minutes read
Jolene John

In your new position as Village Operations Deputy Administrator, how will your career and life experiences assist in elevating the health status of the region in your everyday work?

My hope is to be the avenue for open communication, both from the Corporate end and from the villages. By listening, I learn about and understand better … the challenges people endure in village Alaska. Allow me to work with you as we aim at providing an excellent health care system that works for us all.

Tell us a bit about your family

My family is held together by love and faith. My parents taught us that in the toughest of times, family will be there first over everyone else and that we must work at respecting one another, regardless of our unique circumstances. My sister says to me frequently,  “kenkenrirngaitamteggen” – we will never stop loving you.

Understanding that Dr. Paul John  (YKHC Honorary Board Member) is your dad, and Dr. Theresa John is your sister—the bar must be set pretty high for education in your family. What advice do you give your daughters, nieces, nephews and relatives in their own pursuits of language preservation, retaining their cultural identity or post-secondary pursuits?

When the time feels right, and when the opportunity presents itself, I ask what they want to be when they grow up. Not everyone is designed to be college bound, so I share with them other ways of attaining education. You’ve reached success when you know you are doing something that makes you grow and feel wonderful.

Language is critical to the survival of our culture. With language, we can teach familial relationship systems, roles of men/boys and women/girls, etc. I always say knowing who I am has brought me strength, time and time again. I wish for my children and extended family to be the same.

Can you teach us a Yup’ik phrase or expression that is endearing to you?

Iluriuryaraq – to push to the limits your ability to mess with a teasing cousin (probably not the best description). I just love watching cousins that aren’t afraid to play the game and make each other or those around them giggle and laugh. Humor made us survive all these years and gave people the ability to overcome many things. In my opinion, this prevented suicide.

There is another thing called qanqauciyaraq – saying something to a person that is meant to teach a lesson. Part of this could be defined as ridiculing to show tough love, and the side effect of that includes strengthening one’s capacity to endure criticism, and want to work harder at doing something better.

You were Miss Kuskokwim, Miss WEIO and Miss NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AMERICAN INDIANS (NCAI) 1990–1991. What were the pageantry talents you shared when you received those crowns?

My talents focused on describing, demonstrating and singing/dancing Yup’ik Yuraryaraq and yuarutet.

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