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

Sharing Our Pathways

A newsletter of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative

Alaska Federation of Natives / University of Alaska / National Science Foundation

Volume 1, Issue 2, April/May 1996

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In This Issue:

Integrating Native Ways of Knowing into the Curriculum

News From Alaska RSI Co-Directors

Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative Co-Directors

Welcome Moses!

Elder Participation In "The Spirit of Our Ancestors"

Village Science

World Indigenous Peoples Conference

Alaska Native Cultural Integration into the Curriculum

Native Teacher Organizations Lead the Way

AISES Corner

Sprouting New Ideas and Activities

Academy of Elders/Native Teachers Cultural Camp

Athabascan Regional Report

Inupiaq Regional Report

Yup'ik Regional Report

Southeast Regional Report

Regional Coordinator Roles

Alaska RSI Contacts

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Integrating Native Ways of Knowing into the Curriculum

by Ray Barnhardt, Ph.D.

The conceptual foundation for the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative is based on a book by Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley, Ph.D., titled A Yupiaq World View: A Pathway to Ecology and Spirit (Waveland Press, 1995). The book is an outgrowth of the research Oscar conducted for his doctoral dissertation at the University of British Columbia. In the book, he provides an insider's perspective on how the Yupiaq people of Southwest Alaska have continued to draw upon and adapt old and new ways to make sense of the world around them. Throughout the book he provides numerous examples to illustrate the inner workings of the Yupiaq knowledge system and the ways of knowing associated with it. He then contrasts this experience with the ways of teaching and learning reflected in the school, and finally offers suggestions on how the two systems can be brought together.

Of particular concern to Oscar are the ways in which Native people have practiced their own form of "science" as a way of learning about and adapting to the environment in which they live. Through extensive observations and experimentation over an extended period of time, Native people learned to live in balance with the "ecological niche" in which they were situated, making efficient use of the resources available in their immediate surroundings. Out of this experience, they developed a highly functional world view that integrated the human, natural and spiritual realms of their existence.

However, as this world view and lifestyle came under the influence of outside forces governed by a different way of making sense of the world, the two systems collided. The new system, based on a Western view of the world, became embodied in the institutions (including the schools) that regulated the public life of the communities, while the old system continued to survive behind the scenes as a basis for regulating peoples private lives and maintaining their subsistence livelihood. Until recently, these two systems operated largely independent of one another, leading to frequent conflict as the aspirations of one system appeared to impede the efforts of the other. It is Oscar's contention, however, that if the two systems are properly understood and appreciated on their own terms, they can be viewed as complementary to one another, each having something important to contribute to the quality of life for all Alaskans.

It is to the task of finding ways to bridge the indigenous and Western knowledge systems, so they can be integrated into a comprehensive approach to education, that the efforts of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative are directed. With the help of elders, teachers, parents and anyone else interested in improving the quality of education in rural Alaska, we will endeavor over the next five years to develop new ideas for linking Western and indigenous knowledge into an integrated approach to education that encompasses both the community and the school. As Oscar has done in his book, we will begin this effort by focusing on ways in which science and math can be connected to everyday life in the community, utilizing the expertise of elders and the local environment as educational resources. We welcome any and all input from those of you who are engaged in similar efforts.

Watch this newsletter, or check the Alaska Native Knowledge Network Web site at for ideas and resources that are applicable to your cultural region. In the meantime, Oscar's book is available through your local bookstore, or you can order it from the Alaska Federation of Natives for $11.00. Write to Alaska Federation of Natives, 1577 C St., Suite 201, Anchorage, Alaska 99501.

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News From Alaska RSI Co-Directors

Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley

Alaska RSI co-director, Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley, has been very busy this fall and spring doing many speaking engagements having to do with the Native world views, Native languages, and changes needed to make mathematics and science relevant to Native students. This systemic change knows no color line and, thus, is inclusive of all students from all walks of life. He gave a talk to the Northwest Health Corporation at Nome, Alaska on "Decolonizing the Mind; Learning from the Past." December 15, 1995 saw the conclusion of an interactive television course of "Native Ways of Knowing" which was aired statewide. There were many positive statements made on its timeliness and content. He is teaching the course by teleconference this spring semester.

He and his wife, Dr. Claudette Bradley-Kawagley, made a presentation on teaching mathematics and science using the five elements: earth, air, fire, water and spirit during the annual Bilingual/Multicultural Education Equity Conference in Anchorage, Alaska. A spruce branch was used in the object lesson. He and Dr. Ray Barnhardt made a presentation on the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative at the same conference. Both sessions were well attended.

Angayuqaq gave a lecture recently to the UAF Department of Philosophy and Humanities on the Yupiaq world view. It was well received and many questions were asked regarding the different way of knowing. It was also his privilege to be a keynote speaker during the annual Lower Kuskokwim School District's bilingual teachers' conference in Bethel, Alaska. He was the evening storyteller during the awards potluck sponsored by the conference. Both of these sessions were done in Yupiaq.

Dorothy Larson

The past few months have been extremely busy. We have a full compliment of staff, our regional coordinators positions have all been filled. Joining Barbara Liu, Andy Hope, Amy Van Hatten and Elmer Jackson is Moses Dirks as the Aleut Regional Coordinator.

Recently Dr. Oscar Kawagley and I met with the board of directors for the Annenberg Rural Challenge Foundation to provide background on the Alaska RSI project. We presented concepts and ideas of how we could mesh the Alaska RSI and the Annenberg Rural Challenge (ARC) work to bring about systemic reform in a more holistic fashion in rural schools. Nationally, fourteen projects and organizations were invited to participate in the meeting with the ARC Board in Olive Branch, Mississippi. It was held in a very rural setting. While we were there an ice storm kept us captive for several days! It was more isolated than being in one of the villages where we are prepared for the elements. Otherwise, it was a positive experience to meet with others who are working in rural schools across the nation on many different projects.

