Guidelines for Respecting Cultural Knowledge
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Pictured on cover: Yup'ik
elder Louise Tall. Photo by Joy Shantz
Assembly of Alaska Native Educators
February 1, 2000
Published by the Alaska Native Knowledge Network
Also available in downloadable PDF
These guidelines are sponsored by:
The following guidelines address issues of concern in the documentation,
representation and utilization of traditional cultural knowledge as they relate
to the role of various participants, including Elders, authors, curriculum developers,
classroom teachers, publishers and researchers. Special attention is given to
the educational implications for the integration of indigenous knowledge and
practices in schools throughout Alaska. The guidance offered in the following
pages is intended to encourage the incorporation of traditional knowledge and
teaching practices in schools by minimizing the potential for misuse and misunderstanding
in the process. It is hoped that these guidelines will facilitate the coming
together of the many cultural traditions that coexist in Alaska in constructive,
respectful and mutually beneficial ways.
Native educators from throughout the state contributed to the
development of these guidelines through a series of workshops and meetings associated
with the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative. Representatives of the Native educator
organizations listed on the cover participated in the meetings and ratified
the final document. The purpose of these guidelines is to offer assistance to
educational personnel and others who are seeking to incorporate the Alaska Standards
for Culturally-Responsive Schools in their work. Using these guidelines will
help expand the base of knowledge and expertise that culturally-responsive teachers
(including Elders, aides, bilingual instructors, etc.) are able to draw upon
to enliven their work as educators.
Throughout this document, Elders are accorded
a central role as the primary source of cultural knowledge. It should be
understood that the identification
of "Elders" as culture-bearers is not simply a matter of chronological
age, but a function of the respect accorded to individuals in each community
who exemplify the values and lifeways of the local culture and who possess
wisdom and willingness to pass their knowledge on to future generations. Respected
Elders serve as the philosophers, professors and visionaries of a cultural
In addition, many aspects of cultural knowledge can be learned from other members
of a community who have not yet been recognized as Elders, but seek to practice
and teach local lifeways in culturally-appropriate ways.
Along with these guidelines are a set of general recommendations
aimed at stipulating the kind of steps that need to be taken to achieve the
goals for which they are intended. State and federal agencies, universities,
school districts, textbook publishers and Native communities are all encouraged
to review their policies, programs and practices and to adopt these guidelines
and recommendations wherever appropriate. In so doing, the educational experiences
of students throughout Alaska will be enriched and the future well-being of
the communities being served will be enhanced.
Further information on issues related to the implementation
of these guidelines, as well as additional copies, may be obtained from the
Native Knowledge Network, University of Alaska Fairbanks, PO Box 756730, Fairbanks,
AK 99775-6730 (http://ankn.uaf.edu).
Guidelines for Native Elders
As one of the primary sources of traditional
cultural knowledge, Native Elders bear the responsibility to share and pass
on that knowledge in ways that are compatible with traditional teachings and
Native Elders may increase their cultural responsiveness through
the following actions:
- Participate in local and regional Elders councils
as a way to help formulate, document and pass on traditional cultural knowledge
- Help make explicit and incorporate locally-appropriate cultural values in
all aspects of life in the community, while recognizing the diversity of opinion
that may exist.
- Make a point to utilize traditional ways of knowing, teaching, listening
and learning in passing on cultural knowledge to others in the community.
- Seek out information on ways to protect intellectual property rights and
retain copyright authority over all local knowledge that is being shared with
others for documentation purposes.
- Carefully review contracts and release forms to determine who controls the
distribution of any publications and associated royalties.
- Review all transcripts of cultural information that has been written down
to insure accuracy.
- Follow appropriate traditional protocols as much as possible in the interpretation
and utilization of cultural knowledge.
- Assist willing members of the community to acquire the knowledge and skills
needed to assume the role of Elder for future generations.
Guidelines for Authors and Illustrators
Authors and illustrators should take all steps
necessary to insure that any representation of cultural content is accurate,
contextually appropriate and explicitly acknowledged.
Authors and illustrators may increase their cultural responsiveness
through the following actions:
- Make it a practice to insure that all cultural content has been acquired
under informed consent and has been reviewed for accuracy and appropriateness
by knowledgeable local people representative of the culture in question.
- Arrange for copyright authority and royalties to be retained or shared by
the person or community from which the cultural information originated, and
follow local protocols for its approval and distribution.
