This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner Home Page About ANKN Publications Academic Programs Curriculum Resources Calendar of Events Announcements Site Index This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner This is part of the ANKN Banner
Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide

Contemporary Needs of the Native Teachers:
The Formations of the Native
Teacher Associations in Alaska

Association of the Interior Native Educators: AINE
Association of the Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim: ANELK
Ciulistet Research Association: CRA
North Slope Inupiat Educators Association: NSIEA
Southeast Alaska Native Educators Association: SANEA

Table of Contents

Review of Literature

Master Project Introduction

Native Teacher Associations Mini-Case Studies

Association of the Interior Native Educators-AINE
AINE map
AINE bylaws
AINE IEC resolution
AINE brochures
AINE newsletters
Association of the Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim-ANELK
ANELK bylaws
Ciulistet Research Association-CRA
CRA map
CRA bylaws
CRA brochure
North Slope Inupiat Educators Association-NSIEA
NSIEA bylaws
Southeast Alaska Native Educators Association-SANEA
SANEA bylaws
SANEA newsletter

Master Project Summary


The Rural Educator Preparation Partnership Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks thanks Lenora “Lolly” Carpluk for her permission to provide this reprint of her master’s degree project to the students who will be completing the REPP intern program in order to receive a teaching certificate from the State of Alaska Department of Education. Her research into meeting the needs of contemporary Native educators through the vehicle provided by Native teacher associations is an important piece of information that all teachers will find invaluable in their careers in Alaska’s public schools.

Ms. Carpluk is the editor of “Sharing Our Pathways,” the newsletter of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. You may contact her as follows:

Lolly Carpluk
The Alaska Native Knowledge Network
106 Harper Building
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730
phone: (907) 474-5086
fax: (907) 474-5208


It was my hope, when I began the research into the formation of the Native teacher associations, that my master’s project would be useful to those who found themselves in similar situations. I am humbled and honored that there is a request for copies of my project to be shared with others across the state.

This research packet is divided into two parts. The first is the review of literature which presents other work that was done along the development of support groups. The second is the actual master’s project, which are mini case studies of each of the five formally organized Native teacher associations in Alaska. I take responsibility for any mistakes that may exist.

I am grateful to those people who gave of their time to share their struggles, frustrations and accomplishments so that others may gain from their experiences and go forward. It is their giving that makes it a better world for others.

Lenora “Lolly” Carpluk

Review of Literature

Contemporary Needs of Native Teachers:
The Formations of the Native Teacher
Associations in Alaska

Synthesizing Paper

In partial fulfillment of the requirements for a
Master’s degree in Education
at the
University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Lenora “Lolly” Carpluk
April 30, 1997
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK. 99775

Contemporary Needs of Native Teachers:
The Formations of the Native Teacher Associations in Alaska

This is a synthesizing paper that includes a review of literature that is relevant to my research project, in which I plan to write up mini-case studies on the formation of the Native teacher associations in Alaska. The research project will examine the needs and reasons for the formation of Native teacher associations which are a form of cultural subcommunities. This paper outlines the background for the study, gives an overview of the method of research and concludes with a review of related research.

Background for the Proposed Research

After I received my undergraduate degree and before I received my secondary certification, I had three jobs that were education related; two with postsecondary institutions and one with a rural school district. All three jobs involved extensive travel to rural schools.

In the two postsecondary positions I held, I worked directly with Native college students, most of whom were teacher aides seeking certification. The year prior to my returning to the university for a secondary certification, I worked as a Native Studies Specialist. My job was to find ways to incorporate Yup’ik cultural themes into the thematic units of the school district’s social studies curriculum, beginning at the Kindergarten level on up to the twelfth grade. In this year long position, I fought with my non-Native supervisor in requesting for necessary items for the program to continue. He made my job harder with the lack of understanding, support and respect in regards to incorporating the local culture into the school curriculum. I had no one to turn to for support, no one who understood the struggles and frustrations I was going through as a Yup’ik educator. I kept my anger within, with the exception of memos written to my supervisor, with copies sent to the superintendent, in which I got little support. The program continued, but I left after one year in that position.

After having received my secondary certification, I was hired as a long-term substitute to teach a self-contained seventh grade class for three months. Again I was alone in dealing with the unique problems I faced in my situation as a teacher who was from the community, yet formally educated to teach in the schools.

Following that position, I stayed home for eight years raising my three children, but I also substituted for grades K-12 during those years. The year before we decided to move to Fairbanks I applied for a teaching position within the district. I was not asked to come in for an interview. I was not notified as to what decision was reached, at a much later date I asked what was my status. I did not get formal notification or a letter of courtesy informing me of their decision. I wanted to stay current with the teaching methods, so I applied for a special education teacher aide position that opened up. I was hired as a teacher aide for one year and yet I had a secondary teaching certificate. There were two Native teachers but there was hardly any interaction amongst us as Native teachers.

As I returned back to my old stomping grounds at the University and later entered a graduate program, I had some very important support groups. The first was a core group of Native graduate students, who were seasoned rural teachers, with the overall goal of graduating and returning to teach in the villages. There were many opportunities for us to discuss rural educational issues in relation to the graduate courses we were taking. It was a relief to be able to share thoughts, experiences and concerns with like-minded colleagues, we didn’t have to explain in detail our situations at home because we each knew (in general) the setting, people and the similarity of our experiences in dealing with the schools. Yet we shared the same frustrations that the education of our Native students could be a lot better.

A second support group were a few professors who had multiple cross-cultural experiences, they shared some common experiences with us, and most importantly, they respected and valued our opinions. They provided many opportunities for us to freely express our ways of knowing and thinking. This was and is very much an integral part of our growth, first of all as human beings, and secondly, as members of a parallel culture with our own world view and ways of knowing.

In the four and a half years that I have been here, I was asked to participate in the formation of a Native teacher association, that began as a support group and continues in that capacity for those concerned with rural and Native education. I also participated in two other already established Native teacher associations either as a participant or as a presenter at their workshops or conferences. The rewards of each the experiences was overwhelming. To be with other teachers who expressed the same concerns, who had similar frustrating teaching experiences or personal “run-ins” with unsupportive administrators and who had visions of another way of teaching or visions of parallel curriculum, was the beginning of an exciting exchange of issues important to us as Native teachers.

As I reflect back on my struggles with teaching: the isolated feeling of being the only one with this kind of experience, wanting to make changes, thinking there has to be a better way and basically receiving no support for the unique positions we, as Native teachers, were in. I know there are still Native teachers out there who are in the position I was in twelve years ago. They do not need to be in that position; they need to know of the associations that have formed that will give them the support they need, the assurance that their “original’’ ideas on culture-based curriculum is on the right track and that there is research done by Indigenous educators that is supportive of who they are as Indigenous educators.

As I reviewed the research in the field of indigenous education, it was heartening to know that indigenous educators have begun to share’ from their perspective, their schooling experiences and how they see the world differently than what their schooling experiences taught them. This growing body of literature that is being published on indigenous world view and ways of knowing is a new field. Education is an important area where Indigenous peoples are finding “new ways of schooling, as they struggle to balance the two great purposes of being full participants in the contemporary world while living out their essential identities as Indian, Eskimo, or Aboriginal” (Lipka 1).

Overview of the Research Methodology

In my research project I plan to write up mini-case studies of each of the established Native teacher associations, so that they may be used as guidelines for those interested in forming their own or to provide more information to those who are may be potential members. My methodology will include informal interviews, participant-observation and journal notes from Native educator panel presentations. The following basic introductory questions will be asked:

1) What is the name of your association?
2) Why did you form an association?
3) Who are your membership?
4) What are the association activities?
5) Who do we contact for more information?
6) What message would you like to share with others?

Review of Literature

I review the literature which defines the foundations of Indigenous peoples’ culture and world view and then I provide examples of cultural subcommunities. I begin with a holistic approach of describing culture and world view. I, then, examine the notion of the culture of power, evolving identity and cultural renewal movements. I, then, focus on international, national, state and local examples of sustaining cultural subcommunities, so that the place of cultural subcommunities will be better understood in comparison to the “big picture.” De Mello, who coordinated the First Nations community development course at University of British Columbia, uses the term subcommunities to mean “an environment of mutual support” (18).

I begin with a review of the big picture and move to subcommunities because I believe everything is interrelated. I am a Yup’ik person, parent, teacher and community member, and I reviewed the literature from my perspective in these different roles. Harris, in introductory statements on Indigenous bicultural education, shares the view that the aboriginal people see everything as interrelated in the following statement, “. . within the Aboriginal society, there is a high interrelationship between people, the environment and social institutions, as opposed to the Western compartmentalised system. For example, an Aboriginal person could not discuss land ownership, kinship affiliations, or religious practice without simultaneously discussing all three” (142). For me to begin to better understand what makes my Yup’ik cultural identity an integral part of me, it is important to begin from the holistic view.

In the Beginning: Culture and World View

The word culture is hard to define for many people, and for the definitions that abound there are many variations. In a presentation, during the 1995 20th Annual Bilingual Multi-Cultural Conference, John Pingayak (a Cup’ik educator) shared his “best possible definition of culture,”

A culture is the way of life that a group of people learns and that it teaches to its children. Every culture has 1) Its set of values, 2) Its family organizations, 3) Its ways of meeting needs and wants, 4) Its way of sharing ideas with one another, 5) Its way of governing itself and 6) Its ways of expressing its artistic feelings. . .Cuuyaraq-The way of the human being (1).

