Guidelines for Nurturing Culturally-Healthy Youth
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Pictured on cover: Aleasha
Qignak Atoruk, a second-year student at Nikaitchuat Ilisagviat.
Assembly of Alaska Native Educators
February 6, 2001
Published by the Alaska Native Knowledge Network
Also available in downloadable PDF
These guidelines are sponsored by:
The following guidelines address issues of concern in the
application of traditional child-rearing and parenting practices in nurturing
in the contemporary world. The guidelines are organized around various roles
related to child-rearing, including those of Elders, parents, communities,
educators, child-care providers, family services agencies and the youth themselves.
Special attention is given to the educational implications for the integration
of traditional child-rearing and parenting practices in schools throughout
The guidance offered in the following pages is intended to encourage the incorporation
of traditional knowledge and teaching practices in all aspects of the lives
of children and youth, including that which occurs in classroom settings.
is hoped that these guidelines will help to more fully nurture the social,
emotional, intellectual and spiritual development of Alaskas youth.
Native educators from throughout the state contributed to the development
of these guidelines through a series of workshops and meetings associated with
the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative. Representatives of the Native educator
organizations listed on the cover participated in the meetings and ratified
the final document. The purpose of these guidelines is to offer assistance to
educational personnel and others who are seeking to incorporate the Alaska Standards
for Culturally-Responsive Schools (including those for students and communities)
in their work. Using these guidelines will expand the knowledge base and range
of insights and expertise available to help communities nurture healthy, confident,
responsible and well-rounded young adults.
Throughout this document Elders are accorded a central
role as the primary source of cultural knowledge. It should be understood
that the identification
of "Elders" as culture-bearers is not simply a matter of chronological
age, but a function of the respect accorded to individuals in each community
who exemplify the values and lifeways of the local culture and who possess
wisdom and willingness to pass their knowledge on to future generations. Respected
Elders serve as the philosophers, professors and visionaries of a cultural
In addition, many aspects of cultural knowledge can be learned from other members
of a community who have not yet been recognized as Elders, but seek to practice
and teach local lifeways in culturally appropriate ways.
Along with these guidelines are a set of general recommendations aimed at stipulating
the kind of initiatives that need to be taken to achieve the goals for which
they are intended. State and federal agencies, universities, school districts
and Native communities are all encouraged to review their policies, programs
and practices and to adopt these guidelines and recommendations wherever appropriate.
In so doing, the educational development of students throughout Alaska will
be enriched and the future well-being of the communities being served will be
Further information on issues related to the implementation of these guidelines,
as well as additional copies may be obtained from the Alaska Native Knowledge
Network, University of Alaska Fairbanks, P.O. Box 756730, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730
Guidelines for Native Elders
Respected Native Elders are the essential role models
who can share the knowledge and expertise on traditional child-rearing
that is needed to nurture the cultural well-being of todays youth.
Native Elders, as the tradition-bearers, can help nurture culturally-healthy
youth through the following actions:
- Participate in local and regional Elders councils as a way
to help formulate, document and pass on traditional child-rearing and parenting
practices for future generations.
- Establish traditional Elders councils for developing, nurturing and mentoring
- Help implement and incorporate locally-appropriate cultural
values in all aspects of life in the community, especially those involving
children and youth.
- Provide guidance and assistance in utilizing traditional ways
of knowing, teaching, listening and learning in passing on cultural knowledge
to younger generations in the community.
- Serve as a role model and mentor for young people by practicing
and reinforcing traditional values and appropriate behaviors in the everyday
life of the community.
- Share stories and participate in storytelling opportunities
in the community as a way to pass on the cultural values and traditions.
- Assist new parents in learning the knowledge and skills needed
to carry out their role as care-givers and the first teachers of their children.
- Continue the use of traditional naming practices and help
children and parents understand the significance of the names and kinship
ties they have acquired.
- Encourage, support and volunteer to assist in all aspects
of the educational programs in the school, including both traditional and
- Help young people understand the world around them and how
it has changed from the world in which previous generations were raised,
including the interconnectedness of the human, natural and spiritual realms.
- Assist members of the community to acquire the knowledge and
skills needed to assume the role of Elder for future generations.
Guidelines for Parents
Parents are the first teachers of their children
and provide the foundation on which the social, emotional, intellectual and
spiritual well-being of future generations rests.
Parents, as the primary care-givers, can help nurture culturally-healthy youth
through the following actions:
- Provide a loving, healthy and supportive environment for each
child to grow and achieve their fullest potential from prenatal through
- Establish parenting circles in the community that provide
an opportunity for young parents to share their joys and frustrations and
learn from each others experience.
