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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 5, November/December 1996

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In This Issue:

Excellent Teamwork

September Meeting Enriches Staff

A Challenge for Rural Education

What's in a Name?

AISES Corner

Native Ways of Knowing and the Frameworks

Calling for Mokakit Conference

Native Science

Athabascan Regional Report

Aleut Regional Report

Yup'ik/Cup'ik Regional Report

Village Science: Good Stew

Southeast Regional Report

Inupiaq Regional Report

Alaska RSI Contacts


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Excellent Teamwork for a Challenging and Successful Year

by Dorothy M. Larson

We are nearing the completion of year one for the imple- mentation plan for the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (Alaska RSI). The co-directors, Oscar Kawagley, Ray Barnhardt and myself, would like to thank the staff of the Alaska RSI and the Alaska Native Knowledge Network as well as the staff working with our partners with whom we have memorandums of agreement (MOAs) for their hard work and dedication this past year.

A special thank you and recognition goes out to the elders who have worked with us on a regional level and on the consortium. Without the elders involvement, our project would not work.

It has been an extremely busy year for all of us. We have begun implementing each of the initiatives in every region. Many activities such as consortium meetings, staff meetings and documentation of knowledge have taken place. American Indian Science and Engineering Society chapters have been formed in local schools and on campuses; Native teacher associations have been formed in four regions with the fifth region in the process of organizing; regional coordinators have held regional meetings; several books have been published and distributed; curriculum activities are on-going; collaboration with government organizations, school districts, Native organizations, tribal groups, parents, scientists, educators and many others have occurred.

This project is quite a challenge to say the least. However, with the dedication and hard work that has been demonstrated, along with the concentrated effort of many people working together, we will impact the educational system.

Coupling the Alaska RSI with the Alaska Rural Challenge project, which has been described on page three of this newsletter, we will make a more comprehensive and holistic impact that will reflect systemic change. We look forward to working with everyone in the next year in the implementation of the Alaska RSI.

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September Meeting Enriches Staff

by Gail Pass

The Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (Alaska RSI) staff met with Village Science coordinators and other contracted staff September 16-18 in Anchorage. A talking circle initiated by Rita Blumenstein, traditional healer, brought the group together. A videotaped presentation given during the Association of Interior Native Educators Conference by Dr. Shirley Holloway, Commissioner for the Department of Education followed. Commissioner Holloway's presentation mentioned the Alaska RSI's role in Alaska Native Education.

Working groups important to the Alaska RSI were formed and interested members were assigned to a working group. Topics of the working groups are: Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights, Native Educators Network, Indigenous Curriculum Framework, Formulation of the Regional Cultural Atlas, Control of Educational Systems and the Alaska Native Knowledge Network Publication Review. A recap of last year's initiatives followed. The annual report was reviewed as well as the Alaska RSI strategic plan for year two.

A brief discussion took place about implementing the Annenberg Rural Challenge MOAs and the effects on staff roles, including new additions like Harold Napoleon who has been hired to direct the Reclamation of Tribal Histories. A work plan with the initiatives was formulated by each region for year two. The remainder of the meeting welcomed the newly-founded board members of the Alaska First Nations Research Network, a division of the Mokakit Research Association in Canada. Dr. Oscar Kawagley presided as director and planning began for hosting the Mokakit Conference in Anchorage on February 10-11, 1997.

Overall, the staff meeting rejuvenated everyone into the shift of regional initiatives, the addition of Annenberg Rural Challenge and the new school year.

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A Challenge for Rural Education in Alaska

by Ray Barnhardt

In July of this year, the Alaska Federation of Natives received a grant from the Annenberg Rural Challenge (ARC) to implement a new set of educational reform initiatives in rural Alaska that extend the activities currently underway to integrate indigenous knowledge into the areas of science and math education (under NSF funding) to include the rest of the curriculum, especially social studies and language arts.

The Alaska Rural Challenge initiatives will be coupled with the Alaska Rural Systemic initiatives to provide a comprehensive approach to educational reform that incorporates the holistic and integrated nature of indigenous knowledge systems, ways of knowing and world views. In addition to fostering closer linkages between school and community, the combined initiatives will also foster cross-curricular integration of subject matter. Following is a list of the ARC initiatives, the activities associated with each and the cultural region in which each one will be implemented in 1997:

Oral Tradition as Education (Southeast region)

  • Foxfire/Camai oral history projects
  • Project Jukebox CD-ROMs
  • Family histories (genealogy)

Language/Cultural Immersion Camps (Yup'ik region)

  • Camp environments (learning in context)
  • Language nests (Te Kohanga Reo)
  • Talking circles/Native values

ANCSA and the Subsistence Economy (Inupiaq region)

  • Subsistence way of life
  • ANCSA and the cash economy
  • Soft technology

Living in Place (Athabascan region)

  • Sense of place (cultural geography)
  • It takes a whole village to raise a child
  • Urban survival school/exchanges

Reclaiming Tribal Histories (Aleut/Alutiiq region)

  • Tribal chronicles
  • Alaska Native Reawakening Project
  • Leadership development (youth/elders)

In addition to the regional initiatives outlined above, the Alaska Rural Challenge will also implement an indigenous curriculum support unit associated with the Alaska Native Knowledge Network (ANKN). This unit will assist rural communities and school districts in the development of indigenous curriculum resources and Frameworks for their schools. These activities will be supported by the development of a cultural atlas for each region, as well as the posting of curriculum resources and links on the ANKN world wide web site ( All of the above will be guided by an indigenous curriculum working group, which will be made up of representatives from each of the cultural regions.

