A newsletter of the Alaska Rural Systemic
Alaska Federation of Natives / University
of Alaska / National Science Foundation
Volume 5, Issue 5, November/December 2000
In This Issue:
Rural Systemic Initiative Funded For Another Five Years
by Frank Hill
The first five-year phase of funding and activities
of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative officially ended on August
31, 2000. Due to the continuing success of the AKRSI in its curricular
reform efforts, the National Science Foundation has approved funding
for a second five years, beginning November 1, 2000. The Alaska
Federation of Natives will continue as the sponsor of the project.
The success of the AKRSI is due to the inspiration
and work of many people. As we close out Phase I and begin on the
next phase, it is only fitting that we acknowledge those who have
contributed to the success of AKRSI during the first five years.
First, thank you to all of the Native Elders from
throughout the five regions for their patience, wisdom, understanding
and willingness to share their cultural knowledge. Without their
participation in AKRSI, we couldn't have begun the systemic reform
Next, a round of applause for Dr. Angayuqaq Oscar
Kawagley and Dr. Ray Barnhardt. Oscar, for the inspiration and
ability to teach us and others the legitimacy of the Native world
view which is the cultural and philosophical basis for AKRSI; Ray,
for his phenomenal ability to keep track of all of the complex
issues, translating Native knowledge into relevant curricula for
Alaska's Native students and leading the teams as we "perform" for
NSF review panels.
The AKRSI staff deserves much of the credit for its
success: the regional coordinators from the five cultural regions
including Andy Hope III in Southeast, Teri Schneider out in Alutiiq/Aleut
territory, Barbara Liu on the rivers of her Yup'ik country, Elmer
Jackson up north in Iñupiaq country and Amy Van Hatten among
her folks in Athabascan territory. All of the regional coordinators
learned how to work with Elders, brought them together with schools
and educators and brought a local focus to each year's initiatives.
The folks on the UAF campus: Sean Topkok, Paula Elmes, Lolly Carpluk,
Dixie Dayo, Jeannie Creamer-Dalton, Dr. Claudette Bradley and others
who lent their support to the project are deserving of thanks for
their dedication and hard work. We need to remember the undying
efforts of Alan Dick for his collecting and writing of science
teaching practices that will benefit Native students for many years
Our 20 memorandum-of-agreement (MOA) school districts
and other regional partners who have hosted much of the work accomplished
by the AKRSI should receive special recognition for their willingness
to attempt a new approach to curricular reform. As they continue
the work after AKRSI support, they become leaders in the reform
We deeply appreciate Julie Kitka, president of the
Alaska Federation of Natives, for her personal support and her
willingness to convince the AFN Board of the validity and value
of the AKRSI, both at the beginning of the project and for its
continuation into Phase II.
We appreciate, too, the continued partnership with
the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development and the
University of Alaska for their willingness to incorporate and validate
Native knowledge systems into university and state educational
policies and practices.
To all of the entities and persons named and those
whose contributions we may have inadvertently omitted, a great
big quyanaa! Quyana! Qagaasakung! Baasee'! Gunalche'esh! Chin'un!
Thank you! We look forward to working with you for continued success
during the next five years.
Teacher Grants for Math, Science & Technology
Alaska teachers may receive up to $5,000 for innovative,
hands-on classroom projects. See the ASTF web page: www.astf.org.
No web access? Call Sharon Fisher, Outreach Administrator at Alaska
Science & Technology Foundation, 907-452-1624.
Planning Underway for 2001 Native Educators' Conference
by Virginia Ned and Ray Barnhardt
Over the past few years, Alaska Native Educators
have formed a series of regional associations to support initiatives
addressing issues related to Alaska Native education. These associations
will once again serve as the hosts for the 2001 Native Educator's
Conference to be held February 4-6, 2001 in conjunction with the
annual Alaska Bilingual/Multicultural Education/Equity Conference
February 7-9, 2001 in Anchorage. The purpose of the Native Educators'
Conference is to provide an opportunity for people engaged in education
impacting Native people to come together and learn from each other's
work and to explore ways to strengthen the links between education
and the cultural well-being of indigenous people.
This year's NEC will include a work session on February
4, 2001 aimed at finalizing and adopting two sets of guidelines
that have been drafted as extensions of the work on the Alaska
Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools. Participants will
review draft Guidelines for Nurturing Culturally Healthy Youth,
as well as a set of draft Guidelines for Strengthening Indigenous
Languages-both of which are under development through a series
of regional meetings this fall.
The Native Educators' Conference provides an opportunity
to share and contribute to the excellent work that is underway
in schools and communities throughout the state. Building on past
themes, the tentative theme for the 2001 NEC is "Reaping the Harvest
of Indigenous Knowledge." Proposals for workshop presentations
at the NEC should be submitted to the ANKN offices by December
15, 2000. For proposal forms, a registration packet or further
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730
Phone: 907-474-1957 or 474-1902
For information regarding the 27th Bilingual/Multicultural
Education/Equity Conference, contact:
Dr. Bernice Tetpon
Alaska Department of Education and Early Development
801 W. 10th Street, Suite 200
Juneau, AK 99801-1894
The Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Division
of Subsistence and the Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission announce
the joint release of
WHISKERS! is a multicultural, multimedia database
of indigenous local knowledge about Alaska marine mammals organized
into seven geographic regions: Southeast Alaska, North Pacific
Rim, Kodiak, Alaska Peninsula, Aleutians and Pribilof Islands,
Bristol Bay and Northwest Alaska. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game,
with support from the Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission, compiled
the database from key respondent interviews with Alaska Natives
in approximately 65 Alaskan coastal communities between 1992 and
1998. As a result, over 3100 notes have been compiled from Elders
and active hunters.
assist teachers with meeting Alaska science curriculum
integrate traditional ecological knowledge and
wisdom with western science,
utilize technology in the classroom and
implement locally-relevant and culturally-responsive
To receive a free copy of the CD and user's guide,
send an e-mail with your name, affiliation and mailing address
to Craig Mishler, the compiler of the database. Craig's email address
How Does the Crane Keep Its Language?
by Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley
"When I was a little bitty baby, my momma would rock
me in the cradle, in them old tundra hills back home," and as I
rocked I would hear the voices of my ancestors just as the crane
chicks in their nest hear the mother crane making its call.
