A newsletter of the Alaska Rural Systemic
Alaska Federation of Natives / University
of Alaska / National Science Foundation
Volume 2, Issue 1, January/February 1997
In This Issue:
Year Two Initiatives Bring Exciting New Challenges
by Dorothy M. Larson
The Alaska Native Rural Education Consortium met
in Anchorage on November 18-19, 1996. We had excellent attendance
at the meeting with memorandum of agreement (MOA) partners, regional
and village representatives, State Department of Education representatives,
other agency and organization participants, elders and staff. Visitors
included other National Science Foundation project coordinators
interested in learning about the Alaska RSI initiatives. Updates
and status reports were provided by the co-directors Larson, Kawagley
and Barnhardt for both the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative and
the Alaska Rural Challenge projects.
Informative reports from each of the MOA partners
demonstrate that many things are happening in each of the five
cultural regions-much more than we would have dreamed of a year
ago when we began the project. It has been a truly remarkable year
with all the activities, the progress, the positive involvement
of the elders, communities, MOA partners and others who are interested
in becoming involved.
With the Alaska Rural Challenge up and running, we
would like to take this opportunity to introduce Harold Napolean,
coordinator for the Reclaiming Tribal Histories initiative. Harold
will be working in the Aleut region with Moses Dirks, Aleut regional
coordinator. Harold is no stranger to rural Alaska, hailing from
Hooper Bay. Welcome aboard, Harold!
Time was spent in regional working groups to plan
and strategize for the Year Two initiatives. The regional coordinators
had a tremendous amount of work to accomplish and did an excellent
job in coordinating the initiatives within their regions, establishing
Elders Councils, working with a diverse group within their own
regions and working with one another collaboratively as a team.
The consortium meeting, attended by the staff and MOA partners
of the project, is extremely important in the implementation of
the Year Two initiatives, to get a reading on the status of Year
One initiatives and how to transition from one initiative to another.
We applaud the elders for their involvement, patience and wisdom
as we see how indigenous knowledge and practices can be appropriate
in this age of technology and information. We are looking forward
to continuing our quest to make that knowledge an integral part
of the teaching and learning for rural students-especially in math
Guest speakers included Sharon John, science teacher
at the Kanangaq Program at West High School in Anchorage, and Mark
John, a graduate student at the University of Alaska Anchorage
who spoke on how he is able to use his skills as a traditional
hunter, gatherer and fisherman in and around the city.
Prior to the consortium meeting, many of the elders
and partners were available to participate in the working groups
which were formed to discuss topics such as Indigenous Curriculum
Frameworks, Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights, Native Educators
Network and the Regional Cultural Atlases. The group feels an urgency
to discuss and develop a policy statement which will guide our
work as it relates to the cultural and intellectual property rights
on the information, stories and other sensitive areas that can
impact the work that we are involved in.
Year Two will begin on January 1, 1997 so that the
two projects, the Alaska RSI and the Alaska Rural Challenge, are
synchronized on a calendar year and the initiatives will be concurrent.
This next year the staff will be working a twelve-month year rather
than the ten-month year.
On behalf of the co-directors, I would like to express
thanks to all the consortium members for their active participation.
It is their involvement that will insure the success of the Alaska
RSI and Alaska Rural Challenge. Thanks to our dedicated staff:
regional coordinators Amy Van Hatten, Barbara Liu, Moses Dirks,
Elmer Jackson and Andy Hope and Gail Pass, Shirley Moto and Harold
Napolean in Anchorage. We also extend our thanks and appreciation
to Paula Elmes, Lolly Carpluk, Linda M. Evans, Dixie Dayo and Jeannie
O'Malley-Keyes in Fairbanks. A special thanks to the many elders
involved with the Alaska RSI projects across the state. Without
this team of hardworking, professional individuals, we would not
be able to continue to keep up the pace and to accomplish the work
outlined in the initiatives.
We were recently informed by Dr. Gerald Gipp, NSF
Program Officer, that the funding for Year Two initiatives has
been approved. We look forward to continuing and establishing a
new partnership for 1997.
Teaching and Learning Across Cultures: Strategies
by Ray Barnhardt
The following is the first of three excerpts from
an article addressed to teachers who are seeking guidance on how
to best enter a new cultural/community/school setting and make
a constructive contribution to the education of the children in
that setting. The remaining excerpts will appear in next two issues
of Sharing Our Pathways.
You have just been hired to teach in a cultural setting
with which you have had little if any previous experience. How
can you enter into and learn about that community in a manner that
will maximize your chances of making a positive contribution to
the educational experiences of the students with whom you will
work? There are no simple prescriptions in response to that question,
but there are strategies you can draw upon to guide you into a
new teaching situation and help you adapt your teaching practices
to better serve the unique educational needs of that cultural community.
The compilation of tips and advice that follows is a distillation
of the experiences of many educators who have learned to adapt
their work to the physical and cultural environment in which they
are located. Although the author's experiences have been drawn
mostly from work in Native villages in rural Alaska and are those
of a non-Native educator, the issues will be addressed in ways
that are applicable in any setting involving people from diverse
While a condensed version of such a complex subject
runs the risk of over-simplification and misinterpretation, it
is offered here as a starting point for an on-going journey of
personal exploration and cross-cultural sensitization that each
of us as educators must undertake if we are to relate to people
from other cultural backgrounds in a respectful and constructive
manner. When we learn to relate to each other and teach in a culturally
considerate way, we benefit not only those with whom we work, but
we benefit ourselves as well. We are all cultural beings, and accelerating
changes in the makeup of the world around us makes that fact an
increasingly obvious and inescapable aspect of our daily existence.
How then can we take culture into account in our work as educators?
How do you enter a new cultural community?
First impressions count! The way you present yourself
to people in a new community will have a lasting impact on how
they perceive and relate to you, and consequently on how you perceive
them. This is especially true in a small village where everyone
lives in close proximity to one another, but it is also true in
the context of classrooms as micro-communities. The first thing
to remember is that many other teachers have come and gone before
you, so students and parents have developed their own ways of making
sense out of their relationships with strangers. While this may
be a new experience for you, it is not for the host community.