Every society or group of people, whether Euro-American, with Scottish, Irish, Swedish, German or Italian ancestry, or Indigenous such as Maori in New Zealand, Inuit in Canada, Navajo in the Lower 48, or Yup’ik, Inupiaq, Athabascan, Aleut, Tlingit, Tsimshian or Haida in Alaska, has developed its own way of life and its own way of looking at the world. Kawagley in his dissertation, gives a description of world view:

A world view consists of the principles we acquire to make sense of the world around us. These principles, including values, traditions and customs are learned by youngsters from myths, legends, stories, family, community and examples set by community leaders.
. . . Once a world view has been formed, the people are able to identify themselves as a unique people. Thus, the world view enables its possessors to make sense of the world around them, make their artifacts to fit their world, generate behavior, and interpret their experiences (6).

Annahatak’s, an Inuit, historical description of her people provides another perspective on world view, “The old legends, myths and stories of Canadian Inuit are an indication of the length of time we have been here, long before the first explorers, whalers, traders, and others came” (14). The myths, stories, and legends have been passed down from their ancestors’ world view.

To have culture and world view defined by Indigenous authors and educators provides an important and necessary Indigenous perspective. When a group of people learn a way of life that is different from the Western society, misunderstandings about each other frequently occur as they come into contact.

Contact: Strain in the relationship

Each culture develops its world view-one which responds to and is unique to the group’s environment, leaders, and experiences. For example, a 1974 Yupiit Yutait poster put together by a school in the Alaskan village of St. Mary’s states, “Every Yup’ik is responsible to all other Yup’ik for survival of our cultural spirit, and the values and traditions through which it survives.” The poster has a list of the Yup’ik values and there are many similarities with the values of Indigenous peoples around the world:

• Love for children
• Respect for others
• Sharing
• Humility
• Hard work
• Spirituality
• Cooperation
• Family roles
• Knowledge of family tree
• Knowledge of language
• Hunter success
• Domestic skills
• Avoid conflict
• Humor
• Respect for tribe
• Respect for land
• Respect for nature

When two cultural groups with vastly differing world views and values come into contact with one another, strain or tension often develops in the relationship. There is a great deal of historical documentation about the positive and negative impacts in the US of the “meeting” of European and Indigenous people, Maori and British in New Zealand, French, British and Inuit in Canada.

The tensions that put a strain in the relationship between two cultural groups with differing world views and values touch every aspect of life, and more so, I think, for the Indigenous peoples. Annahatak describes this tension for Inuit today, “The tensions that young Inuit, and even we as adults, live through in this time of culture and language contact with another culture are tremendous. There are tensions related to Inuit values versus institutional values, traditional activities versus current activities, obedience versus originality, Inuit world view versus mainstream world view, and modern cultural tools versus traditional knowledge. . . . (13).

The main and most common values that have caused tension and clash between the European or Western and Indigenous peoples have been: individualism versus cooperation, pro-development and exploitation of resources versus respect for nature and conservation, and humility versus public demonstration of competence and validating knowledge.

Although there has been some “bending” of world view by non-Indigenous people, the field of formal education is an arena where changes have been especially slow in coming. This is an area of utmost importance because schooling is legally required and a process of education is necessary in each society, be it Indigenous or Western. Historically the Western society’s educational system has been forced on Indigenous people and the power of the Western world view becomes evident in classrooms.

Point of View: Culture of Power/dominant versus minority

Delpit, an African-American educator, “uses the debate over process-oriented versus skills-oriented writing instruction as the starting-off point to examine the theme ‘culture of power’, that exists in society in general and in the educational environment in particular” (280). She describes five aspects of power and the first three are listed below:

1. Issues of power are enacted in classrooms. The power of an individual or group to determine another’s intelligence or ‘normalcy’,

2. There are codes or rules for participating in power; that is, there is a ‘culture of power’. The codes or rules I’m speaking of relate to linguistic forms, communicative strategies, and presentation of self; that is, ways of writing, ways of dressing, and ways of interacting and,

3. The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power (282-283).

The standards or criteria or categories that one culture sets for others in relation to themselves is evident in an article written by Ogbu on variation in minority student performance. In his discussion of the theories of minority school failures, he develops a typology of minorities in the United States:

I have identified three types of minorities in cross-cultural studies. One is autonomous minorities. These people who are in the minorities primarily in a numerical sense. Immigrant minorities are the second type. These people who have moved more or less voluntarily to the United States. The third are castelike or involuntary minorities. . . people who were originally brought into United States society involuntarily through slavery, conquest, or colonization. . . such as American Indians, and Native Hawaiians are examples (320-321).

The placement of Indigenous peoples in the involuntary minority category is another generalization for Alaska Native people. However, Barnhardt, in her dissertation, states that, “Native Americans, and Alaska Natives specifically, need to be recognized as distinctive from other minority groups in the United States” (10).

Although formal schooling was forced on Indigenous people and there were strong pressures to assimilate and acculturate, most Indigenous people continue to hold on to at least some of their own way of life and world view. However, there were beginnings of living within the two worlds that were a part of them.

Evolving Third Reality: Evolving Culture/Identity

The pressures put on Indigenous people mainly, to assimilate and acculturate, because of forced participation in the Western educational system have been resisted with varying degrees of success.

Annahatak tells her personal story of bridging two worlds as a family member and an educator. She describes in her own words the process of evolving as a member of her Inuit culture, “The contact of two cultures, that of Inuit and of my time with the Western cultures, has had both positive and negative impacts on the evolution of our society. During the time of trying to sort out my conflicts, as I drew a diagram on the evolution of Inuit society, I came to understand that it is a value in my culture to accept and negotiate change. Things evolve in time” (13-15).

Harris, an anthropology educator, presents an additional perspective, “A bicultural model of schooling probably needs to recognise that all bicultural people actually live in three shifting social worlds: (a) elements of an old or “traditional” world--their. first culture of identity; (b) a middle culture/third culture/creole culture--the strongly evolving culture of mixture, amalgam, compromise and give and take; and (c) the national, mass culture” (148).

There are only a few articles authored by Indigenous individuals who speak to the issue of living in two worlds and/or describe the conflict inherent in developing an identity in today’s world. Stairs uses the following quote from Malinowski which speaks to this issue, “We have found that the two cultural orders meet, impinge on each other, and produce a third cultural reality” (165). The words “third cultural reality” have struck a cord with some Indigenous educators who have published their stories of struggle as they relate to issues of identity.

A Maori woman, Rangimarie Parata writes about the struggles of living in both worlds, “I have since learnt it is very tiring and less effective to keep jumping from one world to the other. I have discovered I do not need to compromise one for the other. By pulling the best out of both worlds I am able to make a greater contribution and be much more rounded and developed person. I have my feet firmly planted in both worlds and am still learning as much as I can from each” (75).

An Inupiaq newspaper columnist, Tetpon, states frankly, “Native people cling to their own values and their own world views. As far as I can tell, we will never change who we are, no matter how hard someone else’s ideas and concepts are drilled into our hearts and minds” (N3).

Lucy Jones-Sparck, a Cup’ik educator, discusses this complex issue in the following quote:

By abiding by the Western ways, which are different from the Native cultural ways they are walking in two worlds. This type of walking in two worlds has become a negative way of living. So, what does it mean to walk to walk in one world? First of all, all men walk in this one world. However, members of long-standing cultures in the different parts of the world have a way of operating their daily lives according to how they understand life. These operations are of their own making which give them a base to incorporate new ideas, into and out of that base. This base is one with the members. It gives them their self-identity and their self-esteem. The Alaskan Natives are such cultural people. They had a base for living. Every new discovery and realization was incorporated and/or accommodated into or from the cultural base, therefore being made understandable or useful by their own making it so (2).

The importance of being grounded in your own culture to begin with and then adapting to contacts with other cultures is the theme that permeates Jones-Sparck’s discussion on the issue of living in two worlds. She summarizes by quoting an elder, the late Joseph Friday of Chevak, “Get to know yourself as a whole, knowing and living your culture, then you can adopt and adapt to anything new” (3). In Jones-Sparck’ s own words, “The Alaska Native cultures, the people can define the elements of living the way they understand them to be, the way of their culture, a world of their own making” (3).

The importance of “the past leading to the present” in the Indigenous cultures is stressed because it “will give a sense of continuity and strength, a sense of place where one is walking in one world and feel okay (4). In a book of essays written by Maori people there are similar statements, “But to be true to the Maori understanding of time where the past, the present and the future are all part of a continuum” (53). In a video put out by New Zealand Broadcasting, the focus is on the Maori people as they revive language and culture, “To be Maori is to share the world in which you live with your extended family and ancestors but secure in the knowledge that you share with them a continuos path into the sunrise” (1985)

A common theme for these authors is that Indigenous people need to first be grounded in their culture and secondly, they need to make a world of their own-a third reality.

Asserting: Cultural renewal movements/grassroots movements

The mainstream society’s stereotypes and misinterpretations of people who have another way of looking at the world have provided ample ammunition for resistance and protests by Indigenous people all over the world, especially in the area of education. In the last twenty years, Indigenous people have become involved in grassroots movements to revive language, culture and identity or in efforts to negotiate the culture of schooling. These movements by Indigenous people are evident in the areas of land claims, subsistence, language revival, curriculum relevancy, control of schools and maintenance of support or affinity groups such as urban youth programs, women’s groups, teacher study groups, cultural groups, etc.

For example, on the issue of language revival, we can look at what has happened in the country of New Zealand, in the words of Maxwell, who was active in the language revival movement, “The decline of the Maori language amongst young Maori has been the special concern, this concern was vehemently articulated by a new generation of well educated and angry young Maori. Their anger stemmed from their own cultural deprivation. Many could not speak Maori, many did not fully understand Maori values and belief systems. What made these people special was they had been educated to the point where they understood the processes of colonisation and cultural repression” (2).

