A newsletter of the Alaska Rural Systemic
Alaska Federation of Natives / University
of Alaska / National Science Foundation
Volume 6, Issue 5, November/December 2001
In This Issue:
Documenting Indigenous Knowledge
and Languages: Research Planning & Protocol
by Beth Leonard
I have been preparing a research proposal for the
Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program at UAF that focuses on "Athabascan
Oral Traditions: Deg Hit'an1 Narratives and Native Ways of Knowing." Much
of my current research and language learning centers on kinship
and (personal) family histories. Hopefully this research will serve
dual purposes in terms of both academic significance and potential
value to the Deg Hit'an community.
Research by indigenous researchers for the benefit
of indigenous communities also dovetails with political/postmodern
movements of self-determination, autonomy and cultural regenesis.
Maori researcher, Linda Smith (1999) states: "The cultural and
linguistic revitalization movements have tapped into a set of cultural
resources that have recentred the roles of indigenous women, of
Elders, and of groups who had been marginalized through various
colonial practices" (p. 111). Although some Deg Hit'an Elders were
recorded during the Alaska Native Literature Project and more recently
during the development of Deg Xinag Dindlidik: Deg Xinag Literacy
Manual there remain several Elders who have not had a chance to
record traditional stories and/or lend their perspectives to the
history of this area. Deg Hit'an narratives will be valuable as
language maintenance efforts proceed and more emphasis is placed
on integrating Native knowledge and history into the school curriculum
through projects such as the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative.
I grew up in Shageluk, Alaska, an Athabascan village
on the Innoko River located in the lower-middle Yukon area. I also
spent four years in neighboring Anvik, a village on the Yukon approximately
30 miles from Shageluk. My father is James Dementi of Shageluk,
a multilingual speaker of Deg Xinag and Holikachuk Athabascan and
English. My mother, Jean Dementi, who died in 1988, was a non-Native
woman who came to Alaska from California as an Episcopal nurse-evangelist.
In 1976 she became Alaska's first woman ordained to the priesthood
in the Episcopal church.
Due to a variety of socio-historical influences,
most people of my generation did not learn to speak Athabascan.
Both the early Episcopal church missionaries and the territorial
and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools mandated English and parents
had been told not to teach their children the Athabascan language.
During the time I lived in Shageluk and Anvik, there were no Athabascan
language programs in place in either the school or community. I
do, however, remember the first linguists from the Alaska Native
Language Center (ANLC) who came to the Shageluk area to work with
speakers during the early 1970s. My father and other relatives
often worked as consultants in these early language documentation
and translation efforts. This contradiction in Native language
status, i.e. continuing suppression of local language and culture
by churches and schools versus promotion by prestigious outside
academic interests, conveyed ambiguous and confusing messages to
communities struggling to maintain their local cultures.
Barriers and Challenges in Language
In my current role as language learner-along with
other language learners from the Deg Hit'an area-I find myself
struggling with the best way to learn the Deg Xinag language and
share the knowledge I have documented. Although many of us as language
learners work directly with linguists, obvious differences between
English and Deg Xinag Athabascan are not articulated and we (the
learners) are forced to stumble along as best we can. I believe
this is due in part to the lack of knowledge of the deeper Athabascan
cultural contexts and constructs and the failure to document language
beyond the lexical and grammatical levels.
I was an undergraduate linguistics student when I
began my study of Deg Xinag. At that time I had no experience in
learning a non-European language and was accustomed to being taught
conversational language by experienced teachers using immersion
methods. I was also used to having an extensive collection of practical
dictionaries and grammars at my disposal to assist in the learning
process. Although there is not a published grammar for Deg Xinag,
there are materials that can be used for language learning. To
date, publications include one set of verb lessons, a language
curriculum for elementary students, one literacy manual, two books
of traditional stories, several short children's stories and a
limited collection of supplemental learning materials. The verb
lessons explain the linguistic structures at an elementary level
for language learners, however, as stated above, significant cultural
constructs and concepts are not addressed.
Through my academic coursework I would often run
across barriers to my own self-confidence in being able to someday
speak Deg Xinag fluently. For instance, there is a whole body of
research on second language acquisition that says if learning begins
after adolescence, the learner cannot expect to become fully fluent
in the second language. In a similar vein, linguists often describe
Athabascan "as one of the most difficult languages in the world
to learn," thereby insinuating that one needs to be of above-average
intelligence to indeed even attempt such a process. As a learner
and student I have been questioned as to the potential for true
authenticity (purity) of Athabascan when learned as a second language
and whether or not I think the "back velars"2 will drop out of
I began my own language learning by asking for phrases
in the languages and listening to taped narratives and literacy
exercises. I also would sit down with my father and go through
sections of the noun dictionary to find the literal meanings of
words. I found that, although writing and studying written language
is not considered the best way to learn conversational language,
it provided a base for further understanding of the language structure
and helped with learning the sound system. I continue my study
of conversational language through regular interactions with various
members of my immediate and extended family. Sometimes this learning
takes place in more formal environments such as the ANL 121/122
audioconferences or Athabaskan Language Development Institute's
on-campus classes. On most occasions this learning takes place
through informal interaction with speakers through visits or phone
conversations. I still use a variety of learning methodologies,
including writing the language on a regular basis.