The background and perspective you bring to the situation, particularly
in terms of cross-cultural experience, will have a major bearing
on how you present yourself in a new setting. If you have taught
previously in a comparable community, or are yourself from a similar
cultural background (e.g., a Native teacher), you will have relationships
and experiences to build upon when you enter the new community
that a beginning teacher without that prior experience will not
have available. For the purpose of making these limited observations
as useful as possible, the emphasis here will be on the latter
situation, where the teacher is assumed to be starting from scratch
in a new cultural situation.
The biggest challenge you face is getting to know
people on their own terms and letting them get to know you as a
person, rather than just as a "teacher." The tendency for people
who make their living off the printed word is to turn to the nearest
library or bookstore when confronted with a new situation about
which they lack information. While it may be useful to acquire
some basic factual information about your new cultural home beforehand,
most of what you need to know about the people and community you
will be working with is probably best acquired firsthand, with
minimal influence from someone else's perceptual filters. The fewer
prior conceptions and the less cultural baggage that you carry
into the situation, the more likely that you will be able to avoid
jumping to superficial conclusions, leaving you free to learn what
it takes to make a constructive entry into the local flow of life.
There are many layers of shared understandings in
any cultural community, and for an outsider to even begin to recognize
that the deeper layers exist requires a considerable openness of
mind and a great deal of time and effort. Our first impressions
of a new culture are usually formed in response to the more obvious
surface aspects that we can see, hear, and relate to our own prior
experience, so it is important to withhold judgment and defer closure
on our interpretation of behavior and events as long as possible.
Once we arrive at a conclusion or form an opinion, we begin to
rely on that explanation for guiding our subsequent behavior and
hesitate to assimilate new information that may lead to a deeper
understanding. The resulting myopia can contribute to numerous
problems, including inappropriately low expectations regarding
You can minimize the potential problems outlined
above and accelerate your immersion into a new cultural community
in a number of ways. If the opportunity exists, one of the most
useful steps you can take is to get involved in the community as
early as possible, preferably before you assume the role of teacher.
Let people get to know you as a person first, and this will have
enormous payoff in everything that you do as a teacher. If possible
and appropriate, get involved in the community where your students
live early enough to join in traditional summer activities, so
you can get to know people on their terms and begin to see life
through their eyes. This will enable you to make your lessons much
more meaningful for your students, and it will open up avenues
of communication that will be beneficial to everyone involved.
If you are looking for a place to live, consider
how your housing and life style will set you off from, or help
you blend into the community. While housing that sets you apart
from the community may be convenient (when available), you pay
a price in terms of your relationship to the rest of the community.
Whenever possible, choose immersion over isolation, but don't forget
who you are in the process. You will be more respected for being
yourself (assuming you are considerate and respectful) than for "going
Native." Seek advice from the practitioners of the culture in which
you are situated, and always convey respect for their ways, recognizing
that you are a guest in someone else's community. If you encounter
situations of apparent social breakdown and dysfunctionality, be
especially careful to exercise discretion and obtain the views
of others before you take any precipitous action.
The most important consideration when entering a
new cultural community is keeping an open mind and accepting people
on their own terms. A little attention to how you present yourself
in the beginning can make a big difference in your relationships
for the remainder of your stay in the community. First impressions
First Nations Research Network
by Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley
Mokakit-to strive for wisdom. What a singularly appropriate
word that our Canadian relatives share with us, the Alaska Native
people. With the goals and objectives of the Alaska Rural Systemic
Initiative and Alaska Rural Challenge, it is timely that Alaska
Native educators, teachers, teacher aides, bilingual teachers,
parents and elders establish a chapter of Mokakit called the Alaska
First Nations Research Network (AFNRN).
The objectives of Mokakit are:
- to foster higher education among First Nations,
- to promote and enhance individual and group research
- to review and highlight current research information,
- to organize and host conferences related to Mokakit
- to conduct workshops and seminars in research
- to provide a resource base for First Nations communities,
- to maintain an inventory of research studies in
- to identify critical areas for research in Native
education which are not being addressed and
- to encourage Native graduate students to address
these areas in their research theses and dissertations.
The objectives are certainly those to which we subscribe.
As we embark on pathways to Native education, to include Native
languages, ecosophy, spirituality and lifeways, and seek ways to
incorporate English and the various disciplines from the Western
world to the newly developed courses of study, calls for such an
organization. Ecosophy is the seeking of wisdom from the ecological
system in which one finds oneself. Nature is the university of
the universe. Ellam Yua has placed many models of knowing within
it, all we need to do is seek with mind and soul to get a sense
of knowing and letting it work in our lives. For example, we get
a message of wonder from the raven-it is never bored and it is
constantly exploring its surroundings. Water has the ability to
take the form of its container and yet has the potential of awesome
power. From it, we learn patience and the practice of soft power.
The objectives as recounted above are qualitative and comprehensive.
They will help in setting ways to assess the change processes in
Native language acquisition and learning of Native ways of creating
identity, developing uniqueness, seeking natural models of knowing
and getting a sense of accomplishment. Educators who are trained
in research must begin to develop partnerships with teachers, aides,
parents and elders in doing research. We realize that trained researchers
are not the only ones capable of doing noteworthy and useful research.
On behalf of Mokakit and AFNRN, I encourage anyone interested in
education to join as we need all the expertise that is out there.
(American Indian Science and Engineering Society)
by Claudette Bradley-Kawagley
Congratulations! The University of Alaska Fairbanks
AISES Chapter has won the Zanin Award for the Most Outstanding
Chapter of the Year 1996 at the 18th National AISES Conference
in Salt Lake City, November 14-17, 1996. Ten UAF students attended:
Sasha Atuk, Fairbanks
Mark Blair, Kotzebue/Detroit
John Henry, Stebbins
Jason Huffman, Huslia
Shay Huntington-McEwen, Galena
Kim Ivie, Fairbanks
Carleen Jack, Stebbins
Patience Merculief, St. Paul
Mike Orr, Bethel
Stefan Rearden, Bethel
Oscar Kawagley spoke about the Alaska Rural Systemic
Initiative on the Traditional Knowledge and Science Panel during
the concurrent sessions at the conference. He attended a book signing
at the career fair for his book, A Yupiaq Worldview: A Pathway
to Ecology and Spirit. During the precollege teacher meetings Oscar
gave a talk on Native ways of knowing and Claudette Bradley-Kawagley
spoke on tessellation patterns in mathematics. In addition, four
teachers from the Arctic Region AISES Professional Chapter attended
Bernadette Alvanna-Stimpfle, Nome
Edna Apatiki, Gambell
Arva Carlson, Barrow
Debra Webber-Werle, Noatak
Everyone enjoyed the conference with its informational
workshops, large banquet dinners and many inspirational speeches.
