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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 5, Issue 2, March/April 2000

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In This Issue:

Guidelines for Respecting Cultural Knowledge

Commissioners' Panel Addresses NEC

Identity Creating Camps

Village Science Review

Report Released on Alaska Rural Systemic Reform in Education

UAF Summer 2000 Programs

Iñupiaq Region: Natural Products made from the Tuttu, Part III

Yup'ik Region: After Culture Camp

Southeast Region

Aleut/Alutiiq Region: Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights

Athabascan Region

AISES Corner 

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Guidelines for Respecting Cultural Knowledge

A new set of guidelines have been developed addressing issues of concern in the documentation, representation and utilization of traditional cultural knowledge. One of the purposes of these guidelines is to offer assistance to educational personnel and others who are seeking to incorporate the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools in their work. The guidelines are organized around the role of various participants including Elders, authors, curriculum developers, classroom teachers, publishers and researchers. Native educators from throughout Alaska contributed to the development of the guidelines through a series of workshops and meetings associated with the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative.

Special attention is given to the educational implications for the integration of indigenous knowledge and practices in schools throughout Alaska. The guidance offered by the guidelines is intended to encourage the incorporation of traditional knowledge and teaching practices in schools by minimizing the potential for misuse and misunderstanding in the process. It is hoped that these guidelines will facilitate the coming together of the many cultural traditions that coexist in Alaska in constructive, respectful and mutually beneficial ways.

Along with the guidelines are general recommendations aimed at stipulating the steps that need to be taken to achieve the goals for which the guidelines are intended. State and federal agencies, universities, school districts, textbook publishers and Native communities are encouraged to review their policies, programs and practices and to adopt the guidelines and recommendations where appropriate. In so doing, the educational experiences of students throughout Alaska will be enriched and the future well-being of the communities being served will be enhanced.

Responsibilities for Respecting Cultural Knowledge

Following is a summary of the areas of responsibility around which the guidelines for respecting cultural knowledge are organized. The details for each area, to be published in a booklet form as well as on the ANKN website, provide specific suggestions on the steps to be taken by persons in each of the respective roles.

NATIVE ELDERS, as one of the primary sources of traditional cultural knowledge, bear the responsibility to share and pass on that knowledge in ways that are compatible with traditional teachings and practices.

AUTHORS AND ILLUSTRATORS should take all steps necessary to insure that any representation of cultural content is accurate, contextually appropriate and explicitly acknowledged.

CURRICULUM DEVELOPERS AND ADMINISTRATORS should provide multiple avenues for the incorporation of locally-recognized expertise in all actions related to the use and interpretation of local cultural knowledge and practices.

CLASSROOM TEACHERS are responsible for drawing upon Elders and other cultural experts in the surrounding community to make sure all resource materials and learning activities are culturally accurate and appropriate.

EDITORS AND PUBLISHERS should utilize culturally-knowledgeable authors and establish multiple levels of review to insure that all publications are culturally accurate and appropriate.

REVIEWERS should give informed consideration to the cultural perspectives of all groups represented in documents subjected to review.

RESEARCHERS are ethically responsible for obtaining informed consent, accurately representing the cultural perspective and protecting the cultural integrity and rights of all participants in a research endeavor.

NATIVE LANGUAGE SPECIALISTS are responsible for taking all steps possible to accurately convey the meaning associated with cultural knowledge that has been shared in a traditional language.

NATIVE COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS should establish a process for review and authorization of activities involving the gathering, documentation and use of local cultural knowledge.

As the users and audience for cultural knowledge, THE GENERAL PUBLIC has a responsibility to exercise informed critical judgement about the cultural authenticity and appropriateness of the materials they utilize.

General Recommendations

The following recommendations were put forward to support the effective implementation of the guidelines for documenting, representing and utilizing cultural knowledge outlined above.

The Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive Schools should be used as a general guide for any educational activity involving cultural documentation, representation or review.

A statewide "Alaska Indigenous Literary Review Board" should be established with representation from each of the regional Native educator associations to oversee the implementation of the recommendations that follow.

A statewide "Alaska Indigenous Knowledge Multimedia Working Group" should be established to examine the applicability of the above guidelines to the production of electronic media and the publication and utilization of cultural knowledge via the internet.

Criteria for product certification of materials with cultural content should be established and implemented by regional literary review committees formed through the regional Native educator associations. The raven images from the ANKN logo could be used as a "stamp of approval" for each cultural region.

Each regional literary review committee should develop a list of authorized reviewers for publications reflecting cultural content related to the respective region.

An annotated bibliography of the best materials representing local cultures should be compiled by each regional literary review committee and published on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network website for use by teachers and curriculum developers throughout the state.

The Alaska Indigenous Literary Review Board should establish prestigious awards to honor Native Elders, authors, illustrators and others who make a significant contribution to the documentation and representation of cultural knowledge.

Incentives, resources and opportunities should be provided to encourage and support Native authors, illustrators and storytellers who bring a strong Native voice to the documentation and representation of Native cultural knowledge and traditions.

The guidelines outlined above should be incorporated in university courses and made an integral part of all teacher preparation and cultural orientation programs.

An annotated bibliography of resource materials that address issues associated with documenting, representing and utilizing cultural knowledge should be maintained on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network website.

Further information on issues related to the implementation of these guidelines, as well as copies of the complete guidelines may be obtained from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730 (


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Commissioners' Panel Addresses NEC

by Frank Hill

Four of Alaska's former Commissioners of Education participated in a first-of-its-kind panel at the 2000 Native Educators' Conference. They shared what they thought were the most salient issues facing Alaska Native Education as we move into the 21st century. Current Commissioner of Education Rick Cross was scheduled to share his views as well, but was weathered out in Juneau. Following are a few of the issues that were discussed.

Marshall Lind (1971-83, 1986-87) addressed the following:

  • How do we fulfill the promises of local control associated with the creation of regional educational attendance areas?

