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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide

Athabascan RavenAthabascan Winter Studies
The Dene'
Indigenous People of Interior

Kindergarten Unit

FNSBSD Alaska Native Education

Unit: Athabascan (Dene')
Winter Family Activities Social Organization Strand


Lesson: Introduction to Athabascan (Dene') Family Roles

Day 1:

Students will identify and examine the roles of modern, urban families and the traditional, pre-contact and contemporary Dene' family, with an emphasis on the importance of Elders.


Athabascan Language Map from ANLC @ UAF or ANE

Athabascan ABC Coloring Book

Athabascan Paper Dolls, Contemporary and Traditional

Poster board - use enlarge drawing from "A View Of The Past"

Photos of traditional Dene' family - UAF archives or magazines

Magazine resources for photos - IANA, Alaska Magazine, ENA, Doyon, TCC annual reports or newsletters

Story of traditional Dene' winter home, "A View Of The Past"

Poster board or pictures of Dene' Elders as teachers

Video of Dene' Elders as teachers, "Profiles of Alaskans" or "Gwich'in Niintsyaa"

Books showing the lives of Dene' Elders, YKSD biographies in ANE library

Scissors and coloring supplies


Students will learn the various roles and responsibilities of modern, urban family life and Athabascan or Dene' family members living in interior Alaska today and in the past.


 Prepare bulletin or posterboards and Language Map

Make copies or co-op learning group sets of "A View Of The Past" available from your librarian

Request Elder speaker from ANE or invite a Native student's relative

Review background information and other Athabascan

resource curricula available from your librarian

Review Alaska Games Booklets

Read "Tetlin As I Knew It"

Read "Alaskan Athabascans"

Read "Alaska Native Folklore"

Introduction: (set/purpose)

Ask the students to name the members of their families, by using their role name and their given names, if they are known. (Be prepared to address diversity positively for the non-traditional families in your classroom.)

Students will learn through group discussion the difference between a modern, urban family and a traditional Athabascan or Dene' family. By using their own family as a means to compare, students will examine the roles of each family member.

 Athabascan emphasis on the traditional family needs to include the role of Dene' Elders as teachers.

Activity: (input)

Discussion of what traditional Athabascan or Dene' means to your students

Read in class "A View Of The Past", then discuss:

-what are the family roles described in that story, if a Native elder is available have them describe their childhood and the activities they and their parents did when they were young

-roles of their own family members

-who are the family story tellers, and historians

-what traditions do their own families keep

-descriptions of the past from their grandparents

Focus on the diversity found in your classroom

Point out common attributes, characteristics and activities between time, place and cultures

Involve students in discussion and understanding by using bulletin or large poster boards with pictures of modern, urban family activities and a scenes of village life or traditional Athabascan or Dene' families

Classroom discussion may include the following points

-What do your/their clothes look like?

-What are your/their clothes made of?

-What do you/they wear to stay warm in the winter cold?

-How does your/their fathers prepare for winter?

-What foods do you/they eat in the winter?

-What games do you/they play in the winter?

Activity: (guided practice)

Handout paper dolls and stencils

Handout 11x14 plain construction paper for background drawings folded in half to assist scene to stand up so later the dolls can be moved around in front of the scene as the students have their doll tell a story

Students will color and dress one set each of paper dolls in contemporary style clothing and in traditional style clothing

Read or tell an Athabascan/Dene' legend (anthologies available from the ANE resource library through Library Media Services catalog - some suggested titles are listed below):

-Bakk'aatugh Ts'uhuniy: Stories We Live By, w/ teachers guide by Catherine Attla - 398.2 ATT

-Dena'ina Suku'a by Joan Tenenbaum - 398.2 DEN

-Sitsiy Yugh Noholnik Ts'in': As My Grandfather Told It, w/teachers guide by Catherine Attla - 398.2 ATT

Activity: (closure)

Students will integrate information from readings and stories into their play after completing coloring and cutting out the paper dolls

Activity: (independent practice)

Students will draw settings to surround their paper dolls, encourage them to look at the display of photos or set their dolls into a story that the visiting Elder may have told them or you have found in the ANE resource library.

Introduce students to the Athabascan ABC Coloring Book, they may find ideas to put into their background settings. When they have finished their background picture assign specific letters for them to continue coloring and the key words for them to practice their reading and writing skills.

click on images for a bigger graphic

Boy Paper Doll Stencil
Girl Paper Doll Stencil
Boy Paper Doll Stencil
Girl Paper Doll Stencil
Boy's Traditional Winter Clothing
Girl's Traditional Winter Clothing
Boy's Traditional Winter Clothing
Girl's Traditional Winter Clothing
Girl's Contemporary Clothing (dress)
Girl's Contemporary Clothing (pants)
Girl's Contemporary Clothing (dress)
Girl's Contemporary Clothing (pants)
Boy's Contemporary Clothing

Boy's Contemporary Clothing


Our Athabascan (Dene')

ABC's Coloring Book


A Athabascan languages of Interior Alaska.

B Beautiful birch bark baskets.

C Caches used to store foods.

D Drums drumming at celebrations.

E Elders deserve love and respect.

F Fishwheels that spin.

G Grandma and Grandpa, our favorite Elders.

H Hunting herds of caribou.

I Ice fishing is fun in winter.

J Jumping snowshoe hare we hope to trap.

K King salmon, our favorite fish!

L Lynx looking for dinner.

M Muskrats munch lake plants.

N Northern Lights dancing brightly.

O Owls making shadows in the night.

P Parkas keep us warm in winter.

Q Quills for sewing.

R Raven, the rowdy trickster.

S Snowshoes carry us on top of deep snow.

T Tracks animals leave behind for us to follow.

U Under the winter stars mushing is fun.

V Velvet protects the caribou's antlers as they grow.

W Water hauled from the river for drinking.

X Not found in the Gwich'in or Ft. Yukon dialect.

Y Yukon River, the interior highway.

Z Zero temperatures are a sign spring is coming.

ANE Curriculum Overview
Unit Overview



Athabascan Art Sampler


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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
Questions or comments?
Last modified August 17, 2006