The Arctic Regional AISES liaison teachers attended
a workshop in Nome, November 8-10, 1996. Teachers wrote lesson
plans for AISES precollege chapter/clubs. Chip McMillan of UAF
School of Education will write a manual with the lesson plans and
summary of the talks on Native Science. This manual will be distributed
to every school in the Inupiaq region.
The teachers planned for the science fair projects
to begin in the spring. The data collection will occur during the
summer months and students will assemble their display boards in
The science fair will take place in a village of
the Northwest Arctic School District November 20-22, 1997. The
science fair will have an opening ceremony with Native dancing.
The elders council will judge the projects as well as the teachers
and scientists. Students will have two sets of awards: one given
by the elders and one given by teachers and/or scientists. We hope
students will have many projects dealing with issues of Native
science and village science application.
Alaska Native Science Commission Update
(Excerpts taken from the Status Report for AFN
- Project & grant awards received by the Alaska
Native Science Commission (ANSC) include:
a. Social Transition in the North: Two multi-year projects to oversee completion,
collect data and archive materials from Alaska and the Russian Far East.
b. Alaska Native Science Commission: A three-year project to begin implementation
of the goals and objectives of the ANSC and to develop plans for creating
an independent organization.
c. Arctic Contaminants Science Plan: A joint project of the University of
Alaska Anchorage, Institute of Social & Economic Development and ANSC
to augment Native involvement in assessment of impacts of contaminants on
subsistence food harvests.
- Inter-agency agreements between ANSC and agencies
such as the Arctic Research Commission, Arctic Research Consortium
of the United States, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
and Environmental Protection Agency are in process to address
issues of information, communication, opportunities, funding,
cooperation and compatible goals.
- Considerable effort has gone into developing ties
with scientific and Native organizations involved in Arctic research.
These linkages include the National Science Foundation, Environmental
Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, Office of Naval
Research, State Department of Fish & Game, Inuit Circumpolar
Conference, National Research Council, National Marine Fisheries,
State Department of Education, State Department of Health & Social
Services, U. S. Arctic Network, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian
Health Service, American Public Health Association, International
Union for Circumpolar Health, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee
Council, Canadian First Nations, Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative,
Eskimo Walrus & Whaling Commissions, North Slope Borough,
RuralCAP, Harbor Seal Commission, Sea Otter Commission and the
Indigenous People's Council on Marine Mammals.
- The ANSC has conducted and participated in numerous
conferences, meetings, panels and classes throughout Alaska,
circumpolar countries and the U.S. to publicize the concept and
creation of the Alaska Native Science Commission.
The ANSC solicited nominations from Native corporations
and villages throughout Alaska to form the Board of Commissioners.
The names of the seven commissioners will be released by AFN shortly
and represent the following groups:
- Alaska Native Education (2)
- Arctic Research Commission
- Natural Resource Manager
For additional information contact:
Patricia Longley Cochran, Executive
Alaska Native Science Commission
3211 Providence Drive
University of Alaska Anchorage
Anchorage, Alaska 99508
phone: (907) 786-7704
fax: (907) 786-7739
by Alan Dick
Being creative produces a natural high. There is
an enlightenment, a stimulation, an invigoration that comes from
birthing an idea, a book, a teaching unit or a new adaptation of
an old tool. For quite a while I was addicted to that high, and
I couldn't do things according to the existing standard. I always
had to try something new.
My first fishwheel was a total embarrassment. I left
it in the water in the falltime knowing that it would drift with
the ice in the spring.
The river raised, set the fishwheel on top of the
bank and then the ice broke, leaving the fishwheel behind. I had
to look at it for three more years until a merciful breakup removed
the reminder of my addiction to ingenuity. Another time I built
a boat. I wanted to see how a boat would run if it were very long
and narrow. It paddled nicely, but when I put a small motor on
it, I had to lay on the floor to pull the starter rope since it
was so tippy. Once it got going, it was stable, but my heart pounded
for several hours after I slowed down again to land. I decided
that it was definitely unsafe so I let it drift thinking that someone
would make a campfire with it in a driftwood pile someday. Two
days later I heard a boat land in front of our cabin. Someone returned
the boat thinking that they were doing me a favor. My addiction
to ingenuity caught up with me again. I should have taken more
time talking with people who understood boats or should have burned
the thing. There have been other boats, stoves, sleds, houses and
projects that had similar fates. I built a boat in Telida that
had wings. I snuck to the river on the day of its maiden voyage,
but the whole village appeared on the bank when I pushed out for
its trial. I planned to skim on top of the water, even in shallow
places, with the wide wing of my wing-boat. I had seen it many
times in my mind. My wife suffered the embarrassment of being in
the boat with me as we spun around and around in circles. We were
barely able to move upstream. We growled at each other a bit, not
loud enough for the villagers to hear, but strongly enough to vent-her
mortification at being seen in such a boat, and me that my dream
was refusing to enter reality.
When I was told the theme of this newsletter is to
acknowledge existing materials that are successful, I had many
positive examples in mind, but was overcome by a compulsion to
honesty. Some of my greatest visions worked well in the realm of
imagination and balked when they encountered the scientific reality.
Recently, I went through the warehouse of the local school district.
I found many works, the dust of which has collected dust. Those
materials were generated by people no less sincere than we are.
They too had a vision and enthusiasm. Why aren't the materials
in use? With some, the ideas were great, but the formatting was
poor. With others the graphics left too much to be desired. With
others the teachers' editions were not teacher friendly, and with
others they seem to have been generated with a different spirit
We are not the first ones to recognize the need for
relevant curriculum and methods. However we must learn from those
who have gone before us or we too will produce dust collectors.
The test for a student is the scoring of the teacher-produced questions.
Our test is whether our works continue to travel by themselves.
Some previous works perished because their timing
was wrong. They were gems before their time. I believe that some
of the works with the thickest accumulation of dust have the greatest
lessons. I have personally abandoned my addiction to innovation
to want whatever is best for students, regardless of the source.