  • How do we address the instability of professional staff in rural schools?

  • Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools should be implemented.

  • Assessment issues related to students and teachers.

  • Vocational/technical education needs.

  • Strengthening early childhood education programs.

  • Low success rates for Alaska Native students in higher education programs.

Bill Demmert (1987-90) shared these issues:

  • Development of a child's cultural identity and language should be foremost in their education.

  • Students need to know who they are and connect with their cultural heritage to enhance their highest ability to learn.

  • More attention needs to be given to early childhood education.

Jerry Covey (1991-95) discussed the following issues:

  • Local control of schools; opportunity and responsibility where it belongs.

  • Standards-driven education; culture needs to be included in the process.

  • Strong communities are essential to school success; need to address the problems of alcohol and drug abuse.

  • Politics of appeasement; politicians chasing public opinion without real leadership. Need political leaders who represent all Alaskans. There is no shortage of financial resources to serve all schools, but there is a shortage of the will to do so or to care for each other.

Shirley Holloway (1995-99) highlighted the following:

  • In answering to the question of whether rural education will survive in the 21st century, she stressed the need for strong Alaska Native leadership that addresses high-stakes testing (i.e., the High School Graduation Qualification Exam), bilingual/bicultural education issues, government mandates, technology issues and the lack of Native professional educators.

  • Students learn best when taught by teachers who speak their own language.

We extend our thanks to these Alaska education leaders for their insightful responses and adding another highlight to the Native Educators' Conference. We are also pleased that all former commissioners are still working to improve education for all of Alaska's students.


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Identity Creating Camps

by Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley

There is a crying need for healing among Alaska Native people and an essential element of the healing process is the need to retain our unique Alaska Native identities. This is best done through the use of the Native language because it thrusts us into the thought world of our ancestors and their ways of comprehending the world. With the use of the Native language, we begin to appreciate the richness and complexity of our traditional philosophical and spiritual world views. It is for these reasons that we need to pay more attention to how we can draw upon our Alaska Native languages to serve as the foundation for the various science and cultural camps that we sponsor. To gain the full expression of our languages, identity and way of life, the camps must also take place in all the seasons of the year with the Elders being the prime movers. Their description of traditional activities through the local language best conveys the relationships between a Alaska Native concept and its practice.

The following are a few suggestions on how we might approach and design camps for different purposes. Three types of Native cultural camps are described and each may be revised and adapted to suit the local situation and needs.

Cultural Immersion Camp

For students who have a good command of the Native language or dialect in a particular region and thus can be immersed on all aspects of the local culture.

  1. All activities are done utilizing the Native language only and the focus is on in-depth learning of the things one needs to know to make a life and a living.

  2. All planning and implementation includes local Native Elders and other knowledgeable Native people explaining what and why things are done the way they are for cultural adaptability and survival. This can include the following topics:

    1. a. Use of and relationship to plants and animals: times for harvesting; how and why certain rules are followed to ensure continuation of species; explain the traditional preparation and preservation techniques; how does the process contribute to natural diversity and cultural adaptability?

      b. Medicinal plants: their use and how they have been preordained by Ellam Yua (Spirit of the Universe) to have power to heal certain diseases; harvesting process-preparation and preservation; how to use them, being mindful of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual inclinations of the person being treated; how do they contribute to natural diversity and cultural adaptability?

      c. Explore the nature-mediated technology of the Alaska Native people: materials; preparation methods; explanations of why certain parts of materials are used; how the idea for the technology came about; functioning of the various parts; use and care of the item; does it utilize refined or unrefined natural resources and why; is it biodegradable; what are its spiritual aspects; how does it contribute to natural diversity and cultural sustainability and adaptability?

      d. Explore the natural sense-makers of nature for weather, seasons, flora and fauna.

      e. Discuss time and its measurement.

      f. Navigation techniques: finding direction using nature and celestial objects.

  3. Use song, dance and drumming for transmission of culture, especially its spiritual aspect; develop a realization that everything a Native person does is a form of prayer and paying homage to Ellam Yua (or whatever name a tribe has for the Creator.)

  4. Use mythology and stories for value-creation and teaching what it means to be human; the entire experience should be value-creating and give a cultural orientation, an identity.

  5. Live off the land as much as possible, using traditional techniques and technology.

  6. The scheduling must be flexible and determined by the Elders to do things when it feels right.

Language Development Camp

For students who have little or no understanding of the Native language or have little or no speaking ability. Thus the focus is on learning the language itself in a setting where it has inherent meaning.

The process is best determined on a day-by-day basis by the Elders and teachers, but it could range from full immersion as outlined above, to gradual immersion starting with the Native language being used with English interpretations, then progressing to an hour or two in which only the Native language is used. In either case, the goal would be to have the last week be all in the Native language. Otherwise, all of the suggestions outlined for immersion camps would apply.

Bridging Science Camp

  1. Same as above but incorporating aspects of a Eurocentric viewpoint. The bridging camp should include not only the Native language and cultural practices, but also the Eurocentric scientific concepts and practices.

  2. Most of the activities outlined above apply, but with the addition of a comparative perspective. All activities are coordinated to best achieve understanding. The traditional activities are not separate activities from Eurocentric mathematics and sciences, but are planned to be compatible and complementary with one another.

  3. Identify some of the most used Eurocentric scientific terms and coin corresponding Native words with help from Elders and students.

  4. When using Eurocentric science knowledge, concepts or theories, explore how they may add to or detract from one's Nativeness.

  5. Examine whether the Eurocentric knowledge is useful and applicable in the place you are situated or is it extraneous knowledge in that context. When and where is it useful?

  6. Use traditional estimation and intuitive measurement techniques; explore recognition of pattern and symmetry without mathematical equations to confuse the issue-the universe is not all numbers.

  7. Use computers and other technological tools sparingly; explore the implications of the statement, "our memories are becoming obsolete."

  8. How does adding Eurocentric knowledge to the traditional ways of knowing enhance or detract from natural diversity and cultural adaptability?

