A newsletter of the Alaska Rural Systemic
Alaska Federation of Natives / University
of Alaska / National Science Foundation
Volume 4, Issue 2, March/April 1999
In This Issue:
Rural Education Looks
to a Bright Future in the New Millennium
The Cry of the Loon
Elders In the Classroom
Institute on Integrating
Science, Math, and Cultural Standards in Rural Schools
Region: Elder Highlight
U of A Wants Top High
School Grads to Stay Here for College
Village Science: The
Year of D2
Alaska RSI Contacts
Rural Education Looks to a Bright Future
in the New Millennium
A Report on the Alaska Rural Education
On January 25-27, over 60 leaders in rural education
from across the state gathered in Wasilla for an Alaska Rural Education
Leadership Retreat sponsored by the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative
in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Education and the Alaska
Federation of Natives. Along with Commissioner Shirley Holloway,
AFN President Julie Kitka and UA President Mark Hamilton, a group
of superintendents, Elders, Native educators and others actively
involved in rural education initiatives associated with the Alaska
RSI, spent three days reviewing current issues impacting schools
in rural Alaska.
Given the many new state mandates, school reform
initiatives and ongoing challenges that rural school districts
are grappling with as we enter the final year of this millennium,
it seemed an opportune time to step back and reflect on where
we are and where we want to go with rural education. The focus
of the retreat was to take a look at how education programs and
services can best be positioned to address the long-term needs
of rural communities in this time of limited resources. We were
particularly interested in examining ways in which the Alaska
Department of Education, the University of Alaska, rural communities
and school districts can work more closely together in the provision
of basic education services, as well as in staff development,
curriculum enhancement, collaborative research and technical
assistance. Reports and discussions focused on the following
current programs and initiatives:
Following status reports on the various initiatives,
the participants turned their attention to developing draft "action
plans" around three focal areas. Following is a summary of the recommendations
put forward for follow-up actions in each of the focal areas:
- Alaska Quality Schools Initiative/Legislative
- Alaska Native Student Learning Action Plan-Bernice
- Alaska Federation of Natives Education Initiatives-Frank
- Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative/Alaska Rural
Challenge-Frank Hill/Oscar Kawagley
- Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools-Ray
- Alaska Onward to Excellence-Bob Blum/Jim Kushman,
- Rural School Access to Telecommunications-Martin
- Rural Educator Preparation Partnership-John Weise
- Native Administrators for Rural Alaska-John Monahan
- Consortium for Alaska Native Higher Education-Edna
- UA Rural Education Initiatives-Mark Hamilton/Nanne
- Citizens for the Educational Advancement of Alaska's
- Survey of Alaska High School Students-Carole
Develop an Alaska Rural Education Action Plan for
the Next Millennium
This group addressed issues raised in the earlier
discussions and developed a preliminary outline of where we would
like to be with rural education in Alaska by the year 2020, and some
of the steps that will need to be taken to get us there. Recommendations
of this group included:
- Encourage all educational organizations in the
state to adopt and implement the Alaska Standards for Culturally
- Develop a clear definition of "local control" and
identify the bureaucratic roadblocks that need to be eliminated
and the support systems that need to be in place to achieve it.
- Develop a clearinghouse to network and synergize
all the reform initiatives impacting rural Alaska.
- Encourage interagency cooperation in addressing
the unique needs of rural Alaska.
- Foster partnerships with colleges to insure the
quality of the high school diploma and what it means.
- Engage Elders, families, parents, homes and communities
as critical components in the educational future of rural Alaska.
- Stabilize the work force with a viable economic
base in rural Alaska, with support from private business, corporations,
- Keep the villages alive by keeping the schools
open through multiple forms of educational delivery, regardless
- Develop a strong, well-articulated vision and
definition of community, education, schooling and local control
as they relate to rural community health and well-being.
- Insure equity and adequacy in the future of education
for rural Alaska, so as to provide equal lifetime opportunities
for all Alaskan children and communities.
- Build on the successes of what we are doing well
and continue those efforts.
- Continue ongoing review and revision of the content
standards to insure they address the needs of all students and
communities in Alaska.
Develop a Rural Teacher Preparation Action Plan
for HEA, Title II Funds
This group addressed issues associated with the
preparation of teachers for schools in rural Alaska and developed
a preliminary outline of components for a cooperative proposal for
funding a comprehensive statewide rural teacher preparation initiative
for rural Alaska. Recommendations of this group included:
- Designate the regional Native Educators Associations
as key players in shaping and governing rural teacher education
initiatives, including those of the DOE and the university.
- Take all steps necessary to increase the number
of Alaska Native teachers and administrators in rural schools,
including increased support for the Rural Educator Preparation
Partnership and Native Administrators for Rural Alaska.
- Establish school district career ladders to provide
incentives and support for aides and associate teachers who are
aspiring to be licensed teachers.
- Provide an option for school districts to employ
teacher interns at a partial salary to serve as classroom teachers
during their internship year under the supervision of a nearby
- Provide incentives for school districts to implement
cultural orientation programs (including an extended camp experience)
for new teachers as part of their annual inservice plan submitted
- Make available a "cross-cultural specialist" endorsement
for teachers, built around the criteria outlined in the Alaska
Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools.
- Allocate .5% of the annual appropriation for
education to be made available for research, evaluation and data
tracking regarding issues critical to education in Alaska.
- Develop and disseminate a set of "Guidelines
for Preparing Culturally Responsive Teachers" aimed at the preparation
of teachers qualified to implement the Alaska Cultural Standards.
- Implement "Future Teacher Clubs" in all schools
Develop an Agenda for a Statewide Conference on
Rural Education in 2000
This group reviewed the current status of school
and curricular reform initiatives in rural Alaska and mapped out
the parameters for a statewide conference on rural education in 2000
that showcases the most promising curriculum models/materials and
teaching/schooling practices leading us into the new millennium.
