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

I˝upiaq RavenIñupiat Ioitqusiat

A Special Publication of Alaska Newspapers Inc.

"Those things that make us who we are"

Portrait of a People - By the People
Originally a supplement to The Arctic Sounder

Kamaksrioiq Utuqqanaanik
Respect for Elders

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The Elders get respect from young people because of their knowledge. Elders get respect for what they do to help teach young people.

The young people show respect by listening when the Elders speak about the old ways. The young people should always try to help the Elders whenever they need it.

We also need the Elders to provide us with leadership. Without their leadership and wisdom, the old ways of the Inupiaq would be lost.

Whittier Burns


What does “respecting your Elders” mean?
Janice Mills

Respecting the Elders in your village means many things. People show respect to their Elders by helping them when they need it. For example, we chop wood for them, clean their houses, visit them and go to the store if they need groceries.
They teach us how to sew, make sleds, how to hunt and trap and the best places to get wood.

Respecting your Elders means helping and learning.Article End

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Respect for Elders
Photo courtesy of Hannah Loon/NANA

Why Elders are Respected
Dawn Schaeffer

The Elders are respected because they deserve it. They worked hard for their Elders so we should work hard for them.

This tradition of helping has to be passed along through the generations. If younger kids see me helping the Elders, they will want to help them, too.

The Elders should teach us what they have learned so we will always remember them for what they did.Article End

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The Village of NOATAK

Watching and learning
To be kind and help others
Respect their knowledge

Justin Schaeffer

Respect your Elders
Elders provide leadership
Bring back Inupiaq ways

Trina Kowunna

I need help because
work is getting hard
It is good to be an Elder because
I like to see the smiles
I like it when young people help me
I would like to see young people
learn the ways of old

Johnson Booth Jr.

A long time ago
We learn how to hunt and seine
Are these days gone now?

Vernon Adams Jr.

I try to help Elders whenever
they need help
I obey and never argue
with the Elders
I respect and listen to every Elder I know

Vernon Adams Jr.

I like the smiles on young
people when they help us
Thank God for long life
l am glad to be old

Jim Adams

Watching and learning
Hauling water, chopping wood
Helping the Elders

Janice Mills

Work together; listen to
Obey and never fight with
old people
Hope to have long
life yourself

Whittier Burns

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Minnie Gray
Photo by Crystal Tickett, Ambler

Trina Kowunna

Elders pass on the traditions of the old days. They provide leadership through their love and the honor they give to our traditions. Elders show their love and caring to us and we show our love and respect to them.

The women Elders teach young women how to sew parkas. The men Elders teach young men how to make sleds.

Now the Elders are saying that these days are different. We use chainsaws instead of axes; we have running water instead of having to haul water. Some traditions are getting lost and no one can help that. Even the traditional skills the Elders show us today are different from the ones they learned as children.Article End

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What is there were no more Elders?
Photo by Crystal Tickett, Ambler

What if there were no more Elders?
Justin Schaeffer

If there were no Elders left in the village, what would we do and what would it be like?

We would probably act differently—like never listening to our parents or never showing respect to others. With no one to pass on traditions, we wouldn’t know how to live.

Our lives would be different if there were no Elders. Our language would disappear because the Elders speak it most. They teach the younger generations and that generation will teach the next.

Without the Elders, nothing would be the same.Article End


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Table of Contents



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Last modified October 19, 2006