Celebrating the legendary, influential women of Cordova | Teal Hansen

Cama’i, my name is Teal Hansen. My parents are Mike Webber and Toni Godes. My paternal grandparents are Bill and irene Webber. My Gramma’s parents are Susie Mesigan and Alec Donaldson and my grandfather’s parents are Stella Hansen and William Webber. My Gramma irene was nearly full Sugpiaq from the Prince William Sound village of Ellamar, but with ancestors residing in many villages across the Sound, including Chenega, Tatitlek, and the historical villages of Nuuciq and Kiniklik. My Papa Bill is Tlingit from Katalla, with ancestors residing in old Yakutat, Khantaak Island, and the Kaliakh River. Through him, I am Kwáashk’iwáan Nu Hit (Fort House), a Tlingit/Eyak Raven Clan, and the descendant of the last traditional chief of Yakutat prior contact. Our family has fished, hunted, foraged, and cared for these lands and waters that have provided for us since time immemorial.  

I was born, raised, and married in Cordova. My husband is Aaron Hansen from Kodiak. His Aleut/Alutiiq ancestors come from Chignik, while his Tlingit ancestors originated from a now-abandoned village in Southeast. Together, we have three children, Gravina, Katella, and Kalikah.  

The only time I ventured from Cordova was for college. Like my dad, my home is where I want to be. Growing up in the fishing industry, I worked as a deckhand on my dad’s gillnetter, on tenders, and as the skiffman for salmon and herring seining. Fishing supported me through college and was my first great love. I earned a BA in Art through UAA, majoring in painting with a minor in history. I am now the Cultural Coordinator for the Native Village of Eyak. Among other duties, I am the steward to our Ilanka Museum collection (a field that is dominated by women, I might add). 

However, I write this power-puff-girls piece not as a professional, but as an Indigenous woman, mother, cultural bearer, and Cordovan. While it may not be exactly what was asked of me, I appreciate The Cordova Time for giving me the opportunity to recognize and honor the women in my life. 

My Gramma irene was a powerhouse of a woman. My Papa called her “The Admiral” and absolutely worshiped her. She ran a tight ship, which allowed my Papa to focus on finding fish and reading the water and skies. My mom is a fierce feminist who is on her 19th year of owning and operating her own gillnetter, but seined and longlined for over a decade before that. She longlined while pregnant with me, until the end of the season in April. I was born mid-June, and she was back on the seine boat with me as a two-week-old, being fed and cared for by my five-year-old sister during openers. The following fall and winter, my mom brought baby-me and a pack-n-play into the cannery to cut 30 boxes of bait at a time for my dad who was longlining. I have been raised by a whole tribe of strong women of different backgrounds and personalities.  

My Auntie Kim is a pure goddess. April Beedle has been a source of consistency and stability throughout my life. My big sissy, Ashley Christensen, inherited the deck-boss genes from my Gramma and continues to take care of me. My little sis, Misa Webber, is living in Dillingham and working to change the education system to better suit Indigenous youth and integrate career training into the school system that will better support them in the village.  


My dad celebrates women and their inherent power. In his unique Mikey Webber way, he is known to say, “I love women.” In his house, mothers eat first. Likewise, my husband has never inflicted gender roles on me and is an avid supporter of the color pink. It is tradition for our kids to paint his nails befor opening moose and deer season. We were born into a matrilineal culture. This means that we inherit everything through our matrilineal line, our clan, our land, our names, songs, regalia, etc. When outside colonizers first came to North America, they did not like how Indigenous populations gave so much power to their women and this was a cultural custom they did their best to eliminate.  

I have not had to overcome challenges or adversity as a woman in my field or in my life like those before me. This can be attributed to the generation I was born into, because of this community, and thanks to the women and men in my life who openly honor women…and probably a good dose of luck. The challenges I face within my profession are a result of colonization. We are constantly trying to find a way to fit in this contemporary world without forgetting the past. We are evolving our culture and the ways we think and operate, both professionally and personally, to heal past traumas and pave the way for our youth.  

I’m asked what trials I’ve faced as a woman to get to where I am now. I think the best way to answer this is to recognize what the women before me have had to overcome to get to me and my privilege.  

My great-grandmother was 14 years old when she was married off to a 55-year-old Dutchman. A marriage that culminated in two boys that she was ashamed of having. A trauma she did her best to heal from and make amends for in the end.  

My Gramma i was an extremely hard worker and didn’t complain or talk about what was on her mind much, a product of her generation. She contributed to the family where she was needed most at any given time; raising kids, working, and running the deck. But her trials were vast and it came to a point where she hid in her drinking until she sobered up and started running, trading one addiction for another and starting the Salmon Runs.  

My mom had to fight to be treated as an equal in her lifetime and on the docks, so to speak, and it shows in the way she raised us to rebel against gender roles. A couple of years ago, my daughters and I watched a live video of NASA women operating a buggy on Mars. I immediately made note of how awesome it was that women were on this mission. My girls are of the generation where they aren’t even noticing the significance of this, due to the hard work of women before them. 

Within the cultural field, I call on many women for guidance, leadership, and support: Danaya Hoover, Brooke Mallory, Pam and Jen Smith, Sylvia Lange, Mary Babic, Angela Butler, Kanisha Lohse, and Raven Cunningham to list a few, but nearly every interaction with my elders, knowledge bearers, and other Indigenous women has left a tangible imprint on my suk/sua, my person, my spirit, my being. Nothing fuels my fire more than sitting with a group of Indigenous women, BS-ing, crafting, learning, giggling, crying… The path I walk today and my successes, both past and future, can only be attributed to the influential role of the women in my life.  

This is womanhood. It is a collective unification of love and support, of patience and growth. It is without bounds. Womanhood should be celebrated.