Smith, a Maori woman, stated that from these protests, there was a flurry of “educational changes which have arisen from the aspirations of Maori communities” (62). Some of the changes were in rebuilding of Maraes-community house, assembling art exhibitions, building language nests and providing support programs for urban Maori youth.

Movements in Canada and the United States by Indigenous people have also focused on language revival, cultural renewal, control of schools, culturally relevant curriculum development, etc. Barnhardt, in her dissertation, shares a quote from Turoa Royal who summarized the sentiment of many of the participants who attended the International Conference on Higher Education and Indigenous Peoples in Anchorage in May of 1993, “I thought Maori people were the only ones that had these problems, but I find the issues that confront us are shared by the world. We have a commonality of challenges” (14).

Most of these resistance movements started with a few concerned people, and some of the movements have led to significant changes for Indigenous people. Generally the reasons behind the movements began with concerns in education; Indigenous children not doing well in schools, or after graduation, loss of language, culture or identity and not getting respect and acceptance for being bilingual and bicultural and for knowing another way of life.

Examples of Indigenous-based Cultural Subcommunities

In this section I will describe some cultural subcommunities, and examine some of the issues that brought them together. I use the term “subcommunities” to refer to common interest groups that have formed around specific issues or some commonalities of interest. I include examples from international, national, state and local cultural subcommunities.

Movements usually developed by and for groups referred to as: special interest groups, support groups, affinity groups or subcommunities. Smith says groups usually developed to, “provide a caring environment “(67). Barnhardt noted that groups “had a sense of responsibility for one another that led to collaborative efforts to work with and support one another” (228). Lipka, in his work with the Yup’ik teachers stated that the group effort “established a zone of safety-a nurturing environment for change” (266). In De Mello’s sense they “created an environment of mutual support” (18) for their members.

Barnhardt describes that subcommunities are developed because of “the affiliation, or membership as determined on the basis of variables such as gender, age, religion, country of origin, ethnicity, culture, family, status, academic concerns, talents or other similar interests” (237). These are variables that are applicable to membership in many of the affinity groups formed by Indigenous people. Fogel-Chance, in her research on Inupiaq women living in an urban environment found that another variable sometimes used in determining membership is “those who have children” (iii).

Membership in subcommunities ranges in numbers from the hundreds to as few as three.

Maori Women’s Welfare League

The Maori Women’s Welfare League is a subcommunity of women who share a common concern for the welfare of Maori people. In the Te Maori video, “the Maori Women’s League was founded in 1951, its main purpose was to retain our culture and our crafts” (1985). Herbert, in her essay shares that the Maori women, “are also playing a particular important role in these times of social change and economic upheaval, not only in the traditional roles of being the stable force in the home, the activators of the Kohanga Reo, language nests, but also by working at the interface of political action where decisions are being made on policy directions that impact on Maoridom” (48-53).

Te Kohanga Reo

The creation of the Te Kohanga Reo itself created a subcommunity of people committed to helping young children learn the Maori language. As stated in the Te Maori video, “In a major effort to maintain their cultures, communities across New Zealand began opening preschools, where children are learning to speak the Maori language” (1985). In her essay, Smith shared that the, “Concern about the state of Maori language was heightened by Maori activist groups in the early seventies. Out of this sense of desperation and urgency came Te Kohanga Reo, a concept of language rescue which was aimed at one group in Maori society not already corrupted by school experiences, the ‘under fives.’ Within the language nests, mothers have been given a place to demonstrate leadership and talents long untapped or under-rated” (64-65). According to Henrietta Maxwell who organized the first language nest in April 13, 1982, the language nests “began as a response to a need. There were no guidebooks or manuals to read as to how to save a language, a culture” (6).

Maori Urban Youth Program

The Maori Urban Youth Program (MUYP) represents a subcommunity forged by shared experiences of cultural revitalization among Maori youth. In the Te Maori video, the struggles of the young Maori is shared, “Young Maori living in large cities must adapt to a dominant European culture. Never having learned their Maori language, history, or tribal values, they live somewhere between two cultures, neither white European or secure in the odessy of their own people” (1985). In her essay, Smith shares that, “Work schemes began to revive other Maori activities, at the same time turning disillusioned young people around to their own cultural heritage. For many of the young Maori in these programmes, being taught the basics of Maori language and history filled a huge gap in their self-image” (66). In the Te Maori video, the founder of a program designed to help street kids stated the purpose of the urban youth program as, “teaching our young people to be Maoris and be proud of that.. .when they see, identify themselves they become tall. For those with strong family ties, a solid fortress of aunts, uncles, grandparents, the pressures of city life are lessened. I think for the younger generation who has not had a solid Maori grounding, it’s difficult .. .We can’t be Maori because we neither know our culture, our tradition or the language” (1985).

First Peoples of Canada-Mokakit Research Association

The Mokakit Research Association was formed in response to a need for more research to be conducted by First Peoples of Canada for First Nations People. The membership of this subcommunity includes those with post secondary degrees and an interest in research on educational issues of concern to First Nations people. It is a support group for the First Nations researchers.

Native American Women Conference

Chakravartty, who attended the Native American Women’s Conference which was held in Montana in 1993, stated that the drawing together of women to work on the goal of, “articulating Native American women’s issues in a meaningful cultural context,” was a beginning (85). In the book, Women of the Native Struggle, written by Ronnie Farley, Anna Lee Walters states in the introduction, “Besides wage work, the modern Native woman must deal with encroaching urban settings, changes in family units, new health and social problems, formal education, competition in the job markets, and meeting numerous challenges, besides earning a living this woman also often manages the daily activities of the family (12). The commonalties that tie these women together as a subcommunity are, “Changes in lifestyles, changes in family units, changes in fashion, and changes in technology, etc.,” (15).

Navajo Teacher Study Group

McCarty, who worked with Navajo teachers, outlines the formation of the Navajo teacher group with the following, “Rough Rock English-Navajo Language Arts Program (RRENLAP) evolved into a formal teacher study group, membership was voluntary, organized around teacher-set agendas and aimed at linking teachers’ classroom-based research with a body of professional literature.” She shares that, “the study group established, a zone of safety-a nurturing environment for change-in which conventional practices could be challenged, opposition and solidarity expressed and new ideas scrutinized. The study group became the social context in which teachers could question, critique, engage in inquiry, and acknowledge the power of their own pedagogy.” The Navajo “teachers spoke openly of their growing trust in themselves, they spoke directly of the freedom they experienced in the study group” (271-272). For the Navajo teacher, the study group process, involvement in this subcommunity “has been one of self-revelation and group identification” (280).

Urban Inupiaq Women’s group

According to Fogel-Chance, who did research on twenty-five urban Inupiaq women living in Anchorage, the “success of Inupiaq women’s adjustment to urban living resides not in rejecting one way of life for another, but in combining both worlds. These women have resisted being ‘melted’ into the larger and dominant society through flexible, strategic choices based on heterogeneity” (iv.). In her conclusion, she says, “contemporary urban sharing networks are modern pathways calling upon the traditional to define and maintain Inupiaq culture. In this sense, the modern world generates difference rather that erases it (iv.). The urban Inupiaq women’s subcommunity found a way to continue their Inupiaq way of knowing and combine it with living in the 20th century in the urban environment of Anchorage.

University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska (UAF) Native Students

Barnhardt, in her study of 50 UAF Alaska Native undergraduate students, identifies formal and informal, academic and non¬academic clubs or subcommunities that the students, in most cases, affiliated with for support. They sought to connect with people who did not expect them to change in order to succeed. The subcommunities formed by the Native students were essential to surviving in the academic environment of the university setting.

Ciulistet Research group

Lipka, who has worked with an Indigenous teacher study group, states that the group formed in response to “the underlying sentiments of wanting to help their people, to be a role model, and to make it easier for the next generation” (274). It grew into “a forum for cultural transmission, the group, now strengthened by elders, became a community inquiring into their own cultural practices and the ways those practices could form a basis for schooling” (276). This subcommunity of Indigenous teachers continues to thrive, giving each other valuable support needed in their roles as teachers, parents and community members.

Association of Interior Native Educators

The Interior Native Educators Association was formed in the summer of 1994, where it held its first annual conference in August. This association’s membership primarily consists of Interior Native Educators. They formed as a subcommunity in response to the common concerns they expressed in their work as educators in the schools.

Summary of Review of Literature

Our reality is that we live in a culturally diverse society. We who grew up knowing another way of life and continue to think and respect our cultural world view and continually need to support each other. Our past makes our present.

Our past is still such an important part of our present that we have formed formal and informal support groups in order to make sense of it all, especially in the urban environments. These groups provide nurturing environments in which we can freely express ourselves. Since there has been so much change in our lives, the need is there for us to help each other find a balance and, most importantly, to support one another in our efforts to pass on our language, culture and identity to our children.

Smith, a Maori educator, summarizes concisely the reasons for sustaining cultural subcommunities especially those related to teaching and learning, “The significance of having Indigenous people initiating educational change is that there is more likelihood that we will create structures which serve our own interests more directly. It is in our interests to gain knowledge and skills which connect our present reality with the political, economic, social and spiritual world in which we live. It is in our interests to gain knowledge and skills which give our lives meaning and purpose. These interests have not been served well by past mainstream educational structures (70).

Barnhardt, in her research, shared that Alaska Native students at UAF “sought people to connect with, who did not expect them to change who they were in order to succeed” (226). Based on the work of those reviewed in this paper, this appears to be a central motivation for development of subcommunities by Indigenous peoples.

