This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner Home Page About ANKN Publications Academic Programs Curriculum Resources Calendar of Events Announcements Site Index This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner This is part of the ANKN Banner
Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide

Yup'ik RavenHooper Bay Web-based Cultural Atlas

Framework and Lesson Plans

Cate Koskey enrolled in CCS 693 - Cultural Atlases as a Pedagogical Strategy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cross Cultural Studies. As of December 2006, this proposal and framework was being implemented in Hooper Bay, Alaska, by teachers, students, and the community.



A cultural atlas is a way to record, protect, and potentially share the cultural information of the Hooper Bay community. By involving students in the process, we hope to connect students more closely with their heritage, their community, and their families, especially the elders we talk to throughout the process. The classroom is an ideal place for students to engage in this process because not only does the activity help students meet many LYSD, State GLE, and Cultural Guideline Standards, but it creates a link between students’ education and their families and lives outside of school, hopefully creating more investment from the student into the classroom.

The cultural atlas has several parts: recording family tree information and family stories, community history, and traditional names for places in and surrounding Hooper Bay. The process would entail helping students work with elders to record the information in the above categories and then helping students enter the information into an internet web of their creation. The students and the Hooper Bay community can decide whether they would like to have the web pages available for the world to see, or if they would like to have it displayed in a more protected format. Once the cultural atlas has been created and is online, it is possible for it to be updated and amended at any time, making it a living web document.

I would like to propose that we start the process of building this cultural atlas this year, with students in the junior high, in my classroom and in Ben Nukusuk’s Yup’ik classroom. Although this project is very flexible, below I propose plans and a time frame for beginning this cultural atlas and following it through to its completion – at least it first stage of completion.

Introducing Students to the Unit

To introduce students to the concept of creating a cultural atlas, they will view completed cultural atlases hosted on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network website. Several schools and villages along the Kuskokwim River and in other parts of the state have been through this process, with students, and they have created amazing web worlds that provide excellent examples for students to follow.

Recording and Documenting Family & Community History
Part One:

Students will begin this unit by writing down everything they know about their family already, from their own minds. They will write both the pertinent names and dates on their family tree to the best of their knowledge, and then they will write a narrative of any stories that they remember their relatives telling them, including stories about life long ago, stories about things that happened to family members, and legends and myths they were told as they were growing up. When they have written what they know of their family’s history, they can begin to write stories from their own lives, their favorite memories and significant events, and their perspective on community events (such as the school fire). In this way they will follow the flow of information from the past to the present, as far back as they can remember through to their present reality, hopefully strengthening the connection between their families’s past and their present day.

Throughout this process it will become evident that community and family history are necessarily linked and intertwined. It is difficult, especially in the information-gathering phase, to weed out what information belongs in what category. Therefore, I propose that we gather them simultaneously without differentiation, and later separate stories into categories if it makes sense; family and community history and stories may well make sense to keep together, categorized in other ways that become evident along the way. Community history may also be revealed later when we work with a map of Hooper Bay and surrounding areas to learn traditional place names. In any case, I think it is important that we record information when students think of it or when an elder wants to talk about it, instead of worrying about what information fits into which category.

After students have written down all the information that they can remember, then we will have a core of information that can tell us what else we need to know; what blanks we need to fill in. Also what will become evident through this first stage of work will be which students are part of which larger family group, and we will begin to be able to group students’ family trees together and make larger family tree webs of family groups. It will also help to group students by larger family group in the interview phase, so that they will be able to form interview teams for their family members.

Next, students will draw their own map of the town of Hooper Bay, and then draw their own map of the larger Hooper Bay area. This map does not have to be to scale; it will function as a memory map for the students, so sentiment will matter more than accuracy. On their map, students will notate any combination of present structures and sites of events and memories for the students.

Finally, students will do investigation and research about the actual workings of the present-day village: government, education, health, economy, sewer and water, energy, transportation, communications, housing. They will collect what information they can from what is on the internet at US government sites and State of Alaska sites, and then we will arrange either for village leaders or other people knowledgeable about the mechanisms of the village to either visit the classroom or allow us to visit them in their offices during the interview portion of the project.

What the final products of Part One will look like:

  1. Student Family trees completed at least to grandparent level, with names in both English and Yup’ik, and as many dates as possible.
  2. Completed student-narrative of family & community memories
  3. Two completed student maps of Hooper Bay & surrounding area
  4. Internet and book research about the workings of Hooper Bay Village

Tentative Timeframe: With each group meeting at least three times a week for forty-five minutes, I would expect around four weeks for most of the students to complete this phase.