I don't know if the crane has the genes in its DNA
to make its own distinctive call or if it learns it from its mother
and other members of its own kind, but it does learn to speak the
crane language. Baby cranes do not make a call like that of a seagull's
raucous, squalling sound or like any other member of the bird family.
Each species has its own distinct call-a language readily identifiable
as its own-and all those unique languages continue to be passed
on from one generation to the next.
As Native people, we too have our own unique languages
which have been passed on from one generation to the next for many
millennia. So why are we losing our Native languages so rapidly?
Could it be because we, as parents, grandparents and villagers,
do not speak to our children in our own Native language anymore?
Why is it that we do not speak to them in our languages? One of
the reasons is that our primary language has become English, which
is a voracious language that eats up our Native languages. Perhaps
this is brought about as a result of the remembrance of some Elders
and parents of the shaming, abuse and punishment they received
in school for speaking their own Native language. We must begin
to freely talk about such experiences and the hurt feelings and
shame so the healing process can begin.
So what must we do to keep from losing our Native
languages? For one thing, we can look at other indigenous people
who have been successful in re-enlivening and revitalizing their
languages. We can take a look at the Maori language nests or the
Native Hawaiians' programs and then put into practice that which
is proving to work. We must consult with our Elders to see what
we, as Native people, need to do to save our Native languages.
This is a very tough and complicated charge for those of us engaged
in teaching, research and role modeling. Head Start teachers, parents,
Elders and villagers have the grave responsibility of teaching
our Native youngsters their Native language. After all, they are
Why teach our Native languages that are often looked
upon by the modern world as useless, nontechnical and incapable
of conveying profound meaning and concepts? As Alaska Native people
we need to convince ourselves and our young ones that our Native
languages are important and can convey deep meaning and complex
thinking. As I have said in the past, using our Native languages
thrusts us into the thought world of our ancestors. We can talk
about our traditional hunting and gathering ways and sophisticated
technology by using our Native languages. For example, our Yupiaq
word, pinaa, which means "his, her or its strength," can mean physical
strength of a person, of a bow, of the oogruk skin covering the
qayaq or of water. It can mean intellectual prowess of a person,
place or thing. It can mean emotional or spiritual strength and
stability, all depending on the context in which it is used. Or
take qalluq, our word for rolling thunder or electrical discharge.
It is now our word for electricity. Who says our Native languages
are not technical? They can be very technical and profoundly spiritual
at the same time. Don't ever believe anyone who puts forward such
feeble reasons for encouraging us to lose our Native languages.
Manu Meyer, a Native Hawaiian, puts it this way: "We practice abstract
thinking, but it is tied to purpose and a meaningful existence." We-ourselves
and our youngsters-need to learn and understand this important
There are other reasons why we should not lose our
Native languages. They allow us to articulate spiritually and emotionally
and convey the deeper meanings of life. Richard Littlebear of Montana
has pointed out that our languages allow our people to articulate
the subtle attributes and meaning associated with self-governance,
law and order, jurisprudence, literature, a land base, spirituality
and sacred practices. We, as well as the rest of the world, cannot
afford to diminish the diversity of cultures. To have but one language
and one culture in this world would be boring indeed and would
put our very existence as a species at greater risk.
The most important part of growing up is when children
are developing a beginning understanding of their language, culture
and place. However, human beings do not have a built-in mechanism
for learning a particular language. Unlike the crane, Native children
have no such genes in their genotype, so they have to listen, imitate
and learn to utter the sounds found in their own languages. It
is like having to learn English, German, Russian or any other language-they
have to work at it. The children have to be talked to in their
own language during play, so they can imitate, mimic things and
ask a lot of questions. They have an acute curiosity to learn during
their early lives. We must encourage this attribute by doings things
that they can learn from in association with their families, friends
and communities. By doing things that are important to their families
and communities, their curiosity and willingness to learn will
never diminish. In the school, however, they are often learning
about things that are foreign to them and find no application in
the surrounding community so that by the time they get into the
fifth and sixth grades, their inborn curiosity to learn has been
leached out of their minds. Sad, but true. We have too many dropouts
from high school and others who drop out intellectually and emotionally
long before they enter high school.
I have a problem when history is written by an outsider,
especially when it deals with Alaska or Alaska Native history,
because it is often just one interpretation, usually from a limited
perspective. You know where our history is found? It is in our
quliraat (mythology) and qalumciit (stories). So invite the Elders
to come into the classroom to tell the stories in their own language.
You will find that the values and those qualities that make us
a strong people are embedded in our Native words and stories. The
youngsters will begin to understand and yearn yulunii pitallqertugluni-being
a person who is living a life that feels just right. Alaska Native
mythology contains the power and wisdom for guiding us in making
a life and a living that feels just right. Alaska Native languages
enable us to show proper respect and express courtesy for all elements
of Mother Earth.
Another important language activity is to arrange
for the Elders to teach the youngsters singing, dancing and drumming.