We look forward to the development and presentation of a proposal to the Annenberg Rural Challenge, which will not only provide a holistic approach in rural education, it will involve more of our village community members in schools. The Annenberg Rural Challenge can facilitate and round out the Alaska RSI efforts beyond the math/science/technology focus in the integration and blending of indigenous knowledge and life ways to make education more relevant. We will keep you posted on this development.

Our staff is busy in planning for the upcoming Alaska RSI Alaska Native/Rural Education Consortium meeting in April. It will be exciting to return to Chena Hot Springs where this project was brought from the idea stage to recommendations for the basis of what we are now involved in-the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative. The National Science Foundation provided the funding for the earlier colloquia and continues to be involved with our efforts in making positive changes in the education arena.

On April 15, the National Native Science Advisory Council, a newly formed group under the auspices of the Alaska RSI, will meet. This council will serve as a vehicle for facilitating the exchange of ideas on Native science education issues between the Alaska RSI and other Native American people and NSF. In this effort, we will be focusing attention on indigenous perspectives in the generation and utilization of scientific knowledge and to initiate a national Native science education agenda that shifts the cultural focus in schools from teaching about culture to teaching in the culture.

Our aim is to reorient schools to use the local cultural base as the foundation for teaching all subject matter (including the Western-derived curriculum) moving from the local to a global perspective. Since this has implications for many other areas of life in Native communities, we see this group as an important link between and across the local, state and national arenas. The council is made up of members from different parts of the United States and half from the Alaska Native community. We will have an opportunity to meet members of the council in Chena Hot Springs.

The memorandums of agreement are in place and we are fully into the work of implementing the initiatives of our Alaska RSI project in each region. A number of regional meetings, elders' council meetings and meetings with various staff and partners have been taking place in the last several months. You will be hearing from the regional coordinators and other project staff in their reports. Co-directors have been making site visits during the regional events which have demonstrated that there are many things going on in rural Alaska schools.

We received expressions of interest from school districts, Native leaders and community members about the project. Through the good work of our staff and their availability, outreach work and the Sharing Our Pathways newsletter, we hope that we can provide meaningful information that will ultimately result in improving rural and Native education.

Please use the Alaska Native Knowledge Network World Wide Web data. It is updated on an on-going basis. This kind of information will be very helpful to teachers, community resource people, administrators, parents and, most importantly, to students. The data gathering and documentation is a key component of the Alaska RSI. Technology can be one of the important tools for rural schools.

In conclusion, I would like to ask you all to contact anyone of the co-directors for more information or if you have questions or comments.

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Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative Co-Directors

Ray Barnhardt, Co-Director
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730
(907) 474-1902 phone
(907) 474-5208 fax

Oscar Kawagley, Co-Director
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730
(907) 474-5403 phone
(907) 474-5208 fax

Dorothy Larson, Co-Director
Alaska Federation of Natives
1577 C Street, Suite 201
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 274-3611 phone
(907) 276-7989 fax

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Welcome, Moses!

Moses Dirks is originally from Atka in the Aleutians. will be working out of Anchorage and can be reached through AFN at (907) 274-3611. His e-mail address is

Moses was most recently with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as Regional Subsistence Coordinator and has traveled extensively in the Aleut Region. Moses is one course away from his Master of Arts in Teaching. He has been involved in teaching Aleut language, culture and history in the schools in Anchorage, Unalaska, Aleutians East Borough, False Pass and Aleutian Region. During 1991-92, Moses developed a marine mammal biology kit for use in the science curriculum in rural Alaska schools under a Murdock Science Project graduate fellowship.

Among other accomplishments, Moses served as co-editor with Dr. Knut Bergsland transcribing and translating tapes and legends for Aleut Tales and Narratives into English. He was a language specialist verifying the accuracy of words in the various sub-dialects of the Aleut language for the Aleut Dictionary Project. Besides being involved in education, Moses has done videotaping work and operated a closed-circuit television station; served as postmaster in Atka; and served as mayor for two years in Atka.

In 1988, he received several awards including an Alaska Legislative Citation, the Alaska Bilingual Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for the National Bilingual Teacher of the Year.

Moses rounds out our excellent team of regional coordinators who will be instrumental in the coordination and implementation of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (Alaska RSI) plan. Moses was involved in the Alaska Native Science Colloquia in Chena Hot Springs, so you will have an opportunity to become reacquainted with Moses and welcome him at our consortium meeting in April at Chena Hot Springs.

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Elder Participation In "The Spirit Of Our Ancestors"

by Alice W. Stonecipher

Denakkanaaga, the Organization of Interior Native Elders, has started a cultural preservation project entitled "The Spirit Of Our Ancestors." This project seeks to involve the elders of the region in transmitting their cultural knowledge to the next generation, which is their traditional role. This will be done in several different ways.

First of all, a cultural review board is in the beginning process of being formed. When functional, this board would have a dual purpose. It would set policy guidelines for the use of cultural resources (books and traditional stories) in the region. It would also work to ensure that elders in the region would not be taken advantage of by outsiders attempting to exploit them for their knowledge.

Secondly, Denakkanaaga will compile a guide on Athabascan laws, customs and values. This guide will serve as a jumping off point to train youth in traditional ways. It will also help to ensure that traditional ideals are not lost in the modern world. Most of the information for this guide will be compiled directly from the elders, and will employ a village specific approach.

And finally, Denakkanaaga will work to set up an Interior-wide information network, with contact people in each of the forty-three villages that Denakkanaaga serves. These contact people will communicate directly with the elders of each village and coordinate their participation.

In conclusion, the elders were the guiding force behind "The Spirit Of Our Ancestors" project and will continue to be the focus of this project.

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Village Science

by Alan Dick

This is the time of year when students and teachers involved in local and state science fairs. Many hours are invested in developing the projects for display. Through the years there have been many interesting projects presented in local fairs, but there needs to be a better process for the flow of ideas from one place to another so we can all learn from each others' efforts. Even project entries that do not succeed often have excellent ideas to illustrate.