As we have begun to document the cultural resources that are already available to support a curriculum grounded in the indigenous knowledge systems of Alaska, we are finding many excellent localized models already developed and in use. It is our intent to help draw these resources together and build on them, so that changes that are instituted as a result of the Alaska RSI and ARC are initiated from within rural schools and communities, rather than imposed from outside. We invite anyone who has developed or knows of cultural resources that might contribute to this effort to get in touch with any of the staff listed in this newsletter, such information can be shared with others who might find it helpful. We hope this will be a collaborative effort involving all interested parties.

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What's in a Name?

The Recycling of Inupiaq Names and Implications for Kinship: A Personal and Cultural Account

by Rachel Craig

Naming of our children is something that we as Inupiat have taken for granted. Everybody has to have a name, right? If we run out of Inupiaq names of people we like, then we ask our mothers or grandmothers or other close relatives for names that they would recommend from earlier generations or other kinfolk that we were not aware of. It pleased them to know that we would turn to them for assistance in something as important as the naming of our child. This is one of the times that they rehearsed our family trees to us and wonder why certain names did not get used from either side of the family.

As prospective parents of the new namesake in the family, we also got a glimpse of the depth of feeling that our grandparents had for those early forebears and what some of our ancestors' characteristic traits were. This lesson in our ongoing genealogy brought the generations closer together. It gave our generations thoughts and glimpses of our forebears that we knew nothing about. It gave our informers the opportunity to remember their relatives that they had not thought about in a long time, plus giving them a time for a "teaching moment" to the next generation.

Another custom of some of our people is that some elders single out a young child as their future mother or father. Aakaksrautiin (my future mother) or aapaksrautiin (my future father), the old people would call the child. Somehow they appreciated the qualities of that child with whom they wished their namesake to live. We didn't pay much attention to the words of the old people when we were in our primary ages, but those endearments are remembered at the time of childbearing age.

Take, for instance, my maternal grandfather. I don't remember the exact circumstances one day when he let me know that he didn't want me to name any of my children for him because he said I was impatient. His namesake might be subjected to too much scolding, he said. It didn't matter to me at the time because I was too young to be thinking of children. Years later, I cared for my nephew when his mother was ill in the hospital. Unbeknownst to me, apparently my grandfather observed my "mothering." He said to me then, that if I should have any children, even an adopted one, that I should name one for him. His mother died while my grandfather was young and his father raised him and his two older brothers. Therefore, he would like to call her namesake his "mother."

When the elders hear that so-and-so's name was bestowed on a newborn baby, the attitude of our elders then was that the person had "come home" through the new namesake. Even though I have worked with our elders for many years, I haven't yet figured out if the Inupiat believed in reincarnation when they made comments like this. Perhaps it's just a figure of speech that, in essence, the person has "come home" as a namesake in a new person.

There are some individuals that our grandparents say do not merit naming our children after. From my understanding, it's not so much the discarding of the name but because of the negative character traits that the person had. If the baby is given that person's name anyway, words are spoken to the baby to the effect that the previous namesake used up all those negative qualities and for the new baby to pattern his life just the opposite way-the specific qualities that the baby was supposed to seek after were spoken to him.

The thing that goes along with naming is that when you talk to a newborn baby, the child hears the words spoken to it and unconsciously internalizes them. Later on you see those traits just naturally exhibited by the child as he is growing up. To give the newborn child words of wisdom of the character traits in its first few days of life that you want him to live by the rest of his life is an important custom among the Inupiat. In later years, as the good qualities become evident in that person's life, sometimes the only explanation is that so-and-so had spoken to the baby in his infancy. That's why he is the way he is. Very strong medicine.

Perhaps I'm the only Eskimo that many of you have seen, or will ever see. We very seldom call ourselves Eskimo, but because of the power of the printed word, that's how the world knows us. It was the Cree Indians of Canada that the explorers heard call us Eskimo meaning "eaters of raw meat" in their Cree language. Of course the printed word spread that name all over the world. But from time immemorial, the relationship between the Inupiat and the Indians has been pretty much like the Hatfields and McCoys, although there were some exceptions which ended in marriage. That is hardly the case now for us in Alaska since we have been thrown together and educated by the good old U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in boarding schools. We found out that some members of the other tribes weren't so bad after all. But our name for ourselves has always been Inupiaq which translates to an "authentic human being" or a "real person." In other words, a local Native person, one whose bloodlines are not mixed with other human groups. This does not implicate dislike for other ethnic groups. A Native mixed with Caucasian bloodlines would be Naluagmiuyaaq (mixed with people with bleached skin), one who is part black would be Taaqsipaiyaaq (one sired by a person having dark skin). I think we Inupiat have become notorious for marrying into all ethnic groups of the world.

Back to naming. For most of my young years, I thought I was named for my maternal great-grandmother. My grandfather always called me Aakaan-meaning "my mother." It was much later when I was doing our family genealogy that I began to realize that my mother's younger sister had died in May and I was born the following December, so I was actually named for my aunt. My maternal grandmother used the same crooning words to me that she had used for her deceased daughter-my namesake. Our word in Inupiaq is "nuniaq" when you say all those sweet endearing words to the babies. It makes the baby smile and become coy and not know what to do. In Inupiaq, we say that the baby una.