In doing so, the children will become acquainted with the technical
words ascribed to rituals, ceremonies and sacred practices. By
learning the songs, they will begin to cultivate an identity and
connection to place. As hunter-gatherers, we had no need for written
history because our history was embedded in place, stories, songs,
dances and movement from place to place according to the seasons.
The youngsters should be brought outdoors to begin
to appreciate and experience the beauty of nature such as the caterpillar,
chamomile and tree. They must be taught that we are connected to
everything. The caterpillar eats vegetation, turning it into excrement
which is useful to the tree. It gives off carbon dioxide which
is also used by the tree. The tree provides a home and food for
the caterpillar and gives off oxygen which is used by the caterpillar.
As shown by the abbreviated cycles above, everything must go somewhere.
Everything that is done in nature is done for some purpose.
Human beings cannot have everything that we want.
We must learn to live with limited needs. We must learn to respect
and be satisfied with what we have. Life is the greatest gift that
we have and we must nurture that which makes life meaningful. Most
importantly in that regard, we must maintain our languages because
language, more than anything else, shapes who we are, just as it
does for the crane. By maintaining our languages, we are sustaining
the ultimate standard of health and endurance of the human species.
The ANKN website continues to add new pages. Here
are just a few:
The Phase II Cycle for Alaska Rural Systemic
Initiative is available at: http://ankn.uaf.edu/phase2.html.
One of the new sections is the Handbook for Culturally
Responsive Science Curriculum by Sidney Stephens: http://ankn.uaf.edu/handbook.html.
This resource requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.
There is a link to a science unit entitled Dog
Salmon by Joy Simon and Velma Schaefer: http://www.uaf.edu/aine/salmon%20web%20copy/sindex.html.
Another new link to a very useful resource is
to the Nikaitchuat Ixisabviat Project. This is the Iñupiaq
immersion project for preschoolers sponsored by Kotzebue IRA.
The curriculum is available on the Alaska Native Curriculum
and Teacher Development Project website: http://www.alaskool.org/native_ed/curriculum/OTZImmersion/PROJECTABST.html.
All of these resources should be used for educational
purposes only. Any information utilized should follow the Guidelines
for Respecting Cultural Knowledge, which is available at: http://ankn.uaf.edu/standards/culturaldoc.html.
Locally, Connecting Globally
by Sidney Stephens
Imagine cruising 30 miles down the Tanana River from
Perkins Landing to Fox Farm on a warm, sunny July day. Imagine
that your boat was piloted by one of three expert Athabascan captains:
Elder Howard Luke who has lived, hunted, trapped and fished the
river his entire life; Sam Demientieff, member of the Demientieff
Navigation family, who grew up barging freight to communities on
the Tanana, Yukon, Koyukuk, Iditarod and Innoko Rivers or Wes Alexander,
the only five-time winner of the Yukon 800 riverboat marathon,
now running riverboat tours to his historic Fox Farm allotment.
Imagine the stories you'd hear and the lessons you'd learn.
Well, the 20 teachers in the first Observing Locally,
Connecting Globally (OLCG) class didn't have to imagine because
just such a trip kicked off this two-week class. After a brief
introduction to our captains and equipped with Howard's river map,
topo maps and GPS receivers, participants boarded their boats.
Before casting off, the captains each talked about the fickle,
ever-changing nature of the Tanana. How its level is affected by
hot weather but, unlike the Chena River, not much affected by rain.
How sandbars and channels shift and change over night and over
time. How banks crumble and ledges form due to erosion and permafrost.
underway, each captain pointed out examples of these phenomena,
intermingling navigational tips with personal reminiscences of
their lives on the river. For example, Sam pointed out different
riffles and what they might hide, but also shared barging stories
like when the burnt skeleton of the Elaine G stuck out from a sandbar
for years until the constant force of the river and ice dispersed
it. Or when the ding, ding of the pilot's bell called all hands
on deck to witness the historic passing of the Steamboat Nenana
on its last run to Fairbanks. Wes talked about his childhood fascination
with the river and about his grandfather's patient instruction
to watch and remember everything. By paying attention to details
and traveling the river over and over again, Wes mentally cataloged
hundreds of river variables now used to interpret each riffle,
sand bar, cut bank and eddy. Howard, too, has a mental map of the
river but preferred to talk of people and places such as Lost Creek,
so called because a bootlegger got lost in there and never came
out, or Fox Farm itself where, as a boy, Howard skinned and tanned
fox hides for the "Old Man."
Traveling with these men, one was awed by their knowledge
and confidence and intrigued by glimpses of the river as they know
it. For them, the Tanana was clearly much more than part of the
scenic view from the Parks Highway or a water body to be studied
and measured. It was an integral part of each of their lives and
So what kind of a course was this anyway and how
did a river trip fit in? Good questions. Essentially, OLCG is a
new project aimed at promoting global change education in Alaska
by first engaging students in local environmental observations
and monitoring relevant to their community and then connecting
these investigations with a broader understanding of global change.
We began this course for teachers with the river trip because the
study of global change is, of necessity, the study of earth as
a system-its interconnected atmosphere, water, soil and living
things. Our three captains demonstrated an incredibly rich understanding
of these inter-relationships as they finessed their way down the
Tanana. They embodied the kind of long-term observation and systems-thinking
necessary not only to navigate a dynamic river, but to monitor
the local environment and connect to global change. Thus they set
not only the tone, but the standard for the rest of our class,
not to mention providing us with one heck of a great day on the
back in class, we attempted to put these ideas of long-term observation
and systems thinking into practice by focusing on the international
GLOBE1 curriculum combined with the constant input of local experts
like Dixie Dayo, Mary Shields and Elders Jonas Ramoth and Catherine
Attla. This format was based on the belief that the linking of
local knowledge with science instruction in schools is a mutually
beneficial process that can only enhance both the cultural well
being and the science skills and knowledge of students.