One of the more popular ways to teach/learn language
involves a method called Total Physical Response (TPR). In English
this would require the use of the imperative mode to give a series
of commands which require some action on the part of the learner,
e.g. come here, open the window, close the door, etc. In Deg Xinag,
however, many of these do not equate to commands but describe instead
what the subject is doing. In the case of "wake up" for instance
(when speaking to a child), a more appropriate way to express this
in Deg Xinag is "Xejedz tr'aningidhit he'?" which translates
to "Are you waking up good?" Examples such as these reflect the
deeper value system, i.e., a gentle way of relating to children
as they awake.
I am continually impressed with the Deg Xinag speakers'
command of English and Athabascan and their strength and resilience
considering the damage that has been done since contact. In the
past there was a great deal of travel and intermarriage between
the Deg Hit'an and Holikachuk areas, so many speakers have command
of at least two Athabascan languages. As multilingual speakers,
they are aware of our difficulties in learning these languages
and are able to provide the context we often ignore. I have observed
that in immersion or partial immersion situations, speakers will
adapt their use of language so as to not totally overwhelm, but
assist learners through individual levels of learning by varying
the complexity of their speech.
Language Learner As Researcher
"Alaska Native worldviews are oriented toward the
synthesis of information gathered from interaction with the natural
and spiritual worlds so as to accommodate and live in harmony with
natural principles and exhibit the values of sharing, cooperation,
and respect" (Kawagley, 11).
Kawagley's observations about Alaska Native worldviews
are reflected in my initial research with the Ingalik Noun Dictionary.
In reviewing this dictionary with my father, I found that the literal
translations were not included. For a beginning language learner,
literal translations provide a great deal of fascinating cultural
information and further impetus for investigation into one's own
culture. For example, the Deg Xinag words for birds, fish, animals
and plants reflect complex and scientific beliefs and observations
Culturally Appropriate and Respectful
Ways of Language Learning
Learners, like myself, who do not have latent knowledge
of the language, use a translation approach. Often we inadvertently
ask for words or phrases for concepts that do not exist, or concepts
that are expressed in very different ways in this cultural context.
Learners also tend to provide an incomplete or sometimes total
lack of context when requesting words or phrases. As English speakers,
we nominalize and decontextualize many concepts, without realizing
that Athabascan is a dynamic, verb-based language.
One example of differences between Deg Xinag and
English categorization reflects the way one would say "Where are
you/where is it?" Xidanh is used when referring to people (e.g.
Xidanh si'ot?-Where is my wife?), whereas xiday is used to refer
to an animal or object (Xiday sileg?-Where is my dog? or Xiday
sigizr?-Where are my mittens?) The same is true for counting people,
animals or objects (nijtayh/nijtay). From what Deg Xinag
speakers have said, using these words for "where" and "how many" show
respect toward animals who might be offended if the wrong reference
is used. This reflects a context of care and respect for animal
spirits and other non-human spirits present in the environment,
as well as the power of the spoken word.
When learners request generic phrases for weather,
for instance, it can be difficult for speakers to provide this
information when not given a particular context. A more holistic
context might provide the following information:
whether a phenomena is happening now, a
little while ago, yesterday, last week, etc.
if a phenomena is/was happening for the
first time during the specified time period, or is/was beginning
variations in intensity-a little, very
hot/really windy, etc.
These limited examples gathered by members of the
language class reflect both major and subtle changes in context
Documenting Oral Sources and Research
I write down new words and phrases gathered from
speakers in my family during phone or face-to-face conversations
and audioconference classes. I also record speakers (with their
permission) when possible and have several tapes of recorded audioconference
classes as well as phrase lists. In the past, I had not really
thought about the proper way to obtain permission to record information
either in writing or with audiovisual equipment. Often I would
ask if I could record, but assumed the speakers knew I would use
this information for learning purposes. Now I realize that there
are a great many issues to deal with when documenting in writing
or with audio/visual equipment, including:
Who should have ownership of audio/visual
How will the material be used?
How will the material be cared for?
Where should materials be stored?
Who should have access to the materials?
"Just Speak Your Language"
Lately, it seems the endangered languages bandwagon
is a popular vehicle for access to "other," providing many opportunities
for publication through description and analysis of various Native
language revitalization programs. Outside researchers continue
to debate the authenticity and effectiveness of projects and programs
from non-indigenous perspectives. Language revitalization, instead
of being viewed holistically within social and cultural contexts,
is often treated as strictly a linguistic venture, i.e. "just speak
your language." "Just speaking your language" assumes abilities
and resources are available to assist in this process. It involves
learning cultural constructs and concepts often hidden in translation
along with a myriad of other environmental, ideological and personal
factors. Fortunately there are now indigenous educational models
providing examples of contextual/situational learning that can
be applied at a local grass-roots level.
Kawagley, A. O. (1995). A Yupiaq Worldview: A Pathway
to Ecology and Spirit. Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press,
Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies:
Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed Books Ltd
Strengthening Indigenous Languages
This booklet offers suggestions for Elders,
parents, children and educators to use in strengthing their
heritage language with support from the Native community,
schools, linguists and education agencies. 28 pages, free.
For more information on obtaining coies of
these and other cultural guidelines, call the Alaska Native
Knowledge Network at 907-474-1902 or email email@example.com.
Guidelines Adopted for Alaska Public
by David Ongley
The state of indigenous librarianship is stirring
across regions in Alaska. There is yet a long way to go. Many villages
have no public libraries. For those that do, there is no centralized
planning effort. Village libraries frequently consist of a few
shelves of books in a village council office. Funding for staff
and collections is usually far from adequate. Funds for operations
are almost nonexistent. Staff rarely work full time and usually
have few benefits. Most have little or no training in librarianship
and work in relative isolation.