My great-grandmother, for whom we were named, was the favorite niece of one of her uncles. Whenever the uncle hunted, he would save his niece the choice piece of meat from the breast of ptarmigan or other fowl-savigutchaurat, we call them because they are in the shape of a knife. So my great-grandmother, whose name was Piquk, actually became known as Savigummuaq, a fractured Inupiaq word that was intended to mean "somewhat like a shape of a knife." Some members of my family sometimes call me "Savik" for short, meaning "knife." When they ask me how I am, I tell them that I'm sharp as ever. Actually, I have had some dull days, too.

So as names go, Savigummuaq is actually Piquk, like Peggy is Margaret or Bill is William. I also have other namesakes like Quunnignaq (one who calms the waters), Kayuqtuana (root word is fox) and Kaluuraq (has something to do with a drumbeat.) These are the names that my grandfather, Piquk's son, told me about. Later on, I found out from other people that my atiins were also Sapiqsuaq, Taapsuk and possibly others. All my namesakes have treated me with the utmost kindness and best regard and I know that anyone of them would have helped me in any way they could as much as I would do for them. Being atiin with someone gives you a special relationship that makes you proud to be with them and uplift them as really good exceptional people. Our expectations from our namesakes are high and we would do any good thing for them and stick up for them.

Two beautiful girls have been named for me. One is a beautiful teenager of Irish descent with beautiful blue eyes who has grown taller than me. She is the eldest of eight children. Another girl, from my extended family, is about four years old. She has a black father and she is equally beautiful in her personality and very much loved by her brothers. I have a special bond with these my namesakes. We really don't know how old our names are or how many generations have used them. There's no way we can do literature research, either, because all our history was oral until an orthography was developed for our Inupiaq language in the late 1940s.

Inupiaq names are given to us regardless of gender. I have a friend who has a family of boys. She named one of them for her grandmother who raised her. One of my uncles named one of his sons for his mother. It is our understanding that if a male person is given a known female's name that somehow that person becomes a good hunter. My own mother bore her uncle's Inupiaq name. I hardly knew her since she died when I was five years old. However, she was known as a sharpshooter among her family. She could take a -25.35 rifle without an attached scope and the geese that are flying high that she aimed at would one by one fall to the ground. Her father used to take her seal hunting with him because of her shooting skills. And yet she was just as feminine as any woman who loved good clothes and was conscious of her femininity at other times. She also had a sister who was named for their grandfather. This sister was strong and drove a dogteam, brought home logs to burn for fuel, blocks of ice to melt for drinking water and did village-to-village freighting by dogteam like any man. But still she raised a large family of her own.

My mother's siblings that survived consisted of a brother (the oldest in the family), five sisters in the middle and, finally, another brother (the youngest.) The oldest brother was chosen by a local old woman to be her new namesake because my uncle's three eldest siblings had died in infancy and they wanted this baby boy to live. In her day, the old woman was a known shaman and her instructions were that he should not be called her name while she lived. So one of his names became Atqiluaraq (one without a name) and he became Qinugan upon the elderly lady's death. To qinu is to desire something, so I imagine his name became your desired one. When we were growing up we just accepted people's names without wondering what they meant. It is only when we were exposed to the Western culture and began to be asked all kinds of questions including what our names meant that we started to think about our Inupiaq names in terms of meaning.

Another custom of our people is that when one of the children dies, the parents bestow the same Inupiaq name on one of their younger newborn children. Then, for the record, two individuals bear the same name in the same family, except that one of them was born earlier but is deceased. My understanding of that situation is that whoever bestowed that name on the child loved the original namesake so much that they want to keep his name alive in the family. I don't think the Christian concept of resurrection of two members in the same family having the same name even figured into the practice. This is a practice that pre-dates the introduction of the Christian religion to the Inupiat and it is still practiced today even among people who have become good Christians.

Another custom that is prevalent is that when an adult is recently deceased, a new baby is given that deceased person's name. It doesn't really matter that the deceased is not a blood relative. I believe it is considered an honor to have the privilege to name your child for that person to perpetuate his name and memory.

I have given you real examples of how we are given our names. These are not theories, but situations which have developed in families and happened in real life. I hope they mean something to you. They certainly do to us Inupiat.

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AISES Corner (American Indian Science & Engineering Society)

by Claudette Bradley-Kawagley

October 10, 1996 was the birth of the Arctic Region AISES Professional Chapter. The members are educators in the Nome Public Schools, Northwest Arctic Borough School District, Bering Straits School District and North Slope Borough School District. They plan to meet monthly by audioconference. They will share plans for AISES precollege activities in the four arctic regions village schools.

Debra Webber-Werle was voted president. Debra is a kindergarten and first grade teacher in Noatak. She received a special National Science Foundation grant to build science activities for students and interface activities with the community of Noatak. Congratulations Debra! We have confidence that you will be an excellent president.

Members of UAF AISES Chapter continue their fundraising efforts to send students to the AISES National Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, November 14-17. The chapter is sending five students and three additional students are being funded by the Institute of Marine Science.

The UAF AISES Chapter will host the Region I AISES College Chapter Conference in Fairbanks March 6-8. The conference will feature speakers, workshops, a career fair and a high school session. High school students from Fairbanks and rural villages will be invited.

School districts in the Interior have invited Claudette Bradley-Kawagley to present and discuss AISES and AISES precollege chapter/clubs with teachers in village schools. Claudette has presented at the Yukon Flats Teacher in-service, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District's Alaska Native Education Home-School Coordinators meeting and plans have been made to discuss AISES precollege chapter/clubs with teachers and students in the Yukon-Koyukuk School District.

