A newsletter of the Alaska Rural Systemic
Alaska Federation of Natives / University
of Alaska / National Science Foundation
Volume 6, Issue 1, January/February 2001
In This Issue:
and Indigenous Peoples
by: Nakutluk Virginia Ned
My interest in the issues associated with documenting
indigenous knowledge evolved this fall while instructing CCS 601,
Documenting Indigenous Knowledge. Research of indigenous peoples
has been endured since the first arrival of non-indigenous peoples.
Many times the research project and purpose wasn't clearly explained
or in some cases not explained at all to individuals or communities
involved in the research process. "Informed consent" wasn't a requirement
until recently and often there was no sharing or presentation of
results to the individual or community studied after completion
of the research project. Little attempt was made to engage the
people involved in a continuing knowledge sharing process.
In the past research was often done by amateur botanists,
surveyors, government officials, traders, missionaries or anyone
able to write and/or illustrate. The purpose of research then was
to gather information on the indigenous people to serve the interests
of an audience of non-indigenous people. While the books that were
written made for interesting reading, they were usually written
from the perspective of authors who spent only a limited amount
of time living among the people they describe. Their stories have
contributed to the general impressions and the myriad of ideas
that have informed non-indigenous peoples about Native life in
the past. The studies provide interesting details, much of which
is now taken for granted as fact and has become entrenched in the
language and attitudes of outsiders towards indigenous peoples.
Documenting indigenous knowledge continues to be
of interest to many people for a variety of purposes. Indigenous
peoples themselves are beginning to contribute to the research,
thus providing greater authenticity and control over their own
forms of knowledge. Indigenous research today has implications
for the survival of peoples, cultures and languages. It is part
of the struggle to become self-determining and to take back control
of the issues that affect indigenous people.
Indigenous knowledge as intellectual property that
can be used by others for financial gain is not something that
the indigenous peoples have had to deal with before. It contradicts
the way we perceive the knowledge of our Elders, our communities
and the tribe. Indigenous knowledge was preserved and retained
in the oral tradition through stories, language, songs, beliefs,
values and respect for all living things, usually shared overtly
by example and demonstration. "The quantity and quality of knowledge
varied among community members depending upon gender, age, social
stature and profession." (Lore, 1992) There continues to be many
specialized fields of knowledge that are known by only a few people.
There are expert teachers, sled builders, snowshoe builders, storytellers,
trappers, dog mushers, hunters, skin sewers, skin tanners, beaders,
leaders, orators, singers, knitters and fishermen. There is sacred
knowledge that is shared within families, communities and tribes
that teaches the local traditions, values and customs. There are
many people who are adept in a number of areas, but very few who
are experienced in all of the above.
What is Indigenous Knowledge?
Indigenous or traditional knowledge is the knowledge
of the local environment that people have developed to sustain
themselves and thus it serves as the basis for cultural identity.
It is knowledge built up by a group of people through generations
of living in close contact with nature. (Lore, 1992) It is knowledge
and skills gained through hands-on experience while interacting
with the environment. It is knowledge of plants, animal behavior,
weather changes, seasons, community interactions, family genealogy,
history, language, stories, land and its resources, values, beliefs,
traditional leadership, healing and survival.
The Elders of our communities are the holders of
the indigenous knowledge that will show us the way to healing and
wellness in our communities. Indigenous knowledge is the key for
our survival and sustenance as indigenous peoples. The Elders present
the indigenous knowledge in the actions they take, their stories,
their display of respect for all things, their role-modeling and
their investment in the community. They are the repositories of
the language, wisdom and knowledge of the past that is needed to
resolve problems that we have today and in the future.
Research Requirements: A Code of Conduct
To help guide and encourage culturally-appropriate
indigenous-based research, I have put together a preliminary draft
of a research "code of conduct" for discussion and review (see
opposite). This draft is only the beginning of an indigenous research
process that can be revised and adapted for each community and/or
In conclusion, my investigation of issues surrounding
documenting indigenous knowledge has raised more questions than
answers. It is a topic that is essential to the survival of indigenous
peoples and therefore it is imperative that we pay careful attention
to what we do. Even in the 21st century, indigenous peoples will
have to defend and protect our indigenous knowledge and cultures.
Further information and guidance on documenting indigenous
knowledge can be found in the Guidelines for Respecting Cultural
Knowledge, available through the ANKN web site at ankn.uaf.edu/standards/CulturalDoc.html.
Another excellent resource on the issues outlined above is the
book, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples
by Linda Tuhiwai Smith. It can be purchased from Zed Books VHPS,
16365 James Madison Highway, Gordonville, VA 22942. E-mail address: customerservice@VHPS
VA.com. Phone: 888-330-8477.
Johnson, Martha 1992. Lore: Capturing Traditional
Environmental Knowledge, Dene Cultural Institute and the International
Development Research Centre, Hay River, NWT, Canada
Code of Conduct for Research
in Indigenous Communities (draft)
Inform local leaders and people in the community
of the proposed research.
State the purpose of the research and explain
clearly how it will benefit the community.
Obtain consent from the proper sources to do
Build reciprocity between yourself and the community
and become familiar with community protocol.
Show respect for and build trust with the person(s)
or community being studied.
Have community members assist and be an integral
part of the research.
Actively involve community members in reviewing
the draft and final product before publication or distribution.
Give credit and copyright control to the individual(s)
or community involved.
Report results of the research to the community
during and after completion of the project.
Some questions for individuals, communities and/or
tribes to consider before consenting to be researched are:
Can indigenous knowledge be owned by an individual
or does ownership belong to the tribe or the community? Who does
ownership belong to?