We are fortunate on the North Slope to have public
libraries in all of our villages. We only have seven villages outside
of Barrow though. AVCP in Bethel is working to form libraries in
many of the 50 or so villages it serves. I hear of good things
coming from Southeast Alaska as well. Sealaska and the Central
Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes both recently received
grants for library projects, as did Igiugig Village in the Cook
Inlet area. Haines public library is working on a large project
with the Chilkoot Indian Association. For the most part, however,
very little is being done in larger towns and cities.
Each year, the Alaska State Library hosts a three-day
leadership institute that is fondly referred to as DirLead. Last
October the directors of the 10 largest public libraries in the
state met to learn ways they could better serve Alaska Natives
in their libraries. As this was a significant departure from previous
DirLead institutes, much credit needs to go to Karen Crane, the
director of the State Library and several other key people, who
immediately perceived the value of what was being proposed and
provided firm support for the project.
Father Michael Oleksa spoke for half a day about
communication styles. For the next day and a half, Dr. Lotsee Patterson,
a Comanche professor of library science at the University of Oklahoma,
a preeminent expert on Native libraries across the country, worked
with us to develop a set of guidelines for public libraries. These
guidelines were based on those for schools, communities, teachers
and parents already developed by the Alaska Native Knowledge Network.
Immersion in the subject under Dr. Patterson's tutelage
provided the intellectual stimulus that propelled the formation
of smaller workgroups to consider four aspects of libraries where
guidelines could be developed: the environment in which services
are delivered, the programs and services offered, the collections
that are developed and the staff that is employed in the library.
Reassembling, the smaller groups brought proposed
wording back. Revisions by the larger group were considerable.
Work progressed quickly under Lotsee's direction. Directors took
copies of the document to share with their libraries, communities
and Native educational organizations. Feedback was sporadic and
continued to trickle in through the spring of 2001. The changes
that were suggested were forwarded to the entire group through
their listserv. Almost every suggestion that came in improved the
document and was easily incorporated into the wording. By June
the document was completed to almost everyone's satisfaction. That
document is now on the ANKN Web site at ankn.uaf.edu/standards/library.html.
I believe several basic truths about libraries. I
believe that, while books and libraries may have the appearance
and tradition of a fundamental component of a white, European,
imperialist institution, their equivalents exist in every culture
in some form. I believe that by taking control of libraries and
filling them with appropriate information, they can be transformed
into institutions that serve people in the villages.
In Alaska, we struggle on two fronts: getting libraries
established in the villages and convincing the state legislature
of the need to support them. Convincing a legislature dominated
by representatives from the major urban areas of the importance
of rural libraries is an uphill battle. It will probably remain
a losing battle without the overwhelming support from the villages.
I'm certain that the importance of libraries will eventually prevail
and they will emerge as a force for cultural, linguistic, historic
and economic independence in the future.
On September 21, 2001 at the State Board of Education
meeting, it was moved by board member Roy Nageak of Barrow to endorse
the Culturally Responsive Guidelines for Alaska Public Libraries.
The endorsement was approved unanimously. Those guidelines are
included for use in your community.
For Alaska Public Libraries
Sponsored by the Alaska State Library
with support and guidance from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network.
(c) Alaska State Library 2001
The Culturally-Responsive Guidelines for Alaska Public
Libraries were developed by a group of Alaskan library directors*
at a workshop facilitated by Dr. Lotsee Patterson and sponsored
by the Alaska State Library. The goal of the workshop was to develop
guidelines to help public librarians examine how they respond to
the specific informational, educational and cultural needs of their
Alaska Native users and communities. These guidelines are predicated
on the belief that culturally appropriate service to indigenous
peoples is a fundamental principle of Alaska public libraries and
that the best professional practices in this regard are associated
with culturally-responsive services, collections, programs, staff
and library environment.
While the impetus for developing the guidelines was
service to the Alaska Native community, as the library directors
worked on the guidelines it became clear that they could be applied
to other cultural groups resident in Alaska. The guidelines are
presented as basic statements in four broad areas. The statements
are not intended to be inclusive, exclusive or conclusive and thus
should be carefully discussed, considered and adapted to accommodate
local circumstances and needs.
The guidelines may be used to:
Review mission and vision statements, goals,
objectives and policies to assure the integration of culturally
Examine the library environment and atmosphere
provided for all library users.
Review staff performance as it relates to practicing
culturally specific behavior.
Strengthen the commitment to facilitating and
fostering the involvement of members of the indigenous community.
Adapt strategies and procedures to include culturally
sensitive library practices.
Guide preparation, training and orientation of
library staff to help them address the culturally specific
needs of their indigenous patrons.
Serve as a benchmark against which to evaluate
library programs, services and collections.
A culturally-responsive library is open and inviting
to all members of the community.
A culturally-responsive library utilizes local
expertise to provide culturally appropriate displays of arts,
crafts and other forms of decoration and space design.
A culturally-responsive library makes use of
facilities throughout the community to extend the library's
mission beyond the walls of the library.
A culturally-responsive library sponsors ongoing
activities and events that observe cultural traditions and
provide opportunities to display and exchange knowledge of
A culturally-responsive library involves local
cultural representatives in deliberations and decision making
for policies and programs.
Services And Programs
A culturally-responsive library holds regular
formal and informal events to foster and to celebrate local
Culturally responsive programming involves members
from local cultural groups in the planning and presentation
of library programs.
Culturally responsive programming and services
are based on the expressed needs of the community.
Culturally responsive programming recognizes
and communicates the cultural heritage of the local area.
Culturally responsive services reach out and
adapt delivery to meet local needs.