There is a lot of enthusiasm in rural Alaska for establishing AISES precollege chapters in village schools. Keep informed by continuing to read "AISES Corner" in each issue of Sharing Our Pathways.

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Native Ways of Knowing and the Frameworks

by Peggy Cowan

State Standards and Frameworks

The State of Alaska's Department of Education has developed voluntary academic standards in ten content areas. These standards describe what all Alaska students should know, be able to do and be committed to at the end of their school experience in Alaska. Many districts are basing their school improvement work on these standards. The Department of Education has developed Framework documents, kits, CDROMs and a Web page to assist school districts in designing programs that enable students to meet these standards. Through the inspiration of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative and the hard work of its staff, the Department of Education has added a section on indigenous curriculum organizers to the Frameworks' products.

Purpose of the Indigenous Section

Indigenous ways of knowing are based upon customs, beliefs, behaviors and world views that are different from the learning systems established by Western educational institutions. This new section provides a framework to help districts design compatible indigenous and non-indigenous learning systems that allow for and support multiple world views.

This section of the framework provides district curriculum committees with tools to:

  • increase the awareness of curriculum committees of the similarities and differences between indigenous and Western world views and how these affect beliefs about knowledge and schooling,
  • provide suggested design processes and models of indigenous curriculum categories for the consideration of district curriculum committees,
  • link indigenous curriculum categories to state standards and assessment schemes and
  • encourage curriculum that is relevant to locales and students' lives and futures.


The work of the indigenous Framework section is built on a number of assumptions about curriculum in Alaska:

  • Many curriculum categories exist that are sympathetic with Native Alaskan ways of understanding the world that can be used to organize school curriculum.
  • The indigenous curriculum categories complement and overlap organizers established by Western educational institutions.
  • The curriculum categories will vary by Alaska Native group, region and sub region and they could be chosen by local schools or school districts when they do curriculum design and revisions.
  • The indigenous concepts are embedded in the language so that many of the categories for district bilingual programs could be applied to a broader curriculum context.


Ten sample curriculum organizers in the Framework reference kits and notebooks are included as models for local curriculum committees to consider. In general, these examples share the deep cultural knowledge-an instructional process that develops higher level thinking in students, and a sequence that invokes spiritual and cosmological values.

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Calling for Mokakit Conference Presenters!

On September 18, representatives from the major cultural regions in Alaska met in Anchorage to form the Alaska First Nations Research Network that will function as a chapter of the Canadian Mokakit Native Education Research Association. In addition to getting a process underway to develop by-laws and form a board for the AFNRN chapter, primary attention was given to planning for the upcoming 1997 Mokakit Conference to be held in Anchorage February 10-11. Along with the Canadian participants, we are urging anyone in Alaska with possible ideas related to Native-oriented research issues, projects or reports to submit a proposal for the Mokakit Conference program. Deadline for submission is December 15 and you can get ideas for possible presentation topics from the last issue of the SOP newsletter. If you have questions, please contact Oscar Kawagley or Ray Barnhardt at the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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Native Science

by Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley

We have talked, discussed and suggested activities in Native science, but have not really defined what we are talking about. During the regional meeting in Kotzebue, a group of interested people got together to talk about Native science. The following are thoughts that were produced attempting to understand what it is. It is requested that the staff and readers review and make additions, deletions and modifications to the stated "givens" as this is a beginning draft.

  • Within our Native mythology and stories are the sciences and within the Native sciences are the mythology and stories.
  • Native Science is concerned with asking the right questions to learn from nature and the spiritual worlds.
  • Native science is centered on studying natural phenomena requiring long and patient observation-a matter of survival.
  • The Native empirical knowledge of habitats and niches is conducive to intuition which may originate from the subconscious, natural or spiritual worlds. The way of knowing is qualitative and is conservation-based to ensure sustainability.
  • Native ways of knowing are holistic or holographic that recognizes relationships in place and influences to processes in the ecological system.
  • A belief in everything having a spirit establishes a sense of spirituality which is inseparable from everyday life. This spirituality is embedded in respect which gives honor and dignity to all things. "We are biologists in our own way."
  • Native science deals with all aspects of life: health (healing plants), psychology, weather prediction, earth science, shamanism, animal behavior according to seasons, stars and constellations, reincarnation, natural permutations, rituals and ceremonies to maintain balance and many areas of life.
  • The Native scientist checks on past history and events to see and understand the present situation.

Ideas on assessing educational change process in Native language acquisition and learning of Native cultural and modern lifeways:

  • Is the study based on natural phenomena?
  • Is the inquiry logical and meaningful?
  • Is the historical (mythology & stories) data available?
  • How was the conclusion arrived at?
  • Does the data gathering process include holistic thought?
  • Does the process use the five senses and elements of intuition?

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Athabascan Regional Report

by Amy Van Hatten

Elders and Cultural Camp Initiative

I would like to acknowledge, with appreciation, the Athabascan people and colleagues from the Interior for their kindness and unselfishness in spending quality time with me this past summer in cultural camps. The pride and self-confidence they displayed has influenced and encouraged me to continue striving on their behalf and to be a catalyst between the expertise of Alaska Native elders and the educational institutions.

Through diligent work throughout the Interior, numerous cultural camps were implemented this past spring and summer with an emphasis on living with the land, animals and a diverse group of people. Plans are to continue the camps as annual events.