For example, weather is one of the most critically-observed
and mentally-cataloged phenomena in villages all over Alaska. Being
able to observe and predict the weather is of critical survival
value to people traveling on land or water. Weather extended to
climate is also of critical importance when considering issues
of global change. Consequently, we began our class focus on weather
by first listening to Jonas and Catherine share their knowledge
and perspectives. Then we honed in on and practiced specific GLOBE
protocols for gathering atmospheric data (e.g. minimum/maximum
temperature, snow/rain fall and pH, cloud type and percent cover)
and for submitting weather data on the Internet. This same local/GLOBE
format was followed for hydrology, land cover and soil investigations
in hopes that participating teachers would then implement and extend
such studies with their own K-12 students.
though we feel happy with OLCG's first attempt at merging Native
knowledge with global change education, we realize that we have
much to learn and that there is a long way to go before such teaching
is either perfected or made prominent in most rural schools and
communities. Luckily, the National Science Foundation funded this
project for three years which will enable us to support teachers
and students throughout the year, connect to related local and
international projects and plan and carry out two more summer institutes.
If you'd like more information on how you can be a part of this
effort, please contact us: Sidney Stephens (email@example.com), Elena
Sparrow (firstname.lastname@example.org or 474-7699), Leslie Gordon (lgordon@northstar.
k12.ak.us) or Martha Kopplin (email@example.com or 452-2000
The GLOBE curriculum (Global Learning and Observations
to Benefit the Environment) is an extremely comprehensive,
well-tested and hands-on program in which K-12 students collect
atmosphere, soil, hydrology, land cover and phenology data
over time, entering it on the Internet for scientists and others
to analyze and use. See www.globe.gov for more information.
ANSES Corner (Alaska Native Science & Engineering
by Claudette Bradley
On July 11, 2000 thirteen middle school students
from rural villages in the Interior and North Slope arrived for
the two-week Fairbanks AISES Science Camp 2000. The staff included
four Elders, four teachers, four resident advisors and a cook.
Students developed science projects selecting subjects from the
natural environment, discussing their project with Elders, receiving
guidance from teachers for their experiments and discovering that
science is all around them and that Elders have a lot of knowledge.
Participating Elders were Howard Luke, Elizabeth
Fleagle, Margaret Tritt and Kenneth Frank. They taught students
to do beadwork, carve and file bone for an Athabascan spear throwing
game and tan caribou skins. They organized fiddle dancing in the
evenings and told stories passed down for generations. Their advice
and confirmations were invaluable to the students.
Teachers set up a computer lab of Thinkpads(r) operated
by solar panel batteries. The Thinkpads(r) and printer were donated
by IBM; Todd Kelsey of IBM in Rochester, Minnesota joined the camp
for a week to work with students in the computer lab and to assist
them in developing a weather station with a student-made rain gauge,
wind socket and barometer. George Olanna of Shishmaref was a teacher
in the computer lab and helped students develop their science projects
and display boards. Rita O'Brien led the students in a medicinal
plant and berry-picking adventure. Under Rita's direction students
made cranberry leather which is like Fruit Rollups. Maria Reyes
met with students in Rasmusen Library computer lab to help them
search the Internet for information on their science project. She
guided students through a web search and the development of their
bibliography. I worked with the students, Elders and staff to help
keep the camp afloat.
Following the camp, I served as one of five educators
nationally to chaperone 20 teenage scientists to the Asia Pacific
Economic Cooperation (APEC) Youth Science Festival 2000 in Singapore.
These students were top science fair winners in state and national
science fairs in the Lower Forty-Eight. I was the only person from
Alaska among the US delegation sponsored by the American Association
for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Of the 800 people from 21
countries attending the conference, 600 were high school students
and 200 were educators. The students and chaperones attended a
very large science fair with 600 APEC Youth Science Festival (AYSF)
2000 students and nearly 2000 Singapore students. For two evenings
the 21 delegations took turns presenting cultural performances
for all ASYF participants.
During the teacher/chaperone seminar, I reported
on the AISES science camps and fairs sponsored by the Alaska Rural
Systemic Initiative. The participants expressed interest in an
exchange program between their students and AISES camp students.
We had the opportunity to visit secondary schools
in Singapore. Many of us were especially interested in the mathematics
programs since Singapore students scored highest in mathematics
in the international TIMSS study. The Singapore students and teachers
were very well organized with lots of hands-on classroom activities.
The K-12 AISES program in Alaska has been changed
to Alaska Native Science and Engineering Society (ANSES). This
year we are finishing the end of the first five years of the AKRSI
program. Each of the five cultural regions are planning a science
fair where they will select grand prize winners to attend the statewide
ANSES science fair in Anchorage February 3-5, 2001.
The second five-year round of AKRSI initiatives will
emphasize mathematics learning for rural students. The AKRSI staff
will include mathematical investigations for science projects as
a category in the regional and statewide science fairs. We will
discuss mathematical investigations as projects during the monthly
audioconferences held in each region. For all science projects
students should design data sheets for collecting data and attach
the data sheet on their display board.
We look forward to new adventures in science and
mathematics during the next few years. We hope you will look at
our website http://ankn.uaf.edu/aises where you will find the
science fair handbooks and details on the statewide fair. Please
contact Alan Dick at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 474-5376 if you
have any questions.
Academy of Elders and Culture Camps 2000
by Elmer Jackson
An Academy of Elders from the Northwest Arctic met
and participated in the Iñupiat Ilitqusrait summer camp
near Kiana. This year a total of 40 students, youth workers and
staff participated in the three sessions for ages eight and up.