- Insure controlled access for sensitive cultural information that has not
been explicitly authorized for general distribution.
- Be explicit in describing how all cultural knowledge and material has been
acquired, authenticated and utilized, and present any significant differing
points of view that may exist.
- Make explicit the audience(s) for which a cultural document is intended,
as well as the point of view of the person(s) preparing the document.
- Make every effort to utilize traditional names for people, places, items,
etc., adhering to local conventions for spelling and pronunciation.
- Identify all primary contributors and secondary sources for a particular
document, and share the authorship whenever possible.
- Acquire extensive first-hand experience in a new cultural context before
writing about it.
- Carefully explain the intent and use when obtaining permission to take photographs
or videos, and make it clear in publication whether they have been staged
as a re-enactment or represent actual events.
- When documenting oral history, recognize and consider the power of the written
word and the implications of putting oral tradition with all its non-verbal
connotations down on paper, always striving to convey the original meaning
and context as much as possible.
Guidelines for Curriculum Developers
Curriculum developers and administrators should
provide multiple avenues for the incorporation of locally-recognized expertise
in all actions related to the use and interpretation of local cultural knowledge
Curriculum developers and administrators may increase their cultural
responsiveness through the following actions:
- Establish an easily accessible repository of culturally-appropriate resource
materials and knowledgeable expertise from the community.
- Include the voices of representatives from the local culture in the curriculum
materials used in the school.
- Utilize the natural environment of the community to move educational activities
beyond the classroom as a way of fostering place-based education and deepening
the learning experiences of students.
- Support the implementation of an Elders-in-Residence program in each school
- Provide an in-depth cultural orientation program for all new teachers and
- Promote the incorporation of the Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive
Schools in all aspects of the school curriculum, while demonstrating their
applicability in providing multiple avenues to meet the State Content Standards.
- Utilize Elders and Native teachers from the local community to acquire a
comprehensive understanding of all aspects of the local, regional and statewide
context in which the students live, particularly as it relates to the well-being
and survival of the local culture.
- Make use of locally-produced resource materials (reports, videos, maps,
books, tribal documents, etc.) in all subject areas and work in close collaboration
with local agencies to enrich the curriculum beyond the scope of commercially-produced
- Establish a review committee of locally-knowledgeable people to review all
textbooks and other curriculum materials for accuracy and appropriateness
in relation to the local cultural context, as well as to examine the overall
cultural responsiveness of the educational system.
Guidelines for Educators
Classroom teachers are responsible for drawing
upon Elders and other cultural experts in the surrounding community to make
sure all resource materials and learning activities are culturally accurate
Teachers may increase their cultural responsiveness through the
- Learn how to use local ways of knowing and teaching to link the knowledge
base of the school to that of the community.
- Make effective use of local expertise, especially Elders, as co-teachers
whenever local cultural knowledge is being addressed in the curriculum.
- Take steps to recognize and validate all aspects of the knowledge students
bring with them, and assist them in their on-going quest for personal and
- Develop the observation and listening skills necessary to acquire an in-depth
understanding of the knowledge system indigenous to the local community and
apply that understanding in teaching practice.
- Carefully review all curriculum resource materials to insure cultural accuracy
- Make every effort to utilize locally-relevant curriculum materials with
which students can readily identify, including materials prepared by Native
- Provide sufficient flexibility in scheduling Elder participation so they
are able to fully share what they know with minimal interference by the clock,
and provide enough advance notice for them to make the necessary preparations.
- Align all subject matter with the Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive
Schools and develop curriculum models that are based on the local cultural
and environmental experiences of the students.
- Recognize the importance of cultural and intellectual property rights in
teaching practice and honor such rights in all aspects of the selection and
utilization of curriculum resources (see page 29 for details.)
Guidelines for Editors and Publishers
Editors and publishers should utilize culturally-knowledgeable
authors and establish multiple levels of review to insure that all publications
are culturally accurate and appropriate.
Editors and publishers may increase their cultural responsiveness
through the following actions:
- Encourage and support Native-authors and provide appropriate biographical
information and photographs of the author(s) of culturally-oriented material.
- Return a significant proportion of publication proceeds and royalties to
the person or community from which it originated.