Standards addressed:
LYSD Standards: Writing W.4.1,2,3,5,11,14; W.5.1,2,3,4,5,6,10,13; W.6.1,2,3,4,5,7,11,14.
Social Studies SS.3.2,5,7; SS.4.15; SS.5.3,4,12,15,18.
Yup’ik Y1.12; Y4.10, Y5.7,9; Y6.8,10
PSS P.3.10,15,17
Technology T.2.6,8,9; T.3.10,11,12

Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive Schools, Students Section: A.1,2,7

Part Two:

When we have an idea of what information has been gathered, we can begin to formulate needs and questions for elders and other community members.

Introducing Students to Interviewing Skills

Before letting students interview elders or community members, it would be very appropriate for them to learn how to do an interview, do’s and don’ts of interviewing, and to practice interviewing each other. Also, we will practice using recording equipment, from simple tape-recorders to digital recording devices to video cameras. We will make sure that we go over asking permission from the person for recording him or her, and asking permission before doing anything with the interview beyond what was discussed. I estimate using several class periods on learning and practicing these skills.

Categories of Questions

  1. First, most obviously, we will need to ask elders and community members to help students fill in their family trees as far back as they can. It will be most appropriate if we can record Yup’ik and English names of each person on the family tree, but using just one or the other if only one is known. Also, although birth and death dates may not be known exactly, even approximations would be helpful.
  2. Then it would be wonderful if we were able to gather stories about these family members, so our next questioning goal would be to inquire about the ancestors named, or to hope that the elders and community members would tell us something about each ancestor.
  3. For interview questions about what life was like long ago, or what were important events and people in the elder or community member’s life, it would be a good part of the process for students to create the questions. However, I have listed several below that at least would be a good starting point, though they are phrased very formally and should be revised to sound more conversational prior to using them in an interview:

I. Early 20th Century:

  1. What was village life like? How did people live, their houses, their clothes, their foods, their traditions, what they did day-to-day?
  2. Were there white people in the village at the time, or white people who came to visit the village? What were they like, and what did they do or say to people in the village?
    1. What were some traditional uses of plants that you were taught as a young person? Do we still use the plant today? In the same way or different way?
    2. What were some uses of animals that you were taught as a young person that we no longer use today? Do you think our lives would be better in any way if we started using the animal in that traditional way once again?
  3. Do you remember sicknesses coming through the village? What were the times of sicknesses like? Did anything change after the sicknesses?
  4. Did you go to school? What were the teachers like? Were the schools in the village or did you travel away from the village to go to school, or both? Did you like school? Do you feel you learned a lot? Were there hard things about school?
  5. Do you remember or remember any stories about battles between different villages? What were the causes of the battles, and what were the outcomes?

II. Mid 20th Century:

  1. What was the village like when modern conveniences started to come in, like electricity, store-bought food? What was it like when schools started to be built in the village, and people started to ride snowmobiles and play basketball, and that kind of thing?
  2. Were there other things that changed from your childhood during this time?

III. Recent History:

  1. What are some things that you like about village life today, and what are some things you wish were different, or like they used to be?
  2. What are some key events in the last few years that you feel had a big impact on life in the village, whether they be governmental decisions, tribal or community decisions, accidental things that happened, other events?
  1. When we interview elders and community leaders about the mechanisms of the present-day village, we will try to piece together a picture (possibly literally, as in a chart on the wall) of how a resident of Hooper Bay receives services, such as health care, monetary assistance, safety, etc., and we will ask questions of and collect literature from village leaders to help us piece that picture together. We will also ask for a current map of Hooper Bay from village leaders so that we can contrast it with a more traditional one that we will create in the next step.
  2. With a laminated map of the area, we will ask elders about the traditional place names (in Yup’ik) of areas in and around Hooper Bay, such as parts of town, traditional fishing/hunting/berry-picking areas, paths for travel to different towns and sites around town, and places where significant events happened. We will write or ask them to write these names on the laminated map, and we will record their narrative about the name as well. It will be especially important for us to record the elder speaking the actual name so that we can make a talking map later when we create the map on the computer.

Transcription of interviews

If the interview is in English, or was continually translated during the recording, then it will be important to transcribe it – or at least selectively transcribe it. Given that we have computers in the classroom, students can listen to the recording and type the transcription. Transcription can be tedious, pain-staking work, and so it would be best to assign a team of students to do the transcription of one given interview.

What the final project part two will look like:

  1. Completed Student Family Trees
  2. Several recorded interviews with community members & elders
  3. Several recorded interviews and literature collected from village leaders
  4. Several laminated maps with traditional places and their Yup’ik names listed on them. Traditional Yup’ik names recorded by the elder.
  5. Interviews transcribed to pen & paper and/or word documents

Tentative Timeline: Interviewing opportunities will be treated like gold, so we consider this stage of the project to be ongoing, as we don’t want to turn away anyone who is willing to be interviewed even if we have completed this stage of the project. However, we will try to do a large push for gathering interview information for several weeks, and then we will focus on transcription. I estimate this stage of the project going steadily for six weeks.