- Connect with parents and grandparents in the community who
can serve as role models for providing a nurturing family and home environment.
- Utilize the traditional disciplining roles of uncles, aunts,
Elders and other authority figures in the community to help children learn
what is right and wrong in a constructive way.
- Participate as a family and encourage children to become actively
involved in cultural activities and learn the traditional values of the
- Set aside time each day or week for family-oriented activities
including extended family members whenever possible.
- Make arrangements to accompany your child through part or
all of a school day at least once per quarter to gain an understanding of
what they are doing in school.
- Use traditional naming practices and help each child understand
the significance of the names they carry.
- Volunteer to participate in activities that help make the
schooling experiences of each child an extension of their home and community
life (e.g., adopt-a-teacher program.)
- Practice the locally-identified cultural values and rules
of behavior in all family activities and encourage other members of the
community to do the same.
- Assist children in learning and using their heritage language.
- Assist children to understand their family history and the
heritage(s) that shape who they are and form their identity.
- Make use of locally-appropriate rituals and ceremonies
to reinforce the critical events in childrens lives.
- Serve as a positive role model and mentor for your children
by practicing and reinforcing traditional values and appropriate behaviors.
- Participate in community-sponsored programs that enhance parenting
Guidelines for Youth
Culturally-healthy youth take an active interest
in learning their heritage and assume responsibility for their role as contributing
members of the family and community in which they live.
Youth can nurture their own cultural well-being through the following actions:
- Learn all you can about your family, kinship relations and
community history and cultural heritage.
- Participate in subsistence activities with parents, Elders
and other members of the community and learn the stories and lessons associated
with those activities.
- Become actively involved in local activities and organizations
that contribute to the quality of life in your community.
- Show respect to the Elders in your community by assisting
them in any way you can.
- Get involved in regional, state and national issues and organizations
that impact your community.
- Make healthy choices in your lifestyle that contribute to
the wholeness and well-being of yourself and those around you.
- Always be a good role model, show respect and provide support
- Participate in apprenticeships with cultural experts in the
community and acquire traditional conflict resolution skills.
- Seek to acquire all the knowledge and skills associated
with the "cultural standards for students" (published in the
Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive Schools.)
- Use critical judgment in the selection of popular media for
reading, viewing and listening and make sure it is aligned with your aspirations
as an adult.
- Associate with friends who can provide healthy role models
that will make a positive contribution to your growth and development toward
Guidelines for Communities,
Tribes, Clans & Native Organizations
Communities must provide a healthy and supportive
environment that reinforces the values and behaviors its members wish to instill
in their future generations.
Communities can help nurture culturally-healthy youth through the following
- Recognize that the children of the community are its future
and ensure that every child grows up secure in who they are and confident
in their ability to make their own way in the world.
- Strengthen the parenting roles as reflected in traditional
kinship structures by adopting child-rearing as a collective responsibility
and make sure children know their kinship roles and responsibilities.
- Sponsor regular parent/youth talking circles in the community.
- Promote healthy community activities and supportive organizations
by involving youth as board members and participants in all functions, meetings,
workshops and events related to community well-being.
- Organize local and regional planning meetings that lead to
a consensus on strategies for consistent support of young people from all
the sectors of the community that impact their lives (home, school, Elders,
church, community organizations, cultural events, media, etc.)
- Be a good role model for and engage youth in all aspects of
community life including involvement in youth-run organizations and councils
and participation in Native corporation and tribally-sponsored activities.
- Foster family- and community-oriented activities on a regular
basis by suspending Bingo, TV and other forms of distraction for one night
- Recognize and support accomplishments of community members,
- When encountering young people and adults in the community,
greet them and acknowledge their existence.
- Foster traditional knowledge, values and beliefs in all aspects
of community life and institutional practices.
- Publish and distribute posters, announcements, buttons, calendars
and other daily reminders of culturally-appropriate rules of behavior and
child-rearing practices as valued by the Elders.
- Implement tribal courts that incorporate traditional healing,
restorative justice and rehabilitation practices to deal with youth who
have committed serious infractions of community rules, expectations and
- Incorporate the cultural standards for communities and parents
into daily life as outlined in the Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive
- All youth-oriented programs and services should be administered
by Native-controlled organizations at the most local level possible.
Guidelines for Educators
Educators are responsible for providing a supportive
learning environment that reinforces the cultural well-being of the students
in their care.
Educators (teachers, administrators, aides, counselors, etc.) can help nurture
culturally-healthy youth through the following actions:
- Learn traditional child-rearing and parenting practices to
link the knowledge base of the school to that of the community.