The primary objective of this initiative was to enable teachers, students, administrators, parents and elders to establish a vehicle for integrating Alaska Native elders' expertise and knowledge into the educational and scientific programs in the region. While respecting our elders' wisdom and life experiences, we must be willing to accept their advice on to how to deal with learning, listening, life in the old ways and, in general, with today's problems.

Many of the cultural activities the elders demonstrated were hands on and they gave personal attention to our new skills as we practiced in front of them, giving a new meaning to "hand-made". They shared their methods and unique way of improvising with what nature has provided for centuries in regards to their available tools, materials, ways of prolonging energy levels, gathering from the land, story telling and unspoken Native spirituality and harmony, just to name a few. We must pay attention to the protection of cultural and intellectual property rights of Alaska Native people as they make their traditional knowledge available to others. Traditionally, a Native child was not instructed on how to achieve certain survival skills. They were expected to learn from observation more than from direct instructions. They had to observe carefully when parents and grandparents were engaged in various activities and mimic the behavior until they got it right.

A camera crew stayed at the Old Minto Elders' Camp for the full duration. They are making a video for teacher in-services that will illustrate the cultural value and educational potential of incorporating elders and cultural camps in the school curriculum.

From my experience in being around elders, they want our new generation to learn their Native language, oral stories, legacies and to gain leadership and spiritual skills that will equip us for a future without them. It is our responsibility to perpetuate that new vision for the people and all others who are receptive.

The following is one sample of how traditional knowledge integrates with Western astronomy through a traditional Kiowa story of Tsoai (Plains Indians).

Eight children were there at play-seven sisters and their brother. Suddenly the boy was struck dumb; he trembled and began to run upon his hands and feet. His fingers became claws and his body was covered with fur. Directly there was a bear where the boy had been. The sisters were terrified; they ran and the bear after them. They came to the stump of a great tree and the tree spoke to them. It bade them climb upon it and as they did so it began to rise into the air. The bear came to kill them but they were beyond its reach. It reared against the trunk and scored the bark all around with its claws. The seven sisters were borne into the sky and they became the stars of the Big Dipper.
(From The Ancient Child by N. Scott Momaday.)

Best wishes!

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Aleut Regional Report

by Moses L. Dirks

Indigenous Science Knowledge Base Initiative

The activities in the Aleut Region have been very hectic this fall. The last two months required setting up elders' council meetings in two locations-one in Kodiak and one at Unalaska. The reason for this was to accommodate the cultural and linguistic differences that exist among the Alutiiq and Aleut people.

On September 5 & 6, the elders from Kodiak and the surrounding villages of Akhiok, Larsen Bay, Old Harbor, Port Lions and Ouzinkie met for two days in Kodiak. The meeting arrangements were made by the Kodiak Area Native Association and it was held in their new offices. Thanks to executive director Kelly Simeonoff, education director Connie Hogue and the newly hired graduate assistant Sabrina Sutton for helping arrange the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative and to get input from the elders on topics they thought would be of interest to their children or their grandchildren. This meeting focused on getting direction from the elders about topics on Native ways of knowing. There has been some documentation of Native ways of knowing but very little has been done to integrate that into the curriculum.

Bill Schneider and Kathy Turco from the Oral History Department of the University of Alaska Fairbanks were instrumental in recording the discussions of the Kodiak elders on tape. The guidelines for research were discussed with the elders so that they had some ideas on how the materials would be used. Concerns were expressed by the elders about past experiences with the knowledge that was used by researchers and scientists-mostly without their involvement. Some assurances were given to the elders by Bill Schneider that the use of this information would be subject to the approval of the sources. Bill stressed to the Kodiak elders that once the recordings are documented they will become part of the public record and will be housed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Department at the Fairbanks campus.

The purpose of the Alaska RSI is to bridge indigenous and Western knowledge while making both user friendly to classrooms. This has not been done on a full scale at the schools, so it is going to be interesting. With the help of our elders we will have a chance to implement valuable information that will be used in schools.

During the course of the meeting, the Kodiak elders talked about the following categories: weather predictions, building and materials, Native food (how they were prepared and preserved in the past) and Alutiiq medicinal plants. Time for discussions was limited so not all topic areas were discussed in great length. The Kodiak meeting went quite well and information was gathered to begin documenting the initiative.

The Aleutian elders met at Unalaska September 12-17 in conjunction with the rededication of the Holy Ascension Church of Unalaska. This event was the Second Annual Aleut Elders Council meeting held in the Aleutians. It was sponsored by the Aleutian/Pribilof Islands Association and the city of Unalaska.

Since elders were in Unalaska for the Annual Elders Conference, we also wanted to meet with our Elders' council. The Aleut Elders Council for the Alaska RSI met for the first time. The villages represented were Atka, Nikolski, Unalaska, Akutan, King Cove, Sand Point and Pribilofs. The meeting took place at the Grand Aleutian Hotel in Dutch Harbor.

Alaska RSI co-directors Oscar Kawagley and Ray Barnhardt gave presentations on the project and answered questions. Co-director Oscar Kawagley told a traditional story about how the crane got its blue eyes. He then applied that to indigenous science. With his expertise and understanding of the indigenous cultures, he helped the elders in understanding what the program was about.

