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

Athabascan RavenAthabascans of Interior Alaska

5 to 6 days


1. Students locate Tetlin on map of Alaska
2. Students correctly identify the language traditionally spoken in Tetlin
3. Students name 3 animals, 1 species of fish, and a plant resource that were used for one of the basic needs in the Tetlin area
1. Student text, Alaskan Athabascans
2. Milepost or other road map enrichment)
3. Poster: Tetlin Resource Map
4. Booklet: Tetlin Resource Booklet
5. Student text, Tetlin As I Knew It
6. Worksheet V
7. Handout 3 - Tetlin Resource Map (desk copy)
1. Tack up Tetlin Resource Map
2. Make student copies of Handout 3- Tetlin Resource Map (desk copy)

1. Read Chapter 4 in Alaskan Athabascans
2. Study the Tetlin Resource Map
3. Identify resources in the Tetlin area
4. Complete worksheet V
5. Add a column to the Basic Needs Chart for Tetlin and begin filling it in (section l)
6. Read Chapter I in Tetlin As I Knew It. Mark the locations mentioned in the chapter on the Tetlin Resource Map.

New Vocabulary:
Upper Tanana

Have students read Chapter IV in the student text, Alaskan Athabascans.

Ask a student to find the Upper Tanana area and the village of Tetlin on the Native Peoples and Languages of Alaska map. Mark its location. Identify the language that is spoken there, and have students estimate the number of people who live there based on the information from the map. Discuss how a person might travel to Tetlin today. (Be sure to differentiate between Tetlin & Tetlin Junction.


 The map of Alaska shows eleven different groups of Athabascan Indians speaking eleven different languages in Alaska. You don't have time to learn about every group, so you will concentrate on one group in this unit: the Upper Tanana Athabascans. As you learn about that group, remember that each Athabascan area is a little different, and so are the customs of the people living in each area.

 You will be reading a book called Tetlin As I Knew It. It was written by Shirley Jimerson, an Upper Tanana Athabascan who now lives in Anchorage but who grew up in Tetlin. In her book, she describes the way life was when she was a little girl, in the 1950's. Life changes for people all over the world, and life has changed in the Tetlin area too. Nowadays there are more stores, and snowmachines and more people going to school than there were in the 1950's. Nowadays men


Provide one or more students with a copy of the Milepost or other road map of Alaska. Have them chart the route to Tetlin on the map. They should describe to the rest of the class what type of terrain and sights will be seen on the way, how long the trip is likely to take. They should show pictures taken along the route if they appear in the Milepost. 

Briefly review the concept of change. Ask students to name some recent changes they have noticed in their neighborhoods. Then reiterate the point, mentioned in the text, that life has changed through the years in Tetlin also. Alert students to be looking for changes as they read.

 don't trap with their families as much. Instead, they go with friends and leave the families in town so the children can go to school. And nowadays more and more men and women are working for money, instead of surviving from the natural environment.

 Life is different now from the way it was when Shirley Jimerson was little. As you read, try to find clues to the way life was different for Shirley than for her mother and father when they were little.

Students should be told that Tetlin and the surrounding land are all part of the Tetlin Reserve, owned by the shareholders of the Tetlin Native Corporation. The reserve was originally established as an Indian Reservation by the Department of the Interior. After the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was passed in December, 1971, the people of Tetlin elected to take full title of the land, which meant that they had both surface and subsurface rights but did not share in the original per capita money settlement as part of a regional corporation. The area is thus off-limits to any hunters or fishermen who are not members of the Tetlin Native Corporation, unless they receive permission from that corporation.

Now direct your students to the Tetlin Resource Map. Explain that this is a larger scale map of part of the Upper Tanana area shown on the Native Peoples and Languages of Alaska map.

As introductory map study for the students, have them determine how many miles the map shows from north to south; east to west. What landforms are most prevalent in the area? Explain to students that each plant and animal depicted on the map is placed in the locations where it is most often and easily obtained by the people of Tetlin. 

This multi-page worksheet will be best performed as a class activity rather than individually. Tack the sheets around your room. Distribute a copy of the Tetlin Resource Book to every third student. Give the students their instructions: they are to number a piece of paper from 1 to 17. Then, using the Tetlin Resource Book, the students are to identify the pictures tacked up around the room. Give them a time limit: perhaps 15 minutes. You should be prepared for a fairly hectic, but fruitful 15 minutes.

Following the identification, assign one resource to each small group to research. The group must prepare to give a very brief report on the resource, based on information in the booklet, and must locate pictures of the resource on the Tetlin Resource Map. (Handout 3, Tetlin Resource Map (desk copy) identifies the resources. This is to be distributed to your students later in the lesson.)

After the reports have been completed, leave the Tetlin Resource Booklets on a table close to the Tetlin Resource Map so that students can browse through it at their leisure.

Briefly discuss which of the Tetlin resources also exist in your area. Compare geography of the two areas. What types of environments do those common animals need?