Scientists flock to Alaska for our unique situations. Our opportunities are enviable and our students can and should be taking awards in national competitions, or better yet, should be developing a sense of excitement as they look at their local environments with a fresh viewpoint and curiosity. We don't necessarily need more answers, but need to discover the appropriate questions. Most of all, we need to learn from each other, especially in such a rich and diverse state as ours.

How about if we start making video tapes of the projects that students prepare for the local science fairs? While good quality videos would be nice, even a poor product is better than none. A narrative by the camera person would help to overcome questions that arise from less than professional camera technique. The flow of ideas is what we need to foster.

If people are interested, I would be willing to gather tapes from anyone willing to share, and edit them and make a final collection that would be available for exchange. I am sure many exciting things are happening, but as usual they are occurring in isolation. If you (teacher or students) are able to put together a video of the science fair in your school and are willing to share the results, please send it to me at P.O. Box 162, McGrath, Alaska 99627. I will make sure you get a copy of the final collection in return.

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World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education

The fourth tri-annual World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico June 15-22, 1996. Alaska Native people are encouraged to attend and share ideas with indigenous people from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Russia, Norway, South America and other parts of the United States. Information can be obtained through the Alaska Native Knowledge Network or by writing to 1996 WIPC:E, Galles Building, 1601 Central Northeast, Albuquerque, NM 87131 (503-277-8249). E-mail to See you there!

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Alaska Native Cultural Integration into the Curriculum

by Martha Stackhouse

This paper will cover the integration of the Alaska Native cultures as part of the curriculum within the school systems K-12 throughout the state. As of today, the Alaska Native cultural integration had been identified as a need approximately twenty years ago and it is time it is implemented. There have been scores of people who wrote on the subject and many more who have given lectures about the integration of the Alaska Native culture into the school curriculum. It is high time to do something about the actual implementation.

The teaching of culture can range from the traditional past, legends and stories, first contact with the Western world, introduction of foreign diseases, starvation and how these problems were eventually solved, influences left by BIA schools and church, land claim struggles and the passage of ANCSA, how the present regional and village corporations have placed an impact in our lives, how an ordinary Alaska Native family leads a subsistence way of life and survives the impact of the Western world, cultural values and biographies of leaders and elders for our students to read. Since most ethnic studies are portrayed as if they were in a past tense, it is very important to also present ourselves as living cultures which we are presently experiencing. Therefore, it is important to include the different kinds of lifestyles the Alaska Natives are leading today. Scientific studies about wildlife living in our Arctic environment need to be brought into the school curriculum. There has been a tremendous amount of information given by the Alaska Native elders to the scientists who have conducted their studies in our Arctic environment. These topics are only a fraction of what can be incorporated into the school systems in Alaska.

One may ask how this will be implemented. First of all, the Alaska Native individuals who are concerned need to make a commitment and start writing down their cultural experiences rather than stating time and time again that this needs to be done. If we all took the time to write down how we grew up with our grandparents, parents, short biographies of extended families such as uncles and aunts, our cultural values, our legends and stories we heard, traditional medicine, expressive art, our experiences in the boarding schools and how we hunt and fish for our subsistence needs. Even if these experiences are not published, they may get a chance some day. If nothing else, they can be a gift to grandchildren. Most of all, share them with the students within your own community. To insure your writing from possible theft, contact the Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington D.C. 20559-6000 for information on copyrighting your work.

The ideal scenario would be to have a team of concerned Alaska Native people from each region gather information about their culture and the biographies of their elders and leaders. They can transcribe them on to computers, input them into computer programming as part of their Alaska Native language study, and publish these writings into books with the assistance of their school districts. Perhaps the regional corporations can help supplement the finances with the school districts. The biographies of the elders and leaders can be used as role models for leadership study.

As indigenous people of Alaska, we have the right to implement our way of life into our school districts. The majority of our rural schools are populated with Alaska Native students. Our urban schools also have Alaska Native students and they will gain self esteem through learning about their culture that has so much to offer to the Western society. The study can bridge the gap between cultural differences and generations. Within the school system itself, it can bridge the gap as interdisciplinary courses. For instance, it can go cross curricular from social studies and Alaska Native language into science, mathematics, computers and even English classes. The Alaska Native studies can be carried out to other areas of curricula. This concept will bridge the gap between the non-Native teachers and the Alaska Native teachers.

I believe that the school systems are trying to implement ethnic studies. As mentioned by Joan Metge from New Zealand, one needs to be careful in the implementation of ethnic studies as indigenous people throughout the world may be kept at the same latitude as other ethnic groups who have made recent migrations into our lands. There are those ethnic cultures who come from other countries or states that make statements about their right to present their cultures as much as Alaska Natives in our school systems. The whole United States is into multicultural approaches. It is good to have multicultural classes so that we can prepare our students to communicate effectively with the rest of the world. Our regional corporations are starting to go into international business with other countries so it would be an asset for Alaska Natives to know about other ethnic groups throughout the world. It is also true that Alaska is part of the United States where there is a big "melting pot" with many different ethnic cultures meshing together. However, the American Indians and Alaskan Natives are the indigenous people of the United States and should have special priorities as we have been under suppression too long. It is time we are given the freedom to teach our own children and the general population about our culture. We have no other country to protect our cultures and languages.

There are Alaska Native language classes which may have been in existence for about twenty years. However, there is a need to record our lifestyles to go hand in hand with the language studies. I believe the two should go together to be used as effective teaching tools. The books should be as appealing to the student as any other book. They should have lots of colorful pictures, with much of the art work done by Alaska Natives. The writing should also be done by Alaska Natives. In the past, many of the books written about Alaska Natives have been written by non-Natives. The majority of their work might be true, but they are often slightly off balance from the truth. A few have been completely off balance. Perhaps what is lacking is the fact that cultural values are often missing or are not communicated very well by the non-Natives. Therefore, it makes sense for Alaska Natives to write about their lifestyles since they are the ones who grew up with the cultural values which were learned from their elders in their communities. They are also the ones who can communicate effectively with the living elders. Indirect communication is often used by elders and they may not be picked up by non-Natives who are used to speaking directly. For instance there are many nonverbal communication gestures which may be missed by those who did not grow up learning how to recognize them.