During the second session, Elders from the Kobuk River region,
Kotzebue and Selawik met and participated with the campers and
The theme was "A Gathering for a Time of Learning
and Sharing." The goal was to teach the young people the subsistence
way of life through fishing, hunting, berry picking and gathering
edible and medicinal plants. One student commented that after drinking
tilaaqii (labrador tea) her sinus cold began to clear. She also
said that she was going to take some home.
There were many edible plants and sweet roots growing
near the shoreline of the camp: masru (sweet roots or wild potatoes),
qusrimmaq (rhubarb), quagaq (sourdock) and patitaaq (wild chives).
The academy shared and gave algaqsruutit (advice),
sang love songs and told stories. Algaqsruutit are words of advice
to the young.
Gill nets and seine nets were used to catch salmon,
quasrilluk (whitefish) and other Kobuk River fish. Some were sealed,
cut, washed and hung on poles to dry. Some of the fish were half-dried
for iganaaqtuk, that can be baked or boiled and tastes delicious
with seal oil.
Summer youth workers from Kiana met and interviewed
Elders for the Oral History Project sponsored by the Kiana Traditional
Council. The youth workers participated and helped the staff and
campers. They are to be commended for their great help.
An eagle flew over, observing the camp. I could see
the caring eyes of the Elders for they knew that a large eagle
is capable of flying off with a small child. Yet they were also
awed by the sight of the large golden eagle perched on a spruce
During one of the evening sessions, the Elders shared
the following algaqsruutit with the young campers:
What your parents and grandparents teach you
We will depend on you; you are the ones who will
run our Native corporations.
Give the best kuak, puugmiutaq and seal oil to
others and one-tenth to the church.
Research your family tree to find out who you
are related to.
The more you learn in grade school, the easier
time you will have in college.
When you help others, especially Elders, don't
ask for payment.
Don't make fun of people, especially those who
When you have a head/sinus cold and are coughing,
spit out the mucus; it is not healthy when it stays in your
Learn the Iñupiaq way of life as well
as the Western way. Don't forget that you are Iñupiaq.
When we were growing up our parents and grandparents
taught us to leave other people's property alone.
Don't steal. If you leave people's things alone,
you will make the right choice.
We are never too old to learn.
Keep your camping area clean.
Don't throw plastic trash into the river. The
fish, birds and other animals can get caught in it.
When you are out boating, do not throw your trash
on the land or in the water. If you do, it will keep the animals
and fish away.
Do not leave your campfire burning while you
are away; it could cause a forest fire.
Hunter and campers have a responsibility to keep
the land and water clean.
When you are camping with other people, share
your food with them.
The Elders' way of life is the truth.
Culture camps need more support.
The Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative and AFN supported
and provided for the Academy of Elders. Thanks to MOA partner Northwest
Arctic Borough School District, Ruth Sampson and staff, the Kiana
Elders Council and the Kiana Traditional Council for their support
of the Academy of Elders and the Iñupiat Ilitqusrait summer
camp 2000. The camp staff did an excellent job and the food was
A Mini-Archeological Field School and a Place-Names
This year, the Cultural Heritage and Education Institute
(CHEI), a partner in the Athabascan Region of the Alaska Rural
Systemic Initiative, is involved in several different activities
to enhance educational opportunities for the youth in Minto and
foster intergenerational exchange of information.
This summer, with support from the Alaska Humanities
Forum, cooperation from the Minto Village Council and the volunteer
assistance of archeologist Carol Gelvin-Reymiller, CHEI implemented
a mini-archeological field school for 17 youth in Minto during
August of 2000.
This field school took place at the "North Fork East
Point" site near the village of Minto, which has been used for
viewing animals and where stone artifacts have been found in the
past. The mini-field school lasted about four days and included
discussions with the students on the field of archeology, the tools
used in an excavation, different map views, soil profiles, site
layout and surveying and work on troweling, screening methods,
observations and other techniques of archeological field work.
The students recovered some bone and one artifact-a fragment of
a groundstone blade (in four pieces). Most of the participants
were under the age of 15 and although they were attentive and persistent,
the inclusion of field assistants would have been useful with this
young group. Carol Gelvin-Reymiller noted that "The kids were really
good and careful with the equipment. They were good workers." Overall
the students and the Minto community members seemed very interested
in the work and learning about their past and archeology. CHEI
hopes to continue to expand this activity as part of the cultural
On a bright sunny fall afternoon near the Fourteen-Mile
area along the Tolovana River, a group of Minto Elders, youth,
CHEI staff and other participants stopped to make tea and have
lunch during the annual cultural Aatlas field trip. The Elders
demonstrated how they look for firewood, start a fire with birch
bark, cut spruce boughs for sitting and make Indian fry bread.
Stories were told by the Elders about hunting in this area and
the Minto youth took photos of the place and the other participants.
Kraig Berg, a Minto teacher, also participated in the field trip.
For two days, the group visited other sites along the Tolovana
River including Twenty-Mile Hill, Three-Mile Slough, the old Tolovana
Roadhouse and Monty Creek Cabin. The stories and photos taken during
this trip will be used during the school year as a curriculum resource
for the cultural atlas project.
the past three years, with Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative support,
CHEI and the Minto School have supported the development of a curriculum
resource to record the indigenous place names of traditional and
contemporary land sites used by the people of the Minto Flats.
A web site with a map of Minto Flats was created and during the
school year the students learned how to create web pages that describe
specific sites or the Athabascan culture using text, photos, images,
A mapping project curriculum document has been prepared
by Bill Pfisterer, Linda Pfisterer and Paula Elmes that describes
the four segments of this project. These include: (a) bringing
the community and school together to plan the field trip, (b) gathering
information through field trips, (c) using technology including
web page design for putting together the information and (d) expansion
of illustration skills through the visual arts to illustrate events
and activities that cannot be photographed.