Everything we need is already available from the minds of the elders,
from the work of the past and the energies of those currently creating.
We must gather it in the right way, the right spirit, and in the
right time. Now is that time.
Funds for Professional Development Available from
The Science and Math Consortium for Northwest Schools
has $45,000 available to provide partial funding for Alaskan projects
- represent part of a sustained, systemic effort
to improve math and science education
- will provide high-quality training for teachers
and other educators
- include strong follow-up, dissemination and evaluation
- are in line with state and local standards for
math and science.
Applications must be submitted by teams of two or
more educators and are due on February 3, 1997. If you have not
received application materials, and are interested in applying,
please contact Stephanie Hoag at 463-4829 or 463-3446 (fax).
SMCNWS can also assist with planning, coordination,
follow-up and evaluation of professional development activities.
Note: As of publication date of this newsetter, funding is available
for the Spring semester only.
KIDS 2000 Distance Education Courses
The Professional Education and Training Center at
the Univeristy of Alaska Southeast (UAS) is offering KIDS 2000
distance education courses this spring. The courses' focus on standards
in math, science and other subjects. Students in the courses will
develop standards-based interdisciplinary teaching units to use
in their classrooms. The units will be published and shared.
These courses would provide an excellent opportunity
for Native and non-Native teachers to team up and produce culturally
relevant curriculum materials with guidance and college credit
available from UAS. The registration deadline for the courses was
January 13 but if you want more information call 465-8748.
by Moses L. Dirks
The Aleut region of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative
(Alaska RSI) has been active the last several months. In September
two elder council meetings were held in the region, one in Kodiak
and the other in Unalaska.
During our meetings, the elders in the Aleutian and
Kodiak regions were asked which area of indigenous science they
wished to concentrate on for fulfilling the Indigenous Science
Knowledge Base initiative for this year.
Following are the areas of cultural knowledge that
the elders thought to be important to focus on for the first year's
- weather forecasting
- navigation skills and survival
- foods-preparation and preservation
- building and design (barabaras, baidaikas)
- edible plants
Once a final determination was made by the Aleut
elders' councils, the memorandum of agreements (MOA) partners were
asked to assist in developing a program compatible with goals of
the elders. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History department
and the Kodiak Area Native Association were involved.
William Schneider and David Krupa of the Oral History
department are presently helping us design the program for a regional
cultural atlas on a CD-ROM for the region.
Once completed, users of the database will be able
to click on topics of interest and either a) hear elders discuss
topics or b) go to an annotated bibliography concerning the topic.
Included will be photos to give users an idea of the area and maps
have been drawn up and scanned into the database to orient users
Kodiak Elders Council met again in November to review
what was completed thus far on the regional cultural atlas. No
significant changes were made by the elders council to the CD-ROM
atlas. Funding restrictions and lateness of the start of the project
hindered efforts to have the regional atlas reviewed by the Aleutians
Elders Council. The regional cultural atlas is scheduled to be
made available by the end of 1996.
The success of this project comes not only from the
participating elders in our region, but also from the efforts of
people who took the time to prepare written transcriptions from
tapes of the elders conferences held in Kodiak and Unalaska. Thanks
go to Kathy Turco for recording the elders sessions, Barbara Svarny
Carlson for transcribing the Unalaska (Aleut) elders conference
tapes and Sabrina Sutton of the Kodiak Area Native Association
for transcription of the Kodiak elders' conference tapes. Recognition
and thanks go to those who compiled the bibliographic resources
presently available that reflect the topic areas identified by
elders' councils for the Alutiiq region: Dr. Nancy Yaw Davis, Elizabeth
Williams and Connie Hogue. In the Aleutian Island region, Raymond
Hudson, Suzi Golodoff and Sherry Ruberg provided assistance in
the bibliographic search.
The Aleut Region is getting ready for 1997 and its
new initiative entitled Elders and Cultural Camps. Our plan is
to work with regional organizations and school districts to form
partnerships in the Aleut region. We are also hoping to form Aleut/Alutiiq
Native Teachers Associations that will, in turn, help develop a
program together with elders in the Aleut region. Teachers and
elders will assist in curriculum development through this program.
Regional elders who specialize in indigenous life and survival
skills will be consulted as mentors and teachers in conducting
cultural teachings and activities in the camps. Subjects from butchering
seals, preparing fish and buildings barabaras will be some of the
topics we intend to develop. The product will be a video documentation
of elders' camp activities as well as school curriculum to be used
in the Aleut region. This will be made available for future integration
in schools once it is completed. If you know of anyone who is interested
and has the facilities to work with us in conducting camps in this
initiative, please contact me at the Alaska Federation of Natives.
New to the program this coming year also is the Annenberg
Rural Challenge (ARC). This project will provide the opportunity
to focus on the social studies area and will optimize the Alaska
RSI program goals of implementing additional aspects of Native
ways of knowing into the school curricula. The 1997 initiative
for the ARC will be Reclaiming Tribal Histories. Harold Napolean
will be contacting local governments in the Aleut Region to determine
which communities might be interested in participating in this
initiative. Please contact Harold or me at the AFN office if you
are interested in learning more about this project.
We have started our rounds in visiting school districts
and regional organizations to solicit interest in the Aleut region.
The following preliminary contacts have been made thus far: Aleutian/Pribilof
Islands Association, Kodiak Area Native Association, Kodiak Island
Borough School District, Afognak Native Corporation and the University
of Alaska Fairbanks Rural Education Department. All preliminary
visits have been positive and helpful in the effort to develop
Native Ways of Knowing in the Aleut region.
If there are any questions, comments or suggestions
concerning the Alaska RSI or the ARC projects, please don't hesitate
to call on me.
