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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 Language, Contemporary Life, and Art Strands

Lesson: Traditional Celebration Activities

Day 9:

Students will learn a traditional Athabascan (Dene') song and dance similar to what would be performed during a winter gathering.


guest speaker/singer or video, "Hitting Sticks Healing Hearts," an Athabascan video about memorial potlatches, review and find a section that discusses or demonstrates songs

audio tape of Athabascan celebration songs and dance motion descriptions

Athabascan drum and stick, available for check-out from ANE Alaska Room


Students will learn at least one Athabascan song commonly performed at area potlatches.

Student will practice language, coloring, writing and cooperation skills.


Request and schedule a resource artist/singer from ANE

Order audio tape, and optional video from library media, will contain 4 separate songs, one for each grade level K-3

Make copies of dance motion and background student handout page

Reserve Athabascan drum and stick from Alaska Room instructional aide (only 2 available for check-out)

Optional read introduction and Koyukon Riddles for background information on elements and use of riddles (further information is available in Folklore Booklet, by Richard Dauenhauer available in ANE Curriculum resource materials from your librarian)

 Introduction: (set/purpose)

Cue/play audio to the song the students will be learning. Have the students imagine they are at winter camp again and they are preparing to break camp. Each family will be going to their own spring camps to hunt muskrats or trade their winter take of furs. Their friends and relatives are preparing for a dance celebration to give thanks for everyone surviving the long winter.

After playing the song explain they will be learning a traditional Athabascan song and dance that may have been performed as a welcome to those who came to their winter celebration or gathering, or to celebrate the end of winter camp as a means to greet the beginning of spring. This can be taught by a guest speaker, tape or a video of an Athabascan Elder/resource artist singing.

A demonstration of how to dance will be given to the students prior to their learning the song via singer, audio or video tape.

 Activity: (input)

Discussion of what traditional activities children do at the end of winter
-Subsistence activities, accompany parents on trapline and check beaver and muskrat traps, and ice fishing lines

-Repair equipment to prepare for moving to spring camps

Discussion of what activities would be at the end of the Dene' winter camp or winter camp celebration

Instruction will be given to sing an Athabascan children's song and dance

Re-read story(s) from previous days

Optional--share one or two easier winter prose riddles with students from "Koyukon Riddles Booklet" such as:

-I drag my shovel on the trail.--a beaver

-We come upstream in a red canoe.--red salmon

Optional-- for riddle activity select a single topic and help students create a class riddle so that can other classes in grade level can be quizzed on their original riddle


Optional Extended Activity:

Break students into groups with a parent volunteer or classroom aide to create additional riddles, you will need to select a topic; for instance, choose an animal for them to brainstorm ideas for a riddle i.e. raven, sled, dog, etc.

Activity: (guided practice)

After listening to the Dene' audio or video tapes of singing and dancing, or receiving instruction from a resource artist, students will practice singing and dancing in one of the learning centers with either the A-V equipment and parent volunteer or the resource artist to help

Outline student behavior expectations for participating in singing and dancing center

Learning center rotations will be similar to previous days with the inclusion of traditional singing and dancing center

Assign/rotate students to small groups for learning centers

Activity: (closure)

Students will quickly learn the motion of the dance and they will be able to share the general interpretation to the motions and provide a general translation or explanation about the meaning of the song.

Activity: (independent practice)

Practice their Dene' words/phrases/expressions

Practice song and dance

Continue family role plays with food activities in a cooking learning center or in the tent if it is located in your classroom

Play selected Athabascan games

Add and delete learning centers as student complete tasks and/or gain proficiency with activities

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