Yup’ik fishing ancestry evokes Alaskan engineer and creator


For Mia Heavener ’00, a lot of life revolves round water. As a senior civil engineer for the Alaska Native Tribal Well being Consortium (ANTHC), she designs water methods for communities in her dwelling state. And in her break day, she typically works together with her household’s industrial fishing enterprise, which began together with her great-grandmother. Practically each summer time she takes half in a three-week expedition to fish for sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay.

Mia Heavener ’00


 “I used to be working at 1:00 a.m. this morning. You simply form of observe the tides,” explains Heavener, who’s of Yup’ik heritage. The Yup’ik are one of many largest Indigenous teams in Alaska, the place Native peoples make up practically 18% of the inhabitants. 

 “My great-grandma was born on the Nushagak Bay, and I discovered to work actually onerous right here,” she says. “It was additionally the final place, the final time I noticed my father alive.” Although she misplaced her father when she was simply 11, she selected to observe in his footsteps as a civil engineer. 

After graduating from MIT and briefly working for a agency in Cambridge, Heavener returned to Alaska and located engineering work at ANTHC. She additionally felt a calling as a author (“I’ve at all times been a daydreamer”), and took a break from that job lengthy sufficient to earn her grasp of superb arts diploma in English and writing from Colorado State College, constructing on literature research she’d pursued alongside civil engineering as an undergrad. Her first novel, set in an Alaskan fishing village and titled Underneath Nushagak Bluff, was printed in 2019. 

In a typical week, Heavener wakes up early to put in writing earlier than lengthy days of engineering. Although headquartered at ANTHC, the central Native hospital in Anchorage, she travels everywhere in the state. Of the roughly 250 villages in Alaska, she says, many have solely communal water sources, and roughly 30 nonetheless haven’t any operating water and sewer.  

“Everybody ought to have consuming water—it’s a reasonably fundamental proper—however there are positively locations in Alaska that don’t have that,” she says. Her mission is to carry correct well being and sanitation requirements to as many communities as potential. 

“The primary time I designed a water plant was within the village of Previous Kasigluk,” she recollects. “They didn’t have something there. They only haul water they usually use a bucket [for their toilet]. I bear in mind attending to see the youngsters wash their fingers of their home for the primary time—they only had foolish smiles on their faces, turning it on and off, on and off.”


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