Co-director Ray Barnhardt gave an overhead presentation on the different initiatives that were going on statewide and outlined to the elders and the audience what the Aleut Region initiative was for the first year. He then went over the plan for the next four years. Annenberg Rural Challenge was also introduced to the elders. This is a newly funded program which rounds off the Alaska RSI project. The Alaska RSI project focuses on the science and math areas. The Annenberg Rural Challenge will be focusing on the social studies and language arts areas (see "A Challenge for Rural Education in Alaska" on page three of this newsletter.)

During the meeting with the elders, the following topics were discussed: navigation, food preservation and preparation, survival and weather prediction in the Aleutians. We would like to thank Ray Hudson, a former teacher and historian, for helping out with the discussions and Barbara Svarny Carlson and Susie Golodoff for the recording of the meeting and assisting in the compilation of existing materials once direction was given by the Aleut Elders Council. Kathy Turko did the recording of the sessions. It was a good turnout for the initial meeting. The elders met and were successful in setting the goals of the first year of the Aleut Region Initiative. If you want to make comments about the project or if you have questions, please don't hesitate to call me at (907) 274-3611 or write to me at the address listed in the newsletter.

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Yup'ik/Cup'ik Regional Report

by Barbara Liu, Yugtun "Makell"

Native Ways of Knowing and Teaching Initiative

Waqaa, Camai-Y/Cugtun naaqiyugngalriani. Ciumek Qanrucuugamci caliamtenek Amiirairvigmi. Qula malrugnek cipluku tegganret quyurtellruut Mamterillermi pingayuni ernerni. Angayuqam ilagallruakut. Quyurtaqamta yugtarmi qanerturluteng Y/Cugtun augkut tegganret taillret nunanek waniug Kuinerraamek, Kassiglumek, Naparyaarmek, Cev'armek, Manuquutamek, Nanvarpagmek, Mamterrillermek-llu pillruut. Quyaviksugaput arcaqerluku Naparyaarmek temirtenrat ilagautellra taugaam cali tuingunrituurluku cam illiiniku tangrutenqigciiqngamta unitengravkut. Imiirat qanellrit wii caliaqciqanka. Cayarait arnat anguutet-llu allakaulaata avvluki piyugyaaqanka uumiku. Atam, ayuqestasiigutekluku melquliuyaram caliari amllertut. Angutet wall'u arnaungermeng pissutullruit. Caliaqellrit-llu pitat ayuqevkenani cayaralirluni taqellranun yaavet atuurkaurrluku. Uumiku pikumta avvluta angutet tegulallratnun piciqut. Arnat-llu pikata pitat caliaritnun amiilratnek, neqkiurluki, atuurkiullritnun. Augna tuai ayuqestassiigutekluku qanrutkaqa. Elitnaurutkanun ayagyuamta elicarcuutaitnun alngaqsugluki piinanemteni piyuutekluku. Cali maai uksuarumainanrani piyunarqekumta tegganret allaneqsugyaaqanka Mamterillermi Uivik tupailgan. Tua-i waten pitaunga. Uumiku pillerkangqerquma cali qanemciciqua. Ikayungcaquvet makut ciuliamta qanellratnun quyaciqua.


Hello readers, first off, I would like to let you know that the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative Yup'ik/Cup'ik Elders Council met September 3-5. Twelve elders met in Bethel for three days. Oscar Kawagley was with us. We met at the Yup'ik/Cup'ik museum conducting meetings in Yup'ik/Cup'ik only, with elders from Quinhagak (Andy and Elizabeth Sharp), Kasigluk (Teddy and Eliza Brink), Hooper Bay (Jonathan Johnson), Chevak (Joseph and Lucy Tuluk), Manakotak (Henry Alakayak and Anuska Nanalook), Illiamna (Gregory and Evelyn Anelon, Sr.) and Bethel (Lucy Beaver). We (Alaska RSI) would like to send a special thank you to the spirit of our eldest elder from Hooper Bay, Jonathan Johnson, ninety-four, who passed on September 16. It's not the end; someday we shall see each other again, though we part physically.

I will work on the collected documents. Traditional male and female roles are defined separately, so I prefer to do the same when the elders meet. For example, care of an animal, particularly one that has been caught, is a step-by-step process to acquire an end product from the raw resource. Using this example, men and women in different settings share varying experiences of animal care. From this perspective, math and science activities will be tasseled (like on a parka tassel) onto educational materials and curriculum adaptation.

This fall I plan to hold more elders' workshops, gathering oral indigenous knowledge in Bethel before the month of December. That's it for now. Next time, God willing, I will have more to share. If you need assistance with Yup'ik/Cup'ik elders documentation, I am happy to help in any way I can.


Lake and Peninsula School District Liaison

by Gregory Anelon, Jr.

Camai, I'm Gregory Anelon, Jr. and I will be working as a liaison between the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative project and the Lake and Peninsula School District. I have two boys, Chad and Matthew, and a very lovely wife, Staci, who, I must admit, is expecting our third child. I was hired in August after moving to Newhalen from Bethel where I worked at the Lower Kuskokwim School District as a Community & Career Development Specialist. In my new position, I found that I must work with three cultural groups: Yup'ik, Athabascan and Aleut. A very ambitious task but after meeting the Alaska RSI regional coordinators, I feel that they will make my job more tolerable. It was a pleasure to have met most of the people involved with the Alaska RSI project during the September staff meeting in Anchorage. At the present time I do not have a permanent e-mail address, however you can contact me through my America On-Line address,, or my home phone (907) 571-1568. Have a safe and a happy Thanksgiving.