- Recognize that students developmental needs undergo
substantial changes in early adolescence that can effect academic performance,
so instructional strategies will need to be adapted accordingly.
- Adopt curricular and instructional strategies that connect
to the cultural and physical world in which the students are situated.
- Make effective use of local expertise, especially Elders,
co-teachers whenever local cultural knowledge is being addressed in the
- Take steps to recognize and validate all aspects of the knowledge
students bring with them and assist them in their ongoing quest for personal
and cultural affirmation.
- Develop the observation and listening skills necessary to
acquire an in-depth understanding of the knowledge system indigenous to
the local community and apply that understanding in teaching practice.
- Visit the students homes and learn about the parents
aspirations for their children as well as their expectations for you.
- Carefully review all curriculum resource materials to insure
cultural accuracy and appropriateness and assist students in making similar
critical judgments themselves.
- Make every effort to utilize locally-relevant curriculum materials
with which students can readily identify, including materials prepared by
Alaska Native authors.
- Serve as a role model for students by utilizing constructive
forms of discipline over punishment and providing positive reinforcement
over negative feedback.
- Provide sufficient flexibility in scheduling Elder participation
so they are able to fully share what they know with minimal interference
by the clock and provide enough advance notice for them to make the necessary
- Align all subject matter with the Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive
Schools and develop curriculum models that are based on the local cultural
and environmental experiences of the students.
- Recognize the importance of cultural and intellectual property
rights in teaching practice and honor such rights in all aspects of the
selection and utilization of curriculum resources.
- Participate in community events and activities to acquire
the insights needed to develop appropriate motivation and discipline practices
in the school.
Guidelines for Schools
Schools must be fully engaged with the life
of the communities they serve so as to provide consistency of expectations in
all aspects of students lives.
Schools may help nurture culturally-healthy youth through the following actions:
- Establish an easily accessible repository of culturally-appropriate
resource materials and a reliable process for the daily involvement of knowledgeable
expertise, including respected Elders, from the community.
- Include the voices of representatives from the local culture
in the curriculum materials used in the school.
- Provide developmentally-appropriate curricula that take into
account the cultural variability of the social, emotional, intellectual
and spiritual needs of each child and community, especially during the critical
period of identity formation that takes place during the adolescent years.
- Utilize the natural environment of the community to move educational
activities beyond the classroom as a way of fostering place-based education
and deepening the learning experiences of students.
- Support the implementation of an Elders-in-Residence program
in each school and classroom and teach respect for Elders at all times.
- Provide an in-depth cultural orientation program for all new
teachers and administrators.
- Promote the incorporation of the Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive
Schools in all aspects of the school curriculum, while demonstrating their
applicability in providing multiple avenues to meet the state Content Standards.
- Utilize Elders and Native teachers from the local community
to acquire a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of the local, regional
and statewide context in which the students live, particularly as it relates
to the well-being and survival of the local culture.
- Make use of locally-produced resource materials (reports,
videos, maps, books, tribal documents, etc.) in all subject areas and work
in close collaboration with local agencies to enrich the curriculum beyond
the scope of commercially-produced texts.
Guidelines for Child-care Providers
Child-care providers should draw upon Elders
and other local experts to utilize traditional child-rearing and parenting practices
that nurture the values and behaviors appropriate to the respective cultural
Child-care providers can help nurture culturally-healthy youth through the
- Incorporate parents and other knowledgeable members of the
surrounding cultural community to the maximum extent possible in all aspects
of child-care and family services.
- Utilize traditional stories, toys, games, songs, language,
foods and related activities whenever possible and appropriate to establish
consistency between experiences in child-care and at home.
- Insure that all child-care workers are knowledgeable about,
and have first-hand experience in, the cultural and family contexts from
which the children are drawn (i.e., hire/train local child-care providers.)
- Provide all child-care supervisors and workers with appropriate
training and understanding of requirements in areas related to the Indian
Child Welfare Act, special needs children, evidence of child abuse, FAS/FAE,
health and safety issues, referral services, etc.
- Encourage sponsoring organizations to implement family-friendly
employment practices that encourage maximum parental involvement in the
upbringing of their children.
- Invite traditional storytellers to spend time with children
while in child-care facilities or take children to visit Elders in the community.