- Submit all manuscripts with cultural content to locally-knowledgeable personnel
for review, making effective use of local and regional entities set up for
- Insure appropriate review, approval and access for all digital and Internet-based
- Resolve all disagreements on cultural content or distribution before final
- Always return to the original source for re-authorization of subsequent
- All content of textbooks for general curricular use
should be examined to make sure it is widely accepted and recognized, and
not just an individual
- Honor all local conventions for recognizing cultural and intellectual property
Guidelines for Document Reviewers
Reviewers should give informed consideration
to the cultural perspectives of all groups represented in documents subjected
Document reviewers may increase their cultural responsiveness
through the following actions:
- Always be as explicit as possible in identifying the background experience
and personal reference points on which the interpretation of cultural meaning
- Whenever possible and appropriate, reviews of cultural materials should
be provided from multiple perspectives and interpretations.
- When critical decisions about a publication are to be made, a panel of reviewers
should be established in such a way as to provide a cross-check from several
- Publications that misrepresent or omit cultural content should be identified
as such, regardless of their remaining literary merit.
- Reviews of movies involving cultural themes should utilize the same guidelines
as those outlined for published documents.
Guidelines for Researchers
Researchers are ethically responsible for obtaining
informed consent, accurately representing the cultural perspective and protecting
the cultural integrity and rights of all participants in a research endeavor.
Researchers may increase their cultural responsiveness through
the following actions:
- Effectively identify and utilize the expertise in participating communities
to enhance the quality of data gathering as well as the data itself, and use
caution in applying external frames of reference in its analysis and interpretation.
- Insure controlled access for sensitive cultural information that has not
been explicitly authorized for general distribution, as determined by members
of the local community.
- Submit research plans as well as results for review by a locally-knowledgeable
group and abide by its recommendations to the maximum extent possible.
- Provide full disclosure of funding sources, sponsors, institutional affiliations
- Include explicit recognition of all research contributors in the final report.
- Abide by the research principles and guidelines established by the Alaska
Federation of Natives and other state, national and international organizations
representing indigenous peoples.
Guidelines for Native Language
Native language specialists are responsible
for taking all steps possible to accurately convey the meaning associated with
cultural knowledge that has been shared in a traditional language.
Native language specialists may increase their cultural responsiveness
through the following actions:
- Whenever possible, utilize a panel of local experts rather than a single
source to corroborate translation and interpretation of language materials,
as well as to construct words for new terms.
- Encourage the use and teaching of the local language in ways that provide
appropriate context for conveying accurate meaning and interpretation, including
an appreciation for the subtleties of story construction, use of metaphor
and oratorical skills.
- Provide Elders with opportunities and support to share what they know in
the local language.
- Whenever possible, utilize simultaneous translation equipment at meetings
to facilitate the use of the local language.
- Prepare curriculum resource materials that utilize the local language, so
as to make it as easy as possible for teachers to draw upon the local language
in their teaching.
Guidelines for Native Community
Native community organizations should establish
a process for review and authorization of activities involving the gathering,
documentation and use of local cultural knowledge.
Native community organizations may increase their cultural responsiveness
through the following actions:
- The Native educator associations should establish regional clearinghouses
to provide an on-going process for the review and certification of cultural
resource materials, including utilizing the available expertise of retired
- Native educators should engage in critical self-assessment and participatory
research to ascertain the extent to which their teaching practices are effectively
grounded in the traditional ways of transmitting the culture of the surrounding
- Native communities should provide a support mechanism to assist Elders in
understanding the processes of giving informed consent and filing for copyright
protections, and publicize the availability of such assistance through public
service announcements on the radio so all Elders are aware of their rights.
- Each community and region should establish a process for reviewing and approving
research proposals that may impact their area.
- Each community should establish a process for determining what is considered
public knowledge vs. private knowledge, as well as how and with whom such
knowledge should be shared.
- Native communities should receive copies and maintain a repository of all
documents that relate to the local area.
- Native communities/tribes should foster the incorporation of traditional
knowledge, language and protocols in all aspects of community life and organizational
- As regional tribal colleges are established, they should provide a support
structure for the implementation of these guidelines in each of their respective
Guidelines for the General Public
As the users and audience for cultural knowledge,
the general public has a responsibility to exercise informed critical judgement
about the cultural authenticity and appropriateness of the materials they utilize.
Members of the general public may increase their cultural responsiveness
through the following actions:
- Refrain from purchasing or using publications that do not represent traditional
cultures in accurate and appropriate ways.
