Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Inc.

Returning to Harmony

“We were once healthy, we can be healthy again.”

olelogo_smUnresolved grief and loss have long impacted the communities, people, and families in Alaska. The message is loud and clear that it’s time, on a broad but focused scale, to take the necessary actions to embrace wellness in our communities and to use the ingenuity, resilience, and wisdom that has sustained Alaska’s indigenous peoples for centuries. 

This focus speaks strongly to the widespread support, need, and readiness to return rural Alaska Native communities to the self-resilient, reliant, sustainable, and healthy systems they have been. Community members know the solutions must come from within that drastically increases constructive and culturally-appropriate methods that bring back the statewide quality of life for Alaska’s first peoples.

Building on the success of Family Systems and supported by the Wells Fargo Rural Investment for Sustainable Economies (RISE) Program, RurAL CAP is working with the Returning to Harmony, Family Systems Master Trainers to reinvigorate this successful community development system by providing re-certification through training and technical assistance.

This is an intensive five day training for individuals willing to explore their own individual family and community dynamics.  The program begins by looking at the characteristics of a healthy family and exploring the dynamics of family patterns that have shaped our lives.  Basic family systems theory and concepts are shared and comparisons and personal stories are used to begin the theories to life.

30 former Family Systems and Rural Human Services participants will be selected to learn how to address the issue of maintaining healthy families, individuals, communities, workplaces, and organizations to overcome the impacts of trauma and rebuild lives of purpose, health, success, and security.

During the training, Master Trainers and participants will use Family Systems curriculum, partner/guest presentations, internal discussion and sharing of relevant information on rural Alaska Native health and current affairs and other appropriate elements to complete a proposed yearlong certification program. Through this program, trainers use problem-solving strategies based on a traditional/cultural framework to help communities, families, and individuals overcome the impact of trauma and rebuild lives of purpose, health, success, and security.


  • Application Due Date: January 20, 2014
  • Final Notification to Participants: January 23, 2014
  • Program: February 21-25, 2014

Returning To Harmony Master Trainers

Laura Castaneda, MSW, Project Technical Advisor:
Laura has worked in community development for the last 25 years in rural Alaska communities, Canada, and many other states, working with Native American/Alaska Native and First Nations people, with a focus on the development of mental health programs for children. She owns a clinical practice in California to accompany her education in social work; she holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work.

Patrick Frank, Project Traditional Historian:
Pat is of Athabascan descent and has worked as a Family Systems Trainer for over 20 years. He is a writer, storyteller, and consultant on traditional Alaska Native ways. Pat has studied under Alaska’s first tribal doctor and is a U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran.

Linda Joule, Project Director:
Linda is Yupik-Inupiat and has worked with strengthening family and culturally-appropriate parenting programs for 25 years. She holds a Master’s Degree in Rural Development, with a focus on Alaska Native Parenting and has served as the Executive Director for the Native Village of Kotzebue.

Ole Lake, Project Cultural Navigator:
Ole is one of the original founding members of the Rural Human Services Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a past member of the International Bering Sea Forum, and a 20+ year Family Systems trainer, city administrator, and professional trainer, presenter, facilitator, and cultural consultant. He is of Yupik descent and is fluent in the language. Ole is a respected leader, with a focus on developing, implementing, and evaluating public programs, regulations, and policies affecting indigenous peoples.

Elizabeth “Liz” Sunnyboy, Project Wellness and Recovery Advisor:
Liz is a Yupik mentor and Elder. She spent 20 years as a counselor and behavioral health provider for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel, Alaska. She is a recognized trainer and educator in substance abuse recovery, grief, traditional culture, and Family Systems. She also serves as a Human Service Adjunct Faculty member for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, having taught for the renowned Rural Human Services Program. Liz is a frequent presenter at workshops and conferences, such as the annual Rural Provider’s Conference in Alaska, and has conducted trainings for the Alaska Rural Behavioral Health Academy. She holds an A.A.S. in Human Services and is currently working towards a B.A. in Rural Development.