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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
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Lessons & Units

A database of lessons and units searchable by content and cultural standards, cultural region and grade level. More units will be available soon. You can use Acrobat Reader to look at the PDF version of the Cover Sheet for the Units and Self-Assessment for Cultural Standards in Practice.


Lesson 8 Stories and Beliefs about Birds


1) Students will retell at least one traditional story about a bird found around the village.

2) Students will cite one belief about a local bird.

3) Students will respect birds as an important part of their culture and of the natural world around them.



1) Read a traditional story about a bird which is found locally. (Raven is a good one as there are raven stories in many cultures.) Discuss what is a "traditional" story as compared to a life experience story or fiction and how sometimes traditional stories were used to explain certain bird characteristics (eg. why raven is black). Point out that there may be different versions of the same story. Ask students if they have heard any local stories about birds. Read a story about a different bird.

2) Assign students to interview family members about stories and beliefs involving birds. Invite an elder to come to class to relate a bird story and tell about local beliefs and taboos involving birds. Discuss these beliefs and others which students may have heard. For example there is a bird which tells that the fish are coming; some people believe that the owl foretells death and that the raven's behavior can indicate luck.

Discuss why there were so many beliefs about the birds? List the reasons birds were highly respected. Why was it considered bad luck if unused feathers and other bird parts were not properly disposed of? (Refer to Make Prayers to the Raven)

3) Have students retell a traditional story either orally or in written form.

4) Make and illustrate a class book of local bird beliefs.


Resource Materials for Lesson 8

The most important resource for this section is the elders and other community members. They have information which cannot be found in books. In addition to their actual stories they can impart to the students a sense of the cultural importance of what they are relating.

There are many collections of traditional stories and beliefs from the various Alaskan cultures which contain stories and beliefs about birds. A few of them are listed below:

Beliefs from Nikolai, NBMDC

- "Spruce Hens", pg. 40


Athabaskan Stories by Alice Brean

- "The Loon and the Blind Man" pg. 29

- "The Raven Story", pg. 37

- "The Camprobber and the Woodpecker", pg. 59


Eagle Han Huch'in Hodok by Ruth Ridley

- "Raven", pg. 15


Nikolai Hwch'ihwzoya by Miska Deaphon

- "Raven and Mink", pg. 13

- "Raven Helped the People", pg. 13


Tales of Eskimo Alaska by O.W. Frost

- "How Crane Got His Blue Eyes". pg. 23

- "Old Crow and Mink", pg. 27

- "A Blind Man and the Loon", pg. 62


Bakk'aatugh Ts'uhuniy: Stories We Live By, by Catherine Attla

- "Eagle Man Who Carried People Far Away", pg. 85

- "Great Raven Who Killed a Water Monster", pg. 133

- "Great Raven Killed A Whale", pg. 149

- "The Woodpecker Who Starved His Wife", pg. 191


Engithidong Xugixudhoy. Their Stories of Long Ago by Belle Deacon

- "Two Girls and Crow Man", pg. 78

- "Spruce Grouse and Mink", pg. 118


Iditarod Area School District has published two traditional bird stories

Nilty: Crane by John Paul of Holy Cross, 1987

Jezra (Camprobbers), by Lena Petruska of Nikolai, 1997



Spruce Hens

During a snowfall, the people watched the spruce hens. If the hens flew from tree to tree, the weather would be warm.

Spruce Hens

Lesson 1

What is a Bird?

Lesson 2


Lesson 3

Identifying Local Birds

Lesson 4

Bird Habits and Habitat

Lesson 5

Seasons and Migration

Lesson 6

Birds as Food

Lesson 7

Other Traditional Uses of Birds

Lesson 8

Traditional Stories and Beliefs about Birds


Whouy Sze Kuinalth
"Teaching Our Many Grandchildren"
Tauhna Cauyalitahtug
(To Make a Drum)
Math Story Problems
St. Lawrence Island Rain Parka Winds and Weather Willow
Driftwood Snowshoes Moose
Plants of the Tundra Animal Classification for Yup'ik Region Rabbit Snaring
The Right Tool for the Job
Fishing Tools and Technology
Blackfish Family Tree
Medicinal Plants of the Kodiak Alutiiq Archipelago Beaver in Interior Alaska Digging and Preparing Spruce Roots
Moose in Interior Alaska Birds Around the Village Dog Salmon


Handbook for Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum by Sidney Stephens
Excerpt: "The information and insights contained in this document will be of interest to anyone involved in bringing local knowledge to bear in school curriculum. Drawing upon the efforts of many people over a period of several years, Sidney Stephens has managed to distill and synthesize the critical ingredients for making the teaching of science relevant and meaningful in culturally adaptable ways."



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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
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Last modified August 18, 2006