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

Curriculum Resources for the Alaskan Environment

Subject Areas: science, history, English

Timeline: two to four months

Grade Levels: 7-12

Purpose: to learn Inupiaq, common, and scientific names of local medicinal plants; to use scientific method while increasing knowledge of traditional health care


Sharon Moore
Medicinal Plants



Square bullet Activities

  • Decide what types of information to record (Inupiaq name, common name, description of plant, how and when plant is collected, preparation, and medicinal uses of plant).
  • Interview village members about medicinal plants.
  • Sponsor field trips to collect plants. Not all plants will be collected in the same season. Collect enough plants to prepare according to directions and to dry and press for display.
  • Prepare medicine following directions students recorded during interviews. Students should record observations of plant before and after preparation. The plant can be described in several ways: size, color of flowers, leaf shape, odor, habitat, taste, and medicinal use. Changes in odor, texture, and color during preparation of medicine should also be noted. 
  • Use reference books (if available) to identify scientific names of plants. 
  • Display the information and use as a curriculum resource.

Square bullet Resources

  • community members
  • botany text
  • (1976). Timimum Manirrutit. Kotaebue, AK: Mauneluk Cultural Heritage Program. Contains interviews in Inupiaq and English with several knowledgeable elders from the NANA region discussing traditional uses of plants and animals for medicine. $1 from Mauneluk's Tribal Doctor Program
  • Heller, Christine. (1976). Wild Edible and Poisonous Plants of Alaska. Fairbanks, AK: Cooperative Extension Service. Contains descriptions, but limited to edible and poisonous plants. $1
  • Heller, Christine. (1966). Wild Flowers of Alaska. Anchorage, AK: Heller Enterprises. Has color pictures but lacks descriptions of plants
  • Hulten, Eric. (1968). Flora of Alaskan and Neighboring Territories. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Expensive, but is an excellent resource for a school or district library. $50
  • Smith, G. Warren. (1973, December). Arctic pharmacognosia. ARCTIC: Journal of the Arctic Institute of North America, 26(4)
  • other books and references may be available; remember that these are only a secondary source of information to supplement information gained from community members


  • Publish the information and make it available to other schools, Native regional corporations, museums, or tourist centers.
  • Expand the project to include plants used for food.
  • Use photographs or drawings instead of dried plants.


Village Map and Directory

Land Selection

Local Weather Station

Star Mapping

6" Newtonian Reflecting Telescope Construction

Planetarium Construction

Investigation of Snow Melting

Insulation Experiments: Cardboard Boxes/Snow-Fenced Houses

Durable, Energy-Efficient Homes

Practical Application of Alternative Energy System

Solar Energy Uses

Construction of School/Community Facilities

Bush Shop or How to Learn Carpentry Without Wood

Basic Home Maintenance

Snowmachine Maintenance

Glider Construction (Aviation Shop)

Subsistence Tool Construction

Operating a Trapline, Subsistence Trapline, or Subsistence Net

Survival Skills

Heritage Campout

Netting Fish Efficiently

Natural History

Study of a Food Resource

Effects of Diet on Mice or Rats

Medicinal Plants

Farming the Sea

Summer Marine Science Program

Vegetable Gardening

Greenhouse Construction and Gardening

Chicken Farming

Water Usage Study

Garbage Disposal

Village Dogs

Fire Safety



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