Recommendations of this group included:
The recommendations outlined above are preliminary
ideas for developing more detailed action plans in each of the three
focal areas listed. We wish to express appreciation to all the participants
in the Alaska Rural Education Leadership Retreat for contributing
their valuable time and insights to this effort. We invite everyone
with an interest in these issues to offer additional ideas and suggestions
for how the action plans can be further strengthened so that we can
move into the next millennium with a bright future for education
in rural Alaska.
- Purposes of conference: review status of school
and current reform initiatives in rural Alaska, showcasing promising
models based on school curriculum reform; provide participants
with strategies to apply/adapt practices in their schools; and
develop support network to continue work on conference tasks.
- Who participates: representative team from regions,
communities, districts/schools-all stakeholders, including parents
(PTA, IEA Comm), students (FTA), policy makers (AASB, legislature,
tribal councils, IRA), practitioners (teachers/associate teachers,
aides), Elders/young Elders, Native Educator Associations, higher
education (teacher educators, REPP, NARA), administrators (ACSA)
- Substance: extend learning beyond classroom walls;
partnership theme-open access to education; assessment-practices
for success; consolidation/closure; technology & distance
education; transition beyond high school; adapting curriculum
to cultural and physical regions-place; healthy community and
family; barriers to achievement; role models; and student, parent
and community involvement in school change.
- When and where: January-March 2000, early spring,
possibly in place of BMEEC & NEC, or regionally in 1999 and
Anchorage in 2000.
- Outcomes: edit and broadcast one-hour video;
document and distribute "proceedings"; send participants back
with DVD for immediate use with students; and incorporate teacher/student
produced products for dissemination.
AISES Corner (American Indian Science & Engineering
by Claudette Bradley-Kawagley
In November of '98, the Alaska Rural Systemic
Initiative sponsored science fairs in Kotzebue, Fairbanks and
Old Harbor. A fourth science fair was held February 17, 1999
in St. Paul Island. Each science fair establishes the values
of the Elders in that region as the measuring device for determining
if a project is acceptable. Each fair employs Elders as judges
to determine the value of projects to the cultural ways of the
Native people in that region. Likewise, each fair begins and
ends with a blessing offered by an Elder and everyone participates
in Native dancing and singing. It is not surprising that these
fairs are becoming known as "Native Science Fairs".
Each fair has two sets of judges. The teacher/scientist
judges review projects looking at the research design and scientific
method. The Elders judge projects looking at their value to village
life and the regional culture. After awarding first, second and
third place prizes, the judges come together to select two grand
prize winning projects.
The students of the grand prize winning projects
will travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to enter their projects
in the AISES National Science Fair, March 5-6, 1999. The AISES
National Fair has 400 or more science projects done by American
Indian and Alaska Native students (5th-12th grade) from the lower
forty-eight states and Alaska.
The Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative is sending
the following grand prize winners to AISES National Science Fair:
Kelsey is a fifth-grader in Kodiak. She wanted
to know "How Did the Skin Parkas Stay Waterproof?" She tested three
types of stitches with water. The regular cotton stitches leak and
are not waterproof. Gut-skin stitches had less leakage. Ryegrass
stitches did not leak. The wet grass expanded and did not allow any
water to leak. Traditional skin parkas are stitched with rye grass.
Tasha Price and Jonyssa Ignatin
Tasha and Jonyssa are sixth graders in Old Harbor.
They are proud of the village of Old Harbor and the Alutiiq culture.
Their science project explores pumice stone and how their ancestors
Dietrich is an eighth grader in Nikolai, which
has a population of 90 people. Nikolai is the first village dog mushers
encounter after passing through the "burn" on the trail of the Iditarod.
Dietrich wanted to learn which set-poleset or cubbie-is more effective
for subsistence trapping for marten. Marten fur hats are desirable
to keep warm in extreme cold weather. Dietrich interviewed local
trappers and set his own traps for his science project.
Kristopher is in eighth grade in Fort Yukon. After
exploring the behavior of tornadoes he discovered river eddies swirled
with similar behavior. Kristopher interviewed Elders and learned:
there are more fish in the eddies than elsewhere in the river and
Native fisherman place their nets in eddies to catch the most fish.
He experimented with placing a log in the river to make a good eddy
and a bad eddy. He learned the water flows out of good eddies, allowing
fish to continue swimming up the river.
Puyuk Joule and Thomas Tirrell
Puyuk and Thomas, who are sixth graders in Kotzebue,
entitled their project "Kinakina Atquin", which means "What's your
name?" They wanted to know if the I?upiaq cultural names were being
lost and forgotten. Puyuk and Thomas wrote a questionnaire seeking
knowledge of the respondents family tree. They each interviewed four
friends, four family members, four Elders, and four relatives. Puyuk
and Thomas expected 16 out of 32 respondents would know their I?upiaq
cultural names, but instead the found 30 out of 32 respondents knew
their I?upiaq names both in the present and past generations.
Heather is 15 years old and lives in Noorvik.
She's president of the student council and captain of the cheerleading
squad. Her project tested plants and inorganic materials to preserve
and restore the river and stream banks. The Kobuk river has been
eroding the banks causing some people in Noorvik to lose their homes
into the river. This project will be shown to the Noorvik City Council
and the Elders' Committee. Heather hopes they will consider bioengineering
techniques such as the ones used in her project to stop the river
and stream bank erosion.
The Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative extends
its congratulations to these bright young scientists and is very
proud to send them to the AISES National Science Fair in Albuquerque,
March 5-6, 1999.