Who will have the copyright to the material?
Is the information considered "sacred knowledge" which
is not to be shared with people outside of the community?
Is there a consensus among the people on the
sharing of information?
Was consent acquired from the proper sources?
Was the purpose of the research project fully
explained to the person(s) or community studied?
Who should be doing research in our communities
to give an accurate portrayal of our peoples?
UAF Summer 2001 Program in Cross-Cultural Studies
for Alaskan Educators
The Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, the Alaska
Rural Systemic Initiative, the Alaska Staff Development Network
and the Bristol Bay Campus 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. All three courses 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 26-30, 2001
Bristol Bay Campus, Dillingham
The five-day intensive Rural Academy, sponsored
by the Alaska Staff Development Network, the Alaska Rural Systemic
Initaitive and the UAF Bristol Bay Campus, will consist of the
following educational opportunities:
each enrollee will be able to participate in
two out of eight two-day workshops that will be offered demonstrating
how the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools
are being implemented in communities throughout rural Alaska.
two panel sessions will be offered in which participants
will be able to hear first-hand from key educational practitioners
and policy-makers from throughout the state.
a day-long field trip will allow participants
to meet and interact with Elders and other key people and visit
a traditional site in the Bristol Bay region.
participants will share successful strategies
and programs from throughout the state.
participants will have the option to complete
a follow-up project relevant to their own work situation.
Ray Barnhardt, Esther Ilutsik and workshop
ED 695, Rural Academy for Culturally Responsive
Schools (2 cr.)
ED/CCS 613, Alaska Standards for Culturally
Resp. Sch. (3cr.)
Cross-Cultural Orientation Program for Teachers
June 4-22, 2001
The Center for Cross-Cultural Studies and UAF Summer
Sessions will be offering the annual Cross-Cultural Orientation
Program (X-COP) for teachers, beginning on June 4, 2001 and running
through June 22, 2001, including a week (June 9-16) out 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. In addition to readings, films, guest speakers
and seminars during the first and third weeks of the program,
participants will spend a week in a traditional summer fish camp
under the tutelage of Athabascan Elders who will share their
insights and perspectives on the role of education in contemporary
rural Native communities. Those who complete the program will
be prepared to enter a new cultural and community environment
and build on the educational foundation that is already in place
in the hearts and minds of the people who live there.
Ray Barnhardt and Old Minto Elders
ED 610, Education and Cultural Processes (3 cr.)
Native Ways of Knowing
June 25-July 13, 2001
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 will examine
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
will be shared with participants.
Oscar Kawagley, Ph.D.
ED/ANS 461, Native Ways of Knowing (3 cr.) $261
CCS 608, Indigenous Knowledge Systems (3 cr.)
For further information, contact the UAF Bristol
Bay Campus at 842-5483, 842-5692 (FAX), or the Alaska Staff Development
Network at 2204 Douglas Highway, Suite 100, Douglas, Alaska 99824.
Phone: (907) 364-3801 or fax: (907) 364-3805. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
or the ASDN web site is located at http://www.asdn.org.
Project AIPA Education Summit
by Joy Simon
Project Alaska Indigenous People's Academy (AIPA)
is holding its first Education Summit scheduled for January 15,
16 and 17, 2001 in Fairbanks. The AIPA staff is in the process
of planning the Summit, focusing on the highlights of Project AIPA
and how it will serve the Interior Native education communities.
Focusing on the purpose of AIPA, which is to develop curriculum
that is indigenous to the Interior of Alaska and establishing its
identity through Elders' knowledge, the Summit will identify the
Professional development for teachers.
Curriculum development and piloting of materials.
Aligning curricula with the state content and
performance standards as well as the Alaska Standards for Culturally
Devise evaluative tools to assess the curricula
as it is completed.
Prepare for the upcoming Alaska Indigenous People's
Academy summer institute.
Establish a partnership program with the partner
For more information on Project AIPA, check out the
web site for the Association of Interior Native Educators at http://www.uaf.edu/aine.
Subsistence Curriculum Resources on CD!
The Alaska Native Knowledge Network Subsistence Curriculum
Resources CD prereleased version is now available for educational/evaluation
For information on how to obtain the ANKN Subsistence
CD Pre-released version, contact Sean Topkok, 474-5897 or email Sean.Topkok@uaf.edu.
Qelakun Wall' Qetegkun?
by Cecilia Tacuk Martz
Keynote address presented at the Bilingual/Multicultural
Education Conference, February 3, 2000
This year's conference theme, "Honoring the Past,
Celebrating the Present, Creating the Future," brought to mind
an incident that happened at home with my children. They were pretty
young and like all young Catholics, they were attending catechism
classes. One night at dinner, I wanted to find out if they were
learning what I had learned during my catechism days, so I asked
"What do you have to do to get to heaven?"
I was expecting them to answer that they had to be
good, live in harmony with other people and perform Christian duties.
One of my kids gave me a look that implied I should already know
the answer to that question, so I asked again:
What do you have to do to get to heaven?"
Finally, one of the kids said, "Mom, you have to
Trying to hide my smile, and still trying to get
the answer that I wanted, I tried again:
"But how do you get to heaven?"
The same kid, this time with a quizzical look, answered, "By
Often as parents, teachers, colleagues, friends and
relatives, we don't realize that what we do or say to others can
have unexpected results, just as my children gave me a totally
unexpected answer to my question about heaven.
Sometimes we may believe that what we are doing or
saying is positive, but we need to stop and think. We need to put
ourselves in other people's places and minds and ask ourselves
what unanticipated consequences may come from our words, deeds
For instance there's a phrase that, on the surface,
sounds like a positive, even inspiring, slogan to guide indigenous
peoples along the path to success in the modern world. To achieve
success, we are encouraged to "walk in two worlds."