Next, begin work with the book Tetlin As I Knew It ,by Shirley Jimerson. Read Chapter I aloud in class and follow Shirley's travels on the Tetlin Resource Map as you read. Mark with a pushpin or adhesive dot any places where the author stops.

Refer to Handout 3, Tetlin Resource Map (desk copy). Note that various locations on that map are numbered. Those numbers correspond with numbers on the teacher's reduced pages from Tetlin As I Knew It, and will be an aid to you in determining the places Shirley describes in her book. At this point, distribute copies of the map to students so that they can follow Shirley's travels more closely as you read Chapter I of the book. You might have students mark her yearly route on the map with crayon or magic marker as they read.

As you read about the various resources in the Tetlin area, have students add them to your Basic Needs chart begun in Section 1. You will be adding to this chart throughout the unit.

A Trip Around Tetlin
 Let's imagine we're looking at the fish campsite - 1 Last Tetlin. From the riverbank, we can see a tent frame and a smokehouse for each family. Trails branch out here and there from the campsite. Fireweed is growing all over.

 We walk to the back of the village. From there we can see all the lakes - there are lots of them - which empty out into the Last Tetlin River.

 We take a boat downriver toward the fish traps. In the clear spots we can look down to the bottom of the river and see whitefish and northern pike swimming around.

The river curves, back and forth, so we can't see very far down it from any one place. Along the banks there are spruce trees and willows, and once in awhile we have to steer the boat out of the way of a fallen tree that hangs over the river. As we go down toward the mouth of the river, we can see that the trees are getting taller and more dense.

 Last Tetlin River empties into 2Tetlin Lake - the largest lake in the area. When we enter the lake from the river, we see the mountains at the far side. They seem to flow into the lake.

 We'll go around the lake clockwise. The first creek we come to is 3Bear Creek . It's very clear and ice cold, and there are lots of fish in it in the summer and fall.

We go on past the creek, along the lake-shore, until we come to an Island . The lake between the 4Island and the shore is very shallow and is a favorite place for moose. They feed on the water lily roots.

All along the west side of the lake, there are marshy areas like this where moose feed and ducks of all types can be found.

Tetlin Lake is a major area for molting ducks in the summer. Canvasbacks, widgeon, pintail, shovelars, greenwing teal, and some mallards can be found there.

We'll go on to the 5North side of the lake. The land becomes more hilly and the shores are rocky. This is one place where my family fishes.

We'll keep going around the lakeshore. From the northeast side of the lake we can see a hill we call 6"Rock Hill" . We pick raspberries on Rock Hill.

We go past Rock Hill, and the banks be-come high and steep. We can't see much over the bank from our boat until we come to the 7mouth of Tetlin River. Then we can see the area between the mouth of Tetlin River and the mouth of Last Tetlin River; it's flat and willowy.

(the canaries referred to are yellow warblers).

 Going up the Tetlin River, we can see only the high banks for quite awhile. Once in awhile we can see bears up on the banks-brown or black bears. Common snipes skitter along the riverbanks. Blackbirds chatter. Woodpeckers hammer away somewhere in the forest. We hear canaries, chickadees, and crows, all singing or talking. How beautiful it all sounds!

 Every now and then a creek empties water out of some small lake into the Tetlin River. There are lots of willows - river willows - hanging over the river.

Finally we see 8Tetlin Village. It sits on the left bank of the river, and we can see it clearly from the place where we beach the boat. People come down to meet us - it doesn't matter if we're strangers. They'll come down to meet us anyway!

 Before we go inside we take a look around. The land rises from the village toward the north. One of the hills, called Tetlin Hill, is a good place to find blueberries and cran-berries. And to the south of the village, the land becomes marshy. That's where the muskrat and beaver can be found.

From Tetlin Village we can follow a trail anywhere we want to go - all over our land. But that's a different journey!


Tetlin Resources

A list of resources on the Tetlin Resource Map is given below. With the help of the Tetlin Resource Booklet, label the pictures of the resources.

Arctic Grayling




Dall Sheep



Highbush Cranberries

Northern Pike


Humpback Whitefish



Indian potatoes

Round Whitefish


Lowbush Cranberries

1. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

2. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

3. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

4. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

5. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

6. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

7. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

8. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

9. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

10. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

11. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

12. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

13. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

14. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

15. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

16. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

17. Name of resource_________________________what is this?

Answer Guide
Tetlin Resources

1. Muskrat

7. Blueberries

13. Beaver

2. Lowbush cranberries

8. Dall sheep

14. Arctic grayling

3. Raspberries

9. Bear

15. Round whitefish

4. Indian potatoes

10. Humpback whitefish

16. Moose

5. Northern pike

11. Burbot

17. Crowberries

6. Caribou

12. Highbush cranberries


Desk Copy

 Tetlin Resource Map 

Section 1 Adaptations to Basic Needs
Section 2 Athabascans
Section 3 Upper Tanana Athabascans
Section 4 The Yearly Cycle
Section 5 There's More To Culture Than Basic Needs
Section 6 Could You Survive?
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Appendix D
Appendix E
Appendix F



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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
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Last modified August 17, 2006