A culturally-sensitive library provides assistance
and leadership in teaching users how to evaluate material about
cultural groups represented in its collections and programs.
A culturally-responsive library purchases and
maintains collections that are sensitive to and accurately
reflect Native cultures.
A culturally-responsive library seeks out sources
of materials that may be outside the mainstream publishing
and reviewing journals.
A culturally-responsive library seeks local community
input and suggestions for purchase.
A culturally-responsive library incorporates
unique elements of contemporary life in Native communities
in Alaska such as food gathering activities and the Alaska
Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) into its collection.
A culturally-responsive library encourages the
development and preservation of materials that document and
transmit local cultural knowledge.
A culturally-responsive library makes appropriate
use of diverse formats and technologies to gather and make
available traditional cultural knowledge.
A culturally-responsive library develops policies
for appropriate handling of culturally sensitive materials.
A culturally-responsive library reviews its collections
regularly to insure that existing materials are relevant and
A culturally-responsive library collects materials
in the languages used in its community when they are available.
The culturally-responsive library reflects the
ethnic diversity of the local community in recruitment of library
boards, administrators, staff and volunteers.
A culturally-responsive staff recognizes the
validity and integrity of traditional knowledge systems.
Culturally-responsive staff is aware of local
knowledge and cultural practices and incorporates it into their
work. For example, hunting seasons and funeral practices that
may require Native staff and patrons to be elsewhere, or eye
contact with strangers, talkativeness or the discipline of
A culturally-responsive staff is knowledgeable
in areas of local history and cultural tradition.
A culturally-responsive staff provides opportunities
for patrons to learn in a setting where local cultural knowledge
and skills are naturally relevant.
A culturally-responsive staff utilizes the expertise
of Elders and culturally knowledgeable leaders in multiple
A culturally-responsive staff will respect the
cultural and intellectual property rights that pertain to aspects
of local knowledge.
Culturally-responsive library staff members participate
in local and regional events and activities in appropriate
and supportive ways.
* These guidelines were developed
Judith Anglin, Ketchikan
Stacy Glaser, Kotzebue
Nancy Gustavson, Sitka
Marly Helm, Homer
Greg Hill, Fairbanks
Ewa Jankowska, Kenai
Tim Lynch, Anchorage
Dan Masoni, Unalaska
Carol McCabe, Juneau
David Ongley, Barrow
Lotsee Patterson, Facilitator
Karen Crane, Director, Alaska State Library
George Smith, Deputy Director, Alaska State
Nina Malyshev, Development Consultant, Alaska
Gail Pass Moves On
We have been fortunate throughout the life of the
Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative to have highly talented and dedicated
staff to breath life into the work we are doing. One who has been
with us nearly from the beginning and has provided much of the
glue that holds everything together has been Gail Pass, administrative
assistant at the AFN office of the AKRSI. Gail has provided critical
technical skills essential to keeping track of the many activities
sponsored by the project; she has also been a valuable contributor
to the thinking that has gone into shaping that work. Evidence
of her insightful perspective on the inner workings of the world
in which we live is reflected in a poem found on the back page
of this newsletter, which she has provided as a gift to all of
us on her move to a new position as a financial analyst with Alaska
Communications Systems. The staff of AKRSI want to express our
appreciation to Gail for her faithful service-with-a-smile over
the years and we wish her good fortune as she moves on to new opportunities
in her life. Well be calling on you, Gail . . . !
Parenting & Teaching: One and
by Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley
As I begin this article, I am reminded of the Yupiaq
woman who had an irritated skin condition on her hands and was
given a tube of ointment with an applicator. One night when she
was awakened by the irritation, she reached over in the dark to
retrieve the ointment and applied it to her hands. The next morning,
she woke up and looked at her hands. She was astounded and bewildered.
Her hands were completely red. She worried as to what was happening
to her skin. She finally looked at the tube of ointment she had
applied, and then laughed when she saw that it was a red Bingo
During the last century or so, we, as parents and
teachers, have been working blindly just as this woman because
of the promises of the American Dream-promises of a quality education,
a good job, a good home, earning top dollars and getting promotions.
We have become Americanized to a high degree. In the process, we
have been losing our Native languages and cultures. A recent newspaper
article suggests that our Native languages are eroding and many
will be gone within a generation. Will we, as parents and teachers,
allow this to happen? Historically the American way has encouraged
the loss of Native languages and cultures. The English language
and its cultures continue to have a very voracious appetite and
will devour our Native languages and cultures if we allow it.
In the past, our children were born in a sod house
or a tent at spring camp or delivered under an overturned skin
boat in an emergency. From the outset the newborn is introduced
to the voices of the family members, the words of the midwife,
the hum of the wind, the sound of falling rain and the call of
the Arctic loon. The newborn is already immersed in nature from
its first moments of life. During the gestation period and after
a given time, the child is talked to, sung to by the mother and
exposed to family members eating, sleeping, doing work and playing.
The child learns of the sounds peculiar to its parents' language,
love and care bringing an indelible sense of belonging. The child
is exposed to and lives within nature all its life. When the mother
walks, the child is placed inside the parka on its mother's back.
The child can then look around and see things from the same level
as its mother and is treated as a beautiful living being.
As the child progresses through its growing stages,
the parents, grandparents and community members assess the talents
and inner strengths the child might have. These are nurtured with
the thinking that the community will become greater with a responsible
and caring member. As the child grows older, the members look for
ideas that the child expresses, skills it shows, its interaction
with others and its respect for everyone and everything.