I've thought long and hard about that phrase, "walking
in two worlds."
During the summer of 1998 I had the privilege of
serving as one of the faculty for the Island Institute's Sitka
Symposium. During my week there I reflected more deeply on the
concept of "walking in two worlds," and since the symposium encourages
writing, critical thinking and debate, I wrote down my reflections.
I'd like to share those thoughts with you now.
Not In Two Worlds, But One
A number of years ago the phrase "to walk in two
worlds" arrived in Alaska and took root. It was uttered in speeches,
written about in books and articles, discussed at conferences and
in conversations among educators, social scientists and students.
It became a slogan seen and heard in classrooms, on radio and television
and on posters. Who was it directed at? Mostly it was used in reference
to Yup'iit/Cupiit, Athabascan, Tlingit, Aleut, Iñupiat,
Tsimshian and Haida. Many kass'aqs embraced the phrase and its
seemingly positive meaning. Of course, it wasn't necessary for
them to "walk in two worlds," only for Alaska's First Peoples.
Oh, what a wonderful concept and everyone, it seemed, thought so.
There was a certain Yup'ik person who thought about
this phrase, "walking in two worlds." She mulled it over, discussed
it with trusted friends and concluded that it was physically impossible
to walk in
two worlds. She looked for an opportunity to share
her thoughts with a few prominent First People to see if they had
arrived at the same conclusion. She wanted to do this discreetly
because, at the time, her conclusion seemed to be politically incorrect.
An opportunity came when this Yup'ik person was invited
to speak at a Canadian conference on education. On the second day
of the conference, as this Yup'ik was walking with two prominent
Canadian First People educators, she hesitantly asked them, "Do
you know the phrase "walking in two worlds?" When they answered
yes, she carefully said, "You know, I really never liked that phrase." One
of the others replied in relief, "Me, too!" The Yup'ik asked, "Would
you like to see what it looks like to walk in two worlds?" The
other two looked at her with puzzlement and said, "Sure." So the
Yup'ik walked in front of them to demonstrate. The other two immediately
burst into hearty laughter. A passerby saw the action and appeared
to be thinking, "crazy Natives" (it showed on her face.)
After the laughter subsided, the Yup'ik asked, "A
person who walks like that, what does it remind you of?" The other
two started laughing again and after they finally quit laughing
one of them said, "A person who had an accident in his/her pants."
Then their conversation turned serious as they began
discussing other thoughts related to the phrase "walking in two
worlds." Concepts such as schizophrenia, conflict, failure, skills,
abilities and language all emerged. What about all the conflicts
this slogan could raise inside a person? Why are only the Yup'iit,
Athabascan, Iñupiat, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Haida and Aleut
expected to walk in two worlds and not others?
The goal of the phrase is a positive one-to be successful
in the kass'aq world and yet be a whole person in one's own culture.
Yet, what is a person-an indigenous Alaskan-to do to achieve the
goal that the phrase "walking in two worlds" implies? The answer
that came up was this: first and foremost a person must have a
solid foundation in his or her own culture and be able to walk
solidly in that one world, learn all about it, believe in it and
live it. Then, if a person chooses to do so, he or she can add
to that one world the best from others: Japanese, Russian, German,
American kass'aq etc. The phrase should not be "walk in two worlds" but
should be "walk in your own world first" and then add to it from
the worlds of others. And it should be directed to everyone, especially
to those who live with people from other cultures.
Each one of us has to have an intimate knowledge
of all aspects of our own world first. We have to constantly educate
ourselves in our own language and culture. Even if no one is encouraging
us to educate ourselves about our own language and culture, it
is our duty to learn it, use it and teach it to others until the
end of time. We've heard our Elders say this over and over again.
Paul John from Toksook Bay says it very eloquently in the video
tape Nutemllaput: Our Very Own (available from ANKN.)
We bemoan the loss of our Elders and wonder what
we'll do without them. In our cultures' histories, when the oldest
Elders passed on, others came up and took their places. Why should
that stop today? Each generation, each of us individually, has
to face the reality that we will become Elders one day and we must
assume the responsibility that fact carries with it. It is our
responsibility to teach our young people our traditions, our languages
and everything that we've learned and continue to learn from our
Elders. We can practice our traditions and languages at home, at
the restaurant, at church, at the airport, at Sam's Club, even
in Senator Ted Steven's office. I applaud people like Agatha John
and others for teaching their children to speak our Yup'ik language
in the midst of English-speaking communities. I applaud Paul John
and his family in Toksook Bay, Andy Paukan of St. Mary's, Howard
Luke of Fairbanks, Nora Dauenhauer of Juneau, Joe Lomack of Akiacuaq,
Wassilie Berlin of Kassigluk, Louise Tall, Nita Rearden and Loddy
Jones of Bethel along with the many others who take it upon themselves
to teach their cultures and be positive influences in their own
Before closing, I would like to do something very
un-Yup'ik. Understand, the Elders are my heroes. I respect them
and I learn from them practically every single day. This is very
hard for me to say, but it hurts me deeply when I hear Elders say
that they are not smart because they haven't attended kass'aq school,
or because they can't speak English, implying that they are uneducated.
You Elders are the most educated people I know. Most of you even
surpass those who hold doctorate degrees in the Western world.
You have great minds and your responsibility is to teach us, your
heirs, all you can of what you know so that we can carry that knowledge
and pass it on to those who follow behind us, just as we are following
One last message: when we, as Alaska's First Peoples,
hold positions of power, we have to use that power wisely and in
the best interests of our own people. We must be careful not to
use that power to our own personal advantage, to please our administrators
at the expense of our autonomy or succumb to the temptations that
power carries with it.