If books were to be written about Alaska Native lifestyles, I believe it would greatly enhance the reading levels of student populations throughout our rural communities. Most student populations in the villages have reading levels far below the national reading level. If the books were more relevant, they may have more interest in reading. At the same time, they would pick up the cultural values which have been drastically falling in the modern world. They can become adults with contributions to the world and become responsible citizens.

Another idea is to have students write about their cultural experiences and then share them with their peers and younger students. They can write about their camping and hunting experiences. Their work can be used to substitute work that they missed at school while they were out camping. They need to start building their self esteem and feel proud about their culture. Too often we hear our own elementary children talk about who is popular in school. They are often those who are outspoken and economically well off. They are usually those who are non-Native and are often the ones who are most likely encouraged by their teachers to continue on to college. Because of their popularity, they are frequently elected into student council. Our Alaska Native students deserve a chance to acquire these positions. They can acquire them if they are to realize they can pursue them like anyone else and set goals for their future at a very young age. They can practice public speaking. They can read about Native leaders in school and some may make a connection that, they too, can make a difference.

We cannot ignore the fact that many Americans throughout our country are experiencing cultural deprivation, no matter what race they represent. According to the electronic Native American Talking Circle, there are young American Indians who are becoming gang members because of family breakdowns. Some of them are third or fourth generation alcohol abusers who may be using other street drugs as well as alcohol. These young Native Americans may not be articulate in speaking the English language, therefore, not able to land meaningful jobs. They may not be able to speak their own Native language or know about their cultural heritage and values, therefore, do not have self esteem. They turn to street drugs and are placed in jails where they learn how to become better criminals from older inmates. The vicious cycle of going in and out of jail begins at this point. There needs to be counseling provided rather than placing our young people in jail. There needs to be prevention programs taught to the elementary school children about effects of drug and alcohol addiction. Along with these prevention programs, the Native American traditional values need to be implemented. Cultural pride and dignity can replace cultural deprivation. Our own people can start counseling those who are trying to quit drinking and using street drugs. Spiritual healing and success can become more common than uncommon.

As Native leaders we need to make a choice to develop Native American/Alaska Native curriculum materials to teach our children. Such a task can greatly enhance young minds to think of their cultural values as an asset, rather than a hindrance. The Native American/Alaska Native cultural heritage has something to offer to the pluralistic society throughout the world. In the Arctic Slope and Northwest Alaska, we have developed a list of Inupiaq values. To a young Alaska Native, a list may have little or no effect unless they are explained in written form. Examples need to be written and thought provoking questions need to be asked at the end of each lesson. These can generate discussion groups. They may provide a vehicle to do problem solving simulation questions.

There are many traditional community ceremonial dances which are still being practiced today. There are some that are starting to be revived again after many years of absence. In the North Slope Borough, we have revived Kivgiq, a Messenger Feast, or sometimes referred to as the Trade Fair. It was first mentioned by the elders in the late 1970's during the Elders' Conference. Little by little, information about the feast was gathered and was finally revived in 1988. In my research about Kivgiq, I found that it existed all up and down the coast of Alaska from the north to southwest Yup'ik region. We need to start writing about these ceremonies before the elders who are most knowledgeable about them pass away. There were some elders who had not witnessed Kivgiq but had heard their parents reminisce about the great gathering of the people and described it in detail to them.

After writing about the culture, there can be a few questions made at the end for reading comprehension. They can be short answer essay questions for the most part but there should also be two or three questions where they have to write whole paragraphs for each question. Too often, our Alaska Native children write fragmented sentences and the only way they will overcome this phobia for writing is to keep practicing. Paragraph answers should also be included in the tests. Most teachers usually have true or false questions, multiple choice and matching to save time in correcting them. It would be more fair for the student to also include at least a couple of essay questions as part of the exam. Another point is to have final exams at the end of each semester. They are usually implemented in the urban schools but are virtually nonexistent in the rural schools. When the rural students go to college, they experience test phobia when they realize they have to take semester exams.

In closing, I want to reiterate that Alaska Native studies be placed in our school curricula throughout our state. It is time we are recognized as a living people who have something to offer the society. In spite of the fact that we, as Alaska Natives, are becoming a minority within our own lands, we need to make a stance to make our beliefs and values known through teaching our young about our historical past. These need to be included in the Alaska Native language studies which are presently being taught. Furthermore, there needs to be a conscious effort to support the curriculum development in Alaska Native Studies by ensuring financial support from those who can provide it.

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Native Teacher Organizations Lead the Way

Association of Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim

by Charles T. Kashatok

The annual meeting of the Association of Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim (ANELK) was on March 5, 1996 with forty-six people present that included two guests who came to attend the local school district bilingual conference from outside the school district and eleven elders from some of our district schools. These people came to Bethel to attend the LKSD sponsored bilingual conference at the Yupiat Piciryarait Cultural Center in Bethel on March 6, 7, and 8, 1996.

The business portion of the meeting included the review of association bylaws, Career Ladder program, Association Scholarship Fund, alternative certification requirements through Kuskokwim Campus, ANELK newsletter and elections. Election results for the association executive officers include the following: John O. Mark, president; Walter Tirchick, vice-president; Charles Kashatok, secretary/treasurer; and Levi Hoover and David Charlie, members.

The association formed during a special meeting at a teacher inservice in the fall of 1987 at Quinhagak. The meeting, initiated by Tim Samson and other Native certified teachers from within the school district, brought concerns that include a need for a support system to increase the number of certified Native teachers within the district. Other concerns pertained to the performance of Native students within the local schools. The group decided to form an association to try to help each other as fellow workers and parents in improving the school curriculum, school performance of students and continued support and increase the number of Native teachers within the school district.