- Encourage and support Native peoples efforts to
apply their own criteria to the review and approval of documents representing
their cultural traditions.
- Contribute to and participate respectfully in local cultural events to gain
a better understanding of the range of cultural traditions that strive to
coexist in Alaska.
- Make room in all community events for multiple cultural traditions to be
The following recommendation are offered to
support the effective implementation of the guidelines for documenting, representing
and utilizing cultural knowledge outlined above.
- The Alaska Standards
for Culturally-Responsive Schools should be used as a general guide for
any educational activity involving cultural documentation, representation
- A statewide indigenous literary review board (Honoring Alaskas
Indigenous LiteratureHAIL) should be established with representation
from each of the regional Native educator associations to oversee the implementation
of the recommendations that follow.
- A statewide "Alaska Indigenous Knowledge Multimedia Working Group" should
be established to examine the applicability of the above guidelines to
the production of electronic media and the publication and utilization
of cultural knowledge via the Internet.
- Criteria for "product certification" of materials with cultural
content should be established and implemented by regional literary review
committees formed through the regional Native educator associations. The "Raven"
images from the ANKN logo could be used as a "stamp of approval" for
each cultural region.
- Each regional HAIL literary review committee should
develop a list of authorized reviewers for publications reflecting cultural
to the respective region.
- An annotated bibliography of the best materials
representing local cultures should be compiled by each regional HAIL literary
review committee and published
on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network web site for use by teachers and curriculum
developers throughout the state.
- HAIL and the regional literary review boards should
establish prestigious annual awards to honor Native Elders, authors, illustrators
and others who
make a significant contribution to the documentation and representation of
- Incentives, resources and opportunities should be
provided to encourage and support Native authors, illustrators, story-tellers,
etc. who can bring
a strong Native voice to the documentation and representation of Native cultural
knowledge and traditions.
- The guidelines outlined in this publication should
be incorporated in university courses and made an integral part of all
teacher preparation and
cultural orientation programs.
- An annotated bibliography of resource materials
that address cultural and intellectual property issues associated with
and utilizing cultural knowledge should be maintained on the Alaska Native
Knowledge Network web site. Anyone with relevant reference material is
to submit the necessary information to add it to the initial bibliography
included with these guidelines.
Glossary Of Terms
Following is a list of terms and items referred to in the
Guidelines for Respecting Cultural Knowledge that sometimes have specialized
meanings that arent
commonly known. A brief definition or explanation of each item is provided
to help users of these guidelines to accurately interpret their intent and
them appropriately. If further elaboration is needed, most of these items can
also be found in the list of related reference materials that is included.
further assistance in interpreting the guidelines, please contact the Alaska
Native Knowledge Network.
Definition: A description that shows how something is like
others in that general category, but also shows how it is different or distinct
from others in that group.
Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive Schools: Guidelines
developed by the Native Educator Associations of the State of Alaska, for schools
and communities to evaluate what they are doing to promote the cultural well-being
of the young people whom they are responsible for educating.
Associated royalties: The share paid
to an author or composer from the profits derived from the sale or performance
or use of the authors
creation in collaboration with other individuals or groups. A share paid to
the creator for the right to use their invention or services.
Authenticated: Established as being genuine; proven to
be the real thing.
Author: A person who creates or originates an idea or work;
not limited to written creations.
Biographical information: Important
information that summarizes a persons life and work. Generally it includes
information on birth, ethnic heritage, cultural experiences, education, research,
community activities or
any other matters that would be of importance to the readers.
Clearinghouse: A location or group through which information
or materials regarding a cultural group or groups is collected and distributed
Consent form: A signed form granting permission for a person
or entity to do research or other activities and indicating how the work will
be performed or published (see also Release form).
Copyright: A form of legal protection
for both published and unpublished "original works of authorship" (including
literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works),
so they cannot
be reproduced without the copyright holders consent. Under current law, copyright
is usually held by an individual or an organization, though efforts are underway
to address the issue of copyright protection for community-shared cultural
Cultural accuracy: Cultural information that is accepted
by the members of a particular society as being an appropriate and accurate
representation of that society.
Cultural context: The cultural setting or situation in
which an idea, custom, skill or art was created and performed.
Cultural experts: Members of a particular society, with
its own cultural tradition, who are recognized by the rest of the society as
knowledgeable of the culture of that society, especially in the area of arts,
beliefs, customs, organization and values.