There are rites of passage that are practiced as
the child grows. The killing of a first mosquito, first pick of
berries and other acts are times of joy by villagers and are reinforced
by giving support and encouragement for continued growth, physically,
intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Puberty is a time
of ceremony-the becoming of a woman or a man. First menstruation
of a young lady is considered a time of power requiring that the
young lady be housed apart and served only by the mother or grandmother
for its duration. No work is required of her.
As the young person matures, the community members
may ask the youngster: "Have you counted your blessings lately?" In
actuality, they are asking: "Have you counted your inner values,
talents, strengths, important relationships and connectedness?" This
connectedness is spirituality. Knowing this about oneself will
make one beneficial to the community.
With respect to discipline, the home must be a place
of love, care, companionship and cooperation. If these are practiced,
the child is well-behaved. If such ingredients are lacking in the
home, how can the parents expect to discipline the child? If the
home is dysfunctional, then where will the child find the love,
care, attention and companionship they need? It is possible for
a parent to be a teacher, but a teacher cannot really substitute
for a parent, yet this is what we sometimes expect of the school.
When teachers meet with parents, it is important that they encourage
them to be loving, caring and attentive to their child's needs
and then the teacher should reinforce the parents attention.
As educators, we must try to make the classroom an
environment where children can be with and of nature. Take them
outdoors as much as possible. Have the children express their ideas
of what is beautiful that they see in nature; guide them to begin
to see beauty in oneself and in others, in one's village or in
one's neighborhood. The young person will then begin to see the
value of their own Native language and culture. This is an invaluable
asset in one's life. From this, you begin to see that "community/place
is an experience that is created." Quyana
Alutiiq/Unangax Region: Re-establishing
by Teri Schneider
Residents of the Kodiak Island area who remember
the oral history magazine Elwani, were delighted to learn about
a new publication that was produced by students through the Kodiak
Island Borough School District. Illuani (same meaning and approximate
pronunciation as the previous title) began to be distributed in
June. Like the previous project, the latest version is a collection
of interviews done of local people by high school students from
our islands' communities. Featured in this latest version are Iver
Malutin, Florence Pestrikoff, Susan Malutin, Ed Opheim, Sr. and
the past coordinator of the project, Dave Kubiak. Students from
Port Lions, Danger Bay, Old Harbor, Akhiok and Karluk completed
the interviews and then worked with their site teachers and project
coordinator, Eric Waltenbaugh, to transcribe the articles and create
introductions. What a success! Not only are students learning writing
skills, they build their skills for listening and communicating
effectively across generations.
A few years ago people began to ask me, "What ever
happened to Elwani? How come we don't see those around anymore?" As
background information was gathered about the first effort, it
became more and more apparent that we could re-establish the project
with a few minor changes. Illuani could become a wonderfully relevant
learning tool while fulfilling the need to document people's knowledge
and experience in our region of the world so that we could continue
to communicate and celebrate the ingenuity and lives of each other.
Like the magazine of the 70s and 80s, the school district is printing
it, but the new one will be done primarily by rural students with
some contributions by interested students in Kodiak.
The night of the first interviews, held at the Alutiiq
Museum in Kodiak, was a marvelous event. The students were nervous
and the invited guests that were to be interviewed were unsure
of their role and of what they might contribute. When the students
went to their designated areas with their tape recorders, note
pads and interviewees, magic happened. The project became a reality
and took on a life of its own. Nobody needed prompting and nobody
needed interventions by teachers. Giggles came from every corner
as each group became engaged in conversation, often times sprinkled
with humor to create a level of comfort for both the students and
When we gather together with open ears, minds and
hearts we allow ourselves to learn from one another. Perhaps we
learn the value of taking care of your neighbor when we hear someone
tell their story of the '64 earthquake or tidal wave. Maybe we
learn to become more resourceful after hearing a story of how people
used to bake bread on a beach in an oven made of rocks. Or, perhaps
we learn that we never stop learning when we watch an Elder learn
a new skill from a student. When we take the time to visit and
listen we learn that each one of us has something to contribute
to our community. Illuani is an example of students and community
members contributing to each other's lives and in turn sharing
that gift with all of us.
If you are interested in purchasing the new Illuani
magazine you may contact the staff at the KIBSD Central Office
(486-9210). All proceeds will go to supporting the continuation
of the project.
Athabascan Region: Moose Hunting
and More: the Annual Field Trip for the Minto Flats Cultural
by Kathryn Swartz, Cultural Heritage
and Education Institute
sun was very warm and the sky was clear on the top of COD Hill
on Saturday afternoon, September 22, 2001. A group of Elders and
youth from Minto relaxed on the hill and looked for moose out in
the Minto Flats. From this hill, one could see Denali in the distance
and the ridges where the Nenana and Tolovana Rivers meet the Tanana
River. "Shhhhh . . ." the Elders kept saying, "the animals will
hear you up here." At one point, a raven stalked a juvenile bald
eagle in the air below us. After looking for hours, Susie Charlie
noticed a bull moose off to the east over by a little lake. A small
group went down the hill and up the creek to walk into the area
where the moose had been seen. We heard shots fired-the hunt was
This event was the high point of the annual cultural
atlas field trip with Minto Elders and youth. This year, the field
trip employed seven Elders: Elsie Titus, Lige and Susie Charlie,
Virgil and Vernell Titus, Luke Titus and Gabe Nollner. There were
eleven students from the Minto School (Clinton Watson, Preston
Alexander, Mitchel Alexander, Ezra Gibson, Amber Jimmie, Alanna
Gibson, Carleen Charlie, Janis Frank, Lynnessa Titus, Dolly James
and Justeena Silas), with their teachers Kraig Berg and Ruth Folger
and the participation of Bill Pfisterer (education specialist)
and Kathryn Swartz of the Cultural Heritage and Education Institute.