The Cry of the Loon: Mysterious, Mournful,
by Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley
Waqaa, greetings to each and everyone
of you. Some of you may well be asking yourselves, why have I
chosen the tunutellek as my subject for this occasion? The Yupiaq
name means "that which is packing something." Indeed, the loon
is carrying a heavy burden.
Wherever the loon exists, there are Native
people, and you will have many loon stories that are mystical
and magical in their content. Among them is the story of the
blind boy who is made to see by the loon diving into the water
with the boy on its back. This is repeated three times. In each
dive and emergence, the boy could see a little clearer, and on
its third emergence, the boy could see clearly. The loon helped
the boy to see, likewise, it can help us to understand ourselves
and see our connection to Mother Earth today.
Listen to the call of the loon. Its call is
God-given through nature. It is its own language and understood
by others of its kind and other creatures. Only we, with our
ability to think and rationalize, do not understand because we
listen only with the mind, not with mind and heart well sprinkled
with intuition. To some it is eery, as if some bad thing is about
to happen. Maybe an alangguk, an apparition or ghost of some
kind is about to appear. It conjures up many thoughts that are
not based on "what is" but on "what if." This is the fear that
most of us face as a Native people, especially when thinking
about changing education. "What if" the educators, legislators
and powers that be do not believe and think that this could be
done. But regardless, we must take those steps necessary to change
education so that it takes into consideration, in fact, makes
an educational system based on our own tribal worldviews. When
thought of in that context, then it includes our Native languages,
ways of generating knowledge, research, ways of making things
and ways for using them respectfully. Our Alaska Native languages
come from the land, are derived from the land. It is the language
of the land that makes our Native people live in harmony with
Nature. According to the Muskogee Cree, Bear Heart, harmony is
a tolerance, a forgiving, a blending. This is what our Native
languages allow us to do. Our Native words come from the creatures
and things of Mother Earth naming themselves, defining themselves
through action words-that's reality! Nature is our teacher. Information
and rationality are a small segment of knowing and learning.
In the use of our Native languages, we come to live life intimately
because we are enmeshed in it rather than looking at it from
a distance through a microscope or telescope. It then behooves
that we relearn our languages and learn to live close to nature
to regain our health as a Native people. When we have that vision
and goal, and work toward it, then we will have harmony; we will
have tolerance; we will forgive; and we will again blend into
our world. We will be using our five senses and intuition to
learn about our place. The loon never lost its spiritual vision.
It has a love for life, its environment and its creator. Its
education was from Mother Earth for the heart, for it to become
creative and to know how to live in its community, its habitat.
The loon still gets messages from its unconscious
on new thoughts or solutions to problems. We, as human beings,
have cluttered up our conscious minds with information and rational
thinking, so that our world of dreams is no longer sought through
meditation, vision questing, fasting and looking deep into the
silence within us for direction. Not only have we become socio-politco-economic
dependents, but we depend on outside sources to take care of
our problems whether it's individual, family or community. You
see, the loon looks into its inner ecology knowing that no one
else can do that for it. It knows that it is incumbent upon itself.
In order for us to receive guidance and direction for our lives,
we must relearn what the loon does naturally. We must look into
ourselves where power and strength lie and tap into it to begin
to address our own problems.
Another strength of the loon, is that it teaches
and nurtures its young to live as a loon. It does not require
that someone else do the educating. The loon develops the loon
worldview of its young closely connected to others and its place.
As it migrates from place to place, it remembers and appreciates
the diversity and beauty of Nature. It nurtures its offspring
to become independent yet knowing its dependence on the abundance
of Nature to succor its needs. It teaches its young to "do unto
others as you would have them do unto you." This is true love;
this is unconditional love that we need in this world. A love
for self, a love for others and a love for place giving one a
sense of responsibility to take care of oneself, to care for
others and the environment that one lives in. The loon's cry
is remembering a place that was harmonious, full of beauty and
diversity that Nature so loves. This is heart talk! This is science-knowing
Very much like our Native people, the loon's
life is not all roses and peace. The loon has a few problems,
such as taking off. It is very much like the Wright brothers
in their early experiments. The little homemade engine revs up,
but has just enough power for it to barely to get off the ground.
Just as the under-powered plane, the loon frantically flaps its
wings and seemingly runs across the water's surface. Once in
a while, the loon will crash onto the tundra. But, it crawls
back into the lake somehow and tries again. We, as a Native people,
are testing our wings and power! If we find that some of our
ideas do not work, we need to go back and try again, maybe with
a different approach and tools. We must not be overly ambitious
by overplaying our knowledge and abilities, but recognize our
limitations as human beings. We must do that which we know we
can succeed at first, then progress to more difficult tasks.
And, if we fail, we must NEVER GIVE UP!
The sad fact about this precious bird is that
it is losing ground in its efforts to survive. Our Canadian friends
look upon it with great respect, so much so, that it is on their
one- and two-dollar coins. They are called the "loonie" and "twoonie".
It is a known fact that the loon's numbers are growing smaller
at a fast rate in Canada. There is a problem that is so ominous
and insidious that it is overwhelming the loon. It is not of
its own making. It is human-made pollution consisting of chemical,
biological, nuclear and noise which is destroying its habitat.
It is we, humans, who are destroying its habitat and, unfortunately,
as we destroy its habitat we are destroying ourselves in the
process. The loon may well ask, "What was the question that makes
technology the answer in the first place? Who asked it and when?" Technology
is inherently good and is the product of human rationality. But,
unfortunately, it has laid aside morality and ethics. Take for
example, the computer. Many think it's the answer for all our
needs. It is speedy and answers questions with facts the human
has fed into it. I say use it sparingly as a tool. It encourages
individualism often to the point of isolationism. The excessive
user wants to be alone with a stupid machine. If you feed it
garbage, you get garbage in return. It takes away clear thinking,
problem-solving skills and above all, removes common sense.