  9. Examine ways in which technological tools may add to environmental and mental pollution.

  10. Examine ways in which the camp activities foster values of cooperation and harmony or competition and individualism.

  11. The camp planners and implementers should always have the local list of Native values in front of them for guidance in determining what to include from the modern world.

The bridging science camps are intended to incorporate the Eurocentric mathematics and scientific concepts along with the local knowledge base of the Elders. All daily activities should be coordinated to effectively and efficiently teach and validate both thought worlds. The students should gain a keen understanding of Eurocentric scientific research since many of the findings corroborate Native observations and have helped to identify globally-stressed arenas that explain why Mother Earth is suffering. This makes it absolutely necessary that students learn Eurocentric concepts as well as their own ways of recognizing patterns, utilizing symbols, employing estimation and intuitive measurement and developing a keen observation of place.

The Native students have to realize that our ways of knowing are identity-building processes. They can then pursue careers in mathematics and the sciences buttressed with a nature-mediated world view giving them a kind and polite disposition to the world in which they live.

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Village Science Review

The Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative has sponsored the complete revision of the book, Village Science, which is now available from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network. It amalgamates the practical issues of village life with basic concepts of modern science.

The book's primary intent is to create a love affair between rural junior high students and science so they will aspire to careers of influence in Alaska. The examples, questions, stories and explanations help those with an urban view look over the mountains into our world. The ultimate goal is to convince educators everywhere of the urgent need to produce and use culturally- and locally-relevant materials in all aspects of education.


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Report Released on Alaska Rural Systemic Reform in Education

by Ray Barnhardt, UAF; Jim Kushman, NWREL; Oscar Kawagley, UAF; Beth Leonard, UAF; Carol Barnhardt, UAF; Jerry Lipka, UAF; Sarah Landis, NWREL; Bruce Miller, NWREL and seven community research teams

Below is the balance of an executive summary of the final report from a three-year study of rural school reform conducted by the Northwest Regional Educational Lab (NWREL) and UAF in cooperation with seven rural communities and school districts in Alaska. The first part of this article appeared in the previous issue of Sharing Our Pathways (Volume 5, Issue 1).

Through a cross-case analysis, six reform themes emerged:

Sustaining Reform

It is easy to start new reforms but difficult to keep up the momentum in order to bring about deep changes in teaching and learning. Our case studies show that sustaining educational reform over the long run is difficult but not impossible in rural Alaska. There were a variety of scenarios, including communities that could not successfully launch an Alaska Onward to Excellence (AOTE) reform effort, those which had many starts and stops on a long and winding road towards important community goals and at least one exceptional community (Quinhagak) that has been able to create and sustain a Yup'ik first-language program for more than a decade. The most significant barrier to sustaining reforms is persistent teacher, principal and superintendent turnover. Turnover derails reform efforts and leads to a cycle of reinventing the school every two or three years. A process like AOTE can help alleviate the turnover problem by creating leadership within the community, especially when respected community Elders and other leaders are brought into the process. But to seriously sustain reforms, districts and local communities need to develop talent from within so that teachers have strong roots in the communities where they teach.

Shared Leadership

Leadership needs to be defined as shared decision-making with the community rather than seeking advice from the community. Strong and consistent superintendent leadership was an important factor in moving reforms forward in these small communities and districts. However, school leaders must believe and act on the principle of shared decision making in order to engage the community through long-term educational changes that benefit students. Shared leadership creates community ownership that will move educational changes through frequent staff turnover. School leaders must view a process like AOTE as a tool for developing community engagement and leadership rather than a program that seeks the community's advice.

Building Relationships and Trust

Personal relationships and trust are at the heart of successful reform and processes like AOTE are only effective when good relationships exist between school personnel and community members. Strong relationships are based on mutual caring for children and cross-cultural understanding rather than a specific reform agenda. In small communities, personal relationships are more central than formal decision processes as the way to get things done. A key teacher, principal, leadership team member, parent or Elder who is respected in the community can spark the change process. It is these respected people and their relationships with others that help the whole community develop an understanding of and connection to the principles of an external reform model like AOTE. Too much emphasis can be placed on process and procedure from the outside and not enough on building the relationships and trust from the inside. Reformers in rural settings might fare better if they worked to fully understand the local context and build reforms from the inside out rather than relying solely on external reform models.

Enacting New Roles

Educators and community members are often stuck in old roles while educational partnerships require new behaviors and ways of thinking. While it is easy to talk about creating partnerships, changing traditional roles is a learning process for both school personnel and parents. The mindset that parent and teacher domains are separate-and should remain so-hampers family involvement efforts. Our case studies reveal that without a compelling goal deeply rooted in community values-like preserving language and cultural knowledge- many parents and community members are content to leave education to the educators. Yet in small rural settings there are many avenues for parents, Elders and other community members to be involved in school as volunteers, teacher aides, other paid workers and leadership team members. Rural schools need to create a range of parent involvement strategies appropriate for small communities. Historical divisions between school personnel and Alaska Native parents still need to be overcome. A partnership process like AOTE must strive to rekindle the spirit of a people who feel marginalized by the education system rather than part of it.

Creating Coherent Reforms

Small rural communities and school districts need help in sorting through many ongoing reforms in order to create a more unified approach to educational and community change. There are many independent reform activities in these communities with few connections. AOTE was a positive force in most communities because it helped set a clear direction and vision for student success and provided opportunities for school personnel and community members to think about and talk about how everyone should work together to educate children in a changing world. AOTE was less successful as a force for substantially changing teaching and learning. Here there was often confusion or lethargy about taking action because there were already so many educational programs in place. How AOTE fit into this picture was unclear to participants. In rural Alaska, there is a boom or bust cycle of programs related to curriculum, instruction, assessment and technology. Yet some cases showed more unity of purpose and were able to progress towards reform goals, make significant changes in educational practice and see students improve. These places often exhibited the enabling characteristics described above including stability of school leaders and teachers, shared decision making which empowers communities while expecting improved student results, a climate of trust and caring and the ability to find the human and material resources to achieve goals like bilingual programs. Many elements have to come together for classroom-level changes to occur, not the least of which are creativity, hard work and time.