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Village Science: Good Stew

by Alan Dick

Good ideas, like good stew, take time to simmer. There are a few good ideas that come quickly, but most come gradually over time. For years I wondered why campfire smoke followed me around the fire. For years I wondered why winter trails set up overnight. For years I wondered why warming my hands in the chainsaw exhaust was counterproductive. For years I wondered why clouds seemed to hide behind mountain tops in a strong wind. Right now I am pondering potholes in dirt roads. I wonder if there is a similar phenomena in nature. I haven't thought of one yet unless it is at the foot of waterfalls. I don't know if any good will come of my pondering, but every once in a while, I bring up the thoughts in my mind and roll them over.

As we develop science curriculum based on the local environment, we must acknowledge that it takes time to come up with good questions as well as good answers. Some ideas turn into dead ends. Perhaps my dirt road with potholes is such a venture. It is hard to tell at this stage. The last work I did in developing curriculum based on village life came to me over a three-year span. I was working on the roof when an idea came. I climbed down the ladder to make note of it. As I was driving a boat or cutting wood, ideas came. Usually they come in the middle of an activity. Writing them down before they drift away takes a conscious effort. New ideas are fragile and need to be handled very gently. They are easily lost. They are often overcome by discouragement. However, I have found that "making a stew" of relevant ideas, allowing them to simmer in my mind, and finally bringing them forth when they are complete is one of the most satisfying processes of my life. Good stew simmers well on the back of the cook stove, the ingredients mingling in a way that each one compliments the other. Our intent now is to simmer the ingredients of Western and indigenous science, allow them to mingle and compliment each other. The composite will be far more savory than the ingredients in isolation. As we develop the new ideas, we must be careful to allow them the necessary time for formation. If we do, they will endure.

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Southeast Regional Report

by Andy Hope

Culturally Aligned Curriculum Adaptations Initiative

I started work in late December 1995. In mid-January of this year, I met with the Southeast consortium partners for the first time: Sidney Stephens of the Alaska Science Consortium, Peggy Cowan (science specialist) and Nancy Spear (math specialist) of the Department of Education, and Richard Dauenhauer of Sealaska Heritage Foundation. We discussed possible strategies for addressing the initiative for the first year-Culturally-Aligned Curriculum Adaptations.

I was able to secure office space at the University of Alaska Southeast Juneau campus, thanks to Marshall Lind. The first major event of the year was the Native Curriculum Workshop that took place in conjunction with the Third Conference of Tlingit Tribes and Clans, March 28-30 in Ketchikan and Saxman. All consortium partners were present for this workshop. The participants in the Ketchikan workshop laid the groundwork for the Southeast Alaska Native Educators Association. The Southeast Regional Elders Council also organized in Ketchikan. Elders council members include: Arnold Booth of Metlakatla (chair), Isabella Brady of Sitka, Joe Hotch of Klukwan, Charles Natkong of Hydaburg, Lydia George of Angoon and Gil Truitt of Sitka.

In April, the Sitka and Chatham School Districts signed MOAs to participate in the project. Oscar Kawagley and I traveled to Sitka and Angoon in the spring to meet with district and community representatives.

The Southeast Native Educators held another organizational meeting in early June. The Southeast Elders Council also met in early June. All of the elders council members (also Jackie Kookesh and Pauline Duncan of the Southeast Native Educators) served as presenters at the Summer Teacher Academies Multicultural Education course in Juneau.

The Alaska Science Consortium and the Alaska Department of Education co-sponsored a Native Science Curriculum workshop in late June in Juneau. A group of four teachers worked with Sidney Stephens and Peggy Cowan to draft a science unit based on Tlingit knowledge, addressing science standards and using appropriate teaching and assessment strategies.

Another Native Science curriculum workshop took place in Sitka in early October. The workshop was hosted by the Alaska Science Consortium and the Department of Education. Teachers from ten districts from throughout Southeast Alaska participated, with emphasis on teachers from Chatham and Sitka School Districts. Chatham and Sitka teachers designated working teams and team leaders to work with the Alaska RSI project. The Southeast Alaska Native Educators Association also formally organized at this time and elected officers: Isabella Brady of Sitka and Jackie Kookesh of Angoon were elected co-chairs; other officers include Evi Fennimore of Wrangell, Ruth Demmert of Kake, Mary Jean Duncan of Angoon, Phyllis Carlson of Juneau and Rocky Eddy of Juneau. The Sitka and Chatham teams are committed to coordinate their Alaska RSI efforts in the future.

The Sitka and Chatham teams will participate in a Native science and math curriculum guide workshop in November. This workshop will assess curriculum resources currently available in their respective districts and draft guides for a Tlingit math book, calendar and map. The workshop will be facilitated by Jackie Kookesh with support from Alaska RSI and Richard and Nora Dauenhauer of Sealaska Heritage Foundation.

A data collection/archive workshop will also take place in November. Participants will include the Sitka and Chatham district teams, Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff, Sheldon Jackson Library staff and Egan Library (UAS) staff. The workshop will be facilitated by Jana Garcia, a Haida archivist.

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Inupiaq Regional Report

by Elmer Jackson

Village Science Applications Initiative

On September 6-8, the first American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES) teacher liaison meeting was held in Kotzebue. In attendance were liaison teachers from the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, Bering Straits School District and the North Slope Borough School District and Village Science coordinators Kathy Itta of Ilisagvik College, Barrow and Bernadette Alvanna-Stimpfle of Northwest Campus, Nome. Also in attendance were the Alaska RSI co-directors Ray Barnhardt and Oscar Kawagley, AISES coordinator Claudette Bradley-Kawagley and Scientists-in-Residence coordinator Larry Duffy. School district liaisons are Bernadette Alvanna-Stimpfle of Nome City School District, Kipi Asicksik of Bering Strait School District, Ava Carlson of North Slope Borough School District and Bruce Hemmel of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District.