Modern technology wants to take and take, to
make things without giving back. It wants to cut into Mother
Earth to remove its natural resources. It wants to make people
want more of its products. In so doing, indigenous people, creatures,
plants and landforms are sometimes no barrier to the Eurocentric
concepts of progress and development. They are merely removed
as detritus and, in the process, destroy a people and their place.
The loon's mournful cry is in recognition of this needless destruction
that is taking place by bigger and better technological machines
The mournful cry of the loon is much aware
of its dwindling food sources, the inability of some of its eggs
to hatch and its members succumbing to poisons and new diseases.
It recognizes that to not have children, to not have family,
to not have a community, is to be scattered, to be falling apart.
Many of our Native families are falling apart. I recognize that
there are healthy Native families in the villages. I would say
that these healthy families are surrounded by and witness to
a holocaust of pain and misery. Our villages are, in essence,
communities in name only. They are often not working together
for the common good as in the old days. The unhealthy and dysfunctional
families have youngsters seven, eight or nine years old who are
raising and taking care of their younger siblings. Why should
I worry about these young children acting as parents? Because
these youngsters are missing an important aspect of their young
lives-that of being a child! A child to be loved by parents,
to be nurtured and taken care of by parents, to play as a child,
to talk as a child, to imagine as a child. Oh, the yearning of
the child just to be a child! Many children miss this growing
As if this was not enough, we allow video games,
movies and television to become the babysitters while we go out
and party, play bingo, gamble and do things that make us sicker.
While the children are viewing and doing these things, they are
seeing killing, cheating, lying, men beating women and children,
all kinds of sex, adult language and all other undesirable aspects
of life. The mournful cry of the loon is reminding us of the
time when there were secrets from children, things that were
not to be known by them until they were considered ready. Today,
there are no secrets in the modern media. Go out on the playground,
a school party, or anywhere youngsters are gathered. Listen to
their language! You will hear a lot of foul language. The language
that the youngsters use is an indicator of how bad the situation
has become. There is no respect for the parents, teachers, elders
and most certainly of other young people. We see children having
children, children killing children, children killing elders,
children committing suicide, children dropping out of school,
children without hope-sad children. What a sad state for us to
be in! These states of affairs contribute to the loss of childhood.
We must gain control of what the children learn, see and do.
We do this by regaining control of our own lives. We control
this by turning off the television during dinner time so that
heart talk can take place. Heart talk is kind, gentle talk that
makes one want to be polite to everyone and everything around
them. This talk allows members to know each other, what their
likes and dislikes are, to know of problems they are having with
friends, siblings and school. It allows the family to find out
what they would like to see change in the home and why. This
is where a family that loves and talks together becomes stronger
because they know each other, love and care for one another.
This is family.
The loon does not blame anyone even though
its environment is rife with problems and pollution is beyond
its control. Its mournful call reminds us that we, as humans,
must do our part to regenerate and reciprocate to Nature. We,
the Native people, must quit blaming others for our problems.
When we blame others, we are saying that someone else should
take care of the problem and deal with our feelings about the
situation. We don't like what has been happening in the schools,
so we blame the state, district and teachers. We are saying to
them "take care of the problem" and also "take care of my hurt
and confused feelings about my own education. Please, heal me." Why
should we continue to do this? Why should we continue to say
how confused and mixed up we are by the new civilization that
has come to our villages? So now we have frame houses that are
poorly insulated, built on stilts and expensive to maintain.
But we are "educated" because we no longer live in sod houses.
We have snowmobiles instead of dog teams that can often save
our lives. We have flush toilets with Lysol cleaners that empty
into an unhealthy lagoon, thereby making it unnecessary for us
to go outdoors in all kinds of weather, where Nature can take
care of natural wastes in a natural way. But, we are educated.
We have antibiotics and hormone-laced hamburgers instead of smoked
dry fish which is more healthful. We use toilet paper which kills
trees instead of sphagnum moss which prevents rash and spread
of germs. Boy, are we educated! So well educated to think our
Native languages and cultures are no longer useful. This is what
the loon is mourning. Why have you, the Native people, given
up so easily? Giving up has been a very costly venture to us
as a Native people. But, we are educated.
(to be continued in the next issue of Sharing
by Andy Hope
Woosh een yei gidane. Partner.
Since the program started in late 1995, many
individuals, institutions and organizations have participated
in our various initiatives. The following listing constitutes
the Southeast Alaska Native/Rural Education Consortium:
Southeast Regional Elders Council
Arnold Booth, Metlakatla (chair)
Charles Natkong, Hydaburg
Lydia George, Angoon
Gil Truitt, Sitka
Isabella Brady, Sitka
Marie Olson, Juneau
Joe Hotch, Klukwan
Jim Walton, Haines Junction
School Districts (with year district joined the
AKRSI/ARC listed in parentheses)
Chatham School District (1996)
Sitka School District (1996)
Hoonah City Schools (1997)
Juneau School District (1998)
Southeast Alaska Native Educators Association
Alaska Science Consortium
Sitka Native Education Program
Southeast Alaska Guidance Association
Dog Point Fish Camp
Sealaska Heritage Foundation
Alaska Staff Development Network
The Axe Handle Academy (Nora & Richard Dauenhauer)
Alaska Native History Textbook Project (Dennis Demmert and Mike Gaffney)
Higher Education Institutions
University of Alaska Southeast
Sheldon Jackson College
University of Alaska (Sea Grant)
State and Federal Agencies
National Park Service-Glacier Bay National Park
USDA Forest Service
Alaska Department of Education (Peggy Cowan, Science Specialist)
Sitka Tribe of Alaska
Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
Angoon Community Association
Hydaburg Cooperative Association (Haida Nation)
Conference of Tlingit Tribes and Clans
Tlingit Language Consortium
Southeast Alaska Native Language Consortium
Elders In the Classroom
by Roby Littlefield
Elders do not Preserve Culture, They Live
All students can benefit from inter-generational
contacts. In Alaska Native cultures, grandparents were held in high
regard as they contributed to the community by passing on knowledge
and skills. Children learned by listening to and watching Elders
and often didn't realize they were in training. Bringing grandparents
in to share personal knowledge when studying subjects like nutrition,
customs, plants, biology and history can benefit the entire class.