So I challenge all of you: Yup'iit, Iñupiat,
Athabascan, Tlingit, Aleut, Haida, Tsimshian to take advantage
of opportunities to learn your own languages and cultures and pass
them on so we can truly honor our past, celebrate our present and
create our own future.
Community Values and Beliefs
by Bernice Tetpon
Loddie Jones, in a keynote speech to the Alaska Native
Education Council in October of 1998, spoke about what it means
for the community values and beliefs to be central to effective
teaching practices. Her parents were her first teachers and enabled
her to become knowledgeable in her Yup'ik culture. Similarly, in
my own Iñupiaq upbringing, my parents were my first teachers
and taught us values and beliefs that are well articulated in a
poster published in 1996 by the North Slope Borough, Ilisagvik
These values and beliefs are:
Qiksiksrautiqagniq, which means respect for Utuqqanaanun
or Elders, respect for allanun or others and respect for inuuniagvigmun
or nature. We also learned the importance of respect for ilagiigniq
or family kinship and roles, and respect for signatainniq or sharing.
Other values and beliefs include knowledge of language, cooperation,
love and respect for one another, humor, hunting traditions, compassion,
humility, avoidance of conflict and spirituality. How do we go
The Life Cycle: From Infancy to Elder
When children are taught by example within the everyday
life of growing up from infancy through the Elder stage, these
values and beliefs stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Looking at the circle with the community values and beliefs in
the center and the cycle of life extending from infancy to the
Elder stage, we can see how important it is for these values to
be built upon as we enter Western-oriented elementary and secondary
schooling. It wasn't until I was in my teacher preparation years
and in graduate school that I was taught anything related to my
own culture, language or environment. When instruction does not
relate to the students' community values and beliefs, or is taught
out of context, they cannot relate to what is being taught and
lose interest in school.
The Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools
includes standards for students, educators, schools, curriculum
and communities. Our students need a strong sense of self-identity
and that can only come from our students being strongly grounded
in the values and beliefs and traditions of their communities.
Our students also need to learn about their local environment so
that they can gain a better understanding of where they fit in
the world in a global sense. Everyone in the community is a teacher
and all teachers must also be learners. As we learn from one another,
we can strengthen the sense of well being in our communities.
What can we learn?
Educators who come to our communities from outside
must make an effort to become part of the community so they can
incorporate the local knowledge system into their teaching. How
do educators find out about the community's values and beliefs?
Many educators have learned that their survival depends on becoming
acquainted with a knowledgeable Native person in the community
to help guide them in their everyday lives as they join in community
activities and informally visit community members to develop a
sense of how the community functions. There are many survival skills
that have to be learned when educators move to a community they
are not familiar with. Most of us growing up learned to understand
the world around us through patient observation and practice in
hands-on activities. Similarly, educators will have to take the
time to observe and figure out how to communicate and actively
participate in their new communities.
In the same manner, it is our responsibility as community
members to give our children (and the teachers) time to observe
and participate in hands-on activities and learn the values and
beliefs while actively engaging in the community. We need to ensure
that they learn well in their Native ways of knowing and are able
to succeed in the Western world. As we return to the circle with
the community at the center, let us identify our community's values
and beliefs. How can we incorporate these values and beliefs into
our school? How can we integrate the school into the community
and not see it as a separate entity?
First of all, everyone in the community is a teacher.
Some of us are licensed and have credentials in certain subject
areas, but many others are experts in language, dancing, singing,
hunting, outdoor survival, mediating, reading the weather, preparing
traditional foods and so on. Everyone has something to contribute.
Secondly, incorporating the Native language into instruction gives
students advantages in their ability to understand the content
that is required in exams and statewide tests. When a child is
taught in their heritage language first, whatever the content may
be, the child can then learn that content in the English language
and succeed equally with students whose first language is English.
Being bilingual is a benefit, not a deficit. Students who are bilingual
have cognitive skills that surpass monolingual students who can
relate to concepts in only one modality, while bilingual students
can relate to concepts through their own culture and make the transition
to the English language. Elders can be very helpful in this endeavor.
Even when they are unable to speak in the Native language, the
Elders can provide a wealth of resources for educators to learn
how to integrate local knowledge into the curriculum.
Finally, knowledge of language is an important value
within the Native community. From knowing your language, the rest
of the values and beliefs come into place. Within the circle we
want our children to grow from infancy to Elder status and to fulfill
the cycle of life without barriers. Without these strong values
we leave our children with a lack of self-identity that often results
in the loss of a sense of community. As educators and community
members, we will all benefit from helping the children learn the
community's values and beliefs. Through the Alaska Standards for
Culturally Responsive Schools, we can find ways to make sure these
values and beliefs are incorporated into the teaching of our children.
2001 Native Educators' Conference
February 4-6, 2001
held in conjunction with the annual
February 7-9, 2001
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. Building on past
themes, the theme for the 2001 NEC is "Sharing the Harvest of Indigenous
Knowledge." For further information, contact:
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
ANSES State Science Fair 2001
Feb 2-4, 2001
Birchwood Camp (near Anchorage)
Following the successful AISES State Science Fair
of 2000, high-quality,culturally-based science projects will again
come from all over the state of Alaska to compete in the Alaska
Native Science & Engineering Society (ANSES) State Science
For more information:
Alan Dick, Coordinator
ANSES website: http://ankn.uaf.edu/ANSES
Elder Highlight: Grandma Lillian Olin
Grandma Lillian Olin was interviewed by Negaltdenlebedze
Amy Van Hatten and featured as our Elder Highlight in Sharing Our
Pathways, Volume 5, Issue 3. This is a continuation of her story.