This academic year, in addition to AKRSI, the initiative
has received support from the CIRI Heritage Foundation and the
AOL Foundation Interactive Education Initiative.
Respecting Elder's Knowledge
by Negaltdenlebedze Amy Van Hatten
About three years ago Peggy Cowan helped me understand
the word "contextualize" for curriculum development. Now I think
I have a fair understanding of the word and it has inspired me
about the wonders of how we can use Elders' knowledge to improve
what we teach in rural schools.
How do we learn about what is in front of us already?
Native Elders and local community members can be
considered an important resource for the curriculum. Elders have
gathered data in the back of their minds that just needs a little
stimulation in an appropriate context to be shared with the students.
Think of this as part of "being out there" as you help students
do detailed documentation of what you are learning from the Elders.
By focusing on the appropriate context, the strategy can be adapted
to take advantage of Elder expertise in whatever communities it
How about research ethics and protocol?
Indigenous people worldwide have taken steps to help
define their own cultural and intellectual property rights. It
is becoming less difficult for indigenous people to speak up for
their rights, but at the same time it is still taking a lot of
time for funding sources to understand or respect that. Help in
this area can be obtained from the new Guidelines for Respecting
Cultural Knowledge available through the ANKN web site at www.ankn.uaf.edu.
How much should we worry about the accuracy of
the new information?
Although it is difficult to develop a sensitivity
to the fact that no form of measurement is neutral, we can at least
try by asking, "What is the relationship between how things appear
and the environment in which they are situated?"
How can we know what is the right information
to look for?
Choosing a theme is helpful in keeping everyone focused.
In addition, we can develop a glossary of key words used in teaching
a particular topic and then go over them together with the Elders
and community members so everyone is understanding the same thing.
You affirm the ideas in words and gradually those words begin to
develop into concrete community-based data.
How should we analyze the information?
Have a pre- and post-meeting with Elders to review
key words and concepts for teaching in a particular area. The Elders
can help focus on the appropriate interpretation and meaning of
the information that has been gathered.
I hope this list will help in using Elders' knowledge
in respectful and useful ways.
by Julia Dorris, Kalskag
On the last evening of our stay as I sit in the boat
while driving up the Kwethluk River, I have time to reflect on
the past two weeks of my "apprenticeship" as a future Elder. Annie
Fredericks from Chuathbaluk and myself, along with all the Elders
of the camp, are on our way to pick blueberries.
It's sort of a nostalgic feeling as I look at the
Elders around me. In the driver seat from Kwethluk is John Andrew
Sr. His wife, Annie, is seated directly behind him; to the right
of me is Annie Jackson of Akiachuk (no shortage of Annies at our
camp!) and co-pilot of the boat is our one and only "Mitzy" of
Akiak. I have to tell you about Mitzy and provide an explanation
of his name. He was just adorable during introductions on the first
day of our arrival. He speaks very little English and yet he courageously
introduces himself and even explains his nickname, Mitzy. In broken
English he gives his name, Wassilie M. Evan, and then his Yup'ik
name, Mis'ngalria, hence the "shortcut" as he so aptly puts it-Mitzy.
Half of the students speak and understand Yup'ik
and Calista provided an interpreter, Alice Reardon, who is very
good with everyone. The students, Elders, teachers and chaperones
all enjoy her. We are very fortunate to have her as our interpreter.
There are seventeen students. Nine are upriver students
from Crooked Creek, Chuathbaluk, Aniak and Upper and Lower Kalskag.
The remaining eight are from Tuluksak, Akiak, Akiachak and Kwethluk.
Our day starts in the girls sleeping quarters with
the wake up call by Annie Evans from Aniak. Three students are
selected daily to do kitchen duty, lunch duty and after-dinner
duty. After breakfast the students divide into groups of three
and rotate between teachers, chaperones and Elders. The groups
choose different experimental projects related to Native science
with Alan Dick, Annie Evans and Michelle. When complete, the students
are to do a demonstration and report on their findings.
John and Mitzy show the boys and anyone who is interested
how to hang fish nets. The girls bead and some make sewing kits.
The Elders identify different medicinal and edible plants and their
Every evening after dinner the Elders have what we
call Elder Hour. They pass on their advice and wisdom to not only
the students, but to myself and the other adults involved. Alice
translates a question-and-answer session after the Elders speak.
What is very impressive is the fact that Alice also records the
talking sessions with Elders. It is impressive that she is going
to transcribe the tapes and Calista will have on file a very valuable
gift from these Elders. We need to learn all we can from all our
Elders. They have a gift worth giving and passing on, which if
we are willing to listen will be of great benefit to us. We in
turn must pass it on. It is our heritage.
We were fortunate to have had a few nice days to
go on a salmonberry picking excursion. We went to Lumarvik which
is downriver from Bethel and made camp for two nights. The kids
picked a bucket of berries for the Elders Council which I thought
was very nice. The camp is above the village of Kwethluk known
as the Moravian Children's Home or Nunapitsinchak. One of our Elders,
Annie Jackson, said when she was younger she used to be a resident
employee of the children's home.
Our cook, Michael Andrew from Kwethluk, and Peter
Galila of Akiak had a set-net and the fish they caught were cut
by the students with a watchful eye from the two Elders-Annie Jackson
and Annie Andrew. For the girls it was a very important learning
experience; some had never cut fish before. The fish were hung
by the boys who obviously had never hung fish before and were firmly
taught by the Elders.
