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Ernestine Hayes awarded City Museum’s Marie Darlin Prize

September 16, 2021 – News

Ernestine Hayes, University of Alaska Southeast Professor of English Emerita and acclaimed author, has been awarded the first annual $5,000 Marie Darlin Prize. The Marie Darlin Prize is administered through the Juneau-Douglas City Museum and is awarded annually to an individual or collaboration whose work, through a combination of vision and shared sense of community, expresses a regional commitment to women’s rights, social history, or community advocacy.

Ernestine Hayes is a member of the Kaagwaataan clan, on the Eagle side of the Tlingit nation. She grew up in Juneau, returned to Alaska at age forty, and in her fifties pursued university studies to earn a Bachelor of Liberal Arts (magna cum laude) at the University of Alaska Southeast and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Literary Arts at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Upon completing academic studies, Ernestine returned to the UAS community working tirelessly from a position as an adjunct instructor to become a tenured professor. She taught multiple courses in composition, creative, literary, memoir, and nature writing, as well as offering various courses in Alaska Native and Native American literature and Alaska Studies. Always mindful of the entire UAS community of students, Ernestine Hayes not only mentored those with great writing and literary promise, but was committed to teaching preparatory writing skills and accelerated college writing courses to promote self-confidence among Alaska students whose backgrounds had not groomed them for academic success. In retirement, Ernestine Hayes has been honored by UAS with the title of Professor of English, Emerita, and continues on occasion to teach accelerated composition and other writing courses.

Ernestine Hayes is the acclaimed author of the creative non-fiction Alaska Native memoirs, Blonde Indian (University of Arizona Press, 2006), for which she received the American Book Award and was a PEN-USA Non-Fiction Award finalist, and The Tao of Raven (University of WashingtonPress, 2017). She also wrote Tlingit and English versions of the delightful children’s picture book, Aanka Xóodzi ka Aasgutu Xóodzi Shkalneegí / The Story of the Town Bear and the Forest Bear (Hazy Island Books, 2010). Ernestine Hayes is also the author of Juneau in the “Images of America” Series (Arcadia Publishing, 2013). This pictorial local history chronicles not only the familiar stories of gold mining and commercial fishing, but in addition emphasizes the Aak’w Kwaan settlement of the land and waters “Since Time Immemorial,” the establishment of Presbyterian, Orthodox, and Methodist missions and schools, and the contributions of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, Masonic Lodges, Filipino and other communities to Juneau’s municipal government and civic life. Ernestine Hayes also wrote the occasional series “Edge of the Village” for The Juneau Empire (2004-2005), which brought local Indigenous history and issues of everyday life into the homes of Juneau residents.

Ernestine Hayes’s passionate commitment to Juneau and Alaska history, and her advocacy for Alaska Native rights, culture, and decolonization, expressed both through her writing and countless public presentations, is unparalleled. The highest acknowledgement of her literary and community achievements was realized in being named Alaska State Writer Laureate for consecutive years, 2017-2018.  Ernestine Hayes embodies, at the highest level, the commitment to community values and regional identity for which this prize was created.