Cultural Innovation at Netsvetov
by Ethan Petticrew
Aang-aang!Exciting and new things are happening
at Atka's Netsvetov School. The staff, community and school board
are busy creating a curriculum that is radically different from
the traditional American approach to education. Through this revision
of curriculum, we thoroughly believe that we are creating an atmosphere
in which our students can excel at their own pace in both western
and Unangan education. Although this is an arduous task, the size
of the school makes it somewhat simpler than if it were a large
school setting. There are twenty-two students from K-12. The staff
consists of three certified teachers (two are Aleut), one bilingual
teacher and a secretary who is adept at handling bilingual classes
and also teaches a reading group everyday. Through the cooperation
of these individuals we are able to give the students a strong
background in education, combined with traditional Unangan practices
The highlight of our school is the dance group which
was started several years ago. This group, Atxam Taligisniikangis,
has made great leaps in the last year. It has built pride in our
cultural self-esteem, created a greater awareness of what it is
to be Unangan, revived ancient rituals and dances, and has spawned
a hunger to learn as much about our ancestors as possible in this
day and age by our students. The group has performed in many places
around the state, and is constantly getting requests and invitations
to perform all over the country. In the past, we have performed
for Alaska Federation of Natives, the Metropolitan of the Russian
Orthodox Church and last year we were selected to represent all
of Alaska at the Arctic Winter Games. Each student at the school
is required to take this class daily. It has replaced "traditional" physical
education (P.E.) classes at the school. Students who want to do
other P.E. activities are encouraged to attend open gym night.
This is radically different than other schools who make Native
dancing an extra curricular activity. Students attend dance class
daily with enthusiasm. In fact, if the class is canceled for reasons
related to scheduling, then our students are disappointed and on
the verge of revolution. The group not only uses ancient dances,
but also creates dances from traditional stories and from every
day life in our islands. The use of the old stories in our dances
has created a greater understanding of the natural and supernatural
world as seen by our ancestors-something that was overlooked and
scorned as useless by the Western educators of the past. Needless
to say, dancing is back and very strong in the Aleutians. Now we
are committed to revising our entire curriculum to reflect the
practices and philosophy of our ancestors. The revival of dancing
at Netsvetov School has overflowed into all other subject areas.
The Unangan language class is currently engaged in
building an ulasux. This is a traditional Aleut sod house. The
applications for applying knowledge learned in the construction
of this house are vast and not only do the students learn the Aleut
terms for every part of the house, but it can also be tied into
Aleut and Western math. It is wonderful to see the students so
excited about learning language and, finally, math. This house
will serve a number of purposes when it is finished, some of which
are the launching and training area for the iqyax (kayak) project.
This project will be completed within the next two years. Students
are also looking forward to the day when we can hold a traditional
dance in the house.
In the past few years the school has also had a number
of important cultural projects which took place. These include
Aleut bentwood hunting hats, beaded headdresses and drum-making.
All of these activities have incorporated traditional patterns
and measurements with Western-style math. The primary grades spent
a good part of last year studying the old patterns in both the
traditional regalia and beadwork. We believe that this activity
truly helped our students in understanding the concept of patterns,
which made the transfer to Westernized math patterns much easier.
Last year's high school history class spent a majority of their
time studying traditional Aleut society. Topics included: Aleut
tribes, social structure, kinship, laws and consequences, environmental
factors, life cycles, gender roles and traditional religious beliefs.
In the future we will be having school-wide classes in gut skin-sewing,
sealskin pants sewing and construction of an iqyax.
As a result of immersing our students in a strong
cultural program and seeing the educational benefits and positive
results, we are moving forward and committed to improving instruction
in all areas of our curriculum. This has brought us to our present
position in revising curriculum.
Currently, we have begun work on our science curriculum.
We have just finished aligning our benchmarks and standards with
state and federal standards. The next step for us will be to define
materials and activities in which to attain these goals with our
students. It is our desire to incorporate the knowledge of elders
in designing these activities and materials, so that we have a
balance of Western and traditional Aleut influences. We hope to
implement our science curriculum in the fall. This spring we will
begin to revise our math curriculum in the same manner. Over the
next three years we are hoping to have our entire curriculum revised
and fully implemented in the daily learning of our students. This
is a slow process, but then again, Western education has taken
years to undo the educational practices developed by our ancestors
over thousands of years. In the future, we hope our students will
be better able to understand our unique cultural values and to
make wise decisions in a modern world with all of its challenges.
After all, when we look through the eyes of our ancestors perhaps
our vision will be clearer.
by Amy Van Hatten
The amazing Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative staff,
partners and, more importantly, the elders have made this an exciting
year for me. In my opinion they gave restitution to what our elders
have been saying for a very long time about nature and the beauty
You will read in other articles about spirituality,
harmony, sharing, love for others, coordination for mutual benefits
and many priceless efforts made by Alaskans. Your eyes will follow
sentences that are written to tell a story with an unknown voice
to you but well known by someone as they remembered it. To me,
it isn't just the echo of my parents' and grandparents' voices,
but I can certainly identify with a portrayal of a more serene,
pleasant way of life.
"Long before I wrote stories, I listened
to stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening
to them. I suppose it's an early form of participation in what
goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their
elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for
one to come out, like a mouse from its hole."
-Eudora Welty, One Writer's
This is a story I see as a mutual relationship between
the beavers' lifestyle and the Alaska RSI people. Beavers are important
both spiritually and economically to the Athabascan people. I wanted
to list some comparisons. Read it like you would be looking at
the flip side of a coin.
Have you ever heard the expression "busy as a beaver"?
It is a true aphorism especially for beaver mammals in late summer
and early fall. That is when they get ready for winter.
Beavers probably got that reputation because they
can gnaw at a tree until its down and store it for future use without
much delay. Their survival is dependent on it. Through the Alaska
RSI program our future generation is dependent on our joint admirable
interests and vision for integrating indigenous knowledge with
By nature beavers play an important role in ecology.
Their behavior influences the local environment as they change
the streams and sloughs into ponds by building dams. Their dams
create an important habitat for themselves and for other animals-invertebrates,
birds, etc. Today, from diverse backgrounds, we are pooling resources
and building on our goals and objectives for our approach to rural
educational systems. While networking for a historical change,
we should not ignore one system or cast one out, but integrate
them, using oral traditions with textbooks, not just textbook to
Beavers are admirably suited for their habitat. Our
rural elders are best suited as our guides, mentors and councils
since they have experienced living with nature which we lack, to
a certain degree, at the moment.
Beavers have sharp teeth, like chisels. Our elders
have sharp minds and wisdom of the environment, animals and human
Beavers have extended family responsibilities and
are family oriented. Like them, we recognize the importance of
treating one another as equals, extending a helping hand, and providing
additional environments for learning, laughing and living a productive
Beavers are busy, busy, busy in late summer and early
fall. Like them, we are gathering data, recording, and documenting
elder cultural activities.