At a later date, the association representative, Tim Samson, shared the concerns of the association members with the Board of Education of Lower Kuskokwim School District. The BOE approved the intent of the association as its impact will indirectly and positively impact the students' performance. Since that meeting, the LKSD board includes some money in the district budget to sponsor an education conference by and for the Native teachers of Lower Kuskokwim.

The recent Fifth Annual LKSD Bilingual Conference, held for the first time in Bethel, brought nearly 150 participants that included twenty-four elders from Lower Kuskokwim and Southwest school districts. The previous conferences were held in the St. Mary's Conference Center as feasible facilities were hard to find in Bethel. The Yup'ik Cultural Center served its purpose very well. Future conferences may be expected to be held in Bethel. Bering Straits, Yupiit, Dillingham, Southwest Regional and Lower Yukon sent participants to this year's conference. The event memorable to most of the participants was the demonstration of the process of allowing the elders to share their knowledge to a group of teachers who wrote down all of the ideas spoken or suggested by the elders as a group. This activity fit the "Process of Developing Cultural Curriculum" taught by Anita Chisholm of the University of Oklahoma.

The added features for this year's conference included the awards potluck in place of a catered banquet, invitation of first and second place winners of Yup'ik category of the recent high school speech contest and Yup'ik Immersion kindergarten class to perform Eskimo dances as well as having the principal and parents share about the program. The overall evaluations currently compiled indicate a need for more opportunities of input by our elders at the next LKSD bilingual conference. This conference will most likely be scheduled for the second week of March, 1997. We hope to continue to utilize our elders as resources and Native educators as professional people to develop a curriculum that includes our Native culture. See you at the conference in March, 1997.


Association of Interior Native Educators

by Eleanor Laughlin

The idea of having an association that would represent the Interior Native teachers became a reality for many of the Native teachers who participated in various leadership conferences in the Native Administrators for Rural Alaska (NARA) program.

During the 1994 Association of Interior Native Educators (AINE) Conference, the topic of the association was presented to the participants. Our hats are off to Joe Slats, Virginia Ned and Thelma Saunders for approaching the Interior-Aleutians Campus' Interior Education Council to seek initial support for the formation of the association.

The purpose of AINE is to act as a voice for Interior Native educators and to be an advocate of Native educational issues. The goals include promoting higher education degrees for teachers, promoting Native hire by Interior school districts, bringing out Native education concerns and lobbying for or against legislation that will affect the quality of Native education.

AINE Board of Directors
The following Native educators were elected to serve on the AINE Board: Eleanor Laughlin, chairperson; Carol Lee Gho, vice-chairperson; Martha Demientieff, treasurer; Virginia Ned, secretary; and Ron Manook, Cora Mcquire and Thelma Saunders, members. The AINE Board held its first audioconference on August 17. Since this is the initial start up for the association, it was decided that the Board will hold monthly audioconferences.

The Ciulistet Group

by Esther Ilutsik

The Ciulistet Research Group was established in 1986 under the direction of Esther Ilutsik and Dr. Jerry Lipka. Our initial efforts were primarily to address and support the needs of the Yup'ik certified Native teachers within the Bristol Bay area. In the process of validating their teaching style and seeking to include more local knowledge into the curriculum, we discovered the importance of including our elders in the process to get a unique Yup'ik/Western model of teaching. Thus, our research group, since 1991, includes elders within our region. The villages that have been active participants include: Dillingham, Aleknagik, Manokotak, Togiak, Koliganek and New Stuyahok.

Ciulistet Research Workshops Available Fall 1996
We now have five units that have been developed and field tested in the classrooms. These units were established from knowledge that our elders shared with us at our meetings. The five units are: Yup'ik Counting, Yup'ik Patterns, Sonar Boards (based on traditional Yup'ik legends) and Weather and the Heartbeat. We also are establishing lessons for Yup'ik measurement. Many of these units can easily be adapted into themes. If you are interested in any of these sessions, let us know and we will send you a materials list for the session you are interested in. We can also offer college credit for those who are interested through the Bristol Bay campus. This class will most likely be a 300-level course (methods and curriculum development). You may contact Esther A. Ilutsik, UAF Bristol Bay Campus, (907) 842-5901 or write to her at: P.O. Box 188, Dillingham, Alaska 99576. You can also contact Dr. Jerry Lipka at UAF Fairbanks Campus, (907) 474-6439.

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AISES Corner

by Claudette Bradley-Kawagley

American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) national headquarters held the AISES 12th Annual Leadership Conference at Cheyenne Mountain Conference Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado, March 28-31, 1996. Over 100 leaders from AISES college chapters around the country and Canada attended. Students participated in leadership workshops, spiritual ceremonies and talked with elders and AISES leaders from the national headquarters.

Students attending from UAF AISES Chapter were:

  • Sasha Atuk, Fairbanks, mathematics education major
  • Ambrose Towarak, Unalakleet, civil engineering major

AISES Region I (Pacific Northwest) held a conference in Pullman, Washington, March 28-30. College AISES students came from Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. These students learned how traditional ways influence today's technology; visited Washington State University, networked with Native students and professionals and attended spiritual ceremonies. Students attending UAF AISES Chapter were:

  • Mark Blair, Kotzebue, anthropology major
  • John Henry, Stebbins, electrical engineering major
  • Kim O'Connor, Nome, health education major

During the UAF AISES meeting in Fairbanks, February 22, Professor Dimitrios Hatzignaiou gave a presentation on "Opportunities and Careers in Petroleum Engineering." He explained the role of petroleum engineering in Prudhoe Bay and the process of drilling oil both on land and under the sea. The AISES students asked many questions and appreciated Dr. Hatzignaiou's diagrams and samples of petroleum sand pellets. The guest speakerfor the March 7 meeting was Bob Ritchie of Alaska Biological Research.

