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

Kindergarten Unit

FNSBSD Alaska Native Education

Unit: Athabascan (Dene')
Winter Family Activities Daily and contemporary Life Strand

Lesson: Traditional Athabascan (Dene') Foods

Day 8:

Students will identify various traditional foods Dene' people gathered, stored, cooked and eaten during the winter


Cut out/display pictures of interior Alaska animals and plants, used as food, in natural state and after processing and storage, you can include salmon, moose, caribou, bear, berries, birch, ptarmigan, geese, whitefish, beaver, muskrat, porcupine etc.

Pictures of traps, nets, and other methods used to gather food

Pictures of how foods were stored, cooked and prepared, traditional and contemporary forms, ie from caches to canned salmon, (Data Sheet: Traditional Athabascan Adaptations')

Make copies of paper birch basket, one for each student

Learning center materials from previous days

Optional food that can be shared with students, such as commercially smoked fish, pilot bread, berries or have a parent make fry bread

Authentic birch basket(s), available for check-out from ANE


Students will learn what foods were gathered, stored and eaten by the Dene'.

Students will practice language, coloring, cutting and cooperating skills.


Make copies of Boiling Stones and Containers data sheets

Adjust learning center stations to include fish preparation play

Maintain language, coloring book pages, paper dolls, and writing stations and video/storytelling station

Select Athabascan coloring ABC Book pages related to foods

Review Athabascan reference materials available in library

Bring or make a paper or real closed basket like container and stones

Introduction: (set/purpose)

Ask the students how the Athabascans and other Native people cooked their food without metal pot and pans? Feedback and responses, "let me show you one way that worked very well in the interior of Alaska."

Demonstrate, with or pretend materials, heating cooking water with boiling stones. If you have the resources of a heat source and a basket that can get wet, this method is good to do an actual demonstration.

If you pretend, explain hot rocks from a hot fire were rinsed off and then placed in a water-tight container until the water was hot enough to cook the food. You can use rocks from a pretend fire and place them in the basket container, or if you have a real set-up, (stove to heat rocks), it is fun to time how long it takes the water to boil.

Explain that today we will make a (paper) watertight basket to be used for cooking. (additional basket patterns and instructions can be found in ANE third grade Dene' lesson unit booklet, pg 17C)

 Activity: (input)

Continue presenting and review information on what foods were eaten, game, animals, plant resources with comparison to traditional and contemporary foods eaten today

Add a discussion about the respect for animals/plants and the care to insure food is prepared carefully so it did not spoil and be wasted

-Respect is still demonstrated for the resources by not wasting, specific rules about cutting and preserving the food


-Hunters did not say they were going out to hunt a bear because the bear might hear them talking and avoid being captured

-In some areas fish and game are cleaned always with the right hand, and you are not supposed to get both hands really messy when cleaning them

-All parts of the animal are used, tendons for sinew, bones for tools, toys and cook pots, skins for clothing, or babiche and sled lacings, etc

 Activity: (guided practice)

-Handout copies of paper birch bark basket, explain that this was a resource that was easily available, durable, and light so it complemented the traditional lifestyle well.

-Real birch bark baskets are available for check out from Alaska Native Education's Cultural Arts Program, contact the coordinator or the instructional aide in the Alaska Room to check-out a basket

-Students will cut-out a simplified version of our paper baskets, they will need to cut, and paste or glue along the dotted lines Instructions are included with the handout

-Students can color the backs of the basket, they will not be lacing with spruce or willow roots or yarn, they do that later

-Optional addition is to have the students prepare some imitation product to place in their baskets, i.e. beads for berries etc.

 Activity: (closure)

Students will return to learning centers to work on language activities, copy language onto assigned coloring page of coloring books, play center with paper dolls, with the addition food preparation activities

Food learning center, provide cooking rocks and other utensils, empty canned salmon containers, rice, frozen blueberry box, pilot bread crackers box, and their dry fish, something to look like moose or caribou meat, larger imitation birch baskets you make

-Pretend cooking center menu, canned salmon and crackers, rice or potatoes, cut-up boiled dry fish, roast meat and berries for desert

 Activity: (independent practice)

Students rotate into learning centers

Work in their Athabascan ABC Coloring Book

Practice their Dene' words/phrases/expressions by using the word cards to work alone or in a small group for practice

Play cooking and food preparation

Listen or tell stories, one child could play the Elder who is the storyteller with paper doll acting as the children

Play with paper fish

ANE Curriculum Overview
Unit Overview



Athabascan Art Sampler


Go to University of AlaskaThe University of Alaska Fairbanks is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and educational institution and is a part of the University of Alaska system.


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