Amy: What does it mean for a Native person to have
Grandma Olin: Well, self-determination is how well
you present yourself and the things you do, no matter where you
go-out into the wilderness, out into the public, when you're applying
for a job-it all takes self-determination. And this comes from
the family values that we were taught as children. Always respect,
and do your best. Don't say "I can't do it", but always just believe
within yourself that you could do it, and do it just as well as
anybody else. That's self-determination. And I think I've always
believed in that because it came from being neat as possible and
presentable, which is important, because the first impression is
always an everlasting thing. That's what we were taught. I always
did my best, to the best of my knowledge in doing things.
I saw my mom and my dad and how other families spoke
to their children-if we got out of line, we were corrected. There
is a lot you observed while you were growing up and it kinda sticks
with you. Back in those days, an elderly person would say, "Koy
come here, sit down right here, I want to talk to you." She'd say, "What
I'm gonna say to you is, I'm not gonna be scolding you, but I want
to talk to you, because I want you to be a good person and always
be presentable," and so they would give us advice, which was very
important. To this day, I always value that, especially after I
got married and Grandma reinforced what had been said to me. Not
only Grandma, but also other members of the elderly people came
and commented how well I presented myself and how well I took care
of my family. And so it made me feel good and just thinking, you
know, I must be doing something right. It gives you a great pride
in being yourself and showing how well you are doing to other people.
So that's a very important thing, and when I was teaching, that's
one thing I really impressed on students-how our elderly people
used to talk to us, speak to us, out of kindness and loving and
Amy: Did they speak in the Native language or in
Grandma Olin: In their Native language and when they're
sitting with us and talking to us, it's a broken language, you
know, broken English, but you understood them because when they're
talking to you, they're making motions, expressing their thoughts.
They're talking with their hands as well as their mind and their
mouth. So it had a lot of meaning and much loving and caring that
was going on. When you listen, regardless of who you are, they'd
say, "Koy, you have a good mind." You don't say, "Ah, that's old
fashioned! That's a long time ago." The elderly said, "You have
a good mind and you're going to do well." How did they know that
and how did they predict it? I often wonder about it. I think that's
where the family values come. I try to teach it to a lot of the
kids and a lot of the kids really look up to me and say, "Hi Grandma,
how are you doing today? Is there anything you want us to do?" So
I must have done something good to reach out to those kids. They
come and give me a hug, which is very, very touching. I say "Koy,
just keep on being who you are, you'll go a long ways." Lot of
times, that's what was said to me. So people were reaching out,
and now I'm trying to do the very same thing, and some kids say, "Thank
you, grandma, for talking to us." I tell the kids "Anytime you
want to talk and visit, just come." I'm always home, I'm always
available. It is always good.
Amy: I have seen visitors pitch in and help do whatever
chores you are engaged in, like in the smokehouse.
Grandma Olin: They're just willing to help and learn.
When you make something, like I'm sewing and making something,
there's always the question, "How did you do that?" Where did you
get your thoughts? How did it come to you?" And I said, "Well,
while I was sitting I am a curious person and always searching,
looking at things, like visiting an elderly person. Don't touch
anything, but just look, look and see how all their working items
are always stacked and clean in one spot. Nothing is out of order.
Their working space is clean. The area is all clean and they just
take pride in what they're doing and are thankful for the things
they get. They do not let things fall on the ground where people
walk, and that's a sacred thing-a very, very sacred thing. That's
part of growing up."
The times I had gone to the Lower 48 and talked with
the different people and we got to talking about values, the family
and the tradition, the culture and they'd say, "Well, our culture
is very similar." You know, it was more so when we were children,
but nowadays people have gotten very careless in how they do things,
because the values are not being taught. They're trying to pass
it on to the younger generation and they say they will keep on
trying. They'll never give up.
Amy: How did you hang on to your language?
Grandma Olin: Well as a child, I don't remember ever
speaking the language, but when I heard children speaking their
own language at the boarding school, I just wished I had learned.
When I came home I learned the language by listening. They'd be
talking and laughing and I just kept listening and I wondered what
they were saying. When there were some words I didn't know the
meaning to, I repeated that word over and over, until I got it
fluently. And then I'd ask my sister, "What does this mean?" She
just found it so funny that I didn't say the word right and then
I said "Well, sister, what does it mean?", and then she would explain
it to me. Then it fulfilled my curiosity. But I was partial for
another reason-I always liked to listen to them because you learned
when you were visiting with them how they sew, how they're working,
how they're cutting fish, just doing things. My step mom was bilingual.
She spoke to us in the Native language and we understood her and
what she was doing. After I moved back to Galena, there was Grandma
Lisby, Grandma Eva, Grandma Lucy, Grandpa Bob-all the elderly people-
and my aunties. They all spoke fluently; they were my teachers.
Just listen carefully and listen to the word, how
it's pronounced. And when you're alone, just repeat it over and
over. See if you got it, you got it good. And when you get with
someone when you're talking, and it just doesn't come out as plain,
don't worry about it. People never laugh at you or make fun of
you. Some of the girls that were at Holy Cross going to school,
they came back and they didn't know how to talk. but now they're
learning to speak the language. It's true, like they say, it's
never too late to learn.
Amy: Do you see anything missing today that would
help people feel more tied to the land and help young people to
find balance between the two worlds?