Creating Healthy Communities

Schools in small rural communities cannot achieve their educational goals in isolation from the well-being of the surrounding community. The AOTE visioning process brought out the deeper hopes, dreams and fears of communities that are trying to preserve their identity and ways of life in a global and technological world. AOTE resulted in districts and communities challenging themselves to simultaneously achieve high cultural standards and high academic standards as a means to improved community health. People also expect the education system to help young people respect their Elders, respect themselves, stay sober and drug free and learn self-discipline. There was a clear sense that education and community health are inextricably linked. Education is viewed as more than achieving specific academic standards and benchmarks. While the desire is there to integrate Native knowledge and Western schooling, educators in rural Alaska do not yet have all the tools and know-how to achieve this end. More resources are needed to create culturally-appropriate teacher resources. Proposed funding cuts to Alaska's rural schools could threaten further progress. Nevertheless, our case studies offer many positive examples of bicultural and bilingual education that can create more holistic and healthy communities in rural Alaska with the added benefit of improved student achievement.

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UAF Summer 2000 Program in Cross-Cultural Studies for Alaskan Educators

Alaska Staff Development Network/Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative/ Center for Cross-Cultural Studies/UAF Summer Sessions

The Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative, the Alaska Staff Development Network and the UAF Summer Sessions invite educators from throughout Alaska to participate in a series of two- and three-credit courses focusing on the implementation of the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools. The courses may be taken individually or as a nine-credit cluster. Three of the courses (ED/CCS 613, ED 610 and ED/ANS 461) may be used to meet the state "multicultural education" requirement for licensure and they may be applied to graduate degree programs at UAF.

Rural Academy for Culturally Responsive Schools
May 30-June 3, 2000

The five-day intensive Rural Academy, sponsored by the Alaska Staff Development Network, The Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative and UAF Summer Sessions, consists of the following educational opportunities:

  • each participant participates in two out of fourteen two-day workshops demonstrating how the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools are being implemented in communities throughout rural Alaska.

  • two panel sessions are offered in which participants hear firsthand from key educational practitioners and policymakers from throughout the state.

  • a day-long field trip allows participants to meet and interact with key people and observe exemplary programs in the Interior region.

  • participants share successful strategies and programs from throughout the state.

  • participants have the option to complete a followup project relevant to their own work situation.

    Instructor: Ray Barnhardt, Ph.D. and workshop presenters
    Credit Options: ED 695, Rural Academy for Culturally Responsive Schools (2 cr.) $258
    ED/CCS 613, Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools. (3 cr.) $387

Cross-Cultural Orientation Program for Teachers
June 5-23, 2000

The Center for Cross-Cultural Studies and UAF Summer Sessions offer the Cross-Cultural Orientation Program for teachers, beginning on June 5, 2000 and running through June 23, 2000, including a week (June 10-17) at the Old Minto Cultural Camp on the Tanana River with Athabascan Elders from the village of Minto. The program is designed for teachers and others who wish to gain some background familiarity with the cultural environment and educational history that makes teaching in Alaska, particularly in rural communities, unique, challenging and rewarding.

Instructor: Ray Barnhardt, Ph.D. and Minto Elders
Credit Option: CCS/ED 610, Education and Cultural Processes (3 cr.) $534 plus $100 camp fee

Native Ways of Knowing
June 26-July 14, 2000

The third course available in the cross-cultural studies series is a three-week seminar focusing on the educational implications of "Native ways of knowing." The course examines teaching and learning practices reflected in indigenous knowledge systems and how those practices may be incorporated into the schooling process. Examples drawn from the work of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative and the Alaska Native Knowledge Network are shared with participants.

Instructor: Oscar Kawagley, Ph.D.
Credit option: ED/ANS 461, Native Ways of Knowing (3 cr.) $279


For registration or further information regarding the UAF summer programs contact the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, 474-1902.


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Iñupiaq Region: Natural Products made from the Tuttu, Part III

by Elmer Jackson

Without the tuttu (caribou) and other indigenous as well as migratory animals, life for the Iñupiat would be difficult. The tuttu provides meat for sustenance and it's skin is tanned and sewn for warm winter clothing. The muscle tissue from the back is removed and dried. It is then twisted into thread. The needle is made from the thin bone of the foreleg or taliq. An ulu is used when cutting out the pattern on the skin. A sharp ulu will make the cutting easier.

With winter being the longest season, warm clothing is necessary for survival. Hard and soft bottom kammak (boots) are sewn from the winter skin which has thick fur. Hard bottom kammak are made from the bearded seal skin which has been crimped. Waterproof kammak are coated with fat and oil making them waterproof. These boots are used during the spring and summer.

Parkas for the young are sewn from the fawn skin, which is soft and pliable and the fur makes a warm parka. Mittens, socks, pants and other items are sewn from the tanned winter skin of the tuttu.

One of the traditional Iñupiat ropes is made from the skin of the tuttu and the seal. The skin is soaked in water until the hair is removed easily. While the skin is still wet, it is cut into one long strip. It is then stretched and tied from post to post and dried. These strips can be used for making snowshoes or for tying a basket sled. There are many other uses.

A tent of six caribou skins is used for a survival shelter. The floor is covered with spruce boughs and skins of the tuttu. The skin is also an excellent mattress.

Caribou are the only members of the deer family where both the male and female grow antlers. The antlers can be used as sinkers for a gill or seine net. Each family had a mark on the sinkers. Grandfather Frank Jackson's mark is that of the footprint of the Sandhill crane-three marks. If a sinker was found they would know who it belonged to and would return it to the owner.