Works Cited

Annahatak, Betsy. “Quality Education for Inuit Today? Cultural Strengths, New Things, and Working Out the Unknowns: A Story by an Inuk.” Peabody Journal of Education, 69.2 (1994): 12-18.
Barnhardt, Carol. “Life On The Other Side: Alaska Native Teachers Education Students and The University of Alaska Fairbanks.” Diss. The University of British Columbia, 1994.
Chakravartty, Shona. “Building Partnerships for Survival.” Winds of Change 9.2 (1994): 85.
Delpit, Lisa. “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children.” Harvard Educational Review, 58:3 (1988): 280-298.
De Mello, Stan, Peter Boothroyd, Nathan Matthew, and Kathy Sparrow. “Discovering Common Meaning: Planning Community Development Education With First Nations.” Plan Canada Jan. 1994: 14-21.
Farley, Ronnie. Women of the Native Struggle. New York: Orion Books, 1993.
Fogel-Chance, Nancy. “Commentary: Frameworks for Difference-North Slope Inupiaq Women in Anchorage.” Arctic 47.4 (1994): iii-iv.
Harris, Stephen. “ ‘Soft’ and ‘Hard’ Domain Theory for Bicultural Education in Indigenous Groups.” Peabody Journal of Education, 69:2 (1994): 140-153.
Herbert, Gloria. “Surviving in Paradise.” Puna Wairere: Essays by Maori. Wellington: New Zealand Planning Council, 1990. 48-53.
Ilutsik, Esther. “The Founding of Ciulistet: One Teacher’s Journey.” Journal of American Indian Education, 33:3 (1994): 6-13.
Kawagley, O. “A Yupiaq World View: Implications for Cultural, Educational, and Technological Adaptation in a Contemporary World.” Diss. University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1993.
Lipka, Jerry. “Changing the Culture of Schooling: Navajo and Yup’ik Cases.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 25:3 (1994): 266-284.
Lipka, Jerry and Arlene Stairs, eds. Editors’ Introduction. “Negotiating the Culture of Indigenous Schools.” Peabody Journal of Education, 69:2 (1994): 1-5.
Maxwell, Henrietta. “Lessons from Te Kohanga Reo.” CASWW Conference in conjunction with Learned Societies Conference. University of Prince Edward Island, 29 May - 1 June 1992.
Ogbu, John. “Variability in Minority School Performance: A Problem in Search of an Explanation.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 18 (1987): 312-334.
Parata, Rangimarie. “Attitudes.” Puna Wairere: Essays by Maori, Wellington: New Zealand Planning Council, 1990. 72-80.
Pingayak, John. “Reviving Cultural Heritage Program.” 20th Annual Bilingual Multicultural Education Equity Conference. Anchorage. Feb. 1995. 1-2.
Yupiit-Yuutait. Poster. Saint Mary’s Schools, St. Mary’s, 1974.
Sharp, Nancy. “Caknernarqutet.” Peabody Journal of Education, 69:2 (1994): 6-11.
Smith, Linda. “Maori Education-A Reassertion.” Puna Wairere: Essays by Maori, Wellington: New Zealand Planning Council, 1990. 62-70.
Sparck, Lucy Jones. “Not in Two Worlds But One.” 18th Annual Bilingual Multicultural Education Equity Conference. Anchorage. Feb. 1992. 1-4.
Stairs, Arlene. “The Cultural Negotiation of Indigenous Education: Between Microethnography and Model-Building.” Peabody Journal of Education, 69:2 (1994): 154-171.
Te Maori. Videocassette. New Zealand Broadcasting, 1985.
Tetpon, John. “Best Solution to Incorrigible Problem: School for Natives.” Anchorage Daily News 14 May 1995, N3.

Master Project

Contemporary Needs of the Native Teachers:
The Formations of the Native
Teacher Associations in Alaska

Association of the Interior Native Educators: AINE
Association of the Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim:
Ciulistet Research Association: CRA
North Slope Inupiat Educators Association: NSIEA
Southeast Alaska Native Educators Association: SANEA


I think it is so important for Native teachers, parents, community members and other organizations to know that these Native teacher associations exist and what their experiences have been and what their accomplishments are.

Indigenous peoples around the world are “coming out” with their own perspectives of schooling and working on pedagogy and culture-based curriculum, so that it is a positive schooling experience for the children from the different Indigenous groups. Alaska Native teachers are in the forefront with the best of them.

In reviewing literature, I thirstily drank in the research writings of Indigenous educators across the world, especially those from the Maori people in New Zealand who have set so many precedents in the education of the whole child with respect to reviving language, setting up cultural renewal programs and pioneering Indigenous teacher education programs. I also felt comradeship with the First Nations educators who have done a lot of work in the area of research and culture-based curriculum development. Lastly, the Navajo teacher study group forged the trail with one of our oldest Native teacher association, Ciulistet Research Association, in forming, first as a support group and then venturing on into culture-based curriculum development. I looked to literature where indigenous people have the most similarities with us and have paved the way with their accomplishments.

All of the Indigenous educators who questioned the way they were taught or the way they were/are teaching our kids, paved the way for those of us who have come right behind and gave us the satisfaction that we are not alone in these kinds of questions and ideas for doing education differently.

From my own teaching experiences, knowing the struggles and frustrations that I went through, I was not satisfied with what I was seeing and doing as a teacher of Yup’ik children. As I did various substituting from K-12, I gained from one particular experience. I team-taught an Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA) lesson with a non-Native teacher . She and I were able to introduce the concept of allotments to the Native students, by sharing what it meant in the Western culture and since they did not fully understand it, by sharing why allotments did not exist in the Yup’ik culture. This helped make this a positive experience by finding out the real reason why the Yup’ik culture did not have allotments, since they thought it was a deficit in their culture. The positive experience of that lesson reaped many rewards for us in the reactions of the Native students as evident in their facial expressions. Twelve years ago, the idea that their Yup’ik culture was parallel with other cultures would not even have been taught. Yet this was only one experience-imagine the kind of learning that would go on, had there been more teaching of the local culture along with the Western curriculum.

In doing the research on the formation of the Native teacher associations in Alaska, I gained an awareness that the teachers had formed a “structure” to focus on their own needs and the needs of the Native students. They had to become radical. They began to ask questions into how they were teaching, what they were teaching and what kind of impact that kind of education was having on their students. They began to take control of the education within their schools and communities, to take charge.

From the support groups that were first initiated, they have forged ahead in developing culture-based curriculum, which they are finding is a very slow process. The majority of Native teachers want Indigenous curriculum taught equally alongside the Western curriculum, so that children learn both. They see the need for both, but the Indigenous curriculum is still in the beginning stages of development.

The following mini-case studies have important messages for other Native teachers, parents, school board members, community members, non-Native professionals, research associations, etc. The founding members thought it important to share their struggles, frustrations and accomplishments in hopes that their experiences will help others in similar situations.

Association of the Interior Native Educators: AINE
Contemporary Needs of the Native Teachers:
The Formations of the Native Teacher Associations in Alaska

This is one of five mini-case studies describing the formation of Alaska Native teacher associations (NTA’s). The case studies consist of information gathered from personal interviews, public Native educator panel presentations, participation in three out of five NTA’s and publications that have been prepared by each organization. The case studies describe where the organizations are located, their membership, why and how they were formed, some of their past and current activities, and recommendations for potential members or persons interested in starting their own organization.

Association of Interior Native Educators

Alaska’s Native teacher association that covers the largest area and encompasses the whole cultural region of the Athabascan people is the Association of Interior Native Educators (AINE). The key people who started this association came with a strong commitment to voice their concerns on Native educational issues. AlNE came about with support, especially from the Interior Education Council and the Native Administrators for Rural Alaska (NARA) participants in the early stages. So far this is the only organization that prints a quarterly newsletter to keep its membership updated of AINE activities. From the first annual conference they held in 1993 to the present, they have had a strong presence in making education more meaningful for the Native students, educators, administrators, elders and community members in both the interior’s rural and urban schools. Each annual conference is a must to attend. They continue strong today with exciting and challenging activities and bring in new ideas that are shared across the state with the other Native teacher associations.


The members for the Association of Interior Native Educators reside in the area served by the Doyon Regional Corporation (see map attachment 1) and are from both the rural and urban schools. There are roughly 35 villages and towns within the Doyon region. Nine towns are along the road system and the rest of the villages along rivers or tributaries to the major rivers and are accessible only by air or by boat. The people served by the Doyon, Inc are Athabascan people. The majority of the AINE members serve as teachers in the Interior’s rural and urban schools.


The idea of forming an association came about long before it actually happened. The initial founding members met at their yearly Native Administrators for Rural Alaska (NARA) meeting in October of 1993 and among other things discussed, the topic of forming an association. They were concerned that the needs of the Native students and the Native teachers weren’t being met, especially in the rural areas. The founding members followed their own advice and began the initial steps to start an association that would be a voice for the Interior Native educators.

With financial and encouraging support from the Interior Education Council, Interior-Aleutians Campus, Tanana Chiefs Conference Education Department and Doyon, Inc., the first annual AINE conference was held in August 1994 to begin discussing the establishment of an association. Discussions focused on drafting bylaws, setting purposes and goals, and brainstorming issues, problems and ideas in the Interior. This was the beginning of the foundation for AINE.

The founding members sought assistance from the Association of Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim (ANELK) in drafting up bylaws and other pertinent start-up information. ANELK’s bylaws were used as a model to work from. It took a couple of meetings by the founding members who volunteered their time so that the formalization procedures would come to fruition.

Association of Interior Native Educators

AINE was officially formed during the August 1995 AINE conference held in Fairbanks. During their 1995 annual AINE conference the bylaws were approved and the first election of officers was held. In order to save on funding, the board of directors held audio-conferences to conduct their planning meetings. In the following year, they held monthly audio-conferences to address issues in the Interior, important to Native teachers and also to plan the next conference.

As stated in their bylaws (see attachment 2) the purpose of AINE is to act as a voice for Interior Native educators and to be an advocate of Native educational issues.