Grandma Olin: It all depends on the parents. I see
a lot of the children that's carrying on as the grandparents did-the
values, traditions, self-determination. Then there's some that
just go from day to day and I figure these are the children that
were not really being taught or spoken to about the values and
self-determination. Lot of times I blame the TV. A parent has to
be really stern. It takes the people in the community to work together
and set up goals and work towards it. Unity is a very powerful
word. Try to express it and carry it out. That's the most valuable
thing. In the spring every year, the younger children have a Grandparent's
Day, the Elderly's Day where they make a gift for us and write
a story. They interview us and then they write a story. With that
type of thing, that's where the germination of the values comes
Our Indigenous Cousins
by Qirvan Abby Augustine, First-Grade Teacher,
Ayaprun Elitnaurvik, LKSD, Bethel
The Fifth Tri-Annual World Indigenous People's Conference
on Education (WIPCE) August 1-7, 1999 in Hilo, Hawaii was definitely
the most unique professional conference I've ever attended. It
was almost like a dream. Perhaps one of the greetings given in
a brochure I picked up summed up the overall feeling of the conference:
Aloha Kakou e na hoa 'oiwi mai Kahiki mai, mai na kihi 'eha o ka
honua nei (Warm greetings to our indigenous cousins from all over
the world.) It reminded me of one of my encounters with a Hawaiian
lady who said she was part Eskimo through an Eskimo whaler from
before. We broke out in laughter saying, "Maybe we're cousins!" There
definitely was a feeling of camaraderie in the air.
Our hosts, the Native Hawaiians, had begun the conference
planning in 1996, so from the beginning to the end, in spite of
the many indigenous people represented from all over the world,
the conference went smoothly. One of the first welcoming activities
was a "Welcome of Visitors" where everyone gathered at the Hilo
Bayfront. There the islanders greeted the participants traditionally
in what they called "Arrival of Canoes" through thunderous chanting
and dancing depicting the symbolic arrival of the visitors to their
islands. As the canoes neared the shore, it was exhilarating to
witness the chanting going back and forth from those on land and
those in the canoes. After that we had an opportunity to participate
in a sacred Awa ceremony. An Awa ceremony is a formal Hawaiian
welcome, usually reserved for the most important guests.
Elders were given special seating in a protective
shaded area. In Hawaii, the Elders are regarded as Kupuna and referred
to personally as Uncle or Auntie. Even though they weren't related,
everyone addressed them with much respect. Respect for Elders was
also evident in the other cultures that brought their Elders. It
was a familiar relationship for us from Alaska with our Elders.
The rest of the participants sat on the ground quiet and still,
as expected. After the Elders, we were given half coconut shells
filled with Awa juice, the special beverage drawn from Awa plant
roots used during Awa ceremonies. We quietly drank the sacred drink.
During the first evening there was another welcome
by the organizers of the conference. One of their comments was
not to pay too much attention to our notes but to make an effort
to meet and get acquainted with the person next to us whether it
was in the cafeteria or on the bus. Along with that, even though
it wasn't announced, we gave each other small gifts from our respective
cultures. This allowed us to exchange ideas and addresses for further
networking. During the evening, different groups performed and
presented gifts to the conference organizers. We felt very honored
and fortunate to have Mr. Ackiar Nick Lupie from Tuntutuliak, Alaska
to speak for us. He was traveling with his daughter Nanugaq Martha
Perry and her family. Our group presented a nasqerrun (headdress)
and tegumiak (dance fans) as gifts from Alaska.
Another very unique aspect of the conference was
recognizing our spiritual side of life. In one description of the
educational strands, they included, "we are able to invigorate
our commitments to these fields of interest, find and cherish new
relationships and begin to strengthen our spiritual and professional
networks around the globe." In many of the presentations we attended,
it was very common to have a brief traditional opening prayer by
an Elder in their language. In our presentation, we had an opening
prayer by Mr. Ackiar Lupie and a Yup'ik dance before and after
the presentation so we did not feel so out of place doing it.
There were eight educational strands of WIPCE:
Arts and Education (movement, song, culture and
Educational Policy and Leadership (developing
policies and developing our own styles of leadership)
Health Education and Healing (indigenous health
practices and beliefs)
Language Movement (language practice, preservation
Philosophy of Education (philosophy, spirit and
Science, Technology and Education (science and
ways of knowing and teaching that brings ancient knowledge
into modern practices)
Teaching Practice and Indigenous Curriculum (teaching
practices and how curriculum can be experienced more fully)
Justice, Politics and Education (sovereignty,
land, freedom and how education dovetails into action, policy,
programs and movements)
There were many interesting sessions to choose from.
Our conference booklet had one hundred twenty pages. We found ourselves
making the selections the night before because of the wide range
of choices. A few of the sessions included titles like, Mahi Whai-Working
with String; Restoring Balance: Elders in the School; Aisiimohki
Program, a School-Based Traditional Disciplinary Program, Indigenous
Spirituality, Research in American Indian and Alaska Native Education:
From Assimilation to Self-Determination; Native Hawaiian Curriculum
Development: A Study Identifying Critical Elements for Success;
and our presentation, Ayaprun Elitnaurvik Yup'ik Immersion:
Strengthening Our Alaskan Yup'ik Eskimo Language and Culture
with Cingarkaq Sheila Wallace, Angassaq Sally Samson, At'anaq
Veronica Michael and I presenting.
Initially I dreaded a five-day conference thinking
of all the sitting and listening we might be doing but it turned
out that Tuesday and Thursday were spent on what was called "excursions",
where we spent the whole day on informal presentations in a Hawaiian
village. We were bussed to our particular selections. Our first
excursion was going out on a traditional canoe into the ocean.