To begin, first look to your class members.
Send home a note or survey expressing your desire to include
parents, grandparents and Elders in your lessons. Get referrals
for possible speakers from organizations that work with Natives
and/or the elderly.
The way to ask Native American Elders for help
is different from Western customs. Initial and subsequent contact
should be subtle. Visit with them, allowing time for the conversation
to wander. Allow for extended pauses, giving them time to think
and decide. If their hearing is poor, sit on the side of their
better ear and make sure your lips can be seen. Direct eye contact
should be limited. Standing or sitting at an angle can increase
an Elders comfort level. Keep your questions basic and specific.
Begin the request by telling a little about
your class and how the Elder could help. If you are not sure
if the Elder is interested, hint strongly that you would like
to have their help and ask if she/he knows of someone who might
be willing to participate. Custom teaches that it is rude to
give someone a frank "no" to a request for help, so you need
to recognize that a noncommittal response might mean "no", or
it might mean that the request is being considered. If at some
point the Elder changes the subject more than once while you
are explaining your request, you should be aware that she/he
might be trying to say "no". Don't force a response; if it is
clearly not a "yes" let it go, or suggest they can contact you
after they've thought about it.
It is important to ask before a meeting for
permission to make audio or video recordings. Don't show up with
the equipment because you may force consent and cause bad feelings.
Permission to listen to or tape a story or lecture does not give
you any right to re-broadcast or write the story with you as
Elders Concerns & Expectations
If an Elder has agreed to participate in a classroom
activity, provide them with optional dates and the logistics. It
would be helpful to explain the routine, consequences for students
misbehavior, and possible options if problems come up during the
lesson. It is your responsibility to ensure discipline is maintained.
Be aware, however, that Elders generally do not support strict discipline
in a public setting. Discuss how to make a smooth transition to help
the Elder leave the class. Agree on some visual signals and ground
- How can I find the room? (transportation, personal
- Will I be respected and appreciated by the students?
- Will I be able to hear the students questions?
(background and noise level)
- Can I speak within the attention span and understanding
of the age I am speaking to?
When the Elder arrives introduce her/him so
the Elder sees your respect for them. The teacher should be alert
for visual cues from the Elder during the visit as well as be
prepared to give unspoken signals back. The teacher should stay
in the room.
Give the Elder a chance to use traditional
discipline. Be prepared to move a child to sit by an adult who
can role model how to listen respectfully. If you have problems
with students degrading or ignoring an Elder, have a teacher's
aide or adult Native quietly intervene.
Most traditional stories are like a round,
crocheted pot holder. The storyteller goes round and round the
subject until it all comes together and finally comes to the
lesson or point. Be patient, allow the Elders to share their
culture in their own way. Your students are learning how to listen.
Students should refrain from interrupting to ask questions. There
will be a proper time to ask questions.
As a thank you, Elders usually appreciate student
and teacher letters, pictures and story booklets which are treasured
and shown to friends and relatives. This may also encourage other
Elders to participate in classroom projects.
Sometimes you will find a resource person who
will be available for a wide variety of subjects and projects.
If you use an Elder more than once, the school should provide
some type of stipend in appreciation of the energy and knowledge
the Elder is contributing. Be careful not to burn out your Elders.
Whenever you make a request be sure the Elder understands she
is not obligated.
Keep your lessons flexible in case the Elder
can't come at the last minute. Once an Elder has agreed on a
time to come into your classroom, avoid changing or postponing
From The Tlingit Moon and Tide Resource
Book (K-4), editor Dolly Garza. To be published by Alaska
Sea Grant early 1999.
Institute on Integrating Science, Math, and
Cultural Standards in Rural Schools
University of Alaska Fairbanks
The Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (AKRSI),
the Alaska Math Consortium (AMC) and the Alaska Science Consortium
(ASC) are sponsoring a two-week summer institute focused on addressing
math, science and cultural standards in rural classrooms. We are
especially eager to receive applications from the 20 school districts
currently partnering with the AKRSI and will review applications
with a goal of selecting at least one team from each region.
June 14?27, 1999
(with one-week fall implementation)
For an application packet or more information contact:
Institute supported by AKRSI through a grant
from the National Science Foundation and by the ASC and the AMC.
Sidney Stephens, ASC/AKRSI
PO Box 756480
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6480
Iñupiaq Region: Elder Highlight
Minnie Aliitchak Qapviatchialuk Gray, Ambler,
by Elmer Jackson
Minnie is one of the most well-known and beloved
Elders in the NANA region. She has been actively involved with
the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative since the first consortium
meetings began. At that time, she was one of the main advisors
for the Northwest Arctic Borough School District's Iñupiaq
Language and Culture Curriculum Committee. In addition she was
active in teaching traditional skin-sewing skills to the young
people in the village of Ambler.
Minnie has been a advocate for Iñupiaq
language and culture training for as many years as she has lived
the culture. She was born in 1924 in Kobuk, Alaska. She was one
of three surviving children of the late Robert and Flora Cleveland.
She is the widow of the late Friends Church pastor, Arthur Gray.