In 1996, members of the association conceived the idea of an Academy of Elders camp and held their first camp that summer. Within the Academy of Elders, knowledgeable elders were recruited to work with certified Native teachers. The majority of the teachers had anywhere from three to twenty years of teaching experiences and gained much from the intense interaction with the elders. The setting provided a basis for the development of culture-based curriculum, among other things. The Interior Elders were excited to be, “teachers of teachers.” As one of the teachers put it, “Elders give us the guidance on where we should go in educating our children, so that it is more meaningful for Native students.”

Plans for the August 1997 AINE conference and Academy of Elders camp are formalizing. An impressive brochure (see attachment 4) has been developed advertising the upcoming Academy of Elders camp.

AINE is representative of who the teachers are as Native people, it gives the Native teachers a chance to get together and talk about why education is not working for the Native students. Some of their goals are: to promote Native hire in interior school districts, develop culture-based curriculum, promote Native pedagogy, develop a resource center, create an Elders’ talent bank and a directory of teachers in the Interior.


There are four groups of voting membership. The first category is the Certified educators who are Alaska Natives involved in education. The second category is Native persons who have or are in the process of obtaining a Type A/B/C certificate. The third category is the degreed members who are Natives with degrees in other areas and are working in the field of education. The fourth category is the Associate members who are Natives involved in education or interested in the goals of this association.

Affiliate members are non-voting members and make up the fifth kind of membership.

There are honorary members and this membership is extended to elders, they are not required to pay a membership fee.

There is an annual membership fee of $25.00 for the voting membership and $20.00 for affiliate members.


The founding members approached the Interior Education Council and sought funding to hold their first conference, which resulted in a resolution (#94-01 see attachment 3) adopted and passed to support a conference for the Native educators to discuss the establishment of an association.

Recent funding has come from the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative project through a memorandum of agreement with the Interior - Aleutians Campus. Majority of the funding supports the Academy of Elders camp, AINE coordinator, newsletter, and other related costs.

Conference fees are enough to cover the cost of putting on the annual conference.


AINE is the second most active association in the state in the kinds of work that they are doing and the goals they have set for themselves.

Some of their goals are: to promote Native hire in interior school districts, develop culture-based curriculum, promote Native pedagogy and develop an elders talent bank.

Of their main activities, the two main events are the annual AINE conference and the summer Academy of Elders. Their annual conference is held every August and this summer will be the second Academy of Elders that will be offered.

A direct result of the Academy has been the development of culture-based curriculum, which is an on-going process. They have also developed photo essays and an excellent half-hour video on the Academy of Elders camp.

Informational brochures have been developed on their past and upcoming annual conference and the Academy of Elders camp (see brochures attachment 4).

A quarterly newsletter goes out to its membership with article input from their members (see attachment 5).

The last activity is the membership drive, reaching out and sharing with potential members the existence of a support group for Native educators.


For more information one of two people can be contacted. Eleanor Laughlin, who is the present AINE chairperson and Fairbanks North Star Borough School District’s Alaska Native Education Director, can be reached at 452-2000 ext. 462. Virginia Ned is the AINE secretary and is presently working as the AINE coordinator and can be reached at 474-6041.


The AINE founding members had been teaching for a number of years and experienced a dissatisfaction in that the needs of the Native students and teachers were not being met. So they formed an association with support from various organizations and are providing benefits to the school districts that they are employed by. Their understanding of how students learn and what is meaningful, useful and relevant information to their students has made a difference in the kind of education their students are receiving.

“We needed stronger voices for our Native people, so we formed an association that would represent our views on quality education for the Native students.”

It is by no means an easy task to keep things afloat, but having people with leadership, organizational, and public relation skills and a vision for the future, the AINE members are doing an excellent job in making a presence in the educational environment.


January - August 1994 AINE conference planning committee
August 1994 AINE Conference participant
August 1995 AINE Conference presenter and participant
August 1996 AINE Conference participant
October 1996 Interview with Virginia Ned
November 1996 ANREC and AKRSI meetings in Anchorage
February 1997 Mokakit Conference in Anchorage


Council April 1996
Sharing Our Pathways Vol. 1 Iss. 2


AINE Bylaws
AINE IEC Resolution
AINE Brochure
AINE Newsletters

Association of Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim:

The Contemporary Needs of the Native Teachers:
The Formations of the Native Teacher Associations in Alaska

This is one of five mini-case studies describing the formation of Alaska Native teacher associations (NTA’s). The case studies consist of information gathered from personal interviews, public Native educator panel presentations, participation in three out of five NTA’s and publications that have been prepared by each organization. The case studies describe where the organizations are located, their membership, why and how they were formed, some of their past and current activities, and recommendations for potential members or persons interested in starting their own organization.

Association of Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim

One of two oldest Native teacher associations where the majority of its membership are bilingual, fluent both in Yup’ik and English, is the Association of Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim (ANELK). An association where the Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) sponsored an annual bilingual conference for the Native teachers and elders for the last six years. The Native teachers have been participants and have assisted in the annual LKSD Bilingual conferences and where in the last two years the majority of the conference conducted all its workshops, speeches, etc. in the Yup’ik language with simultaneous translations going on for non-Yup’ik speakers. The association has had tremendous support from the LKSD both financially and support in the association’s endeavors, until this year. At their most recent annual meeting, ANELK’s board announced that LKSD was considering to withdraw financial support for future bilingual conferences and they are now on their own. Despite this latest disheartening news, the accomplishments that ANELK has achieved will continue to form the basis of the direction that LKSD will go towards the revitalization and maintenance of the Yup’ik language and culture both within the school environment and communities.


The geographic location of the ANELK membership is in the Southwestern part of Alaska with the majority of the villages situated along the Kuskokwim River (see attachment 1). There are a total of 22 sites that are served within LKSD, with some of the villages situated on the tundra, along tributaries to the Kuskokwim and along the Kuskokwim Bay. The majority of the people who reside in this area are Yup’ik (Eskimo). The ANELK members serve as teachers in the schools located in each of these villages.


Quinhagak, an LKSD village, situated along the Kuskokwim Bay was the site of the formation of the Association of Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim. During one of the evenings, at a 1987 in-service meeting, Native teachers (both certified and associate) met informally and discussed the formation of an organization that would serve as a support group for Native teachers and also to encourage other Native people to become certified. Tim Samson, is credited as being one of the founding members of the Association of Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim, along with the Native teachers present at that meeting.

The main concern was a need for a support group; to be able to support themselves, the need to establish an association where they could say what they wanted as Native people in the educational system. They also needed to form to support each other as professional people. Other concerns included the need for a support system to increase the number of certified Native teachers within the school district, and the concern of the performance of Native students within schools.

Association of Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim

At a later date, Tim Samson, the association representative approached the Lower Kuskokwim Board of Education with the concerns of the association members. The Lower Kuskokwim School District Board of Education (LKSD BCE) was very supportive of the idea of an association for the Native teachers, especially the concerns that the association hoped to address. ANELK was approved by the LKSD BCE since the district would benefit from their work to improve the education of the students. Since 1987, LKSD board has included some money in the district budget to sponsor an education conference by and for the Native teachers of Lower Kuskokwim, which was an original idea suggested by the Native teachers, to hold a bilingual conference.

The annual conferences seem to be the highlight of year, with elders and Native teachers giving presentations along with guest presenters, the majority presenting in Yup’ik with simultaneous translations going on for non-Yup’ik speakers. Most of the translators are association members who are fluent both in Yup’ik and English.

One of the many ways that elders have shared is to be one of the sought-after keynote speakers. There is so much gained from an elder’s speech. There is a lot of meaningful, useful and relevant information shared with the predominantly Yup’ik-speaking audience.

It is during the annual bilingual conference that ANELK holds it annual business meeting. ANELK board meetings are quarterly throughout the year.

During the 1996 annual bilingual conference, children’s books written, both in Yup’ik and English, by some of the Native teachers were on display for corrections in the spelling of Yup’ik words and authenticity of the written material. The books have since been published and are in use by the classroom teachers. They are for sale to the general public and list of books and prices can be ordered from the LKSD, P.O. Box 305, LKSD Bilingual Department, Bethel, Alaska 99559. The books focus on the local culture and are very nicely illustrated by some of the Native teachers. They are a must to have in your library.

ANELK members work closely with the district in planning and assisting during the bilingual conference, in developing culture-based curriculum during a summer institute with elders and Native teachers, in supporting the bilingual and Yup’ik immersion programs.

A summer institute has been held the past two summers with the focus of developing culture-based curriculum. The initial goal is to provide a curriculum and an education that fits the students needs.

Since ANELK’s inception and through the ensuing years, they have worked hard on the association’s purposes. As stated in their bylaws (see attachment 2), their purpose is to allow its members to:

1. Establish support and common concerns among Native educators.
2. Increase communication among members and develop working relationships with other organizations.
3. Assist with the education of Native children of the Lower Kuskokwim School district.
4. Assist with the professional development among members.
5. Support the preservation of cultural beliefs and customs.
6. Promote career and financial planning opportunities for Native students.
7. Enforce the use of Yup’ik/Cup’ik languages to preserve our cultural identity and
8. Assist in the process of Bilingual Education.

Today, ANELK continues in an area of the state that has the largest number of its people still speaking their Native language fluently. One of the association’s purposes is to enforce the use of the Native language. The association members have assisted in setting high standards in the education of their Native students. They have set a trail of successes in: the development of culture-based curriculum, supporting and recruiting their own people as certified Native teachers, holding annual bilingual conference (conducted all in the Yup’ik language), developing children’s books written both in Yup’ik and English, developing excellent parent-school-community programs and developing excellent working/learning relationships with the elders in the region.