Before going out, our host described and explained how traditionally
canoes were treated with respect because of the food they brought
back from the ocean. When we went out, we paddled in unison and
before we knew it, we were riding with the big ocean waves! We
didn't get out very far, but I sure didn't mind. I had never been
in big waves in a canoe before!
All in all, attending this conference was empowering
both spiritually and professionally. I returned with a feeling
that we are a part of a larger group recognizing the importance
of our heritage and are not alone in this struggle. It reminded
me that there are many successful language immersion programs elsewhere
that we can look to for support when we need it. We must also be
careful not to look for answers elsewhere and remind ourselves,
as does the theme of the 1999 World Indigenous Peoples Conference
on Education, that "The Answers Lie Within Us."
Special thanks to the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative
through the Alaska Federation of Natives for their continuing support.
Editors note: The next World Indigenous Peoples
Conference on Education is scheduled for August 4-12, 2002 in Calgary,
A Student's View on Subsistence and Leadership
by Atchak Desiree Ulroan, Chevak
We Native Alaskans should keep the right to take
animals and plants for food off our own land. This is the land
my ancestors used for survival.
The government does not have the right to stop subsistence.
What would happen if people in other states were told they were
not allowed to farm anymore? Farmers live off the crops that they
grow and livestock they raise. It's the same with subsistence hunting.
There are no boundaries and no fences around the land of my ancestors
and the care that is provided for crops and animals comes in a
different form. The food from the land helps families stay healthy.
I don't know much about farming because my family
does not farm. People who don't depend on subsistence don't know
much about it either, except they want us to get rid of it. My
lack of knowledge about farming doesn't make me want the farmers
throughout the United States to stop farming. I am not saying that
I am more intelligent than those people who want to end subsistence,
but they should really take the time to look at the issue from
our Alaskan Native perspective. There are a lot of families in
my community and throughout rural Alaska that depend entirely on
the land for food. My family is one of those families. How can
the government expect so many people, especially Elders, to change
their diets and lifestyles?
Much of our cultural heritage is woven in with subsistence
hunting and fishing. If it is taken away there will be no more
fish camps along the river and no more families working together
to harvest for the winter. Every summer my family goes out fishing
to harvest fish for the winter. During fish camp my mother tells
us stories of our ancestors and she teaches my sister and me how
to cut fish and gather foods. My father teaches my brothers how
to set and mend nets. Some of the important lessons that my brothers
learn are the location of our ancestral sites and where to hunt
and gather wood. Knowing the land is crucial for survival in this
region of the world.
In the villages there are not as many jobs as the
cities. Not very many people have high-paying jobs so they can't
afford to lose their subsistence rights. The social and economic
impact of subsistence rights is tremendous. I hope that the government
will look more into the subsistence rights for Native Alaskans.
I am a strong leader because I am a hard worker.
I volunteered to work for the community cleanup in the summer of
1999. In October of 1999 I also volunteered to help out with the
community Halloween contest. Helping in my community is important
During my junior year of high school I applied to
the Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI) in Fairbanks, Alaska.
I was accepted to this program which allowed me to take college
courses and earn college credit. After six weeks of hard thinking
and working, I graduated with a certificate of completion! I am
not afraid to face challenges.
I am the secretary/treasurer of Chevak's class of
2001. To this job, I bring all of my qualifications and my accomplishments.
I do the typical secretary/treasurer duties: take notes, keep track
of decisions, count the money we earn, the money we spend and our
profit. I keep our class informed of our budget and help guide
decisionmaking with budget limitations. But my real strength as
a class officer is that I have great determination. I want to succeed
and I have the ability to inspire my classmates to set their own
goals and realize their own dreams.
Will the Time Ever Come? A Tlingit Source Book
Review by Eric Fry, Juneau Empire
Andrew Hope III, a Tlingit born in Sitka, wanted to know more about
his clan in the early 1970s, he went to Elders and other tradition-bearers. "It's
really a way of grounding yourself," Hope said. "To be a Tlingit
or even learn more than superficial knowledge about Tlingit traditions,
people have to learn who the tribes, clans and houses are. Then
you see how everything is connected."
Hope organized conferences of Elders in the 1970s
and began compiling a list of Tlingit tribes and clans. That led
to a gathering in Klukwan in May 1993 of Tlingits from Southeast,
British Columbia and the Yukon and tribes that neighbor the Tlingits. "It
was the closest we've ever come to a gathering of all the Tlingit
tribes, clans and clan houses," Hope says in his introduction to
Will the Time Ever Come?, a recently published collection of papers
from that meeting and other material.
The book, published by the Alaska Native Knowledge
Network, was edited by Hope, the Southeast regional coordinator,
and Tom Thornton, an associate professor of anthropology at the
University of Alaska Southeast. "The book is unique in the literature," Thornton
said. "The whole project was really unique," he said, in bringing
together Elders and scholars.
Among other articles, the book includes Andrew Hope's
account of his clan's migrations and Herb Hope's story of his efforts
to retrace a Sitka clan's survival march in 1804 across what is
now called Baranof Island during a battle against the Russians.
The book also includes Andrew Hope's list of Tlingit
tribes, clans and clan houses and excerpts from George Emmons'
manuscript about the tribes based on his interviews with Natives
in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Thornton contributed an article calling for a Tlingit
resource atlas that would show not only geography and natural resources,
but also what the landscape means to the people who have used it
Thornton, who has worked on compiling resource studies
for the state Division of Subsistence, wrote that such an atlas
would turn on its head the usual one-dimensional, or purely physical,
view of the landscape. It would include maps, art and stories that
portray the values and practices of Natives.