The Elders were the most important people on the
field trip. They decided where we were going, where we would stay
and coordinated boat space for all the participants and supplies.
They openly shared stories and tales of hunting, fishing, trapping
and growing up in the Minto Flats. The Minto School played a valuable
role in organizing the students, telling them what they needed
to take with them and also supporting the participation of two
teachers. The information gathered on the trip will be incorporated
into the school curriculum as students work on the development
of a cultural atlas for the Minto Flats area (a preliminary version
of the atlas can be viewed online at ankn.uaf.edu/menhti.)
The field trip was held over a weekend and the group
left Minto after school on Friday, September 21, 2001. The group
went in five boats to Virgil Titus' fall camp along Washington
Creek about an hour and a half from Minto. This camp faces to the
east and south and is positioned above the creek in a nice wooded
area. There is a spotting tree and good cranberry patch back in
the woods. The first night everyone gathered around the fire and
the reason for the field trip and the mapping work was explained.
The Elders said they wanted to bring the kids out to learn the
Athabascan way, to learn what they should bring on this kind of
trip and to learn about the good places to hunt. The Elders shared
some stories and memories about growing up in these areas. After
some coaxing, all the kids finally went to bed. At night, the light
from the radar station on Murphy Dome was visible from the camp
and the Northern Lights shimmered.
next morning, after breakfast, Bill Pfisterer showed the kids how
to use two cameras to document the places we would visit-one was
a digital camera, the other a standard film camera. The group set
off in boats to go down Washington Creek and up the Tatalina to
begin the hike up COD Hill. The climb was tough, particularly for
the Elders, but everyone made it. Rope was tied off on certain
trees so you could get extra support and pull yourself up the hillside.
The climb down was even worse with a slippery and dusty trail,
but we were on our way to see the moose so no one seemed to mind
the difficult descent. The moose was taken several bends up COD
creek, back through willows and small birch trees in an open, grassy,
swampy area. The participants witnessed field dressing the moose.
Willows were laid down to hold the best cuts of meat, other parts
were strung over the trees to dry while the work continued. The
Elders shared traditional practices and techniques with the students
and then the meat was packed out either with sticks or people put
on raincoats and slung parts over their shoulders. The meat was
left overnight near the river bank braced up with sticks or slung
between trees. (In case anyone noticed the date, the Cultural Heritage
and Education Institute had arranged for a cultural education permit
to take a moose out of season.)
Saturday night was a beautiful evening with good
food, more stories from the Elders and good laughs around the campfire.
One of the students made cranberry sauce from freshly picked berries.
That night, the temperature dropped and on Sunday morning as always,
the first ones up, Virgil and Vernell Titus, started the fire and
got warm water and coffee going. After breakfast several Elders
including Lige Charlie and Luke Titus thanked everyone for attending
and for the organization of the field trip. We headed back to retrieve
the moose meat and then made our way back up the winding sloughs,
creeks and rivers to Minto. Ducks gathering for migration were
scared up at every turn. The air was colder than it had been on
Friday and it seemed that winter was now on its way.
This field trip was made possible thanks to support
from the Rural School and Community Trust (Alaska Rural Systemic
Initiative), the Minto School, the Alaska Humanities Forum, the
New Voices Fellowship Program and the Skaggs Foundation.
Alaska Native Education Summit 2001
Alaska Natives will soon have an opportunity to share
their views on how to improve education for our children. The first
Alaska Native Education Summit takes place November 30 and December
1 in Anchorage. It's being sponsored by the ANCSA Education Consortium
and the First Alaskans Foundation.
This gathering of Alaska Native voices is the first
step in looking for new ways to teach our young people the values
and knowledge they must have to do well in their lives.
Unlike other meetings in the past, this one will
focus on Alaska Native issues and begin the process to find Alaska
Native solutions. We're looking for new people at the table who
bring important Native perspectives and are willing to work hard
to come up with fresh ideas that meet the needs of our children.
This summit will draw together Native communities to develop plans
that fit their situation and draw on their experience of what works
and what does not. It will truly be a "grass roots" approach to
providing quality education.
The summit is open to the public and we encourage
all who care about this important issue to come and express their
thoughts and perspectives. For more information contact Joan McCoy
at 907-272-0839 or email
Southeast Region: Opening the Box
by Andy Hope
MOA partners and tribal representatives met in Juneau the week
of September 10, 2001 for a tribal watershed/GIS/cultural atlas
workshop, a Southeast Alaska Tribal College organizational meeting
and the planning meeting for the Southeast Native/Rural Education
A number of key presenters were not able to make
it to the watershed workshop because of flight restrictions, so
we will try to get the group together again in mid-November.
The group participated in two teleconferences during
the workshop. The first teleconference was with Jane Langill and
Judith Roche of One Reel in Seattle to discuss the I Am Salmon
curriculum project. Following is a brief description of the project:
I Am Salmon: International Educational
A multidisciplinary, multilingual, multicultural,
multinational educational program for educators and children in
salmon cultures around the North Pacific Rim. Following a challenge
from Dr. Jane Goodall in 1994 and an international writing project
held in 1998 with schools in Seattle and Japan (The Neverending
Salmon Tale), an international team of educators met at Sleeping
Lady Conference Center in 1999 and developed a pilot project for
schools in Alaska, Canada, Oregon, Washington, Japan and Russia.