The first regional Inupiat Elders' Council Conference was held February 5-7 at Ilisagvik College, Barrow, Alaska. Claudette Bradley-Kawagley presented an overview of AISES showing the AISES video, "A New Beginning" and color transparencies of activities of AISES students in the UAF chapter. Through the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative, AISES Chapters will be established in villages for high school, middle and elementary students. The grade levels will be determined by the school and community. The Inupiat Elders' Council will advise the school districts and schools in the establishing and management of village chapters. Inupiat elders expressed concern that the chapters in the North Slope, Bering Straits, and NANA regions reflect the Inupiat culture and life ways. This concern is compatible with AISES and its mission.

Allison Warden is an AISES UAF Chapter member from Kaktovik. She attended the Inupiat Elders Council and was a valuable participant in the meeting. She invited twelve Ilisagvik College students to attend the AISES presentation for the Elders' Council. Allison served as their ambassador from AISES (UAF chapter).

Students at Ilisagvik College are presently establishing an Ilisagvik AISES college chapter. The twelve students who came to watch Dr. Bradley-Kawagley's presentation were interested in the video and spoke of plans to go to the AISES Region I Conference in Washington. Alaska RSI highly supports the establishment of Ilisagvik College AISES chapter, and hopes they will have a smooth and steadfast beginning.

Claudette Bradley-Kawagley attended the planning meeting for the Athabascan Region in Fairbanks, March 4-5. She gave a talk on AISES with videotape and color transparencies. Elders had the opportunity to ask questions and offer advice on establishing chapters in the Interior of Alaska. Claudette gave a third AISES presentation in Kotzebue the first week in April.

Claudette Bradley-Kawagley, Alaska RSI AISES Coordinator

Claudette is a member of the Schaghticoke Tribe whose reservation is located in Kent, Connecticut. She was raised in Stratford, Connecticut with her parents and two brothers.

Claudette holds an education doctorate from Harvard School of Education, and a bachelor's and master's degree in mathematics from the University of Connecticut. She specializes in computer and mathematics instruction and in Alaska Native and American issues. Her teaching experience includes seven years of distance-delivery mathematics and education courses with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, advising in the Cross-Cultural Education Development (X-CED) program in Yukon Flats and Alaska Gateway Regions and classroom instruction in the AISES pre-college summer camps in Montana State University, Caltech, Stanford University, and Oklahoma State University. Her research and publications address the development of culturally appropriate curriculum for Alaska Native and American Indian students.

Claudette has been a member of AISES for twelve years beginning in 1984 as a graduate student at Harvard. She taught mathematics and LOGO computing language in the first AISES pre-college summer camp at Montana State University, 1988, and has continued teaching in AISES camps during the past eight summers. After completing her doctorate in 1987, Claudette was hired as an assistant professor of education at UAF in 1989. She started the UAF AISES chapter in the fall of 1989 with the help of Rural Student Services and became the faculty advisor for the UAF chapter. Claudette received a Sequoyah Fellowship from AISES in 1992.

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Sprouting New Ideas and Activities

by Nastasia Wahlberg

In Quinhagak, a Kuingnerrarmiut Yugtaat Elitnaurarkait (Yup'ik Life Skills) curriculum has been developed where indigenous knowledge is integrated with ecology, biology and physical education courses. Lessons are offered in life webs, food chains and traditional fishing methods. The students dissect and identify external and internal parts both in Yup'ik and English. This develops proficiency in learning science using both Indigenous and Western lens. Then when they are done, the students, according to old customs, give the fish to people who need it, preferably the elders. In P.E., Yup'ik dancing is taught with the assistance of the elders and students receive two semester credits.

According to David Charlie, who helped develop the curriculum, the elders and the students came together and brainstormed topic areas for the units to be offered over a four-year sequential cycle. What is interesting about this process is that the elders, along with classroom teachers, assessed the student's knowledge of the acquired skills that were achieved. Traditional means of visual assessment by elders could be held, while teachers fulfilled their assessment requirements using state standards.

A similar effort has been underway in the Bristol Bay area. The Ciulistet Yup'ik math and science research project, now in its fourth year, gathers Yup'ik teachers together with the elders in remote villages. The elders use Yup'ik protocols whereby each individual shares their knowledge based on past elder's teachings and from their experiences. The collective knowledge is rendered until everyone has come to one mind. Weather predictions, moon and sun cycles, land and water passage routes, oral stories from mythical to historical, parka and storyknife symbols, and Yup'ik math, ecological and biological factors are all discussed. The Yup'ik teachers then apply this knowledge by developing curriculum ideas that are presented to the elders for their critique using the same approach.

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Academy of Elders/Native Teachers Cultural Camp

by Eleanor Laughlin

The Association of Interior Native Educator's (AINE) Board of Directors held a pre-planning meeting with a group of Interior Athabascan elders on March 13 and 14. The group planned for the Academy of Elders/Native Teachers cultural camp. The event is being sponsored by AINE and Interior Aleutians Campus. The academy will have seven elders and fourteen certified Native teachers gathering for ten days at the Minto Cultural Heritage and Education Camp in the old village of Minto. The elders will instruct the certified teachers on Native ways of knowing. The teachers (students) will be enrolled in a three-credit upper division or graduate course that will require them to begin developing indigenous curriculum that they will be able to use in their individual classrooms. The event will be audio and video taped and a CD-ROM will be made for classroom use.

The following elders have been selected as the instructors for the Academy of Elders: David Salmon of Chalkyitsik, Catherine Attla of Huslia, Poldine Carlo of Fairbanks, Neil and Geraldine Charlie of Minto and Johnson and Bertha Moses of Allakaket. AINE is in the process of recruiting Native teachers. The goal is to recruit active Native teachers from the various regional and city schools within the Interior of Alaska, including Fairbanks.

The Academy of Elders/Native Teachers will be held on July 27 through August 7. Immediately following the academy, AINE will hold its third annual conference in Fairbanks on August 8 and 9.