Minnie attended school for six years as a child in the village
of Shungnak. After being a pastor with her husband in two villages,
she became a bilingual teacher in August, 1973 and retired in
She helped to produce many books to help teach
the Iñupiaq language and culture. One of the early books
published by Maniilaq Association was Timimun Mamirrutit, which
is a book about Iñupiaq medicine. Minnie contributed to
this publication because of her knowledge of traditional ways
of healing, especially in the use of plants and herbs. She later
worked at the National Bilingual Materials Development Center
to work on other publications. One of the most extensive books
she worked on was titled Black River Stories-a book of
stories told by her late father, Robert Cleveland. She also written
two books titled Birch bark Basket Making and Net Making. Other
contributions included the Kobuk River Junior Dictionary,
How Stories, More How Stories, Atuugaurat (translated children's
songs) and Taimmaknaqtat, a book about traditional Iñupiaq
Eskimo beliefs. There are more publications; I have listed a
Minnie's beautiful looks, traditional clothing,
wonderful friendly smile and graceful stature have been photographed
by friends she has made over the years. Her photograph is on
the cover jacket of A Place Beyond by Nick Jans. He wrote a wonderful
story of Minnie and her friend, Sarah Tickett, seining for whitefish.
Minnie is known for her hospitality; she has been a hostess to
visitors and friends who have graced her home over the years.
Whenever Minnie travels to AKRSI meetings,
she shares her knowledge of the Iñupiat Culture, through
hands-on demonstrations and songs. At curriculum meetings, she
taught how to make snares using salmon skin and gave demonstrations
of various traditional tools. She told the mudshark bone story,
using actual bones, to Iñupiaq immersion students at Barrow.
They enjoyed this story demonstration very much.
Here are some of her own thoughts about bilingual
education. She voiced them in Iñupiaq and they were translated
Iñupiaq should be taught at
an early age. I have seen that the younger students are responsive,
the more they learn. It is fun to teach these young people. As
an Iñupiaq language instructor, I realize that children
need motivation to learn. I motivated my students by offering
them a variety of ways of learning. They cannot learn by only
writing, so I took them out for field trips and taught them about
the plants that grow. In the spring, when they got tired of writing,
I took them outside and taught them the name of the many different
birds that migrate north. This motivated them tremendously.
Last summer, Minnie taught and instructed students
at the Ilisagvik Camp, a camp between Ambler and Shungnak. They were
taught about camping and fishing, everything about the Iñupiat
Illitqusrait, the way of life of the Iñupiat.
I had projects for them such as skin sewing
and making other crafts like birch bark baskets. I allowed
them to play Iñupiaq games when they became restless.
Sometimes, I even took them home and taught them how to prepare
an Iñupiaq dish, such as cranberry or blueberry pudding.
Other times I taught them how to make akutuq, Eskimo ice
cream. I also boiled the head of the mudshark, which have
many bones; I told them the individual names of the bones.
This is an interesting project and the students think it
is fun. For added variety, I sang songs and told them I?upiaq
stories and legends.
Students should learn about life in school. They
should learn practical skills such as skin sewing and cooking.
Many students need these basic skills. They should know the
names of our Native foods and know how to prepare them. It
is practical to learn theses skills because our environment
is going to be the same in spite of the changes in our lifestyles.
We still need warm clothing and we will need to gather food.
Students should know about the weather because we cannot predict
what the coming seasons' weather will be. They should also
know their regional geography. They should know their local
subsistence areas, their trails and place names of creeks,
rivers and other landmarks. They should be able to know where
they are and be able to communicate exactly where they are
as they travel out in the country for it is a matter of survival.
Minnie continues to share her knowledge of
the Iñupiat culture. Those who have been taught by her
have been blessed, her love for her people is immense. Thank
you, Minnie, for being a great role model for us all.
by Amy Van Hatten
How to be Practical With Water
Thanks to Loddie Jones for her article in
the last newsletter. Her story led with how her parents were
her first teachers. Her contribution reminds me how my parents
also demonstrated how I was to learn by their example, gain
respect for and practical uses of whatever resources we receive
from the Creator.
Water is an important element for daily life.
As a youth growing up in the village, fish camp and winter
camp, I had to learn how to gather it in solid and liquid forms.
This included chopping or sawing ice blocks from the frozen
river, gathering snow crystals closest to the ground and from
underneath deep snow banks, drawing gas cans filled from the
water hole and hauling water from a river, creek, rain barrels
or from a water pump down near the riverbank.
For all practical purposes, certain measures
had to be considered in order to preserve different forms of
energy, such as physical energy and water energy, especially
if a lot of chores had to done in one day.
Take Mom's role for example. Her first round
in using a tub of water was to wash my hair and my brother's
hair and then give us a bath. Next, with the same water, she
would wash some of our clothing, mop the cabin floor and then
carry the water out to the outhouse to scrub it down with added
cleansers. She finished by pouring the recycled water down
the toilet hole. Now, how many times did the same water get
We glance at learning science so differently
from one locality to another and sometimes without viewing
it as science base or indigenous knowledge but just a way of
With what little I shared here, a sample
assessment can be formulated on how to integrate Alaska Content
Standards for Science D2 with Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive
Schools for Students D2. Get out your dog-eared standards booklet
and try one of your own. You can do it!
A Closer Look at the Standards
Alaska Content Standards for Science
. . . A student who meets
the content standard should:
understand that scientific innovations may affect our economy, safety,
environment, health and society and that these effects may be long
or short term, positive or negative and expected or unexpected.
Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive
Schools for Students D2*
. . . Students who meet this
cultural standard are able to:
participate in and make constructive contributions to the learning
activities associated with a traditional camp environment.
- * For a complete copy of the Alaska Standards
for Culturally-Response Schools, write or call the Alaska
Native Knowledge Network. Address, phone and e-mail on inside
by Barbara Liu
Y/Cup’k region third year initiative
is Indigenous Science Knowledge Base involving family history
and cultural atlas. Family history is researching your family
tree and cultural atlas involves studying about your place.