Cultural integrity: In regards to research, the researcher
is obliged to respect his or her informants and the information they provide
so that it is presented to others in an accurate, sensitive and integrated manner.
Cultural perspective: The views generally accepted by Elders
and knowledgeable practitioners of a culture.
Cultural responsibilities: The responsibilities that members
of a particular society with its own cultural system have to carry out to understand,
promote, protect and perpetuate cultural information and practices such as language,
art, social rules, values and beliefs, and they must do so in an honest and
Culture: A system of ideas and beliefs
that can be seen in peoples creations and activities, which over time,
comes to characterize the people who share in the system.
Curriculum: A course, or series of courses in an educational
program. It may include stories, legends, textbooks, materials and other types
of resources for instruction.
Elders-in-residence: A program that involves Elders in
teaching and curriculum development in a formal educational setting (oftentimes
a university), and is intended to impact the content of courses and the way
the material is taught.
Explicit recognition: Contributors to materials or information
provided by members of a cultural group must be openly and clearly indicated.
This recognition should include their names, ethnic background, and contributions.
A researcher should allow the contributors to review the information provided
by them, prior to publication, to insure that is accurately reflects what they
said or intended.
Guidelines: A set of rules, regulations or suggestions
that are set out for those who are going to carry out some activity such as
preparing curriculum, writing, reviewing, or organizing materials.
Indigenous knowledge system: The unified knowledge that
originates from and is characteristic of a particular society and its culture.
Informed consent: Consent that is granted
only after one understands all that the consent permits or prohibits and
the implications and
possible effects of granting that consent. Appropriate translation services
need to be provided for persons to be truly "informed" when more
than one language is involved.
Legal protection: Protected by the laws of a government
or society. Does not always have to be in written form (some Native laws are
passed on through oral tradition and customary practice.)
Manuscript: A written document that may be presented to
a publisher or others.
Native: A member of an indigenous society, as distinguished
from a stranger, immigrant, or others who are not considered full members of
the indigenous society.
Native language specialist: A speaker of a language who
is recognized by other speakers of the language as being fluent in the language
and has the ability to translate and interpret the language correctly.
Password protected: A method of protecting access to information;
requiring a person to know a password to gain access to particular information.
Placed-based education: An educational
program that is firmly grounded in a communitys unique physical, cultural
and ecological system, including the language, knowledge, skills and stories
that have been
handed down through the generations.
Public domain: Something that is owned by the public and
is free from any legal restriction, such as a copyright or patent.
Public information: Information, which no longer belongs
to an individual or group, but has become public property and the general public
is allowed to use it. Informants and/or members of a cultural group have a right
to understand the use that will be made of their contributions before cultural
knowledge is shared and allowed to become public information.
Release form: A signed form allowing the performance, sale,
publication, use or circulation of information or a creation. The conditions
and future use of the information or creation must be clearly expressed and
explained to the contributor prior to signing any release. This information
should include copyright and trademark or other ownership rights (see also Consent
Repository: A place where things are placed for safekeeping
such as archives, libraries, museums.
Sensitive cultural information: Cultural information or
details that are delicate in nature and not meant to be shared with the general
public or those outside of that cultural group.
Traditional names: Names that have a history of being commonly
used by indigenous and/or local communities; indigenous names are those derived
from the language of the people who have inhabited the area for countless generations
and are preserved in that language.
Transcript: A written copy of information that has been
shared orally. Usually in printed form including typewritten copies, or copies
stored in a computer, on disk or by any other electronic storage and retrieval
Resources For Respecting Cultural
Alaska Federation of Natives Research Guidelines http://ankn.uaf.edu/IKS/afnguide.html
Principles for the Conduct of Research in the Arctic http://ankn.uaf.edu/IKS/conduct.html
Guidelines for Respecting Cultural Knowledge http://ankn.uaf.edu/publications/knowledge.html
Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights, ANKN http://ankn.uaf.edu/IKS//rights.html
Alaska Native Science Commission http://ankn.uaf.edu/IKS/ansc.html
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Native American Rights Fund http://www.narf.org/cases/index.html
Keepers of the Treasures http://www.keepersofthetreasures.org
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Principles & Guidelines for the Protection of the
Heritage of Indigenous Peoples http://ankn.uaf.edu/IKS/protect.html
The Mataatua Declaration on Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of
Indigenous Peoples http://ankn.uaf.edu/IKS/mataatua.html
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