ANELK membership is open to those people who are at least 1/4 blood Native Alaskan/American Indian or a member of a recognized federal Indian tribe, and Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) employee, or LKSD retiree, or affiliated with LKSD,
i.e. District board member, ASB member, etc. To be an ANELK voting member you must meet all of the above criteria. Present annual fee for membership is $10.00.


Initial funding has come from the Lower Kuskokwim School District, with the majority of the funding covering the main event of the annual bilingual conference. After the most recent decision by the LKSD board to withdraw financial support, the association has begun to do research on funding sources. They are in the process of determining a membership fee to cover some costs of maintaining the association until they can secure more monies to continue their goals.


ANELK is another association that has been very active in the kinds of work that they have accomplished. One of the highlights is the annual bilingual conference, where there are opportunities to make education more relevant and meaningful for the students. During the conference, bilingual educators of the year are recognized, nominated by parents or peers. T-shirts, bags, notepads and pens showing the conference logo and theme in Yup’ik are some of the visual souvenirs to take home.

Support for association members involved in developing culture-based curriculum such as the Yup’ik Life Skills curriculum.

Assisting in the summer institute, of which the focus is on working with elders in the development of curriculum based on the traditional Yup’ik knowledge.

Sponsoring a scholarship fund for students from LKSD who are attending college away from home.

Recruiting Native students into the teaching profession.

Supporting the development of the Yup’ik Immersion program in the district.

Assisting other Native teacher associations in their initial stages of development.

Working with specific organizations on the alternative certification requirements for associate teachers.

Assisting (and authoring) in the development of children’s books for the bilingual program for use in the classrooms.

Serving as role models for the Native students in the district.


For more information on the association, the Executive Board of Directors can be contacted and they are: Charles Kashatok in Bethel at (907) 543-4853, Walter Tirchick in Chefornak at (907) 867-8706, Nita Rearden in Bethel at (907) 543-4854 and Sophie Shields in Bethel at (907) 543-2845.


ANELK formed so they could help each other as fellow workers and parents in improving the school curriculum, school performance of students and continued support and increase the number of Native teachers within the school district.

The association has helped form a foundation in the schools based on the Yup’ik culture and language. This is crucial as they are Yup’ik educators of Yup’ik children.


LKSD newsletters
Sharing Our Pathways, Vol. 1, Iss. 2


March 1995 LKSD annual bilingual conference facilitator and participant in St. Mary’s
March 1996 LKSD annual bilingual conference participant in Bethel September 1996 AKRSI staff meeting in Anchorage
November 1996 ANREC and AKRSI meeting in Anchorage November 1996 interview with Charles Kashatok
February 1997 Mokakit conference Native Educators panel presentation
March 1997 LKSD annual bilingual conference presenter and participant in Bethel


ANELK Bylaws

Ciulistet Research Association: CRA
Contemporary Needs of the Native Teachers:
The Formations of the Native Teacher Associations in Alaska

This is one of five mini-case studies describing the formation of Alaska Native teacher associations (NTA’s). The case studies consist of information gathered from personal interviews, public Native educator panel presentations, participation in three out of five NTA’s and publications that have been prepared by each organization. The case studies describe where the organizations are located, their membership, why and how they were formed, some of their past and current activities, and recommendations for potential members or persons interested in starting their own organization.


One of the two oldest Native teacher associations in Alaska is the Ciulistet Research Association. The name “ciulistet” is derived from the Yup’ik word “ciulista” which means leader (especially of a dog team). The name is appropriate for this group of certified Native teachers who continue to be leaders in a unique field of educational change, where Indigenous culture and language are being taught alongside the Western curriculum. It was not an easy trail to break. There were many moments of doubt, frustrations and struggles and yet through all that, their firm belief in what they were doing, what they learned about themselves and what they knew their Native students were experiencing helped them grow and become even stronger today with their many accomplishments.


The members of the Ciulistet Research Association are from the Bristol Bay area, in the Southwestern part of Alaska. Current members come from eight villages within the Bristol Bay Native Association region (see map in Attachment 1). The villages are Koliganek, New Stuyahok, Ekwok, Dillingham, Manokotak, Togiak, Aleknagik and South Naknek. The Ciulistet members serve as teachers in the schools located in each of these villages.


The group did not begin as a research association, but informally as a support group in the early 1980’s, made up of certified Native teachers and Cross-Cultural Educational Development Program (X-CED) college students. The latter were working towards their certification through the distance delivery program from the University of Alaska in which rural students enrolled in university courses working towards a bachelor’s degree in education from their home villages.

The key people involved in getting the association started were Esther Ilutsik (a certified Yup’ik teacher from Aleknagik, who was then the X-CED regional coordinator) and Dr. Jerry Lipka (then the X-CED field-based faculty member) both of whom worked with a small group of X-CED students. Within their work there were opportunities to meet with the students on a regular basis as well as with graduates teaching in the schools. During those meetings discussions focused on the dual roles that the certified Yup’ik teachers lived. They were Yup’ik people, who grew up with the Yup’ik language, culture and way of life. Yet they were also certified teachers prepared in the Western oriented teacher education programs to teach basically a Western curriculum to the mostly Native student population in their classrooms. In these early years the questions and discussions began to focus on the issues of: what did it mean to be a Yup’ik teacher; and what was Native about the ways that they were teaching.

Five years had passed since the Ciulistet Group had begun their introspective search into their dual role as certified Yup’ik teachers. In 1986, Esther Ilutsik, who was then the Bilingual Coordinator for the Southwest Region School District (SWRSD), was asked by the then-superintendent, Dr. John Antonnen, to call a meeting of all the certified Native teachers in SWRSD. His message to them was that, since they grew up in the villages, went through the school system, became teachers and are now back in their communities as teachers, that they should be the leaders of the local educational system and that they should be advisory to the school board. Dr. Antonnen became another key person in helping organize the Ciulistet group. He was instrumental and supportive, especially in providing funding for the Native teachers to meet.

However, the certified Native teachers did not have the confidence to be advising their supervisors in the first stages of the Ciulistet group. They first met to support each other. Also to help each other improve. They started to say, “Well, let’s improve our own selves first before we take any stands on different issues.” So they began looking at how they were teaching, videotaping each other and analyzing the videotapes. The group was assisted during this stage by Dr. Gerald Mohatt, Dr. Frederick Erickson and Dr. Sharon Nelson Barber, all of whom had been involved with research in Native settings. From this experience it gradually involved into looking at incorporating traditional Yup’ik knowledge into their classrooms. Some of the founding members have authored essays published in educational journals, articles like: “The Founding of Ciulistet: One Teacher’s Journey,” by Esther Ilutsik and “Caknernarqutet,” by Nancy Sharp.

Ciulistet Research Association

The Ciulistet Research Association was formally established in 1986 with the following founding members: Esther Ilutsik, Anecia Lomack, Nancy Sharp, Ferdinand Sharp, Evelyn Yanez, Mary Alexie, Vicki Dull and William Gumlickpuk, with consultation from Dr. Jerry Lipka.

As stated in their bylaws (see Attachment 2), the purpose of the Ciulistet Research Association shall be to validate, support and enhance the professional growth of their Native educators; to engage in research related to Native education; to serve as role models and to encourage young people and students to become teachers and leaders.

The association’s start in research was in incorporating traditional Yup’ik knowledge into the classroom. At that time the only monies available were in the area of mathematic and scientific research. The association has been able to find small pockets of funding such as through the University of Alaska Bristol Bay Curriculum Project/Bristol Bay Campus, the State of Alaska Eisenhower Grant, Alaska Schools Research Fund and other sources of that nature to examine mathematic activities at the subsistence fishcamp. Bristol Bay Curriculum Project at the Bristol Bay Campus was created by Dr. Jerry Lipka to develop local culturally relevant materials, i.e. the ANSCA material.

From various research funding, the Ciulistet Research Association developed curriculum units for use in the classroom including: The Traditional Method of Counting, The Heartbeat, The Yup’ik Border Patterns, The Legend Sonar Board Games and Weather Observation units. These units have been field-tested in the classrooms. CRA offers workshops and training for those who are interested in learning how to use them.

The association meets at least twice a year at different village sites. In the early stages, the school district would pay for the substitutes for the Native teachers that came in for meetings. As superintendents changed, so did the funding. The association was asked to pay for the substitutes for their members to attend the meetings. However, the association could not afford to pay for the substitutes, so they now have their meetings on weekends and participation is on a voluntary basis. They also have a core group of elders that come in. The association pays for their travel and food. The host village finds housing for the members.

In 1993, they extended membership to the elders from within the area served by the Bristol Bay Native Association. The most recent amendments included extending membership to the classified bilingual instructors and incorporating as a non-profit organization.

Each member that hosts a meeting is in charge of the logistics, everything from travel to food to lodging, locating a meeting place and directing the meeting. They travel after school is out on Friday afternoons, meet for a couple hours Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning. The members return to their villages Sunday afternoon, so that they will have time to prepare for the following week of school. The costs are travel, food and stipends (for the elders) and the rest is voluntary, with everyone contributing.

The meetings are conducted in Yup’ik with translations in English for the non-Yup’ik speakers. There’s usually a pair of teachers presenting, one in Yup’ik and the second translating for the other. If they forget to translate the elders often remind them to translate, because the teachers will sometimes forget and both will continue in the Yup’ik language. Within the last couple of years some of the meetings have taken place at fishcamp sites.

Today Ciulistet’s focus continues to be the same, in the area of research on finding the mathematics and science concepts within the traditional Yup’ik knowledge and looking at the traditional way of teaching. It is an exciting time for the members, their eyes have opened up to a lot of different areas. They continue to find ways to integrate this knowledge into the school system, so that the Yup’ik knowledge is equal to and not something less than the Western curriculum.