Schools are creating and sharing work in many disciplines on the
theme of salmon in local culture. The multilingual "I Am Salmon
E-Learning Website" launched September 2001. Details can be obtained
From First Fish: One Reel's Wild
One Reel had scheduled The Icicle River Children's
Summit for September 19-23 in Leavenworth, Washington. Teachers
and children from around the North Pacific Rim (including representatives
from Washington State, British Columbia, Alaska, Japan and Kamchatka)
were to meet for the first time to share materials and knowledge
developed over the last two years. This meeting has been postponed,
possibly until late spring of 2002. The Alaska representatives
will be Inga Hanlon, a fifth grade teacher, and two of her students
from Yakutat City School along with Lani Hotch, a high school teacher,
and nine students from Klukwan School.
In the meantime, I will continue to work with our
Alaska I Am Salmon partners to link with One Reel's new website,
http://iamsalmon.org, to offer access to curriculum resources.
Our second teleconference was with Tom Thornton,
who was stranded in Ontario, Canada on September 11. Tom serves
as the director of the Southeast Alaska Native Place Name Project,
which serves as the foundation for the Cultural Atlas project in
which tribes and school districts work in partnership to develop
multimedia educational resources.
I am encouraged by the commitment of our respective
partner school districts: Chatham School District (Klukwan and
Angoon Schools) Hoonah City Schools, Sitka School District and
Yakutat City Schools. Additionally, our tribal partners (Sitka
Tribe of Alaska, Chilkat Indian village, Angoon Community Association
and Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska)
have immeasurably strengthened our effort. Juneau School District
is a valuable partner that continues to support projects like I
Am Salmon. Our next task will be to schedule a staff development
workshop and a GIS consortium meeting to work on various curriculum
projects. We will also begin building an I Am Salmon listserv in
conjunction with the ANKN.
The events of September 11 overshadowed our meetings.
The Southeast Alaska Tribal College organizational meeting was
rescheduled for October. Though we weren't able to formally organize
SEATC at this time, the people that did make it to Juneau decided
to have a work session to develop recommendations for the SEATC
trustees to consider when they finally do meet. The working group
developed the following draft mission statement:
"The mission of SEATC is to open our ancestors box
of wisdom, knowledge, respect, patience and understanding."
The Box of Knowledge serves as the logo for SEATC
as well as a guiding metaphor. In Tlingit, Yaakoosgé Daakakóogu
means "The box of knowledge that will be opened when people come
to this college." I anticipate ten tribes will be founding members
of the SEATC and representatives of those tribes will elect the
board of trustees
Yup'ik Region: Calista Elders Council
by Mark John, Executive Director,
Calista Elders Council, Inc.
Just recently, I moved my office to Bethel to be
able to work more closely with the Elders and youth in our region.
I have enjoyed visiting with people who have dropped by my office
to see who we are, what we are doing and what we plan to do. There
has been some confusion between Calista Corporation and Calista
Elders Council (CEC), so I would like to provide some background
The Calista Elders Council was incorporated on March
27, 1991. It was formed pursuant to a shareholders mandate during
the 1990 Calista annual meeting held in Kasigluk. The CEC was established
to promote the needs of and serve the special interests and concerns
of the Calista shareholders ages 65 and older.
The Calista Elders Council is a 501c(3) non-profit
organization regulated under state and federal laws. This makes
Calista Elders Council an independent entity with its own articles
of incorporation and by-laws and its own board of directors. The
objectives embodied in the mission statement include:
Enhance Elder benefits within the Calista region
by striving to maintain and preserve the cultural, linguistic
and traditional lifestyles of the Natives of the region,
Improve the health and welfare of the Elders,
Facilitate infrastructure important in providing
for Elder care,
Encourage and enhance the participation of Elders
in the political process,
Foster and encourage the education of young people
within Calista region.
Our major funding comes from grants. Currently, we
are operating under a number of grants from different sources including
A five-year grant from the National Science Foundation
for $1,087,975 to gather, preserve and share Yup'ik "way of
A two-year grant from U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development Drug Elimination Program for $695,760
under sub-recipient agreement with Calista Corporation.
A one-year Historic Preservation Fund grant in
the amount of $50,000 from the National Park Service, under
sub-recipient agreement with Calista Corporation.
A one-year Administration for Native Americans
grant in the amount of $124,909 for Yup'ik Foundation Word
An annual grant of $50,000 from Calista Corporation
for administration and overhead, plus use of office space and
office equipment and supplies in Anchorage.
An equipment grant from Rasmuson Foundation in
the amount of $25,000.
Additional funding in various amounts has been received
from the following organizations:
Administration for Native Americans
Alaska State Council on the Arts
Alaska Humanities Forum
Coastal Villages Region Fund
Various businesses and village organizations
The primary focus of our efforts has been the documentation
and strengthening of Yup'ik culture. When I went out to do a very
brief survey of activities that are related to our mission in the
winter of 1997 and 1998, culture and history was one area where
there was a clear void. We began to make efforts to fill that void
and make culture and history CEC's niche in the region.
Calista Elders Council has been successful in obtaining
grants to hold three annual Elders and youth conventions, sponsor
culture camps over two summers with a subsistence focus in the
Coastal, Kuskokwim and the Yukon areas of the Calista/AVCP region
and hold topic-specific gatherings of Elders to collect knowledge
on information related to our Yup'ik culture for the past two years.
All of the valuable information gathered from our Elders during
these events are documented, transcribed and translated. In the
very near future, we are looking forward to having publications
available in the form of books and a newsletter.