Standards Addressed:
LYSD Standards:
Writing W.4.1,2,3,5,11,14; W.5.1,2,3,4,5,6,10,13; W.6.1,2,3,4,5,7,11,14.
Social Studies SS.3.2,5,7; SS.4.15; SS.5.3,4,12,15,18.
Yup’ik Y1.12; Y4.10, Y5.7,9; Y6.8,10
PSS P.3.10,15,17
Technology T.2.6,8,9; T.3.10,11,12
Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive Schools, Students Section: A.3,7; D.1,3,4

Documenting Cultural Knowledge into a Computer Web and Print Student Autobiographies

Once we have all the information we have collected in an organized, mostly-transcribed state, we can begin to create our password-protected internet web pages. Alaska Native Knowledge Network has volunteered to host our cultural atlas on its “moodle”, and the structure and beginning pages are already in existence. We just need to fill it in and expand upon its existing structure as we see fit.

First, students and parents will need to fill out permission forms for posting their information on the internet. I will have secured these forms from our site technology coordinator.

Next, students will need to have some technology tutorials to learn the process and format for creating a webpage. It will be fairly simple process to teach because it is similar to writing a word document, and most students feel comfortable typing word documents.

Then we will divide up the tasks to be typed and created, and students will work on creating this web atlas. We will deal with logistical problems as they arise, and student technology training will be ongoing.

One aspect that will not be just like a word document will be the talking map, and we will have guidance from Sean Topkok of ANKN as to how to make that part up and running.

As we will generally not have enough technology for each student to be working on a computer at the same time (though occasionally, especially during the teaching phase of the project, we will be able to go to a computer lab), students will rotate working on the computer with working on a print hard-copy of their autobiographies. They will use their memoirs, family trees, their Hooper Bay maps, as well as selected parts of interviews that resonated with them or other tidbits of information they picked up along the way. They may hand-write (especially if it is not their turn to use the computers) or type, illustrate and add photos these autobiographies. A possible format/topic list appears below:

The autobiography could be typed, with each heading on its own page, and the students could illustrate it by drawing pictures throughout, and bound or stapled with a decorative cover, also student-illustrated.

Who I am -- my name, my description, what I like
When I was Born -- how I got my names -- both Yup’ik and English, when and where I was born, what I was like when I was born
Where I come from -- A short synopsis of who my family is: family names, what I know about my oldest ancestors, who currently lives in my house, and topics such as these.
Seasonal Memories -- My favorite memories of spring, summer, fall, winter (instead of creating a chronological account of their young lives’ events, they could write an anecdotal account of their favorite/most impressive memories, categorized by season. I feel like using the seasons will help them remember experiences from different times in their lives and doing different activities, and I believe that this format would be more relevant to their lives.)
Challenges -- People I’ve lost, experiences that have been difficult (While the sad things in their lives are not easy to talk about, they are nonetheless important landmarks in students’ lives and markedly change the course of their individual paths. This section would be optional.)
Hopes & Dreams -- what I hope to accomplish, what I hope to be and do
Advice -- advice from my family members, cultural traditions I adhere to, taboos I respect

What the final product of the cultural atlas will look like:

  1. The Hooper Bay Cultural Atlas will be posted (and password protected until later notice) on the internet, hosted by the Alaska Native Knowledge Network. It will be organized clearly, with links to different areas of history, family trees, community history, traditions, and a talking map of place names.
  2. Each student will have an illustrated print-copy of his or her own autobiography.

Tentative Timeframe: This project is extremely large in scope, and it will take a lot of time. I believe it will take us through the end of the semester.

Standards Addressed:
LYSD Standards:
Writing W.4.1,2,3,5,11,14; W.5.1,2,3,4,5,6,10,13; W.6.1,2,3,4,5,7,11,14.
Social Studies SS.3.2,5,7; SS.4.15; SS.5.3,4,12,15,18.
Yup’ik Y1.12; Y4.10, Y5.7,9; Y6.8,10
PSS P.3.15,17
Technology T.2.6,8,9; T.3.10,11,12,13,15; T.4.6,7; T.5.3,4,9
Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive Schools, Students Section: A.1,2,3,7; B.4; E.5,8

Final Note

Although it would appear on the surface that this is a worthwhile and positive project for all people involved and for the Hooper Bay Community at large, I would like to present the final Cultural Atlas at a bilingual community forum at the end of the year so that the community can approve or disapprove of the project, or any aspect of the project. In that context, with the project somewhat finished, we can discuss and ask the question of how widely the cultural atlas is shared: if it is posted on the internet at large, if it is posted in only a password-protected area, or if it is not posted (Although if it were decided to not post it, I would hope to follow up on why and fix anything that was causing disapproval).


Go to University of AlaskaThe University of Alaska Fairbanks is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer, educational institution, and provider is a part of the University of Alaska system. Learn more about UA's notice of nondiscrimination.


Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
Questions or comments?
Last modified December 15, 2006