Beavers use their tail for balance. Like them, we
know who to lean on and who can support our efforts in breaking
new ground until we are strong enough to stand on our own.
Beaver tails are made up of fat. That storage can
be used to sustain the beaver until food becomes available during
scarce times. Like them, we store information that we gather so
it can be used extensively beyond the year 2000. It is important
information that will overlap from time to time, from one area
Young beavers, after several years, head up or down
stream to find mates, build dams and a lodge of their own. As Alaska
RSI participants, we adopt new partners through MOAs and other
initiatives that reinforce synergistic processes as a whole.
Beaver lodges usually include an older, mated pair,
young from the previous year and young of the current year living
and working together. We are closely connected to encourage trying
our new ideas while relating to people from the outside.
Beavers are interesting and unusual animals, like
Beavers start families all over again. Like us. Welcome
to our big family! Thank you.
Alaska's First Tribal School
by Patricia Wade
Chickaloon Village's Ya Ne Dah Ah School is Alaska's
only Tribal school. It began four years ago when Elder Katherine
Wade decided that the old ways would soon be lost if she didn't
teach them to the children.
During the first summer, we held our school on Saturday
afternoons. Katherine began to teach the Athabascan language, ancient
legends (called ya ne dah ah), history, culture and beadwork. It
was lots of fun and when falltime rolled around, the children decided,
along with the parents, that they would rather go to a tribal school
than back to public school.
We asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for assistance,
but all they did was condemn our dilapidated, old building. So
we went ahead on our own, with volunteers for teachers, and put
the children on correspondence courses.
We have had as many as nine students in grades ranging
from kindergarten to 11th. The morning hours are spent working
on regular correspondence schoolwork.
The afternoons are devoted to cultural activities.
Students are currently making Athabascan dolls. Some of their activities
include field trips into the woods to identify different markings,
lessons in environmental caretaking of the land, our family tree
and how we're all related, ya ne dah ah stories, and singing the
old Indian songs while dancing and drumming. They have also made
up some new Indian songs using Athabascan words.
During the last ten or fifteen minutes of the school
day, the students do janitorial work, washing dishes, sweeping,
mopping and dusting.
I work with the students on Tuesday afternoons to
keep them updated on all of the activities of our tribe. As potential
future Chickaloon Village leaders, they are benefiting from the
Ya Ne Dah Ah School teachings.
They are taught to respect the elders, the earth
and each other. The ya ne dah ah stories have wonderful lessons
and morals. Some of the characters are so outrageous they make
perfect examples of someone you definitely don't want to act like!
Although Alaska's only tribal school runs on a shoestring
budget, it has been very successful in giving our children an opportunity
to receive their education in a friendly, warm atmosphere where
they are allowed to have pride in their heritage.
by Elmer Jackson
I will begin this report by introducing the next
Alaska RSI initiative for the Inupiaq region on Native Ways of
Knowing. The initiative will run through December 31, 1997. The
following are memorandum of agreements between the Alaska Federation
of Natives and the organizations in the Inupiaq region.
Northwest Arctic Borough School District (NWABSD),
North Slope Borough School District (NSBSD), Bering Straits School
District (BSSD), and Nome City School District (NCSD) will host
a district-wide subsistence curriculum development workshop that
produces curriculum resources reflecting subsistence practices
of the region and utilizing indigenous knowledge and the way of
teaching. They will also participate in the regional Academy of
Elders in which they and the Native educators will work on the
development of indigenous curriculum resources for use in the schools.
Ilisagvik College will participate in the development
of a prototype curriculum framework based on Inupiaq cultural precepts
and principles that will be shared with the other districts in
the Inupiaq region. They will provide support for the documentation
of Inupiaq Ways of Knowing. Ilisagvik College will also assist
in supporting the activities of the North Slope Inupiaq Educators
Association, which will provide guidance for the implementation
of an Inupiaq Academy of Elders, drawing on the support of the
Ciulistet Yup'ik teachers and the Association of Interior Native
Kawerak, Inc. will provide support for the documentation
of Inupiaq Ways of Knowing and Teaching that can serve as the basis
for the teaching of all subjects in the schools. They will participate
in the development of a prototype curriculum framework based on
Inupiaq cultural precepts and principles that will be shared with
the other districts in the Inupiaq regions. Finally they will assist
in the establishment of a Bering Strait Native Educators Association
that will provide guidance for the implementation of an Academy
of Elders drawing on the support of the Association of Interior
The BSSD will also utilize the Native educators to
assemble and document Siberian Yup'ik and Inupiaq curriculum resources
that can be utilized to bring indigenous knowledge and perspective
into the school curriculum.
The American Indian Science and Engineering Society
(AISES) chapters are coming to a reality in the Inupiaq region.
Thanks to those who have committed their time for the Alaska RSI
project. When you begin planning, fundraising, etc., local governments
such as the traditional councils or IRA councils, city governments
and search and rescue organizations are always willing to donate
money to support school functions. Start planning your science
project for the science fair to be held somewhere in the Inupiaq
region. Our elders will assist in the judging of the science fair
AISES project coordinator, Claudette Bradley-Kawagley
and teacher liaisons attended the 1996 AISES conference held in
Salt Lake City, Utah. We will read their reports in the next issue
of Sharing Our Pathways. I will give you an update on the progress
of the AISES chapters and the Scientist-in-Residence program. If
you have any questions or concerns, call me at (907) 475-2257.
Happy New Year!
Making the Old Way Count
by Wm. Clark Bartley
The history of the development of Inupiaq mathematics
in the schools of the North Slope Borough School District has been
a kind of spontaneous explosion of energy, beginning in one small
school on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean and reverberating
across the North Slope. It has been a phenomenon that was both
unplanned and unexpected. It is a story of discovery that has brought
with it the energy to catapult Inupiaq mathematics into international
attention, and within just over two years since its inception,
it is being taught in classrooms across the North Slope-from young
children in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Immersion program
in Barrow, Alaska to adults in college classes. Students from Point
Hope to Barter Island have actually been discovering how to do
math a different way, based on the genius of their traditional
Inupiaq counting system.