Besides the camp directors, Andy and Staci Gillilan,
I cannot forget Vern Fredericks, husband to Annie Fredericks from
Chuathbaluk-they were both chaperones. Vern lived most of his life
in Anchorage and for him this was a learning experience too; the
Elders, John & Mitzy, took him right under their wing.
Along with Peter Galila, Vern and Annie Fredericks,
Michael Andrew and myself, it was meaningful in that we learned
we must continue to teach alongside our Elders as our first teachers.
I thought this camp went well. I look forward to
seeing it in the future as improvements are made. It's a good experience
for the young who unfortunately are losing their culture and subsistence
way of life, as well as some of their Native language. I feel this
camp opportunity takes the necessary step in educating them in
ways they are losing or have lost.
by Andy Hope III
The School of Custom and Tradition
Where do traditions come from?
Where do customs originate?
How are customs and traditions learned?
What are the sources of inspiration?
Look to ones that know
Look to creative ones
Look to ones with ideas
Look to the artistic
Look to Elders
Look to the young
Look to the energetic
I attended the school of custom and tradition
A school of vitality and richness
A school of ideas
A school where one will always learn
Where people meet
Where people teach
Where people learn
From each other
Support each other
And move on to become
The school of custom and tradition
In their lives
In their minds
In their eyes
-Andy Hope, Oct. 1992
I wrote the poem [opposite] following a dream in
the fall of 1992. The dream was about an ideal Native learning
institution which insured that our Native customs and traditions
thrived. I call it my tribal college poem today. I suppose that
the dream was an inspiration for (and very much influenced my efforts
to organize) the first Conference of Tlingit Tribes and Clans which
took place in early May, 1993 in Haines and Klukwan.
Following that conference, in an article in Raven's
Bones Journal (which I edited for ANB Camp #2), I made the following
"I think that the Conference should formally organize
as a learning institute, an educational institute, the School of
Tlingit Customs and Traditions. I have recommended that the Sitka
Tribe of Alaska charter an independent educational subsidiary with
the current planning committee members serving as charter members
of the board. STA staff is drafting a charter at press time (late
September 1993). Perhaps this entity, whatever it will be named,
can serve as the basis for a tribal college."
Formally organizing the Southeast Alaska Tribal College
has been a long, drawn-out process. I have documented this effort
in previous SOP articles.
The challenge before the Native community is simple:
are we ready to take responsibility for the education of our children?
There are a number of issues that must be addressed.
The Native student dropout rate in Alaska schools
has been unacceptably high for quite some time. As a result, many
of our Native people do not have access to higher education opportunities.
It is our responsibility to develop programs that will ensure that
Natives who slip through the cracks of public schools gain access
to higher education. One of the options is for SEATC to develop
GED, survival skills, parenting and other basic adult education
programs. Perhaps the various adult education programs administered
by tribes in Alaska can be consolidated to provide resources to
support the education of students enrolled in tribal colleges.
There is a great need for Native language and culture
programs. I believe that tribal colleges should be the institutions
that certify Native language fluency and proficiency. Tribal colleges
will be in the best position to offer curriculum to implement the
Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive Schools, the Guidelines
for Developing Culturally-Responsive Teachers, the Guidelines for
Respecting Cultural Knowledge, the Guidelines for Nurturing Culturally-Healthy
Youth, and the recent law enacted by the Alaska legislature that
requires school districts to establish a Native language advisory
committee in every community with 50% or more Native student enrollment.
In a time of a nationwide shortage of teachers, it is imperative
that we begin an effort to train Native teachers. Tribal colleges
will be a key player in this effort.
It will take a united effort by the Alaska Native
community to ensure that tribal colleges succeed. I am thankful
to the many Native organizations that have endorsed the development
of tribal colleges in Alaska: The Alaska Intertribal Council, Alaska
Federation of Natives, the National Congress of American Indians,
Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Camp,
Chilkat Indian Village, Douglas Indian Association, Sitka Tribe
of Alaska, Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of
Alaska, Wrangell ANB/ANS and Sitka ANB/ANS among others.
Editor's note: A new book containing the proceedings
of the 1993 Conference of Tlingit Tribes and Clans, titled Will
the Time Ever Come: A Tlingit Source Book, has just been published
and is available through the Alaska Native Knowledge Network.
Lu'macihpe: Dance and Language Camp at Dig Afognak
by Olga Pestrikoff
Sperry Ash, Rhoda Moonin and R. Carlos Nakai facilitated
an outstanding camp at Qatani during the last week of Dig Afognak
Fifteen students from around the island attended
and diligently studied as Dr. Jeff Leer of the University of Alaska
Fairbanks worked with them. Dr. Leer taught the alphabet and then
proceeded to write down the songs using his newest version of the
orthography that proved to be quite exciting to learn. Elders in
attendance assisted in dictating the appropriate letters for the
sounds in the words. We then were able to sing the songs correctly
understanding the words completely. What a sense of ownership those
students exhibit in singing those songs!
Our Elders in attendance are most appreciated! Thank
you to Kathryn Chichenoff, Julie Knagin, Dennis Knagin, Marie Skonberg,
Irene Coyle and Sven and Mary Haakanson.
Besides singing and dancing we experienced many other
activities such as swimming, hiking, storytelling and playing games
including outside traditional Alutiiq games as well as indoor activities
like cards. Visiting and banya were the most enjoyed regular events.
Students especially loved the swings as well as song practice while
lounging on the hammock during the evenings.
Special activities also occurred. Several people
really enjoyed rowing around in the wooded dory, the 1 CIHA HAK,
made by Dennis Knagin and Ole Mahle at the Qatani Boat Yard. R.
Carlos Nakai's flute music entertained us at various times during
Several other people assisted with the students'
camp experience. Teacon Simeonoff helped with safety. Phyllis Clough
helped with organization.