The sharpest points of the antlers are used as piercing tools for dry white fish. Dry fish are pierced for the purpose of making a string of fish. The antler and bones are utilized for creating tools, spear heads, arrow heads and other implements. A useful fish scaler is made from the shoulder blade. This tool is called a kavisiiqsin.

Many parts of the tuttu are used for arts and crafts and in sewing clothing. Upper Kobuk and the Nunamiut artists create face masks, molding the skin into a carved wood shaped like a face of a person. A miniature model of a sled is created using the lower jaw bones, wood, baleen and twine or traditional rawhide.

Every part of the tuttu is saved. The hooves are saved for survival food. Once they are dried they will remain as they are. When food is scarce, they can be soaked in water until they soften and then cooked into a soup broth. The cooked muscle tendons on the hooves are eaten also.

Generations ago, the Iñupiat endured starvation. The quest to find food was difficult, especially during the winter. The men and their pack dogs would qaqi or travel north towards Noatak and the North Slope to find caribou. The women and the young remained home, fishing and berrypicking. Food gathering kept them busy most of the day and night.

To respect the animals and the environment was law-traditional law. Indigenous people passed, from generation to generation, the practice of having respect for the animals and the environment. They took only what was needed, subsisting from season to season. They shared with other people in the community. When a family did not have a hunter or provider, they were given food, wood and skins. Sharing brought a sense of contentedness to the community. People took care of each other, even in times of hardship.


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Yup'ik Region: After Culture Camp

by Mike Hull, Principal, Alakanuk School

We have not learned all that we might from the culture camp setting. We can't even say that we have accomplished all we thought we should during any session. In Alakanuk, we already find ourselves looking for the next step. Perhaps it is the pace of the internet world that is telling us to move on. After all, we have been starting the school year with camping trips for four years-in cyber-time that represents an established tradition. We have integrated a science curriculum into the camp activities for two years-that's practically an institution.

The culture camp setting presents us with a very clear image of the real needs of the students. They need to learn the basic subsistence skills to provide for themselves and their families in this setting. They need to acquire the academic skills to comprehend and deal effectively with the changing world around them. They need to develop the spiritual awareness and strength of character necessary to assure healthy relationships with all who share their world.

At fall camp students catch, cut, cook and dry fish. They pick berries and they learn the use of different plants. They hunt seal. They also learn hunting and boating safety. What don't they know about keeping themselves alive during freeze up? And what are the tools and the knowledge they need to find food during the winter? How do they use their time in one season to get ready for the next?

The camp is really a great academic setting because we (parents and teachers) can make sure that the students go to bed and get up at a certain time, eat well, get plenty of fresh air and exercise-and they don't watch TV. We don't have that kind of influence back in the village. What kind of learning environment can overcome lack of sleep, sugar highs and lows and the brain numbing overdose of TV?

The interdependence of all is very apparent at camp. All must help set up tents or we won't have shelter. All must help with catching and cleaning fish or we don't eat. All must strive to get along because we live close, very close and any conflict affects everyone. Those from strong families grow up with these values. But what of those who do not have that guidance? And how do we bring young people to respect all that makes up their world when their virtual world challenges them to "blow away" anything that crosses their path?

We need to move on. Fall camp is not enough. Subsistence skills are for all year long; they must be a part of our year-long curriculum. Each session presents particular challenges to staying alive. Each session presents the means for doing so.

Using funds from the GEAR-UP program, Alakanuk has assembled a team to create a middle school curriculum that will have its focus on traditional and subsistence activities. An Elder along with two village residents who just completed their student teaching are working with the staff to design units and lessons that align the academic program to the knowledge and skills required for each season. The program depends upon community members to provide key elements for the core of our instruction. It returns the responsibility of education to those who traditionally held it. Elders will interact with students daily.

As with the camp, the activities of the season become the science and social studies. The practices passed on by the Elders and community members become the focus of research and analysis using the tools and methods of modern science. And, as with camp, the traditional wisdom will find verification under the microscope or be supported by data gathered from the internet. At winter camp stories of past adventures will be shared in tents late at night. When the students return to the village, stories of their new adventures will be written down to share with e-mail buddies far away. Such is the world our students belong to-a world that spans many millennia.

We can meet the goal of students becoming proficient in subsistence skills. We can because they are interested and they have good teachers. We can do a better job of providing reading and writing skills because they will be reading and writing about things of interest to them-and they have good teachers. But perhaps the most exciting thing about this approach is that we can teach traditional values in the context that generated them. Skills may sustain the individual but it is the understanding of and the respect for the relationship of people to each other and to the world around them that sustain a people. Can we teach understanding and respect? Do we dare not to?

As exciting and beneficial as the culture camp has been, it is just a beginning-the opening of a door to pathways we need to pursue.


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Southeast Region

by Andy Hope

Cultivate, v. To improve and develop by education or training (a person, his mind, manners, facilities); to refine, to culture.
Nurture, trans. To foster, cherish.
(as defined from the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, New Edition)

Alaska tribes and Native educators should take the lead in confronting the challenge of cultivating and nurturing indigenous Alaska Native knowledge. There are many resources that tribes and educators can draw upon in addressing this challenge.

One approach would be to begin a substantive effort to develop comprehensive education policies. Tribes and educators could begin by addressing language, culture, research and publications policies. In drafting such policies, the following tools are readily available: Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools, Guidelines for Preparing Culturally Responsive Teachers for Alaska's Schools, Guidelines for Respecting Cultural Knowledge (see a related article in this issue on these guidelines,) the AFN Research Policy, Alaska Native educator associations, the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative and the Consortium for Alaska Native Higher Education.

Tribes and educators can and should foster the dissemination of Alaska indigenous knowledge and work to support Native and non-Native educators who are incorporating indigenous knowledge into the curricula of schools. Too often in the past, educators have been discouraged from developing curricula that reflect indigenous values because there wasn't an adequate support structure to make sure it was being done properly. Developing tribal education policies will create and promote a healthy learning environment for our communities.