Prior to the invention of the Kaktovik Inupiaq numerals,
the numbers of the Inupiaq language were falling into disuse and,
except for the lower numbers, were being forgotten. The Inupiaq
counting system had almost become a relic from the past even for
the most fluent Inupiaq speakers. Consequently, there are Inupiaq
speakers who have had only a rudimentary understanding of their
own traditional number system.
The Kaktovik Inupiaq numerals began as an ordinary
math enrichment activity at Kaveolook Middle School on Barter Island,
but because of the remarkable simplicity of the system, it has
caught on as a way of expressing, in symbols, the numbers of the
Inupiaq language. It has gained recognition not only on the North
Slope and in Alaska generally, but it has also gained attention
nationally as well as internationally. In early September of 1994
at Harold Kaveolook School, students were exploring base-2 numbers
in their middle-school math class. Some students mentioned that
Inupiaq, their Eskimo dialect, has a base-20 system. They then
decided to try to write the Inupiaq numbers with regular Arabic
numerals, but found there were not enough symbols to write the
Upon creating ten extra symbols, the students found
that the new symbols were difficult to learn and remember. They
discussed the problem and tried different approaches. Finally they
hit upon a system that was conceptually simple and reflected the
Inupiaq oral counting system. After fine-tuning their new numeral
symbols, the students then began to do simple addition and subtraction
problems with them. To their amazement, they discovered that their
numerals had a number of distinct advantages. It was easier to
add and subtract with them than with Arabic numerals. Often the
numerals almost gave the students the answer.
The students enjoyed the challenge of converting
decimal numbers into the base-20 Kaktovik Inupiaq numerals. As
they tried to convert increasingly larger numbers, they found that
conversion was easier using counters with place value. This idea
was then extended into a form of a base-20 abacus. The students
discussed the ideal structure of their abacus, got beads from the
art teacher, experimented and finally built abacuses in the school
shop. Since that time, they have found that because the base-20
Inupiaq abacus represents numbers in a similar way to their new
numerals, it is easy to work with the abacus not only to convert,
but also to add, subtract, multiply and even to divide. Their Inupiaq
abacus has become an important component of math education using
the Kaktovik Inupiaq numerals. Inupiaq mathematics, to the extent
that it now exists as a scholastic discipline, was born as a twin,
on the heels of the Kaktovik Inupiaq numerals. As the students
began to perform mathematical operations with their numerals more
and more, they discovered that the symbols were powerful enough
to be manipulated as symbols. It is as though the symbol itself
is a kind of graphic math manipulative.
When the class began to experiment with division,
they did it the same way they did when dividing decimal numbers.
However, a few students noticed that part of the process can be
simplified because of the visual nature of the numerals they invented.
Soon they had figured out how to do long division almost as though
it was short division. Quite frequently, as students work with
the numerals they have discovered shortcuts in math that cannot
be done so easily with the Arabic numerals.
In the spring of 1995, the North Slope Borough Board
of Education invited the students from Kaveolook School to fly
to Barrow to present and explain their invention. Those who attended
that presentation were impressed with the exciting educational
possibilities opened up by this system. It is a system which is
a direct reflection of the way one counts in Inupiaq. The underlying
genius of the Inupiaq language has been crystallized in these numerals,
making them useful for practical purposes.
As the 1995-96 school year began in August, the ECE
immersion class in Barrow and the Inupiaq language classes in Wainwright
and Point Lay began introducing the numerals into the classrooms.
Teachers in other grades at the elementary school, the middle school,
and even the high school in Barrow began introducing the system
to their students. Ilisagvik, the local college, began introducing
the numerals and their use to students across the North Slope by
adding Inupiaq mathematics into its curriculum and its catalog
and compressed video classes. By this time, a great deal had been
discovered about the practical potential of the Kaktovik Inupiaq
numerals, and the students and their teacher had managed to collect
a great deal of material about other Arctic and Native American
counting systems. The numerals have also been used exclusively
(to the exclusion of Arabic numerals) in an ECE immersion program
in Barrow and a complete textbook is being developed in the Inupiaq
language to teach math, using the numerals, in the first-grade
by Andy Hope
I spent most of the month of November attending a
series of workshops and meetings and in related year-end close-out
activities. Here are some workshop highlights.
November 6-8, Juneau: Curriculum workshop with Richard
and Nora Dauenhauer of Sealaska Heritage Foundation and Jackie
Kookesh, a Tlingit math/science teacher. A Tlingit math curriculum
guide will be produced as a result of this workshop. The math guide
will be supplemented with a Tlingit country map and traditional
Tlingit, Tsimshian and Haida calendars. The map will include surrounding
First Nations and a comprehensive listing of traditional tribes
and clans within each of the respective nations. Jackie Kookesh
is the main author of this publication, with help from the Dauenhauers
and myself. Illustrations will be produced by Jackie Kookesh and
Harold Jacobs. The guide will be published in late December.
November 12-13, Data collection workshop, Sitka:
This workshop was facilitated by Jana Garcia, a Haida archivist
(email: firstname.lastname@example.org). A detailed report on this article is
available. Write to me at UAS, 11120 Glacier Highway, Juneau, Alaska
Among the workshop recommendations:
- Design and implement a survey tool to identify
and describe Southeast Alaska Native curriculum materials and
- Compile the information together with a bibliography
of published resources.
Special attention should be taken to ensure accuracy
of information, particularly regarding availability (access and
use). I will be participating in a follow-up teleconference with
Bill Schneider and Jana on December 12 to further discuss the issue
of access and use of materials on traditional Native knowledge.
This will be a continuing major issue in each of our regions as
we move through this project.
November 14-15, Alaska RSI Coalition, Juneau. This
meeting was organized and hosted by Peggy Cowan, science specialist
at the State Department of Education. Participants included a wide
spectrum of representatives from organizations around the state
who are working with school districts to make their math or science
education activities more appropriate for Native students. One
workshop highlight was the presentation of the Alaska Math/Science
Frameworks Indigenous section "Native Ways of Knowing and the Curriculum." It
provides a framework to help districts design compatible learning
systems that allow for and support multiple worldviews. See volume
1, issue 5 of the Sharing Our Pathways newsletter for an article
by Peggy Cowan on the frameworks. During the Alaska RSI Coalition
meeting, I was able to meet with Sidney Stephens of the Alaska
Science Consortium (ASC) to discuss completion of the Tlingit chapter
of the ASC Native Uses of the Seas and Rivers handbook. This handbook
will be published in the next few months, and will include contributions
from teachers throughout Southeast Alaska.