The Ciulistet Research Association’s voting membership is open to Alaska Native certified teachers residing in the Bristol Bay Area, that is those villages served by the Bristol Bay Native Association (see map in Attachment 1). There are two categories of non-voting membership. The first is the associate members, -those who have expressed an interest in the goals of CRA. The second is honorary members and there are two groups in this category. The first group is the elders who are willing to share traditional knowledge within the Bristol Bay area. The second group is persons from the general public, corporate sector or post-secondary institutions who concur with the aims and objectives of CRA.


In the early stages, Ciulistet was fortunate to have received support from the former superintendent of SWRSD to pay for their travel, food and substitute teacher pay. But as district support dwindled, the Ciulistet teachers began to pursue their own funds to support their association. In the following years they received a series of grants, most of which was used to cover travel, food and lodging. However, this soon ran out. Their continuing research in finding traditional Yup’ik knowledge that had a focus on math or science related activities lead them to write up another proposal for an NSF grant. At the time of this writing, the association was notified that they were granted an NSF grant to continue their research in the Bristol Bay Curriculum Project.


Ciulistet holds two annual meetings. The meetings are usually in one of the villages that a member is from. Most recently, they have investigated holding a spring camp and a fall camp meeting at sites away from villages. There are so many kinds of activities that go on in the camps that normally go unnoticed as science or math related. The elders are excited that the teachers are interested in the knowledge that they hold and they are a crucial part of the association.

Each of the teachers have done some work in culture-based curriculum development. The association has developed an excellent working model that is to be exemplified when working with elders and teachers. Each of the curriculum units that have been developed has been field tested, first in front of the elders and secondly within the classrooms. Ciulistet is willing to give workshops on the different curriculum units that they have developed. They have also been giving workshops on their model of working with elders and teachers.

One of the founding members, Esther Ilutsik, developed a brochure on the Ciulistet Research Association, listing its history, activities, location, curriculum units and contacts (see attachment 3).


Ciulistet Research Association began as a support group for Native teachers and continues in that role but they have gone beyond to research ways to incorporate traditional Yup’ik knowledge into the school curriculum so that it is an equal to the Western curriculum, both are needed for the children.

To have been one of the first Native teacher associations to be formally organized took collaborative effort, a healing process, sharing similar issues and goals, pursuing challenging research and a vision into the future. It was not easy to break trail as a unique group of people with different perspectives reflecting their upbringing as Yup’ik people. They have had numerous other meetings, projects, and given presentations at National conferences which are included in their experiences that are not mentioned.

Being one of the oldest Native teacher associations, they have contributed much to research that has been published about them in different educational journals (see references). This sharing through publications has validated the feelings that other indigenous educators have felt in their role as teachers and researchers.

Having grown up as Yup’ik people with their own culture and language and then having to teach in the classrooms, they as Native teachers saw something different than their non-Native counterparts in the Western educational system. They saw a need for a strong self-identity as Yup’ik people. They saw a need for the traditional Yup’ik knowledge to be passed on, not only in the communities and families, but also as an equal partner in the school system. They saw a need for themselves as Yup’ik teachers to be learning more about their culture and language. Most importantly, they saw a need for their own elders to be teaching, validating their teaching style and seeking to include more local Yup’ik knowledge in the curriculum.

As Yup’ik teachers, they continue to strengthen themselves, and their identity, and they hope that they can pass on these values to their students. As one of the CRA teachers said, “with a strong self-identity and language they can do anything.”


For more information, contact Esther Ilutsik at the Bristol Bay Campus at (907) 842-5901 or at her personal mailing address: Esther Ilutsik, PO Box 188, Dillingham, Alaska 99576.


October 1996-Personal interview with founding member, Esther Ilutsik
October 1996-Ciulistet Research Association participant and presenter in Dillingham
November 1996-Alaska RSI staff and consortium meeting in Anchorage
February 1 997-Mokakit Conference Education Association panel presentation


Ilutsik, Esther. (1996). Native Teacher Organizations Lead the Way: The Ciulistet Group. Sharing Our Pathways, 1 (2):9.
Ilutsik, Esther. (1996). The Ciulistet Research Association Brochure.
Ilutsik, Esther. (1994). The Founding of Ciulistet: One Teacher’s Journey. Journal of American Indian Education, 33(3), 6-13.
Lipka, Jerry and McCarty, Teresa. (1994). Changing the Culture of Schooling: Navajo and Yup’ik Oases. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 25(3):266-284.


CRA Bylaws
CRA Brochure

North Slope Inupiat Educators Association: NSIEA
Contemporary Needs of the Native Teachers:
The Formations of the Native Teacher Associations in Alaska

This is one of five mini-case studies describing the formation of Alaska Native teacher associations (NTA’s). The case studies consist of information gathered from personal interviews, public Native educator panel presentations, participation in three out of five NTA’s and publications that have been prepared by each organization. The case studies describe where the organizations are located, their membership, why and how they were formed, some of their past and current activities, and recommendations for potential members or persons interested in starting their own organization.

North Slope Inupiat Educators Association

One of the newest associations is the North Slope Inupiat Educators Association (NSIEA) and is the furthest northern association of any Alaska Native teacher associations; in fact they are on “Top of the World.” The majority of their members are fluent, both in Inupiaq and English. They cover the smallest number of villages, eight in all, and focus on the northernmost part of the Alaskan Inupiat region. One of the most unique charges given to this newly formed association is to serve as the steering committee for the North Slope Inupiat Teacher Education Program supported by Ilisagvik College, the North Slope Borough School District (NSBSD) and a cooperating college or university. They are a group of highly qualified Inupiat educators, well grounded in both Inupiat and Western knowledge, seeking to provide quality education for Inupiat students and advocate for Inupiat educational issues.


The NSIEA membership reside in the eight villages and town served by the North Slope Borough School District (see attachment 1). The villages are located along the shores of the Arctic Ocean, rivers and inland and are in the northernmost part of Alaska. Majority of the NSIEA members are teachers in the schools in each of these villages.


Key people are crucial in the initial organization of an association. Edna MacLean, Emma Bodfish and Pat Aamodt were mentioned and recognized as key people in the initial formation of NSIEA.

Various issues/concerns were central to the formation of the association. A basic and central issue was the need to have a support group to help and encourage each other, share ideas and remind each other to take courses to renew certification. A crucial need was a call for certified Inupiat teachers in the Inupiat Immersion Program. Another concern was to start mentoring young people to become teachers. The fourth concern was that the bilingual teachers, recognized experts, were not being recognized and appreciated for their expertise. Lastly, there was a need to have more Inupiaq-based curriculum developed for the Inupiaq Immersion program.

North Slope Inupiat Educators Association

The association was formed out of an Inupiat Educators’ Conference, held in February 1996, sponsored by Ilisagvik College and the North Slope Borough School District. They were gathered to identify what individuals needed to be a good educator.

As stated in their bylaws (see attachment 2) the NSIEA’s primary purpose is to support and be a voice of North Slope Inupiat Educators and to serve as an advocate for North Slope Inupiat Education.

The association has had two meetings since February 1996. The NSIEA met in September 1996 and elected their board of directors. The board has also met every month since November 1996.

The NSIEA meetings resulted in the following education statements and goals:

  • promote Inupiat language and knowledge
  • promote and support Inupiat language training
  • develop or identify Inupiat language standards of competency
  • promote teaching or the education as an important field of employment now and in the future for Inupiat children
  • provide scholarships for Inupiat students with an interest in teacher education.


There are four groups of voting membership. The first category will be open to Certified educators who are North Slope Inupiat involved in education or are in the process of attaining a Type A/B/C or D certificate. The second category extends to those North Slope Inupiat who have a degree in other areas and are working in the field of education . The third category will be open to other North Slope Inupiat as associate members who are interested in the goals of this organization. The fourth category is the honorary membership which will be extended to North Slope Inupiat Elders.

Affiliate members are non-voting members and make up the fifth kind of membership.

Certified, Degreed and Associate members will be required to pay an annual membership tee of $25.00 and will receive one vote. All Affiliate members will be required to pay a $15.00 membership fee. Honorary members shall not be required to pay a membership fee.


As a newly formed association, there are no funds to speak of, besides the membership dues. However, they do receive in-kind services from Ilisagvik College and the North Slope Borough School District for in-kind services such as: the setting up of board meetings, travel funds, etc.


Resolutions have been made to the NSBSD School Board to improve teaching conditions such as making Inupiat classes longer or adding more teachers in the villages.

Having formed within the last year, they have concentrated their efforts on the North Slope Inupiat Teacher Education Program steering committee and on supporting and encouraging Native students as potential teachers.

They have also worked to solve initial problems faced by the Inupiat Immersion program, in areas such as recruiting certified Inupiat teachers and Inupiat culture-based curriculum development.


For those interested in finding out more information about the NSIEA you can contact one of the following people: Martha Stackhouse or Emma Bodfish at the NSBSD. Also Arlene Glenn, Edna MacLean, Kathy Ahgeak and James Nageak at Ilisagvik College.


Although, NSIEA is less than a year old, the members are a group of highly qualified Inupiat educators, well grounded in both Inupiat and Western knowledge, seeking to provide quality education and to advocate for Inupiat educational issues. Eben Hopson, who was Mayor of the North Slope Borough in 1977, said, “Today, we have control over our educational system. We must now begin to assess whether or not our school system is truly becoming an Inupiat school system, reflecting Inupiat educational philosophies. We must have teachers who will reflect and transmit our ideals and values. We must have Inupiat-centered orientation in all areas of instruction.” This association has already begun to work on what Eben Hopson envisioned.


October 1996-Interview with Martha Stackhouse
February 1997-Mokakit Conference Native Educators Panel Presentation


Inupiat Education for the 21st Century booklet by Ilisagvik College and North Slope Borough School District.