For the long term, tribal colleges will be the lead institutions for the ongoing development of Alaska indigenous knowledge. The development of tribal colleges is critical to this effort. Each of us, as tribal members, can contribute to the effort to develop education policies and tribal colleges. Developing explicit education policies and tribal colleges would help ensure the de-politicization of education programs and systems in our communities.

There are Alaska Native educator groups in virtually every region of Alaska now. Members of these groups are available to assist tribes in their efforts to construct culturally-responsive education policies. The Consortium for Alaska Native Higher Education (CANHE) has been working for more than two years to develop tribal colleges in Alaska and recently began the process of formally organizing to advocate for tribal colleges on a statewide basis. Members of CANHE will also be available to assist tribes with education policymaking. Tribal colleges will be the proper institutions to carry forward the effort to ensure that Alaska indigenous knowledge continues to flourish for future generations.


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Aleut/Alutiiq Region: Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights

by Gordon L. Pullar, Director, UAF Department of Native and Rural Development

Keynote Address to the Native Educator's Conference, February 1, 2000, Anchorage, Alaska

My thanks to Lolly Carpluk and other conference organizers for inviting me to be here tonight. And my special thanks to Teri Schneider for her kind introduction.

On a sad day such as today I don't think I could launch into a speech before offering my sincere respect to the memory of Morris Thompson, who we all lost yesterday. I had the honor of serving with Morrie on the AFN board for several years and he was always someone I looked up to and learned from. He was a strong leader, a successful manager and a dedicated advocate for Native people. Above all, however, he was a genuinely kind and caring person. We all owe him a debt of gratitude. We'll miss him.

Being asked to speak here tonight takes me back a few years ago when my friend Harold Napoleon asked me to speak at the AFN Youth/Elders Conference that he was coordinating. I did my presentation and it seemed to go okay and as I stepped down from the podium I saw that Harold was waiting for me with a smile on his face. "You weren't as boring as everyone said you were going to be," he said. So having reached that lofty plateau once, I hope to do it again tonight and not be as boring as everyone said I was going to be.

I will begin with a disclaimer. That disclaimer is that I'm not an expert. I don't believe in experts. In fact, a sure way for someone to draw my suspicion and distrust is to claim to be an expert or to brag that he or she knows "all there is to know" about any topic. I am, however, a lifelong student. I try to observe, listen and learn. And as any good student will tell you, "the more you learn the more you realize you don't know." So the topic tonight is one I hope to continue to learn more about, that I am trying to learn about and one that I'm sure many of you have more knowledge about than I do. But you're not going to escape that easily. I have developed some thoughts that I will share with you.

Over the past few years we often hear the terms intellectual property rights and cultural property rights with only some vague notion of what they might mean. However, the meanings are often or even usually different from person to person and country to country. And the meanings become even more diverse among indigenous peoples.

Intellectual property is a common term within the American mainstream culture. We have all heard of and, to some degree or another, are familiar with patents, copyrights and trademarks. All of these things are usually associated with litigation and long court battles. There seems to be no end to what people will dispute when it comes to these concepts. Just this week, for example, television personality Rosie O'Donnell was in the news for filing litigation against a Portland, Oregon radio station for using the name "Rosie" in its ads. The name was being used in the context of Portland being known as the City of Roses.

The concept of cultural property rights among indigenous peoples has different connotations than the charge of the misuse of Rosie's name implies. Cultural property rights may refer to one's inner identity. It is about ancestors and ways of doing, saying and knowing things. It is about culture and everyone on earth is entitled to a culture. It is about the past, the present and the future. It is about life.

Over the past couple decades, there have been some issues of cultural property rights that have emerged in my home area of Kodiak Island that I have been involved with. One was the issue of the repatriation of human remains. Skeletons representing over a thousand people were taken from Kodiak Island during the 1930s and stored in the Smithsonian Institution. The reason given for not returning them was that they were the property of, that is they belonged to, all the people of the United States. It was a sad scenario when the remains of ancestors were considered "property." In fact, in one letter from the Smithsonian, it was stated that the remains could not be returned because the Smithsonian had a responsibility to care for them on behalf of all American citizens, not just "discrete interest groups." They were returned and reburied in the Fall of 1991 but only after considerable legal wrangling and an act of Congress. It is difficult even now to think of those ancestral remains as property. The government identified them as property, but Native people cannot usually make that kind of connection. They just know they have a responsibility to return the remains of their ancestors to their intended resting places. In virtually all documents advocating for cultural property rights, the issue of repatriation of human remains is mentioned. But sometimes the meaning of the word property is different from one culture to another.

But it is not just lawyers and government bureaucrats that invoke legalese into such a sacred concept as a people's cultural heritage. Indigenous peoples, as well, tend to think of these property rights in a legal sense. But in today's world there is no choice. We often have to resort to the legal and political arenas to preserve and protect our birthrights. In the arena of international law and indigenous rights there are a few instruments that have made cases for indigenous cultural property rights in one form or another. For example:

International Labour Organization Convention Number 169, Article 2 (b) (passed in 1989):

Governments shall have the responsibility for developing, with the participation of the peoples concerned, coordinated and systematic action to protect the rights of these peoples and to guarantee respect for their integrity. Such action shall include measures for promoting the full realization of the social, economic and cultural rights of these peoples with respect for their social and cultural identity, their customs and traditions and their institutions.

United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which passed out of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1994 and is now working its way through the UN hierarchy says in:

UN Draft, Article 8:

Indigenous peoples have the collective and individual right to maintain and develop their distinct identities and characteristics, including the right to identify themselves as indigenous and be recognized as such.

UN Draft, Article 12:

Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artifacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature, as well as the right to the restitution of cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs."

UN Draft, Article 13:

Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of human remains.

UN Draft, Article 14:

Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.

UN Draft, Article 24:

Indigenous people have the right to their traditional medicines and health practices, including the right to the protection of vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals.