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Athabascan Regional Report

by Amy Van Hatten

All is On Loan

Oh, only for so short a while you
have loaned us to each other,
because we take form in your act
of drawing us,
And we take life in your painting us,
and we breathe in your singing us.
But only for so short a while
have you loaned us to each other.

Source unknown

This is an ancient Aztec Indian prayer that reflects on the preciousness of life and the fleetingness of it. As the Aztecs thank the Creator for their life and breath, and their drawings, they acknowledge that they are only on loan to each other for a short while. (Praying Our Good-byes, Joyce Rupp)

In early January an uncle of mine was hospitalized. His last wish was to return to his village along the Yukon River in order to finish building his house. Cancer took his life at the age of eighty-five years old. At the end of March he would have celebrated his sixty-fifth wedding anniversary with my paternal aunt. Oh, only for so short a while have you loaned us to each other . . .

As I write this article, I keep in mind how important the Alaska RSI project is. I want to cry out "this is an emergency!" I want to figure out a way NOW to attract more people from my region to become proactive with our initiatives. I would like to see more than the same people involved with elder programs and projects. I am not discounting their efforts, I am thankful for it. But there are diverse skills and knowledge that could help us with identifying available resources and to take this as an opportunity for a renewed educational system reform.

The bilingual/multicultural conference in Anchorage was very informative for me, since this was the first time I attended. I was excited to see many smart and devoted Native teachers that shared with us in so many workshops they were hard to choose from. The ones I attended were related to curriculum development, multimedia documentation projects (like the Koyukuk village project in its first year) and other workshops that shared stories, dancing and singing, along with language programs in the Lower Kuskokwim areas. I was so proud of the teachers, teacher aides, curriculum developers, school board members and university professionals who appeared excited about rural education.

My next trip was to Vancouver, B.C. as one of the state team members. I shared a room with an elder woman from Chalkyitsik named Minnie Salmon. She retired from the Yukon Flats school district as a language teacher for the past twenty-one years. Now she is the community wellness coordinator. A very nice person. We had a great time meeting people and sharing with them what we knew as Native educators and participants in Ray Barnhardt's and Oscar Kawagley's workshops. What a team! I attended the Canadian Indian Teacher Education Program (CITEP) conference because in February 1997, I will help coordinate the Mokakit conference in Anchorage.

March 4-5 was my regional meeting. The first day was informational input and identifying tasks from MOA members. This was for the benefit of the elders who were representatives of the Elders' Council.

Those with MOAs and others who were present at my meeting were representatives of the following departments: U.S. Fish & Wildlife; Alaska Native Human and Rural Development Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF); four elders from the Interior region, Denakkanaaga, Institute of Alaska Native Arts, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) Education; Interior-Aleutians Campus, Alaska RSI staff; College of Liberal Arts, UAF; Doyon Foundation; Yukon-Koyukuk School District, and Rural Education.

The second day was a brainstorming session with the elders and a few of us. I recorded a whole tablet full of directives, suggestions, concerns, questions to ponder and other pertinent information for later use. I still need to make time to type it all up so I can distribute it to the elders for review before we meet again in April.

In early March, I had the opportunity to attend the LKSD bilingual conference in Bethel. AGAIN, I felt so proud of Alaska Native people in the educational role. The conference was in Yup'ik only. We had little one way transistor receivers to hear the English translations. It was so cool and awesome to see the curriculum development process in action.

The most recent presentation I did was for the annual Tanana Chiefs Conference. I was invited to give an overview of the Alaska RSI project as part of an educational panel. It was so much fun to do that. Of course working with people like Eleanor Laughlin, Reva Shircel and Beth Leonard add important ingredients too. It was a kick. I love my job!

You may contact me at (907) 474-1902 or write to Amy Van Hatten, University of Alaska Fairbanks, ANKN/Alaska RSI, P.O. Box 756730, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-6730.

Until we meet again, happy trails to you and your family.

Best wishes, Amy.

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Inupiaq Regional Report

by Elmer Jackson

In December, 1995 at the first meeting of the Alaska RSI retreat, Kathy Itta made a suggestion that we meet in Barrow during the Kivgiq Celebration. The celebration began on Monday, February 5 and ended on Friday, February 9. As the celebration began, I could sense the excitement within me. As many as nine Inupiaq dance groups participated. There were two dance groups from the Russian Far East.

On Wednesday, February 7, the first regional Inupiat Elders' Council was held at Ilisagvik College. Co-Director Dorothy Larson, AISES Coordinator Claudette Bradley-Kawagley and Kathy Itta gave presentations. In attendance from the Bering Straits region were Elders Clarence and Mildred Irrigoo, Leora Kenick, Rose Koezuna and Cecelia Maktuayuk. From the NANA region, I attended along with Elders Sarah Evak, May Bernhardt, Tommy Douglas and Rachel Craig. In attendance from the North Slope region were Kathy Itta, Fanny Aqpik, Arlene Glenn, Emily Wilson, Ronald Brower and Elders Terza Hopson, Henry Kanayurak, Kenneth Toovak and Raymond Paneak.

Elder Tommy Douglas opened the meeting with a prayer. Ilisagvik College president, Dr. Edna MacLean, welcomed the participants to Barrow. Co-Director Dorothy Larson gave a presentation of the Alaska RSI project. Claudette Bradley-Kawagley, AISES Coordinator, Cross-Cultural Education Development Program of Fairbanks, also gave a presentation on AISES. Ron Brower, vice-president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) spoke on the responsibility of our elders. He stated that the elders need to be involved in the planning of what is going to be taught to our children, especially in the sciences. He also spoke on the principles and elements of ICC.

The following are comments made by the participating elders:

It was stated that the elders want to see the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative go in the right direction. We, as Inupiat, are not to forget our Inupiat way of life. Inupiat people are very spiritual . . . and that is important to nurture our spiritual being. They stated that prayer should be a part of the school system. Rachel Craig, NWABSD Inupiat Ilitqusiat coordinator and president of the ICC Elders' Council spoke on the responsibility of our elders. She stated that we need to give specific jobs on what they are going to teach in the schools. If they (elders) are given specific jobs, they will have time to think and prepare what they are going to teach. (More comments were made, I was not able to record everything they said.)