NSIEA Bylaws

Southeast Alaska Native Educators Association: SANEA
Contemporary Needs of the Native Teachers:
The Formations of the Native Teacher Associations in Alaska

This is one of five mini-case studies describing the formation of Alaska Native teacher associations (NTA’s). The case studies consist of information gathered from personal interviews, public Native educator panel presentations, participation in three out of five NTA’s and publications that have been prepared by each organization. The case studies describe where the organizations are located, their membership, why and how they were formed, some of their past and current activities, and recommendations for potential members or persons interested in starting their own organization.

Southeast Alaska Native Educators Association

The newest association in the beginning stages of formation within the year and located the farthest south than any of the other associations is the Southeast Alaska Native Educators Association (SANEA). They are in the southern part of Alaska, the home of the Tlingit, Tsimshian and Haida people. Although, still in its fledging stage of development, various members have developed culture-based curriculum that they have been using in their classrooms, and have presented workshops on how to use the materials.


The geographic location that SANEA is in, is referred to as the “panhandle” of Alaska (see map attachment 1), because of its shape. The majority of the villages, towns and cities are located on islands. The area is mountainous and surrounded by the ocean and glaciers and the majority of travel between the islands is by air or the ferry system or boats. Membership extends to both urban and rural areas of all of Southeast Alaska from Yakutat to Wrangell. There are two Regional Education Attendance Area school districts and the rest are city or borough school districts. The SANEA members serve as teachers in southeast rural and urban schools.


The original founding members had been discussing the formation of an association and the realization did not come about until Andrew Hope’s recommendation and suggestion that they form at the third conference of Tlingit Tribes and Clans held in Ketchikan and Saxman in late March 1996.

The primary purpose of SANEA is to provide a forum for support and a voice of Southeast Alaska Native Educators and to serve as an advocate for Native education issues, that will benefit the Native children of Southeast Alaska (see bylaws attachment 2).

The newly formed association sought technical assistance from the Association of Interior Native Educators (AINE) and Association of Native Educators of Lower Kuskokwim (ANELK), in the area of drafting bylaws and other start-up assistance.

Some of the members were present at the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (AKRSI) project’s Alaska Native Rural Education Consortium (ANREC) meeting held in Anchorage in November of 1996, where a couple of the already established Native teacher association gave introductory and summary reports to the ANREC. This was an important meeting where similar concerns, struggles, etc. were affirmed by the other NTA’s.

Membership meetings are limited due to high travel costs.

SANEA is well on its way to paving new trails of accomplishments by Native educators seeking to provide quality education for the students in Southeast Alaska, members forged ahead with culture-based curriculum development, and have begun discussion of educational issues of concern.


There are four groups of voting membership. The first category is the Certified educators who are Alaska Natives involved in education. The second category is Native persons who have or in the process of obtaining a Type A/B/C certificate. The third category is the Degreed members who are Natives with degrees in other areas and are working in the field of education. The fourth category is the Associate members who are Natives involved in education or interested in the goals of this association.

Affiliate members are non-voting members and make up the fifth kind of membership.

There are honorary members and this membership is extended to elders, they will not be required to pay a membership fee.

There is an annual membership fee of $25.00 for the voting membership and $20.00 for affiliate members.


To date, the association has received limited funding support. For the initial meetings of the founding members, some of the participants have paid their own way to organizational meetings, or some have had their way paid to attend curriculum development workshop meetings. Initial funding may come from membership fees. Participating teachers are those who have attended Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (AKRSI) project curriculum meetings and have had their way paid by participating school districts under an MOA with AKRSI.

There is a need for funding to begin a new association. Funds are needed for travel expenses for board members to meet regularly, publish newsletters, information sheets (to keep membership updated on activities and meeting dates), Xeroxing, mailouts, postage, phone calls and a coordinator to keep things going. Right now there is no headquarters or office, but one of the founding members uses her computer and home as a base.

Some association members are currently involved in the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative MOA’s and meetings, which gives them exposure to educational issues that they are concerned with. The AKRSI provides opportunities to connect with other association founding members and “speak the same language” on educational issues.


The association has had two planning meetings in association with other AKRSI regional activities, such as curriculum workshops. The SANEA had an organizational meeting in which they discussed how to get the association going, the first organizational meeting was held in Juneau in June 1996.

Individual founding members have been very active in curriculum development and have offered workshops on how to use the materials.

The association will co-sponsor a curriculum development workshop in late July in Sitka. They will hold an association officers meeting concurrently.

The association sent its first newsletter in August of 1996 (see attachment 3).


The following are SANEA contact people:

Jackie D”Cafango Kookesh
Box 102
Angoon, Ak. 99820
(907) 788-3516

Isabella Brady
Box 904
Sitka, Ak. 99835
(907) 747-8706

Phyllis Carlson
320 W. Willoughby Ave.
Juneau, Ak. 99801
(907) 463-7156

Della Cheney
801 Lincoln St.
Sitka, Ak. 99835
(907) 747-2589


To be in the fledging stage of development has been slow, yet the rewards when the members get together are great. Recently, SANEA had a business meeting in which founding members from three other Native teacher associations were on hand to encourage and give SANEA support as they begin to implement their goals. The need for such an association as SANEA was already long expressed. The growth will be slow but the issues that they are facing will continue to be the driving force for SANEA’s growth.


Sharing Our Pathways
Raven Bones Journal Vol. 5 No. 1


November 1996 ANREC and staff meeting in Anchorage-personal conversation
April 22 - E-mail interview with Jackie D’Cafango Kookesh


SANEA Bylaws
SANEA Newsletter

Master Project Summary


The main reason for forming the Native teacher associations was as a support group for the Indigenous educators. From there, they expanded into curriculum development, research, and learning from their teachers, the elders. They shared lessons that they learned in the early stages of formation.

The lessons that SANEA shared included: advice to be careful in the beginning stages on how you go about organizing an association-do it for the right reasons. There is a need for this type of association to support each other as Native educators. It is important to have a couple of people with leadership skills to get things moving and stay moving, keeping everyone informed, focused and have a vision of the future and direction that the association plans on moving in.

CRA, being the oldest association, has had more time to reflect on their experiences and the following is what they learned. There are a couple lessons for those Native educators who are interested in developing their own associations. When CRA first started, there were concerns from non-Native teachers and administrators within the school districts they were working in about separating Native teachers from the others. This is one thing that beginning associations will have to learn to deal with constructively. Each of the Native teachers are in a unique position and can benefit from a support group that shares their struggles, frustrations, perspectives and accomplishments. This in turn benefits the rest of the education program in the school.

Another lesson is that when CRA first started it was more or less a healing process. There was a lot of testimony, a lot of crying, where the teachers shared the injustices that they found within the schools and communities that they taught in. There was a need to share experiences in the early stages of the support group that formed. Here they felt safe within their own peers. It was very important for this to happen, so that the group could begin to move forward to other goals that they had set for themselves.

AINE has been very active from the beginning and the following s what they had to share. “We can talk about things only for so long. We needed to quit talking and take some action and begin to work on our own solutions to better the education for our Native students, Native teachers and community. We asked ourselves, “How long are we going to graduate illiterate Natives who have no identity, no understanding of abstract concepts? We need more Native teachers, administrators and involved communities because we understand our needs as Native people. There are good people out there, but they have no understanding of what we need as Native people.”

It is not easy to get something like an association started, in the beginning there were struggles, but the experiences and issues they lived and knew about kept them focused.

ANELK shares in its message the impact of the team effort the associations have had in their regions. One of the reasons why a Native educator should become involved in an association is so that they can become part of a movement, an effort, and a team. As an individual, you can only do so much. But as part of a team, there is more that can be accomplished and you can get somewhere. You can also give yourself a chance to learn.

NSIEA’s practical idea of taking action instead of complaining makes sense to those who want to take charge and make changes. Instead of constantly criticizing the system join an organization and work together on solutions for the problems.

The area of curriculum development and learning about self through research were the next necessary steps that the Native educators took as they emerged from the healing process of their support groups. Since there isn’t Indigenous curriculum and pedagogy widely published, the Native teachers are doing their own research to understand themselves and learn more about “sense of place.” The majority are from a generation that was sent away for high school, and some left for college soon after, so there is a void in their own experiences on learning about their culture during their young adult years. Some of the most exhilarating and rewarding experiences have been working with the elders. The knowledge, practicality and humor that they share, make them the most sought after “teachers.”

Overall, the channeling of anger, frustrations and struggles into constructive avenues such as the formation of the Native teacher associations has been the best experience to happen to the Indigenous educators. Within the associations there is a nurturing environment for healing, change and growth.

In all this, there is the realization that as Native teachers we can look at published work, i.e. research, children’s literature, etc. and critically evaluate what we read or see. However, we are still working on constructive criticism.

There is potential for more areas of growth. For the future, culture-based curriculum development will continue to be a central focus. Veteran Native educators are being recruited to help develop indigenous teacher education programs, to be mentor teachers and to provide pre-service and in-service/orientation in the various school districts and universities.

As the associations become more stable, the members have to take care not to over-extend themselves.

I would like to thank each of the founding members that I interviewed for their willingness to share their story so that others in similar situations may know of their struggles and accomplishments. They are a group of highly qualified Indigenous educators seeking to provide quality education for the Indigenous students of Alaska and be an advocate for Indigenous educational issues. As Verna Kirkness, a First Nations educator, said during her speech (at a 1993 Mokakit Conference) titled, First Nations Education: Cut the Shackles: Cut the Crap: Cut the Mustard: “elders, parents and educators are the leaders in our struggle to incorporate tradition and culture into our schools today.



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 December 18, 2008