UN Draft, Article 29:

Indigenous peoples are entitled to the recognition of the full ownership, control and protection of their cultural and intellectual property. They have the right to special measures to control, develop and protect their sciences, technologies and cultural manifestations, including human and other genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs and visual and performing arts.

I know that many of you are familiar with the Mataatua Declaration on Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples passed by indigenous people in New Zealand in 1993. One recommendation in this declaration that I see as crucial is that indigenous people should define for themselves their own intellectual and cultural property.

How do we "define for ourselves?" And what are cultural property rights to us? How should we exercise those rights? As the Nike slogan goes, "Just do it!"

I believe, for example, that we should not allow outsiders to define who we are. This has been going on for 200 years in Alaska and has caused considerable confusion. In my area of Kodiak Island, the Russian fur traders that arrived in the late 18th century called the Sugpiat the indigenous people living there (Aleuts) just as they had done to the Unangan in the Aleutian Islands. They did this because of the similarities they observed between both the Unangan of the Aleutian Islands and the Sugpiat of Kodiak Island to a coastal indigenous group on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The people on Kodiak began using this term in their own language, the result being the word "Alutiiq." The name Alutiiq has had a revival and has grown in popularity in recent years, mostly as a way for the Sugpiat to distinguish themselves from the Aleuts of the Aleutian Island who have a different culture and language. But Alutiiq is a good term because a conscious decision was made by the people to use it.

As if things weren't complicated enough, enter the anthropologists who decided to call the Sugpiat "Pacific Eskimo" or even "Pacific Yup'ik" because of the close linguistic similarities with Yup'ik people. While virtually no Alutiiqs use this term, anthropologists insisted for quite a number of years that they were correct.

I don't believe there is anything wrong with people from Kodiak Island calling themselves Aleuts and, because it has been in use for so many generations, it may not be likely that a return will be made to Sugpiat. But it should be the responsibility of the people to learn the history of these terms so they can make an informed choice. But whatever terms are used they are, to me, cultural property. As cultural property, there are responsibilities and duties attached. Learning those responsibilities and duties is where we find ourselves today. There are a number of important and exciting projects going on today that are directly addressing and defining those responsibilities and duties.

Dr. Erica-Irene Daes, the chairperson-rapporteur of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations said in 1995 to the 47th session for the Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities: "To be effective, the protection of indigenous peoples' heritage should be based broadly on the principle of self-determination, which includes the right and the duty of indigenous peoples to develop their own cultures, knowledge systems and forms of social organization."

I would like to emphasize some parts of Madame Daes' statement. She said, "the right and the duty of indigenous peoples to develop their own cultures, knowledge systems and forms of social organization." She made it a point to mention the principle of self-determination which is crucial to all we do as Alaska Native people and communities. Without exercising self-determination, Native peoples cannot exercise their rights or their duties and cannot define for themselves what their cultural and intellectual property is. But before we can make such definitions we must search for the questions. As Thurber said, "It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers." Thank you very much and I hope I wasn't as boring as everyone said I was going to be.

Copies of some of the documents referred to by Dr. Pullar can be viewed on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network website at:


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Athabascan Region

by Kathy Swartz

The Cultural Heritage and Education Institute (CHEI) has been a partner with the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative for the past four years. Close collaboration between AKRSI, CHEI, Minto community members, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and the Denali Foundation has developed several different projects which promote an inter-generational exchange of information among Elders and youth and contributes to the preservation of cultural heritage in the Minto Flats. These projects include the Athabascan Place Names Mapping Project, the Denali Foundation "Denali on the Road" Snow Science Workshop and an oral history project. In 1999, CHEI also organized a visit to the Fort Knox Gold Mine by the Minto students and Elders to learn about modern gold mining techniques.

Mapping Project

This project is the beginning of a cultural atlas that will preserve the histories, stories and other information about the traditional lands of the Minto Athabascans. The project will create an interactive web-based map and CD-ROM of the Minto Flats area with Athabascan and English labels, links to stories, photos and audio clips. The map is being developed by Minto students based on information gathered with Minto Elders. The project is being coordinated by Bill Pfisterer and Paula Elmes is the ANKN graphic artist.

In 1998 and 1999, Minto students traveled with Elders and project staff to different sites in the Minto Flats to record information. In 1998, there was a field trip to three historical sites: Cache, Graveyard and Four Cabins. During this trip the students were given a short course in photography and approximately 200 photos were taken. Students were taught interviewing techniques and how to use a tape recorder and microphone. In August 1999, there was another field trip by boat to Jack Hill #1 and #2 gravesites and the Goldstream cemetery with eight Minto Elders, eight Minto high school students and archeologist Carol Galvin. The trip focused on the identification of traditional subsistence and historic campsites and identification of old gravesites. During this school year, thirteen students have volunteered their time to compile the information that has been gathered and prepare an interactive website.

Denali Foundation, "Denali on the Road," Snow Science Workshop

In early 1999, Patty Craw of the Denali Foundation conducted a Snow Science Workshop in Minto. The workshop was made possible through the support and participation of local Elders, Deanna Couch, the junior high science and math teacher and 20 junior high students.

The Snow Science Workshop was four days. The first two days of the workshop involved a combination of lecture and lab activities that provided students with background knowledge in Western science methods of studying snow and glaciers. Snow was introduced in the context of the hydrologic cycle, crystal formation and properties of snow. Students learned how to identify a variety of snow crystals and how to use aerial photographs, satellite images and topographic maps to observe glaciers.

The third day took place at Ptarmigan Hill, approximately 20 miles east of Minto. Elders shared their knowledge with students for the first half of the day. The first activity they did together was to create a comfortable place to talk and eat by placing "greens" or spruce boughs on the snow in a circle. Then, two Elders showed the students how to make fire starter from dry spruce shavings and soon a fire was burning, snow was melted to make tea, snacks and stories were enjoyed by all. After spending time together in the circle, an Elder with the boys built an emergency shelter with spruce boughs while others showed the girls how to make ptarmigan snares.