The two can be done together because as you research your kin,
you can identify places of birth that are not on conventional
maps. District memorandum of agreement (MOA) representatives
attended a workshop last year on how to put this data into
a genealogy software program called Reunion. The work depends
on teachers who may use this type of lesson in a classroom
with students. Students well grounded in the cultural heritage
and traditions of their community are able to recount their
own genealogy and family history. Yup'ik and Cup'ik kinship
terms are also well grounded formally through thousands of
years of oral history. Throughout the region similar terms
are used with some variation.
The Yup'ik Eskimo Dictionary (ANLC, 1984)
contains two charts of Yup'ik kinship terms. (see a derivation
of the charts on the opposite page.) During the two-day workshop
last September, Elsie Mather, originally from Kwigillingok
and now living in Bethel, explained the kinship terms.
(Ed Note: Click on Yup'ik
Kinship Chart to view the actual size chart printed
in the newsletter)
The Yup'ik book, Aatama Aanama-llu Anelgutai: My Mom and Dad's Siblings,
written by Rosalie Lincoln of Toksook Bay, was distributed to participants
from Yupiit School District, LKSD, St. Mary's School District and Lower Yukon
School District. Rosalie, who works for LKSD as a teacher, attended the training
and demonstrated how to use the book with small children and young adults
who are learning some of these terms.
Names and kinship terms are passed on within
the range of great-grandparents and great-grandchildren. If
an individual has a great-great grandchild, he/she has no kinship
term to address such offspring. Training participant Mildred
Evan's (Akiachak) family tree has a living great-grandparent
and a great-great grandchild who confirmed it. Today, as in
generations past, naming is important in Y/Cup'ik culture.
Older children in the region use these terms comfortably. However,
the younger generation speakers, as old as those in their 40s,
are using more English terms, losing formal kinship knowledge.
Teaching the vocabulary is essential and requires study and
practice. Presenting the concepts to children is meaningful
and helps in understanding family. Children, especially teenagers,
can learn who is too close to date or marry-your cousins could
be as close as your own siblings. The old way's of forbidding
intimate relationships involved an understanding of genetics
and your family tree.
The terms I outline for the rest of this
article were compiled by the Alaska Native Language Center
staff. The terms are not limited to this list, dialectal differences
apply and it is not a complete list. There are other many postbase
or ending to terms that can distinguish position and age.
Try using a similar chart to teach family
tree substituting terms with your local preference. Begin your
research of family names branching out from yourself to your
great-grandparents (amauq), to great-grandchildren (iluperaq).
Your grandfather and grandmother are apaurluq and maurluq respectively.
Your father, aata, and mother, aana.
As parents, your son is qetunraq and
daughter is panik. An older sibling is amaqliq and
with gender, older sister is alqaq and older brother
is anngaq. Your younger siblings, male or female, are
your kinguqliq or uyuraq. Nayagaq is also a younger
sister term but only addressed by an older brother to a younger
sister. These same brother and sister terms can carry on to
the children of siblings of the same sex such as sister to
sister and brother to brother children. Cousins are children
of siblings that are brother to sister or sister to brother.
The terms are by gender of both sibling parents and children. Ilungaq and nuliacungaq are
female cousins. Iluraq and Uicungaq are male
Aunt and Uncle terms depend on how they are
related to your parents. There are four terms to distinguish
them: An uncle who is your father's brother is your ataata,
but an uncle who is your mother's brother is your angak.
An aunt who is your mother's sister is your anaana,
and your father's sister is your acak.
From an aunt's or uncle's perspective, there
are also four terms to address nephews and nieces: As a female (anaana) you
address your sister's child nurr'aq. As a female (acak), you
address your brother's child, an'garraq. As a male (angak), you
address your sister's child, usruq. As a male (ataata), you
address your brother's child, qangiar.
Lastly, your grandchild is tutgaq.
Nephew and niece offspring of anaana and ataata address
a grand nephew/niece as tutgaq and they in turn are
addressed as grandparents. So, I am a grandmother of two to
my sister's children's offspring.
I hope by elaborating on such a topic, it
brings to readers an idea of the depth of our system as well
as motivate parents and teachers to teach them to our children.
I would like to acknowledge Rosalie Lincoln and her father,
Phillip Moses of Toksook Bay, for clarifying and proofing some
of the terminology.
In closing, 1999 brings a new exciting initiative
for the Y/Cup'ik region involving Elder Academy camps. There
are seven school districts involved with this process following
the example of other regions who have finished with it. Although
previous camps have been held in the summer, they are not limited
to this season. Each district will initiate camps inviting Elders
and district staff to work together. There are many details and
I plan to be in touch with district organizers as soon as MOAs
are distributed. Quyana.
by Teri Schneider
A New Partner Working for the AKRSI
From the beginning of this project I have considered
myself a partner, working toward similar goals in my own corner of
Alaska. Thank goodness for partners! Now, through the Alaska Rural
Systemic Initiative, efforts of individuals can add fuel to the fire
of systemic change within our public school system. Together we can
I am a life long resident of Kodiak Island.
My family is a reflection of the history of Kodiak Island and
the surrounding Alutiiq region. My mother's family, originally
from West Virginia, was brought to the island by the United States
Coast Guard in 1958. My father was born in the town of Kodiak.
His father was born in Kodiak, the son of a Norwegian immigrant
and a woman of Russian, Irish and Aleut descent, also born in
Kodiak. My father's mother was Aleut, born in the village of
Afognak in 1898. My two older brothers and I were brought up
knowing that we were the descendents of the Aleut people of the
island and were taught our heritage through the stories and actions
of my dad and his family. We learned that our ancestors were
strong people, surviving because of their adaptability over time,
their Aleut ingenuity and their love for the place in which they
inhabited. I continue to live among these strong, adaptable,
ingenious people-my family of Kodiak Island.