Angoon Elementary School
by Mary J. Duncan
Hello Readers! I teach second grade at the Angoon
Elementary School. We have eighty-eight students K-6. I have been
working hard integrating Tlingit language and culture into our
science and math curriculum. One activity I have taught is Tlingit
numbers using addition and subtractions problems. The students
learn how to say the Tlingit numbers one through ten, then we use
the numbers to create number sentences. These are the Tlingit numbers:
7. dax. adooshu
The students write four addition and four subtraction
problems. The number sentences will vary. Here are examples of
the number sentences:
tléix + déix = násk
keijín - daax´oon = tleix
gooshuk + tléix = jinkaat
nas'gadooshu - tleidooshu = déix
Once the students have their number sentences completed
on paper then we will make a Tlingit Math Book. They write the
number sentences and draw objects above each number, so that you
can tell what the number is just by looking at the objects . This
is one way to reinforce the language so that they hear it all the
time. The finished product will be sent home so that the students
can teach their relatives.
by Barbara Liu
The Yup'ik/Cup'ik regional coordinator report will
begin with an overview of our first year initiative, Yup'ik/Cup'ik
Ways of Knowing. Then I will explain how our new regional initiative
will be involved. Finally, I will be closing with a sample of culturally
aligned curriculum being carried out in one of the Lower Kuskokwim
School District (LKSD) sites.
We must remember since the inception of this project,
the Yup'ik/Cup'ik elders and teachers are the key players in contributing
to the development of curriculum content. It involves the Yup'ik/Cup'ik
language expertise to adapt the math, science and other content
areas within the State and district school standards.
The Bristol Bay Campus (BBC) and LKSD have had supplemental
meetings according to its MOA with the elders and teachers in 1996.
Most recently, four Native teacher delegates from LKSD and three
Kuskokwim Campus instructors participated as observers at a subregional
meeting sponsored by BBC, October 25-27 in Dillingham. Elders and
teachers of Dillingham City and Southwest Region schools participated
in the three-day weekend meeting with participants from New Stuyahok,
Ekwok, Kolignak, Manoktak, Dillingham, Aleknagik and Togiak.
During the meeting in Dillingham, the Ciulistet Research
Team provided techniques for teachers in developing thematic content
with participating elders' knowledge. The theme for both regional
meetings presented by the Ciulistet Research group focused on specific
regional geography, i.e. traditional travel routes between the
Kuskokwim and Bristol Bay and traditional place names situated
around the above villages.
Our initiative for 1997 is Culturally Aligned Curriculum
Adaptation. This initiative asks educators to create a climate
of exchange that can happen between the school and community. This
requires some planning time in school including community resources
in order to develop locally culturally adapted lessons.
The Department of Education (DOE) and Alaska RSI
will work with models underway in many classrooms within our region.
Peggy Cowan with DOE will be planning regional meetings with educators
from Lake & Peninsula, Dillingham City Schools, Southwest Region,
Yupiit, Lower Yukon and St. Mary's School Districts as funds allow
for covering travel and expenses.
Culturally Aligned Curriculum Adaptation in Kasigluk
Akula Elitnaurvik's "Yup'ik Studies Program" in Kasigluk
has been seriously working on culturally aligned curriculum adaptation
for the past six years. Kasigluk's local model is a product of
district strategic planning. The school and community believe in
carrying out their mission statement that, "Yup'ik identity is
reinforced by fostering an appreciation, respect and understanding
of the Yup'ik culture and values from the past to understanding
changes during the present . . . " (quoted with permission from
Akula Elitnaurvik). In order to provide quality education for Akula
students, key players in developing local teaching knowledge are
Akula's teachers and elders. Mr. Bill Ferguson, Principal at Akula,
encouraged this work to build from within, adjusting weekly student
contact time from five full days to four and a half days by adding
slightly longer class schedules every day except Friday. This made
it possible for staff and elders to meet Friday afternoons to begin
developing local knowledge for their curriculum.
This past year I had an opportunity to observe a
Friday afternoon at Akula school. I saw approximately ten community
elders sit in a circle with staff-non-speakers alike. They have
displayed the desire to continue gathering and developing local
knowledge, establishing an appropriate scope and sequence with
thematic unit plans for Akula's K-12 content areas. This process
of developing and implementing a local curriculum involves dedicated
work and is continuing for Akula school. On behalf of Alaska RSI
Yup'ik/Cup'ik region, quyana Akula staff for sharing your work.
Akula School is in the village of Kasigluk which is located in
western Alaska, about twenty miles west of Bethel. The new village
of Kasigluk is predominantly Yup'ik with a population of approximately
Welcome Dixie Dayo
Dixie Dayo was recently hired as a program assistant
for the Alaska Native Knowledge Network. Dixie is originally from
Manley Hot Springs and will be working in Fairbanks at the Harper
Building. She can be contacted at 474-1902; her e-mail address
Dixie has worked a number of years for Bean Ridge
Corporation (the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act village corporation
of Manley Hot Springs), the Manley Village Council and as an operating
engineer dispatcher/equipment coordinator. Dixie Dayo has a B.A.
in rural development from the University of Alaska Fairbanks but
says that her most valuable education has been her Indian education
taught to her by Aunt Sally Hudson; two Mom's, Judy Woods and Elizabeth
Fleagle; older brothers, Robert and Darryl Thompson and many others
who have taken the time to explain the traditional Native way of
thinking, working and seeing.
"It is exciting being employed with a project where
I am able to fulfill my goal of learning about ALL the unique Native
cultures in Alaska."
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
Inupiaq Regional Coordinator
PO Box 134
Kiana, Alaska 99749
Southeast Regional Coordinator
University of Alaska Southeast
School of Business/PR
11120 Glacier Highway
Juneau, Alaska 99801
Yup'ik Regional Coordinator
Bethel, Alaska 99559
Aleutians Regional Coordinator
Alaska Federation of Natives
1577 C Street, Suite 201
Anchorage, Alaska 99501
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