The second half of this day was focused on Western science methods of observing snow. Students collected measurements of density, depth, temperature, snow crystals and identified layers within the snowpack. During the final day, students made correlations between traditional knowledge learned from the Elders and the physical properties of snow as understood by Western science.

During the workshop, students and Elders had a positive learning and teaching experience. Students were able to discover how certain traditional knowledge and Western science ideas coalesce. This shared knowledge was has been incorporated into the Snow Science curriculum to pass on to future students for years to come.

Making Oral History Materials available in Minto

The Oral History Program at UAF's Rasmuson Library is working on a project to locate, document, copy and annotate materials related to Minto and Lower Tanana Athabascans. The final products will include a complete and annotated list of material holdings at UAF. Copies of these materials will also be available at the Minto school with appropriate release agreements available. For audio and video recordings, the project has contracted with Minto residents and local language specialists to review the information. Bill Schneider oversees the project as curator of oral history and David Krupa, research associate, is the project director. Jarrod Decker, research technician, and Lissa Robertson, student assistant, are compiling, collating and annotating UAF materials. Ken Charlie and Richard Frank are working as independent contractors to review audio recordings. To date, the project has duplicated and begun annotation for the following: 250 historic photographs, 75 audio recordings, 6 video recordings, 120 journal articles, 350 newspaper articles, 125 audio recordings, 65 pieces of material culture, 40 artifacts from the University of Alaska Museum and 50 audio recordings from the James Kari collection.

Project staff have made several trips to Minto to discuss the project with the Minto Village Council members and Elders. Additional trips are planned. The staff will provide a progress report to the community and seek new participants to help with review of the material. A photo album containing original photos will be left at the Minto Lodge with a log identifying people and places. The development of this annotated list will make it much easier for the public to access materials at UAF and in Minto. This project is a small step towards intellectual repatriation that is crucial, timely and may serve as a model for similar efforts throughout Alaska.

Contact Information

Cultural Heritage and Education Institute
Robert Charlie
P.O. Box 73030
Fairbanks, AK 99707
Phone (907) 451-0923
Fax (907) 451-0910

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AISES Corner

by Claudette Bradley

On January 20-22, the third Annual Interior AISES Science Fair was held in Fairbanks.

Grand Prize Winners:

  • Jorddonna Esmailka and Krista Workman, eighth grade from Shageluk. Project: Air Pollution & Caribou Food-Lichen

  • Sonta Hamilton and Amber John, ninth grade from Shageluk. Project: Modern & Native Medicinal Teas for the Common Cold

  • Edwina Starr, eight grade from Tanana. Project: The Moon

Honorable Mention

  • Dwayne Benjamin, eleventh grade from Shageluk. Project: Traditional Athabaskan Traps

Statewide AISES Science Fair

On January 31, the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative held the first Statewide AISES Science Fair at Birchwood Lodge outside of Anchorage. Thirty-five students entered twenty-five projects. They came from villages throughout Alaska.

The projects were judged by six Elders and three scientists. Elders evaluated projects on their usefulness to the Alaska Native culture, village lifestyles and Alaska Native corporations' vested interests. The scientists evaluated the scientific method and research design.

We deeply appreciate the work of the Elders, who currently live in Anchorage: Drafin Buck Delkettie of Illiamna, Anatoli Lekanof of St. George, Anna Willis of Red Devil, Shirley Kendall of Hoonah, Art Jones of Kotzebue and Pauline Hathaway of Deering. They studied each project, interviewed the students and provided encouragement for their work.

The following students were the grand prize winners and will travel to St. Paul, Minnesota March 30 to enter their projects in the AISES National Science Fair.

Grand Prize Winners

  • Zena Merculief and Curtis Melovidov from St.Paul. Project: Which Oil Produces the Most Energy: Motor Oil, Cooking Oil or Seal Oil?

  • Jolene Cleveland from Selawik: Project: Under Ice Fishing

  • Nicole Thomas from Nome. Project: Science of Seal Oil

  • Roberta Murphy and Robert Foster from Noorvik. Project: The Population Density of Shrews and Voles

  • Crystal Gross from Barrow. Project: Antimicrobial Effect of Arctic Plants

  • Desiree Merculief from St. George. Project: What is the Largest Flatfish?

  • Amber Howarth from Noatak. Project: Caribou Uses

  • Patrick Schneider from Kodiak. Project: Oil Discovered!

Honorable Mention

  • Dwayne Benjamin from Shageluk. Project: Traditional Athabaskan Traps


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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
5230 Fairchild Avenue
Fairbanks, Alaska 99709-4525
(907) 474-0275 phone

Elmer Jackson
Iñupiaq Regional Coordinator
PO Box 134
Kiana, Alaska 99749
(907) 475-2257

Andy Hope
Southeast Regional Coordinator
University of Alaska Southeast
School of Business/PR
11120 Glacier Highway
Juneau, Alaska 99801
(907) 465-8776

Barbara Liu
Yup'ik Regional Coordinator
Box 2262
Bethel, Alaska 99559
(907) 543-3467

Teri Schneider
Aleutians Regional Coordinator
Kodiak Island Borough School District
722 Mill Bay Road, North Star
Kodiak, Alaska  99615
(907) 486-9031


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

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

Frank W. Hill
Alaska Federation of Natives
1577 C Street, Suite 300
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 274-3611 phone
(907) 276-7989 fax

Sharing Our Pathways is a publication of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation Division of Educational Systemic Reform in agreement with the Alaska Federation of Natives and the University of Alaska.

We welcome your comments and suggestions and encourage you to submit them to:

The Alaska Native Knowledge Network
Old University Park School, Room 156
University of Alaska Fairbanks
P.O. Box 756730
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730

(907) 474-1902 phone
(907) 474-5208 fax

Newsletter Editor: Dixie Dayo

Layout & Design: Paula Elmes

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


Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
Questions or comments?
Last modified August 16, 2006