The week wrapped up with the students performing
for the opening of the Native Village of Afognak Board work session.
The dancers of Lu'macihpet presented the members present with a
piece of driftwood with "The Board" written on it, because they
wondered what a "board" is and came up with their own creative
The fifteen students left the camp with a new understanding
of some of the older songs, two new Sugtestun songs, a Russian
folk song, a certificate of completion and a piece of regalia.
The necklace that was designed by R. Carlos Nakai is made of tree
bark with a printed image of a petroglyph on wound string with
shell and bead adornments.
Planning for next year's camp is already underway.
If you have any ideas that you would like considered please call
the Native Village of Afognak at 907-486-6357.
Leadership Institute Enhances Kodiak Village School
by Eric Waltenbaugh
A student from Port Lions gingerly steps up to the
podium in the Kodiak Borough Assembly Chambers and speaks in support
of a resolution she has worked on over the course of a week. Then
another student from Ouzinkie slides up to the microphone to voice
her arguments. For ten minutes a steady stream of students from
seven villages in the Kodiak Island Borough School District saunter
quietly, but proudly, up to the microphone to speak on three separate
resolutions they have crafted as a collective group. The mock board,
made up of the school superintendent, a school board member, a
city council member and the borough mayor, listens carefully to
what the students have to say, discusses and debates the issues
and then votes on them.
This mock board meeting was the culminating experience
of an intensive week of leadership training held to bring village
high school students together. The week of September 18-22, thirty-one
high school students from seven different villages in the Kodiak
Island Borough School District flew to the town of Kodiak to attend
the 2000 Leadership Institute. Workshops focused on teaching aspects
of leadership in an applied manner. There were no lectures. Instead
students were immersed in a variety of interactive workshops. They
learned Parliamentary Procedure by doing it, explored the concept
of leadership by facing numerous challenges as a group, practiced
public speaking in a nonthreatening environment, wrote resolutions
about issues that affect them and had a chance to present them
in a forum that mirrored the real process. In addition, it is expected
that students will take some of their resolutions to the Alaska
Federation of Natives Youth and Elders Conference to be presented
in that real forum.
The Leadership Institute was designed to enhance
the village school curriculum, to provide age-appropriate interaction
among high school students in village sites and to engage students
in a real task that leads to personal action and empowerment. The
institute was scheduled in advance of the Alaska Federation of
Natives Youth and Elders Conference in an effort to help prepare
the students for that important event.
Numerous community organizations were involved in
the planning, development and implementation of the Institute.
It brought together members from Native corporations, tribal councils,
the borough, the school district, the State Troopers, Toastmasters
(a public speaking club), the Alutiiq Museum, Kodiak town teachers
and many others. This collaboration from a broad range of community
organizations was essential to making the Leadership Institute
Funding for the Leadership Institute comes from a
three-year Federal Department of Education grant that provides
for two immersion institutes per year in addition to supporting
the village programs in implementing a model of education that
is more culturally sensitive.
Village teacher reports after the institute indicate
that students are talking about how different this immersion activity
was; they are more motivated in their regular classes and they
are already asking questions about when the next institute will
occur. These types of interactive, personally-relevant and socially-significant
immersion activities go a long way in enhancing existing village
programs and empowering our rural students.
Sugtestun Immersion Workshop in Nanwalek
by Olga Pestrikoff
The five-day Sugtestun Immersion Workshop was hosted
by Nanwalek Tribal Council at Dog Fish Camp, a logging operation
housing facility near Nanwalek. The community of Nanwalek initiated
the workshop to prepare their teachers and parents for the newly-formed
immersion school that began this fall. The Nanwalek Tribal Council
generously shared this opportunity with other Sugtestun-speaking
community members. Through the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative,
Stella Krumrey, Phyllis Clough and I were able to attend as representatives
of the Native Educators of the Alutiiq Region. Facilitators of
the workshop included Roy Iutzi-Mitchell of Ilisagvik College in
Barrow and Loddie Jones, a Yup'ik immersion kindergarten mentor-teacher
from Ayaprun School in Bethel.
The main message they brought to participants is
that immersion is the only real model of teaching a language with
the quickest, most effective results in teaching actual conversational
language to the point of fluency.
Very frequently language programs teach the target
language through reading, writing and analysis using grammar lessons.
Some people who are able to learn second languages in this manner
usually tend to apply mental translation and analysis forever.
They use their first language to think then translate their speaking
to the new one. The way to speak fluently is by being surrounded
and involved in listening and speaking the language, which gives
the language power.
The two components necessary in acquiring a language
are motivation and opportunity. Motivation is driven by an interest
and a need. Opportunity includes the actual learning of the language
as well as consistent, meaningful and relevant use of the language
as a method of communication. Striving to retain and regenerate
an indigenous language necessitates creative attention in light
of this global society in which we presently live.
Various actual workshop experiences helped to give
a clear picture of the most effective method of teaching and learning
a second language by the method called Total Physical Response.
Experiences included lecture, actual lessons, participant presentations,
videos, discussion and small group planning of specific language
activities by community members. An actual theme plan based on
the subsistence calendar was one of the documents drafted by the
close of the workshop.
During the evenings we enjoyed ourselves too. Some
people fished, picked salmonberries, went four-wheeling, enjoyed
extensive walks on the beach, watched a mountain goat, beaded and
danced. Overall, it was a very productive and enjoyable week.
Alaska RSI Contacts
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730
(907) 474-1902 phone
(907) 474-5208 fax
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 158
University of Alaska Fairbanks
P.O. Box 756730
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730
(907) 474-1902 phone
(907) 474-1957 fax
Newsletter Editor: Dixie
Layout & Design: Paula
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