Leatha Merculieff, SEARHC’s vice president of executive administration, awards a “Healthy is Here” grant to Petersburg Indian Association tribal council president Tracy Welch. (Photo courtesy of Ross Nannauck III)

The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium awarded a $50,000 healthy living grant to the Petersburg Indian Association Monday night. SEARHC is a regional non-profit health care provider operating in 20 communities in Southeast Alaska. It has a 15-person board of directors representing as many communities in Southeast. The organization is awarding a “Healthy is Here” grant to tribal organizations in each of the 15 communities.

Leatha Merculieff , SEARHC’s vice president of executive administration, said the money is intended for healthy activities.

“It’s up to the Petersburg Indian Association to decide what is healthy and what healthy activities means to them,” Merculieff said. “It’s not for us to decide what they’re going to do with the money. They can build a playground, they can buy vegetables for tribal members. It’s really up to them what they think is healthy.”

SEARHC started distributing checks about a month ago. Projects are not yet decided but Merculieff said they’ve heard some of the ideas for using the grants.

“In Klukwan they’re going to, (they have) the idea of expanding their library for their kids and their community,” she said. “We’ve heard ideas of purchasing a whole bunch of canned vegetables and fruit in Angoon for having a closet full of vegetables so their tribal members can come and get canned vegetables and canned fruit. It varies across. Craig had the idea of sponsoring a basketball tournament, so it just really varies.”

Ross Nannauck III is a SEARHC board member from Petersburg and he’s confident the PIA tribal council will be able to find a good use for the money in the community.

“There’s always the need for something,” Nannauck said. “Right now a lot of places are having problems with the addictions that are going on and that‘s one of the things, such as our ANB (Alaska Native Brotherhood) here in town is starting up a talking circle, healing circle to help address that and I was mentioning to them about the grant.”

The full Petersburg Indian Association tribal council hasn’t yet had a chance to meet and decided on how to spend the money.

“We have already received multiple requests and ideas, all of which will be taken under advisement as we begin the decision making process,” said tribal council president Tracy Welch in an email. “Many areas of need have been identified and we look forward to putting the funding to good use. We’d like to thank SEARHC for their generosity and commitment to bettering the lives of the citizens that they serve.

The grant could be annual depending on the bottom line for the regional health care provider. Tribal organizations have to spend the money by September 30th in order to be eligible for a grant next year.