Click on the Alumnae’s name for a further details.

Rosita Kaahani Worl , PH.D.

Photo of Rosita Kaahani Worl , PH.D.
Tlingit Names: Yeidiklats’okw and Kaa.hani 1938
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Alaska Native Cultural Leadership


Dr. Rosita Kaahani Worl, whose Tlingit names are Yeidiklats’okw and Kaa.hani, is of the Ch’áak’(Eagle moiety of the Shangukeidi (Thunderbird) Clan from the Kawdiyaayi Hít (House Lowered from the Sun) of Klukwan, and a Child of the Sockeye Clan. Worl is a self-proclaimed feminist who has made many contributions to increase awareness about Alaska Native cultures and subsistence economies. She has authored numerous publications on Alaska Native issues and cultural practices including subsistence lifestyles, Alaska Native women’s issues, Indian law and policy and southeast Alaska Native culture and history.

Born in a cabin on a beach without the benefit of a physician, Worl was raised insoutheast Alaska by her grandmother, aunt and mother, and commercial fished with her uncle in Kake. “Females back then weren’t allowed to participate in fishing activities,” Wohl explained. At age six, Worl was taken to the Haines House to learn English and to be “civilized” and “Christianized.” She was there for three years before her mother was able to take her home to live with her 12 brothers and sisters. Looking back on the experience, “I learned how to interact with non-Natives,” Worl said, “but my mother always instilled in me that I had a responsibility to the people.”

At age 13 Worl was told she would be the bride in an arranged marriage but the family agreed she should first finish high school. After high school, Worl ran a program that recruited Alaska Natives for higher education and in essence, she said, “I recruited myself.” Worl started college by taking one class at a time.  “School wasn’t easy because there were so many (English) words I didn’t know.  I had to look them up andometimes I had to read things three times before I understood what I was reading. I had a sociology instructor who mentored me, but I really had to work hard.  I was already a mother of three and my kids and I studied together.”

Worl received her bachelor’s degree from Alaska Methodist University and her master’s and doctorate’s degrees in Anthropology from Harvard University.  In academia, she has served as the social scientific researcher at the University of Alaska Arctic Environmental  Information and Data Center and is currently an assistant professor of anthropology at the University  of Alaska Southeast. Worl has done extensive research throughout Alaska and the circumpolar Arctic. She conducted the first social scientific study projecting socio-cultural impacts of offshore oil development on the Inupiat and she has studied traditional aboriginal whaling, which gave her the privilege of being one of the first women allowed to go whaling. Worl also served as a scientific advisor to the U.S. Whaling Commission and has conducted research on seal hunting in Canada for the Royal Commission on Sealing. She served on the National Scientific Advisory Committee and the National Science Foundation Polar Programs Committee. Worl also served as special advisor to the Honorable Thomas Berger of the Alaska Native Review Commission and studied the impacts of ANCSA.

Currently, Worl is the president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, which is dedicated to preserving and maintaining the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures and languages; and a board member of Sealaska Corporation. Worl also serves on the Alaska Native Brotherhood Subsistence Committee and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indians Economic Development Commission.

On a state and national level, Worl serves on the board of directors of the Alaska Federation of Natives and chairs the Subsistence Cultural Survival Committees, the National Museum of American Indians and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act National Committee. She was special staff assistant for Native Affairs to Alaska Gov. Steve Cowper and served as a member of President Bill Clinton’s Northwest Sustainability Commission. Worl was appointed to the National Census Board focusing on American Indian issues and is a founding member of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. She also served as a member of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History Arctic Committee.

In addition to her plethora of academic and professional accomplishments, Worl is the recipient of numerous honors, including a Ford Foundation Fellowship (1972-1977), International Women’s Year Conference (1977), the Gloria Steinem Award for Empowerment (1989), Women of Hope (1997), Outstanding Contribution, Alaska Native Heritage Center (2000), Human Rights Award, Cultural Survival (2002), Women of Courage Award (NWPC (2003), Native People Award Enhancing the Native Alaskan Community, Wells Fargo (2004), National Museum of the Indian Smithsonian Institution Honor (2006), University of Alaska Southeast Commencement Speaker (2006), Distinguished Service to the Humanities Award (2008) Governor’s Award for the Arts & Humanities, Solon T. Kimball Award for Public and Applied Anthropology, American Anthropological Association (2008), Lifetime Achievement Award, Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (2011) and the Alaska Federation of Natives Citizen of the Year Award (2011). Worl is also one of 11 American Indian women activists represented in a national poster campaign called “Women of Hope,” which highlights their contributions to their people and society. Worl said, “I continue every morning to implore my ancestors to bestow on me the qualities of an Elder – to be kind, compassionate and to do the right thing.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Harriman Expedition Retraced, site Index, Rosita Worl, Anthropologist.
Dr. Rosita Worl’s Curricula Vita provided by Sea Alaska Heritage Institute with permission from Dr. Worl. (2012)
Dr. Rosita Worl’s bio provided by Sea Alaska Heritage Institute with permission from Dr. Worl. (2012)