- Practice good hygiene at all times and teach the same to the
Guidelines for Youth Services & Juvenile
Youth services and juvenile justice agencies
should provide a supportive policy, program and funding environment that encourages
local initiative in the application of traditional child-rearing and parenting
Youth services and juvenile justice agencies can help nurture culturally-healthy
youth through the following actions:
- Emphasize cooperative approaches that nurture the intrinsic
good in the youth with whom you work and seek to minimize reliance on threats,
punishment and extrinsic forms of motivation to achieve obedient behavior
(i.e., focus on reinforcing good behavior over punishing bad.)
- Implement practices that focus on prevention, traditional
healing, restitution and rehabilitation as avenues of first resort in dealing
with youth who have committed serious infractions of communal rules, expectations
- Work with local communities to adopt correction policies and
practices oriented toward education, prevention, remediation, restitution,
rehabilitation and healing in culturally-appropriate ways
- Utilize talking/healing/sentencing circles to foster a climate
of introspection, support and remediation when seeking to achieve corrective
action and rehabilitation.
- Whenever possible, promote participation and integration of
youth into the surrounding society, rather than removal and separation for
infractions or anti-social behavior.
- Work with schools to provide a supportive, prevention-oriented
social climate for all students and seek to retain students in a healthy
environment as much as possible.
- Engage youth in multimedia productions in which they are encouraged
to portray their aspirations for the world around them.
Guidelines for Researchers
Researchers should work with local communities
to help document traditional child-rearing and parenting practices and
their applicability to the upbringing of todays youth.
Researchers can help nurture culturally-healthy youth through the following
- Effectively identify and utilize the expertise in participating
communities to enhance the quality of data gathering as well as the data
itself and use caution in applying external frames of reference in its analysis
- Make sure that all research pertaining to child-rearing and
parenting include consideration of cultural differences in everything from
the sampling and data-gathering procedures to application of the results.
- Insure controlled access for sensitive cultural information
that has not been explicitly authorized for general distribution, as determined
by members of the local community and participating families and individuals.
- Submit research plans and research results for review by a
locally knowledgeable group and abide by its recommendations to the maximum
extent possible, including ample time for accurate data gathering to take
- Provide full disclosure of funding sources, sponsors, institutional
affiliations and reviewers and supply adequate compensation for all participants.
- Include explicit recognition of all research contributors
in the final report and provide copies to all participating individuals,
communities and organizations.
- Abide by the Guidelines for Respecting Cultural Knowledge
prepared by Native educators and the research principles established by
the Alaska Federation of Natives and other state, national and international
organizations representing indigenous peoples.
Guidelines for the General Public
All citizens must assume greater responsibility
for nurturing the diverse traditions by which each child grows to become a culturally-healthy
Members of the general public can help nurture culturally-healthy youth through
the following actions:
- Treat children and youth from all backgrounds with honor,
dignity and respect and involve them in the activities of everyday life
to the maximum extent possiblethis is how they learn to become contributing
- Encourage and support Native peoples efforts to
apply their own child-rearing and parenting practices in the upbringing
- Recognize that all forms of success in school and in life
depend first and foremost on developing a strong sense of personal and cultural
identity and that the formative adolescent years are the most critical for
defining who we are in relation to others.
- Celebrate that which we all share in common as members of
a national society as well as all the differences that make each of us unique
and serve as the basis for the local and personal identities which enrich
our lives and communities.
- Contribute to and participate respectfully in local cultural
events to gain a better understanding of the range of cultural traditions
that co-exist in Alaska.
- Provide opportunities for young parents and children to interact
regularly with Elders and other experienced parents.
- Make room in all community events for multiple cultural traditions
to be represented.
- Use popular media to promote positive role models for young
people to emulate and to pass on the traditional teachings.
- Ensure the accuracy and authenticity of all materials that
enter the public domain depicting culturally-oriented situations and behaviors
relating to particular groups of people.
The following recommendations are offered to
support the effective implementation of the guidelines for nurturing culturally-healthy
- The Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive Schools shall
be used as a general guide for any educational activity involving nurturing
- Community and regional entities shall pursue the re-establishment
of traditional disciplining, restitution and rehabilitation programs through
tribal courts, sentencing circles, Elders counseling and other forms
of culturally-appropriate remediation practices.
- State and federal criminal justice systems and associated
youth facilities shall work with local communities to adopt correction policies
and practices oriented toward education, prevention, remediation, restitution,
rehabilitation and healing in culturally-appropriate ways with incarceration
and isolation the punishment of last resort, especially for misdemeanors
and non-violent infractions.
- The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development shall
expand the focus of the annual Bilingual/Multicultural Education Conference
to include an emphasis on traditional child-rearing and parenting (possibly
alternating themes from year to year.)