The state compiles harvest data and locations in
order to manage subsistence. "But a lot of other issues come out
when you ask how resources are used and how [subsistence users]
feel about different lands," Thornton said. "To a lot of people,
it's about being able to maintain relationships to particular landscapes."
Since the 1993 conference, Thornton has worked with
the Southeast Native Subsistence Commission to document more than
3,000 Native place names and their cultural associations. "That
was pretty successful in communities where there was a good knowledge
base," Thornton said. "But there are constraints, given that there
are fewer than 1,000 Tlingit speakers. You're really racing against
the clock on some of the stuff. It's literally the case that in
some places you have one person left who is a Tlingit speaker and
really knows the geography," Thornton said.
In the early 1970s, when Andrew Hope began to compile
cultural information, "You pretty much had to sacrifice yourself
financially in order to gain this type of knowledge," he said. "Because
it was very much in an environment of culture suppression and language
suppression. The body of written information about Tlingit culture
has grown a lot in the past 10 years, and it can help bring Tlingit
knowledge and the language into the schools," Hope said. "Today's
generation has much more access to traditional knowledge than mine
could ever dream about," he said.
The book is distributed by the University of Washington
Press and the Alaska Native Knowledge Network. It costs $15 plus
$4 for shipping. The book can be ordered by calling 800-441-4115
or via the press web site at www.washington.edu/uwpress/.
Alutiiq Region: Strengthening Language, History
and Culture Through Curriculum
by Sandy Wassilie
From my position as the Johnson O'Malley Program
Coordinator last year, I learned of comments by Yup'ik children
that they could understand some of the words in the Alu'utiq take-home
readers. More recently a mother, excited by the Alu'utiq learning
materials she saw, remarked to me how much it is like Iñupiaq
in words. It is just put together differently.
One has to sit up and take notice when this kind
of interest in the Alu'utiq language is shown in Seward, a small
but diverse community just in terms of the Native cultures represented
alone. Few Alu'utiqs live here these days, but the interest of
others in their language and history has been sparked. The reasons
vary. They are, for some, because of the similarity to their particular
Inuit language and customs and, for others, simply because there
are materials in a Native language in this community. Back when
the Chugachmiut Curriculum Development (CCD) Project started, a
number of parents I surveyed did not care which Native language
would be taught as long as there would be a Native language offering.
Over the past two and one-half years, I have served
as the curriculum developer on the CCD Project. I share these accounts
so you will know the impact curriculum can have through this work
and through the work of others. This interest extends beyond the
tribal community into the schools. Teachers are hungry for quality,
teachable materials on the history and earlier times of this area.
This means materials that are appropriate for the age they are
teaching, representing accurate information that is pulled together
in one unit with meaningful activities. It takes an incredible
amount of time just to find and pull together good materials, if
I am also finding it is not only teachers but also
community residents and visitors who are genuinely interested in
knowing about the peoples who were first here. I have worked part-time
over the past four years at Bardarson Studio in the boat harbor.
A fair number of visitors want to have an art object that represents
the area and often they want Native art. It is helpful when I can
tell them about the cultures of our state and the particular expressions
Last summer, a man who was looking for a totem pole
(a small representation!) was so grateful when I told him it was
not something traditionally carved and used in this region. No
one had taken the time to tell him before. Now we also have the
Cultural Heritage Center that helps us learn and appreciate the
culture unique to our area-a taproot of the region's history too
Besides interest, the curriculum has begun to capitalize
on another development: cross-cultural cooperation, a characteristic
that has become common in places where many Native (and other)
cultures live together such as Seward and probably Valdez and Cordova
as well. One of our Elders, Liz Randall, recently commented, "People
here are like nowhere else," meaning helping each other out in
spite of different backgrounds.
I have seen a couple of notable examples of this
cooperation in the region where one Native culture helps another
to remember and continue its practices. Teri Rofkar, a Tlinget
weaver from Sitka, has researched and worked with Alu'utiq people
on spruce root collection, preparation and weaving. Leo Kunnuk,
an Iñupiaq dancer and carver from King Island, now of Seward,
has taught mask carving to Alu'utiq children at the Nuchek Spirit
Camp, encouraging them to use their own traditions. And now here
in Seward the Alu'utiq language materials are helping some people
remember their own languages.
These dynamics have been strengthened and supported
by the Chugachmiut Curriculum Development Project. It is my heartfelt
wish the project will continue. Of all the cultures, it seems the
least is known about the Alu'utiq of the Chugach region. Yet, we
have found there is such a wealth of information in the memories
of the people and in the repositories of many museums around the
world. The land itself still holds clues to the past. There are
links to Alu'utiq cousins on Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula. There
is encouragement from other cultures. We have just begun our search
and networking. Let's continue the research and materials development.
Let's teach our children what we know and how to discover what
we do not know.
Science Fair Results
Fourth Annual Interior ANSES Science Fair 2000
Grand Prize Winners
|"Use of Berries"
|"Trapping & Tanning of
|"Fewer Mosquitoes in Ft. Yukon"
Kodiak Regional Rural Science Fair Winners
Matthew Van Atta, Chiniak, "The Physics of
Lapture" (Alutiiq Baseball). This project will compete in
the Alaska State Science and Engineering Science Fair in Anchorage,
March 30April 1, 2001.
Charlene Christiansen and Helena Tunohun, Old Harbor, "Paralytic
1st Grand Prize:
Jacquie Seegere, Port Lions, "Herbal Teas".
2nd Grand Prize:
Marjeena Griffin, Chiniak, "Insulators (Clothing)".
The two grand prize projects will compete in the
Alaska Native Science and Engineering Societys (ANSES) State
Science Fair 2001 held at Birchwood Camp near Anchorage February
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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