Throughout the past year, Calista Elders Council
staff has made a number of presentations to different conferences
and conventions related to the preservation of culture and history.
Some of these were the CEC Elders and Youth Convention, Bilingual/Multicultural
Education and Equity Conference, Anchorage, Northern Studies Conference
at Hokkaido University in Japan and the National Science Foundation
Arctic Social Science Planning Workshop in Seattle, Washington.
We feel a sense urgency to focus our work on culture
and history, because many of our Elders that are 65 and older are
passing on. They are the ones with first hand knowledge of our
traditional lifestyle. They were born before Western influence
from the schools and the churches made a big dent in our traditional
way of living. They experienced the ceremonies and spiritual activities,
dances, subsistence practices, our value systems, stories, semi-nomadic
lifestyle, relationships, arts and crafts and everything else that
was associated with our culture. We will continue to work with
them to gather knowledge that is so valuable.
Subsistence was the main focus of our camps. This
summer Calista Elders Council ran four ten-day culture camps in
the region. The first one was at Umkumute on Nelson Island from
June 3 to June 13 for the coastal villages; the second was from
June 17 to June 27 near Akiak for Lower Kuskokwim villages; the
third was near Kalskag from July 1 to July 10 and the fourth was
held July 15 to July 25 between Pilot Station and Marshall for
Yukon villages. We requested participation by a boy and a girl
from each of the 48 occupied villages in the region. We had an
Elder as an instructor for every five students in each camp, along
with staff to document cultural information and provide camp support.
The camps incorporated two age groups: Village Elders
who served as the camps' teachers and mentors and sixth- and seventh-grade
youth who were attending the camps to learn Yup'ik/Cup'ik cultural
skills, history and values. Subsistence hunting, fishing and harvesting
activities appropriate to each camp location were the focus of
the camps, providing the Elders an opportunity to pass down traditional
skills and values.
This summer Chris Dock from Kipnuk ran the summer
camps. He did an excellent job and worked very well with the Elders,
youth and staff as well as communities that were involved. Chris
stated that he enjoyed the experience and he was very grateful
for the help that the Elders and the camp staff provided. Congratulations
to Chris and all who were involved for a successful camp season
and a big quyana from all of us.
This fall, we are going to continue to document traditional
knowledge. We plan to have a topic-specific gathering in November
with selected Elders, the culture coordinators and the drug elimination
project staff from the villages.
The CEC board decided to schedule the annual meeting
and convention in Akiachak in March of 2002 rather than in November
when it has previously been held. The reasons cited were bad weather
and poor travel conditions normally experienced in the fall. The
past conventions were held at Kasigluk in 1998, St. Mary's in 1999
and in Toksook Bay in 2000.
Calista Elders Council board and staff are very proud
of the progress we have been able to make in a short time and we
plan to continue to make efforts to expand our work in the area
of culture and history. In the future we plan to provide more services
to the Elderly and the youth and collaborate with other organizations
with similar activities whenever possible.
Calista Elders Council has made Bethel the base of
our operations. We are expanding our staff in Bethel. We will continue
to have an office in Anchorage and employees that will work out
of their homes in the Anchorage area. We will also hire culture
coordinators that will be located in the villages to work with
clusters of communities within the region. We are aware that CEC
has an excellent potential for growth and we will strive to continue
that growth to provide cultural activities as well as services
that are needed for our Elderly and youth.
I would like to say quyana to our board, who have
contributed valuable knowledge and wisdom. They are Paul Kiunya,
Sr., chairman; Bob Aloysius, vice-chair; John A. Phillip, Sr.,
secretary; Peter F. Elachik, treasurer and Nick Andrew, Sr., Winifred
Beans, Irvin C. Brink, Sr., Peter Jacobs, Sr., Paul John, Fred
K. Phillip, Andrew J. Guy and Myron P. Naneng, Sr. as board members.
I also would like to extend a very big thank you
to both our Anchorage and Bethel based staff. They are Nicholas "Bob" Charles,
Jr., program manager; Alice Rearden, transcriber/translator; Dr.
Ann Fienup-Riordan, consultant; Monica Sheldon, oral historian;
Chris Dock, camp coordinator and Elena Chief, gaming. Without their
support, we would not be where we are. Quyana caqneq!
We wish all of you good health and success in your
subsistence activities. We can be contacted at P.O. Box 2345, Bethel,
Alaska 99559 or at 301 Calista Court, Suite A, Anchorage, Alaska
99518. Our contact numbers are 907-543-1541 in Bethel or 1-800-277-5516
One Among Others
by Gail Pass
See yourself as one among others,
See children, fathers and mothers.
Acceptance of who you are in a crowd
in amongst us, not above on a cloud.
The difference of one in a crowd can make,
little bits of change, opportunities to take.
Learn from me as I learn from you,
allow lessons in life to change you.
Individualize all, humble your
You generalize a nation, hatred you start.
This hatred you breathe, fear and detest,
born from the compounds of vanity at best.
Tolerate us, a nation of all flavors,
respect family, friends and neighbors.
See yourself as one among others,
See children, fathers and mothers.
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) 263-9876 phone
(907) 263-9869 fax
Southeast Regional Coordinator
8128 Pinewood Drive
Juneau, Alaska 99801
Iñupiaq Regional Coordinator
PO Box 1796
Nome, AK 99762
Aleutians Regional Coordinator
Kodiak Island Borough School District
722 Mill Bay Road, North Star
Kodiak, Alaska 99615
Yupik Regional Coordinator
PO Box 219
Bethel, AK 99559
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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