Claudette Bradley-Kawagley and I will travel to Kotzebue and Nome to meet with school personnel April 1-3; Bernadette Alvanna-Stimple and Claudette will travel to Unalakleet April 4-6. They will return to Nome to meet with administrators and school personnel.

The MOAs between the University of Alaska and the school districts in the North Slope, Northwest Arctic Borough and the Bering Straits have been agreed upon.

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Yup'ik Regional Report

by Barbara Liu

Since the end of January, I have mailed all inquiry letters to different agencies. I have made contacts with just about all twelve school district superintendents, who were helpful in giving me individual names to contact on elders' documentation. These are the names of all the school districts I've contacted: Bering Straits, Lower Yukon, St. Mary's, Qissunamuit, Lower Kuskokwim, Yupiit, Kuspuk, Iditarod, Southwest, Dillingham City, Bristol Bay Borough and Lake and Peninsula. Lower Kuskokwim school district held their annual bilingual conference March 6-8, in Bethel. It was good to see representatives on a short notice from the following school districts: Bering Straits, Lower Yukon, Yupiit and Southwest. It was also good to be right at home with my co-directors and co-workers that attended.

An activity that was the most memorable for me was with the elders and facilitated by the Ciulistet team from Dillingham. The topic set the stage for the two subregions to connect on the map sharing stories. Andy Sharp, an elder representative from Quinhagak, described traveling by foot through the mountain valleys. Yup'ik place names not on a topographical map of Alaska were located and terminology written down on chart paper. The facilitators emphasized the importance of recording everything because they use the content at a later time to study it with the elders or in making specific lessons from it. Some excellent mathematical and scientific inquiry began but ended all too soon due to time constraints. Jerry Lipka, with the Yup'ik Math and Science Project and UAF School of Education associate professor and Esther Ilutsik, Bristol Bay Research and Pedagogy coordinator and Ciulistet Yup'ik Teachers' group leader were present and mentioned as the inspirational leaders for starting the Ciulistet group. Team work was well displayed. I have shared only a small portion of the conference where I observed regional collaboration. The activity provided great ideas on how to work with regional elders. As spring approaches, I look forward to observing another Ciulistet field study at a camp site.

During the month of March and April, regional activities included but were not limited to the following: Bethel Camai Dance Festival, Bethel Elders Conference and Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation Tribal and Medicine Conference, also held in Bethel. Community potlatches are being hosted in Marshall and St. Mary's inviting area villages. Kuspuk's Elders' Conference will be held in Sleetmute. I hope to actively participate in some. Until next time, thank you for your time. Best regards to our readers.


Barbara "Makill" Liu

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Southeast Regional Report

by Andy Hope

I have been busy organizing a regional Elders' Council meeting and a regional Native curriculum planning meeting, both of which were held in conjunction with the Third Conference of Tlingit Tribes and Clans in Ketchikan and Saxman, March 28-30, 1996. The Elders' Council included the following members: Arnold Booth, Metlakatla; Chuck Natkong, Hydaburg; Gil Truitt, Sitka; Lydia George, Angoon; Joe Hotch, Klukwan. The Southeast Elders council elected Arnold Booth from its membership as a representative to the Alaska Native Rural Education Consortium.

The Sitka School Board approved the MOA to participate in the Alaska RSI project at their regular meeting on March 4. I traveled to Sitka for meetings on March 25 and 26, prior to the Tlingit Clan Conference. I encouraged the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the Sitka Native Education Program, Dog Point Fish Camp, Sheldon Jackson College and the Sitka UAS campus to participate in the Alaska RSI project with the Sitka School District. Each of these entities were represented at the Tlingit Clan Conference.

The Southeast Alaska RSI office will be providing assistance to Sealaska Heritage Foundation in the presentation of a multicultural education course, "Learning About Southeast Alaska Cultures Through Native Voices" during the 1996 Summer University of Alaska Southeast. The academy is scheduled for June 3-7, 1996 and will coincide with the biannual Sealaska Celebration dance festival.

Will the Time Ever Come? A Tlingit Source Book will be published by this fall by Raven's Bones Press, with distribution by the University of Washington Press. The book will contain materials from the Tlingit Clan Conference and will also provide material for the Alaska Native Knowledge Network.

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Regional Coordinator Roles

  • Work with Regional Elders Council
  • Conduct village cultural inventory
  • What do people want their children to learn?
  • What resources are available for this?
  • Coordinate all activities associated with regional activities
  • Participate in statewide planning
  • Assist in development of a regional atlas
  • Prepare monthly newsletter column
  • Represent region at statewide/regional meetings
  • Assist with Alaska RSI data gathering
  • Implement an individual project
  • Bring fish strips to meetings

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Alaska RSI Contacts

The Alaska RSI Regional Coordinators are located in five regions within the state of Alaska. They are listed below to help you identify the correct contact.

Amy Van Hatten
Athabascan Regional Coordinator
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-6730
(907) 474-0275 phone

Elmer Jackson
Inupiaq Regional Coordinator
PO Box 134
Kiana, Alaska 99749

Andy Hope
Southeast Regional Coordinator
University of Alaska Southeast
School of Business/PR
11120 Glacier Highway
Juneau, Alaska 99801
(907) 465-6362

Barbara Liu
Yup'ik Regional Coordinator
Box 2262
Bethel, Alaska 99559

Moses Dirks
Aleutians Regional Coordinator
Alaska Federation of Natives
1577 C Street, Suite 201
Anchorage, Alaska 99501
(907) 274-3611

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Go to University of AlaskaThe University of Alaska Fairbanks is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and educational institution and is a part of the University of Alaska system.


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 August 14, 2006