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


Submitted to the
Alaska Natives Commission
Social/Cultural Task Force at

Ft. Yukon, Alaska
June 9, 1993

4000 Old Seward Highway, Suite 100
Anchorage, Alaska 99503


Witness List | PDF Version


MR. EATON: Jeanine.


MS. KENNEDY: My -- I can't talk, my first time. My name is Jeanine Kennedy and I live in Anchorage, Alaska. I'm the executive director for an organization called the Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Rural CAP. And it's located in Anchorage. We -- I have a board of directors from all over the state of Alaska.

And the reason I wanted to speak was because I was inspired by some of the other people that spoke before me. And I wanted to offer some comments on particularly the lady who was speaking about the school system. I know that you gentlemen, and you're listening to people all over the state, you hear a lot about what the problems are and why they don't work. And what I would like to do is offer some recommendations, and particularly in regard to education.

From an example that works, Rural CAP administers Headstart in 33 communities. And nationally, Headstart is recognized as a federal program that works, as one of the few federal programs that truly works. And the reason it works when it's properly administered and under the guidelines that have been established, is that it requires that the parents be involved. The parents are required to contribute a certain amount to make the school work and to function. They have to come up with a building.

The parents pick the teachers from among themselves. Some of them have to be the teachers. And our job at Rural CAP, for instance, would be to train them to be effective teachers and about the different developments of the child and how to teach. So we teach the parents how to teach. And of course, (indiscernible) the teachers that parents have the most interest in the well-being of their children and the education of these children; they do very well.

A criticism at Headstart has been, well, by the third year it seems to wear off. And this is something that the school districts tend to perpetuate because of the fact that it reflects on their own achievements in the school. And now what's happening nationally that Headstart has been getting a lot of support, is that the school districts want to take over the Headstarts, and the first thing that they want to do is to get rid of the teachers who are unqualified and have no certificates, the parents. And they want those qualified people in there teaching those little children.

Well, I think you've heard in your testimony in Alaska that these qualified teachers, their solution to improving education is to create more education for themselves. I mean, I have a -- I graduated from the University of Alaska and I had -- my first interest was in teaching and I had a elementary certificate and a secondary certificate. And then I chose not to teach, I was doing something else, and I let my certificates lapse. And in the meantime I went to a community called Kasigluk. And the people there asked me if I would teach, and I said yes, I would, (indiscernible). And so I thought, I'll apply to LKSD, I think it is. But I wasn't qualified because my certificate had lapsed. By the time I called up the University of Alaska, State of Alaska, I had to take 25 more hours of educational courses, things like rural something or other and this and that. And they ultimately hired a person from Minnesota to teach in Kasigluk, when I was there anyhow.

So my recommendation to the Commission is that you make a recommendation to the Congress that Native governments and native organizations be allowed to develop their own systems of education to beach their people and to support (indiscernible), or whatever.

The second thing I want to talk about is a program at Fort Yukon that is called Youth Survivors. Rural CAP was participated in this and it occurred about seven years ago. Rural CAP is engaged in a philosophy or a way of approaching problems, trying to work, and it's called community development. And basically what it is, is that we are willing to go anywhere to any community and assist them if they ask for our assistance, and we don't care what they're doing. It's not our decision or interest about directing anything in a certain way. It's just -- we see ourselves as servants.

And so at that particular time in Fort Yukon, what was occurring was the people were coming together and discussing their own issues. And they decided that they wanted to do such and so. And so we were just, you know, providing resources whenever there was a program, or whenever we had some. And so about two years down the road, the community began to say, well, you know, what’s getting in the road of our development here is the fact that alcohol hurts our workers. They won't show up for work and they won't help and they quit. And maybe if we had an alcohol program, that would help.

So we wrote a proposal, and that got funded and that worked itself out. And so then they met again and they at a community meeting and invited me. And they all brainstormed about what did they want to do. And what that ended up was, they wanted to have a program that would work on -- that would help the children, the youth, and also would include the culture. And so I told them that I would watch out for funding for this kind of project. So in the meantime, the CATG had gone to Canada to take lessons in fur trapping, trapping animals. And I thought it was kind of weird. But the people came back and they were very, very excited, you know, that they had the learning to trap. And so I said, well, my God, if these adults are so excited about learning how to trap, I wonder if the kids would be excited if the people who know how to trap will teach them.

And everybody said yeah, that's a good idea. So we wrote a proposal, and I was kind of nervous, you know, I was kind of nervous, because we were recommending that we pay people in the community that knew how to trap animals to teach the kids how to trap. And you know how animal rights groups are and so forth. But anyhow, it kind of slipped through. And I also felt kind of funny about paying people to teach their culture to their kids. But then I got to thinking about it, and the communities, in urban communities, don't people pay playground people to take care of other people’s kids? So what's the difference?

And so this project got started and it got funded. And it was because of the community interest in the project. Nancy James, who's sitting here, has been the director of the project ever since its inception. And that project has been really powerful because of the fact that there was -- it was what the community wanted. It was what they designed. They ran it, they decided how they wanted to train their kids. Lot of times I wouldn't have agreed, I wouldn't have thought that was, you know, how I think it should be run. But it was how they thought it should be run.

They have a wonderful camp down there where the kids have built two cabins. They have a fish wheel. They are taken out regularly. I think the first trip they took, they shot a moose. And it surprised them and surprised the mentors too, I think. But, you know

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: I'll bet you the moose.

MS. KENNEDY: Yeah, and the moose was surprised (laughter). And the whole community supports this thing. Doyon has supported it, Doyon donated land for them to build their camp in. And it has -- you know, everybody supports the children in what they're doing. So my recommendation -- this is a long story -- but my recommendation is, because we get requests from all over the state; you know, why can't Rural CAP do this in our community, why can't, you know, we put up funding for this.

Well, this was a demonstration project, OSAP, the federal government, had funds to demonstrate something new that worked. Because the things in the past had not been working. So my recommendation is that you guys make recommendations to Congress that they fund Indian programs that are culturally based where tribes can directly write to the government and get these things funded, because they work. The things in the past have not worked. It provides an avenue for local control.

And like I said, every Native community has something to offer. In Fort Yukon, it happened to be trapping and those kinds of survivor -- survival skills. But every Indian community, even, you know, like the Hopi or all those people down there, they have something that they can give their kids, because that's the secret. You've got to give something. You can't just be always taking. And I think that kind of a project would be good.

And what happens with federal programs is, once that they get started, they're kind of hard to end, you know. And the problem is, we got to get this one started.

MR. EATON: (Indiscernible) observation (laughter).

MS. KENNEDY: Yeah. And they just -- they need to have some of these kinds of projects where there's more local control, whether it's education or they're addressing alcohol, drug abuse, that are funded for Native people to expand that around and to work with. Maybe if they don't work the first time, that's okay; to have a little time to fail and to succeed. Okay.

MR. EATON: Thank you. Now that she's already gone, is there any question (laughter). Thank you, Jeanine.

MS. KENNEDY: Uh-huh (affirmative). Did you have a question?

FATHER ELLIOTT: No, I don't, thank you.

MR. EATON: We can get you in Anchorage too.


This document was ocr scanned. We have made every attempt to keep the online document the same as the original, including the recorder's original misspellings or typos.


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Last modified July 27, 2011