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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
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Athabascan RavenAthabascan Winter Studies
The Dene'
Indigenous People of Interior

Kindergarten Unit

FNSBSD Alaska Native Education

Unit: Athabascan (Dene')
Winter Studies History and Daily Life Strand

Lesson: Winter camp activities

Day 5:

Students will learn several traditional Athabascan (Dene')games played by children and continue previous learning center activities.


Athabascan ABC Coloring Book

Same materials for day 4 learning centers

Materials for several games, refer to Some Alaskan Games resource booklet available in ANE curriculum resource materials in you school's library

Optional guest speaker to tell other stories and history


Students will discover what some Dene children do at winter camp, in the village or in town.

Students will learn and demonstrate at least one group and one individual Dene' game to demonstrate along with a Dene' winter story


Preview and select 1-4 games that are appropriate for your class, descriptions identify the culture, the game, the rules and equipment used

If more than one game is taught, consider mixing modalities to enhance learning.

Optional selection of story or topic for your guest speaker

Review background source material for work and recreational winter activities

Introduction: (set/purpose)

Add to the brainstorm or mind map; point out recreational activities they have seen or heard in the previous lessons and activities. These activities may include: singing and dancing, storytelling, dog racing, sledding, and other games. Ask what their favorite games are? Do they know any Athabascan games? Today we will learn some so you can play in the gym or on the playground.

Activity: (input)

Students will discuss what activities they might do at winter camp. This discussion will lead to what activities that might occur at a winter gathering or celebration. Discussion of celebrations or events such as Festival of Native Arts, Fiddler's Festival, winter carnivals in the villages or even basketball tournaments could be included at this time. Demonstration of how to play the Dene' game will be given to the students. Games were played to enhance their large/fine motor skills, strength coordination, and endurance.

Specifically discuss some games children did in winter camp, they include:

-Running, races

-Balance work and play

-Use of toys as, tools, learning for later work or survival activities, i.e., toy spears, dolls, hoops and physical games that strengthen young bodies and minds to living in the harsh interior environment, refer to teacher background materials:

*Athabascan Winter Camp handout

*Athabascan Transitions, Kutchin or Gwich'in Games, pg. 26 &27

*"Some Alaskan Games,"#s




Activity: (guided practice)

Instruct students how to play the games you select and proper use of equipment if applicable

Select students in the class to demonstrate each of the games

Reinforce or model behavior you want when they play independently in learning center

Activity: (closure)

Encourage students to continue playing games in learning centers and to play same games during recess.

Students stress playing elements that reinforce survival skills not just competition for the sake of competing. (Some of the biographies share stories of Elders who practices skills such as running for the joy of it and later it influenced who they married because it indicated they were potentially good husbands, ones who could make a good living,--(re: Goodwin Semakan).

Activity: (independent practice)

Break students into learning center groups and rotate each group at regular intervals

Students will practice speaking Dene' words / phrases / expressions using word cards, language master or audio tape in one learning center

Students will practice writing selected Dene' words on lined sheets and later rewrite directly to their coloring book pages on the line provided

Students will color assigned additional pages in one center

Students will play or make elements of winter camp activities or animals hunted, elements could include:

-Moose, caribou, beaver, sled dog

-Cache, log or tent house, sled, fiddle

-Stuffed people dolls or paper dolls on a flannel board or drawn construction paper scene(s)




MATERIALS- One stout stick about nine inches long

PLAYERS- Any number


The players divide into two rows facing each other. One player holds the stick. A player from the other side challenges him by grabbing the free end of the stick. If this player is able to return to his own side with the stick, he is challenged in turn by an-other player. If he does not succeed, another player from his side challenges the one holding the stick. No score is kept.



MATERIALS- One short pointed stick for each player

PLAYERS- Any number


A player grabs a stick in his hand. Starting from a particular place, he jumps landing on both feet. He then jumps again land-ing on one foot. His other foot must not touch the ground. He then hops forward landing on the same foot. He then reaches as far forward as he can and stabs his stick into the ground being careful not to lose his balance or to touch his other foot to the ground. Each player does this in turn. In the next go-around, the player leaves his stick in the ground until he completes his last hop. He then picks up his stick and moves it ahead, it he thinks he can reach further than before.



MATERIALS- Two stout sticks about three inches long attached to each other with a short length of rope.

PLAYERS- Two at a time


Two players sit on the floor or ground facing each other. They put the soles of their feet against each other. Each person holds one of the sticks firmly in both hands. They pull against each other until one is pulled up.



MATERIALS- One ball made of willows. One stick for each child, made of wil-low branch with short pieces of branches left on. The stick is attached to a long piece of babiche with a short piece of wood on the end.

PLAYERS- One to ten


The ball is thrown into the current of a river or stream. The players run along shore and throw their stick at the ball trying to hook it with one of the short branches. The player holds onto the short piece of wood and the end of the string. If the child hooks the ball, he pulls it back to shore and the game starts over. No score is kept.

NOTE: McKennan refers to this game as "Nehiluk"



MATERIALS- A skull of some small animal (rabbit, squirrel) attached to a stick or piece of bone with a piece of string about eighteen inches long.

PLAYERS- One at a time


The player swings the skull into the air and attempts to impale it on the stick by means of one of the natural openings, such as an eye socket. There are no rules or score.

NOTE: This type of game is found in every society.


(Game information was put together by the Fort Yukon Museum)

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
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Last modified August 17, 2006