One of our tasks is to start the AISES chapters in schools in the Inupiaq Regions. I contacted three school districts about our intentions. Another task is to get the Scientists-in-Residence program started. Principals and teachers should have received information on the above. Please contact any of the liaison teachers at your school district or me at (907) 475-2257, fax 475-2180, if you would like to be involved in the AISES chapters or the Scientists-in-Residence program. Claudette Bradley-Kawagley can be contacted at (907) 474-5376 and Larry Duffy can be contacted at (907) 474-7525.

Tentatively planned for November 7, 8 & 9, is a workshop in Nome to continue our work with AISES and the Scientists-in-Residence program. We invite principals, teachers and other interested people to attend.

This is the second year I've been involved with the Northwest Arctic Borough School District's Bilingual/Bicultural Education Program. The Inupiaq Language and Curriculum Committee has been reviewing the purpose and goals of the bilingual program. We are in the process of restating the philosophy statement and have begun developing Inupiaq language objectives for pre-kindergarten through third grades. I plan to invite Kathy Itta and Bernie Alvanna-Stimpfle to attend one of these sessions, hopefully next month.

Principals and teachers, please contact us about these worthwhile projects. It will enhance learning and be fun for the students. Taikuu.

North Slope Regional Activities

by Katherine Itta, North Slope Alaska RSI/Annenberg Coordinator

The Ilisagvik College is coordinating closely with the North Slope Borough School District (NSBSD) in the implementation of the 1996 activities centering on "village science". The college stresses the need to incorporate science concepts which are meaningful to the region, especially those that are related to the environmental sciences. This fall, the Ilisagvik College staff and the NSBSD staff plan on traveling to several sites to help organize the North Slope Science and Engineering Clubs. The Ipalook Elementary School is excited about the development of their K-5 science and engineering club and we look forward to assisting them in their efforts. In the discussion of the American Indian Science and Engineering chapters (AISES), the North Slope region expressed concern about the term "American Indian" since the Inupiat do not consider themselves to be "American Indian" and felt that the term is exclusive of Inupiat and other ethnic groups. At the meeting held on the sixth of September, it was decided that the Inupiat region AISES clubs would choose their own local names but will be affiliated with the national AISES organization.

On the North Slope, we are looking for volunteers in the science and engineering community to "adopt a school" and be willing to be a role model, to encourage science and engineering careers, and to assist teachers in their science programs. We also look forward to the development of an Inupiat Science Exploritorium to celebrate our students' science projects in the region. One of the plans is to showcase science projects in the 50th Anniversary of the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory, an event being sponsored by the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium and scheduled for August 1997.

Arva Carlson and Tim Buckley are co-teaching a high school course on Arctic Science and the college has been assisting their efforts through membership in the Arctic Science Consortium of the United States. We encourage North Slope high school science teachers to incorporate the Inupiaq perspective in the sciences and draw attention to the Inuit Circumpolar Science Initiatives and local science research policies that call for indigenous participation in research projects. As the Ilisagvik College expands its science education program, we look forward to offering additional courses in the sciences designed to reflect the blending of knowledge systems. For example, a course is being developed and proposed for the spring of 1997 on the topic of Bowhead whales through a cooperative partnership with the North Slope Borough (NSB) Wildlife Department. The Ilisagvik College also anticipates an Inupiaq research focus in the development of educational programs in the North Slope Cultural Center scheduled to open in 1998.

We are assisting Alan Dick in the development of the publication North Slope Village Science and Chip McMillan in the development of a "northernized" Science Nuggets book. Also under production is the NSB Wildlife Department's curriculum project on Fishes of the North Slope. We support curriculum development projects that are focused on conceptual Inupiaq knowledge, in other words, projects that delve into Inupiaq perspectives and not just "at the tip of the iceberg."

Bering Straits Report

by Yaayuk Alvanna-Stimpfle, Village Science Coordinator, Northwest Campus, Nome

I came on board in March of 1996. For the first two and a half months, I've been getting to know what this job entails. I made presentations to the Native Parent Education Committee at the Nome Public Schools and the Sitnasuak Elders' Council at Sitnasuak Native Corporation in Nome. I traveled to Unalakleet with Claudette and Oscar Kawagley to talk about the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) with the principal and the science teachers. I also established contacts with the Nome Public Schools and the Bering Straits School District to introduce the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (Alaska RSI) project.

This fall, I've been busy working with the Nome elementary schools' bilingual-bicultural instructors, writing the lesson plans since they are already integrated into the science themes. The elementary school science themes are three years, a quarter long and four themes per year. The themes change every year and are repeated every three years.

I included Inupiaq vocabulary and put the themes into seasonal activities depending on what the Native population is doing. For example, the men are hunting moose and seal now, so I will be working on navigation and weather predictions with the astronomy theme for the next quarter. I also included traditional stories right into the lessons.

I've been asked to present the Alaska RSI project to the Northwest Campus Advisory Council in December and to the Kawerak Inc. board members sometime in the future. Tavra.

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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
(907) 543-3457

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

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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
Questions or comments?
Last modified August 14, 2006