- Each regional health corporation shall sponsor an annual regional
gathering around the themes of traditional child-rearing and parenting including
opportunities for men and women to meet independently to discuss their own
- Schools shall sponsor opportunities for students to participate
regularly in cultural immersion camps with parents, Elders and teachers
sharing subsistence activities during each season of the year.
- School districts shall provide an annual cultural orientation
camp for teachers to acquaint them with the experiences and the lives from
which their students come.
- All regional Elders conferences shall include traditional
child-rearing and parenting as a theme whereby the Elders are able to contribute
to the development of contemporary child-rearing practices aimed at nurturing
- Parenting circles shall be established in every community
to provide an opportunity for young parents to interact regularly with one
another and other knowledgeable community members around issues of child-rearing
- As regional tribal colleges are established, they shall provide
a support structure for the implementation of these guidelines in each of
their respective regions.
- The guidelines outlined above shall be incorporated in university
courses and made an integral part of all professional preparation and cultural
- An annotated bibliography of resource materials that address
issues associated with traditional child-rearing and parenting shall be
maintained on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network web site (www.ankn.uaf.edu).
Resources for Nurturing Culturally
Print Resource Materials
Alaska Natives Commission (1994). Alaska Natives Commission Final Report.
Anchorage, AK: Alaska Federation of Natives.
Craig, Rachel. (1996). Whats
in a Name?: The Recycling of Inupiaq Names and Implications for Kinship.
Sharing Our Pathways: 1(5),
EED. (2000). On the Threshold: How Your Child DevelopsBirth
to Five Years. Juneau: Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.
John, Theresa A. (1998). Yupik Discipline Practices Inerquuet and
Alerquutet to Implement into Yupik Schools. In D. Norris-Tull (Ed.), Our
Language, Our Souls: Yupik Bilingual Curriculum (pp. 87101).
Fairbanks: Alaska Native Knowledge Network.
Meadow, A. (2000). Creating Models of Success for Alaska Native Students.
Fairbanks: Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.
Search Institute (1998). Helping Kids SucceedAlaskan
Style. Juneau: Association of Alaska School Boards.
Seyfrit, C. L., & Hamilton, L. C. (1996). Survey
of Alaska High School Students (Preliminary). National Science Foundation.
Sprott, J. E. (1998). Raising Young Children in an Alaskan Inupiaq Village:
The Family, Cultural and Village Environment of Rearing(I). National Science
Sprott, J. E. (1999). Institutionalizing Love: The Nuniaq-ing
Custom among Alaskan Inupiat. Arctic: 52(2), 152159.
Tagaban, J. (2000). Family Feathers. Videotape Series,
Juneau: Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
(including the following titles):
Physical & Dental Health
The Natural Classroom
Culture & Heritage
Tagaban, J. (2000). Parents Journal. Videotape Series, Juneau: Central
Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (including the following
A Friendship with Head Start
Every Child is Special
Creativity . . . Every Childs Gift
Language, Literacy & Culture
Seeds of Respect: Guidance & Discipline
Alaska Department of Education and Early Development
801 West 10th St.
Juneau, AK 99801
333 West 4th Ave., Suite 220
Anchorage, AK 99501-2341
Alaska Child Indicators Project
Alaska Childrens Trust
P.O. Box 81016, Fairbanks, AK 99708
801 West 10th St., Suite 200
Juneau, AK 99801
Alaska Family Partnerships Program
201 First Ave.
Fairbanks, AK 99701
Calista Elders and Youth Council
301 Calista Court, Suite A
Anchorage, Alaska 99518-3028
Circles of Care: A Voice for Children
Fairbanks Native Association/Tanana Chiefs Conference/UAF
3100 South Cushman
Fairbanks, AK 99701
Child Development Division, RuralCAP Head Start
P.O. Box 200908
Anchorage, AK 99520
Southcentral Foundation Head Start
4501 Diplomacy Drive
Anchorage, AK 99508
Tanana Chiefs Conference Head Start
122 First Ave., Suite 600
Fairbanks, AK 99702
Tlingit & Haida Head Start
320 West Willoughby
Juneau, AK 99801
Alaska Department of Education and Early Development
Alaska Native Knowledge Network
Alaska Family Partnership Program
Briggs, J. (1970). Never in Anger: Portrait of an Eskimo Family. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press.
Briggs, J. (1998). Inuit Morality Play: The Emotional Education of a Three-Year
Old. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Condon, R. (1988). Inuit Youth: Growth and Change in the Canadian Arctic.
New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
Reimer, C. (1999). Counseling the Inupiat Eskimo. Westport, CT: Greenwood