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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide
 

A Film Study of Classrooms

in Western Alaska

PART TWO
ANALYSIS OF THE FILM

A Home in Kwethluk

This was the home of a family in the village. Most of the activities of this home take place in one room, estimated to be twelve feet square. It is crowded with a stove, table, washing machine, benches and chairs, a wash tub, shelves, wash stand and a variety of other goods as well as six to ten people during the filming. Many activities take place in this room: washing clothes, cooking, eating, washing and dressing children, as well as a great deal of socializing. At several points in the filming all these activities are going on at the same time; there is a constant coming and going of people. Despite this constant activity there is little sense of congestion and all these activities continue at a slow, steady pace amid smiles and laughter. No one bumps into anyone else. No one gets “in the way.” None of the activities appear to conflict with each other. People make subtle adjustments for each other as they move around, an intertwining of movements which prevents any friction from occurring.

One brief occurrence in the filming may serve to illustrate the tone of interrelationships. An older woman, standing in a doorway next to the table, reaches across the table to hand something to a man seated at the other end. A young woman sits between the older woman and the man, with her back to the older woman. As the older woman starts to reach across the table, the young woman swings her head out of the way, allowing smooth passage of the object across the table. When the older woman draws her hand back, the younger woman moves her head emphasizing the series of smooth and perfectly timed movements. Meanwhile, the other people at the table have followed the whole process from start to finish, as can be seen by the rise, slow rotation and drop of heads as the object is lowered to the table in front of the man as he and everyone else look at it (Illus. 134-139).

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In this brief example we can see acute interpersonal awareness, smooth pacing, group-wide involvement in or awareness of activities, and the smooth flow of movements of people relative to each other. Most of these movements and interrelationships are undramatic. In viewing the footage, what is impressive is no one sequence or event, but rather the totality of the footage. Carefully ordered use of space, a shared pacing and smooth interrelating of movements make it possible for a large number of people in a small space to converse, eat, cook, wash and otherwise carry out the necessary activities of the day with little sense of crowding, friction or stress. This kind of order and the relaxed atmosphere it creates can come only from a highly formalized sensitivity to space and the motions of others. There is also a timing and controlling of movement and activities so that no conflict occurs, an interrelationship of people’s motions which is the epitomy of flow.

 

 

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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
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Phone (907) 474.1902
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Last modified November 12, 2008