I graduated from Kodiak High School in 1983.
After one year at Western Oregon State College, I decided to
pursue my teaching degree through the University of Alaska Fairbanks
which is a little closer to home. Knowing that I wanted to eventually
teach for the Kodiak Island Borough School District (KIBSD),
I chose to do my student teaching in Port Lions, a village just
west of town. Not only was Port Lions close to home, it also
felt like home. Many of the families living there at the time
knew me as a "local kid." The Elders of Port Lions spoke fondly
of my grandmother, originally from Afognak, the village that
was later relocated to Port Lions.
Soon after my student teaching I married my
husband, Eric Schneider, and was hired as a fifth-grade teacher
for KIBSD. I taught for three years until the birth of our son
in 1991. After almost two years of being home with Patrick, I
went back to the classroom. After seven and a half years in the
classroom, and an additional child at home (Tatiana, named for
my grandmother) I saw an opportunity that I could not pass up.
Though it would mean not working directly with a classroom of
children, I took a position that was created to support the Native
and Rural Education Programs within our district. Just recently
this position has been reconstructed to meet the needs of the
Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative. Much of my time is still spent
exploring and developing culturally and environmentally relevant
learning opportunities for our students in my own district, but
I now have additional duties as the Aleut/Alutiiq regional coordinator.
Looking ahead at the remaining two years of
this project, I hope to continue the efforts that have been initiated
here on our island; the development of the Academy of Elders
and AISES Science Camp, AISES Science Fair and the Native Educators
of the Alutiiq Region. A number of partnerships have been created,
formally and informally, as we explore other possibilities, as
well. Individual Elders have spent countless hours discussing
issues and providing the necessary leadership. Board members
and staff of the Afognak Native Corporation have been invaluable
partners in the development of the camp and in exploring ways
to sustain it over time. The Alutiiq Museum, including board
members and staff, have provided resources, time and their expertise
as projects and curriculum are being developed. The KIBSD Superintendent,
Betty Walters, and the Kodiak Island Borough School Board have
provided the opportunity to explore the possibilities for those
whom they serve.
Extending beyond my own school district, I
would like to continue to invite others to become involved in
the process of this reform effort. Though funding is limited
to the current MOA partners, your participation is always encouraged.
If you have projects and opportunities going on in your school
and/or community within this region that you would like others
to know about, contact me. We no longer have to "work within
a vacuum." There are others who believe in and value our local
Elders for their knowledge and wisdom, and in the local language
and environment as powerful teaching "tools." Let's be partners!
From the Office of the President:
by Mark R. Hamilton, President, University
U of A Wants Top High School Grads to Stay
Here for College
Beginning this year, the University of Alaska
Scholars Program will give the top 10 percent of each high school
graduating class a four-year scholarship award to the University
of Alaska campus of their choice.
What we're trying to do with this program is
reduce the number of Alaska's top high school graduates who leave
the state for education and jobs elsewhere. Almost 60 percent
of Alaska's graduates who go on to higher education, leave Alaska
to attend college in the Lower 48 each fall, and most of them
Alaska is dead last in the United States in
attracting our college-bound students to attend college in the
state. We aren't even in the game! The national average is that
81.7 percent of college-bound students go to a college in their
home state. Here we have only 42 percent. At the University of
Alaska, we're determined to do our part to turn the situation
The scholars program will help us solve the
problem. Recipients of these scholarship awards will also become
good ambassadors for the University of Alaska in communities
all across the state, so they'll help reverse the trend of declining
enrollments. And, because they are most likely to stay in Alaska
after graduating, they will help build the state's future.
The scholarship award amount for the graduating
classes of 1999 and 2000 will be $10,800 per recipient, redeemable
in the amount of $1,350 per semester, for a total of eight semesters.
To be eligible, students must be in the top 10 percent of their
class at an Alaska public high school or other high school accredited
by the Northwest Association of School and Colleges.
If you are one of those students who is convinced
that the grass is greener on a campus somewhere in the Lower
48, and you qualify for one of the scholarship awards to the
University of Alaska, tell us to hold your scholarship for a
year. Go down there, at your own expense. When you find, as many
of you will, that you left behind the best programs and best
education opportunity and value, come back to Alaska and register
for the Fall Semester 2000 for your second year. Your scholarship
will still be good at the University of Alaska campus of your
I hope to see you on one of our campuses soon.
For more information, visit the web site: http://www.alaska.edu/ua/scholars/
or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the toll free number:
Village Science: The Year of D2
by Alan Dick
I am not in love with the state science standards.
They are a bit obtuse and hard for me, a pragmatic person, to
relate to. However, as I was making a fresh attempt to understand
them, I reread D2. It rose above the others.
Science Content Standard D2: A student who
meets the content standard should understand that scientific
innovations may affect our economy, safety, environment, health
and society, and that these effects may be short term or long
term, positive or negative, and expected or unexpected.
I have asked educators, computer folks and
economists the same question, "Y2K . . . speed bump or brick
wall? Flea or T-Rex?" The folks that seem to know what is happening
admit they really don't know. Neither do I. But I do know opportunity
when I see it. This is not a fad. It is a current reality.
No history book can prepare us for this coming
year. Public schools, as we now know them, have never seen the
change of a century, much less the change of a millennium. In
the history of man, there have never been questions like those
posed by the two-digit millennium bug. Will we have school as
usual in the year 1999-2000? We deserve a millennium of drudgery
if we do. For educators, this can be the year of State Science
Regardless of our personal views on schools
and curriculum, this coming year presents itself like a bull
moose standing broadside on a sandbar in mid-September: large,
obvious, valuable and present tense.
As we turn the corner into the new millennium
with exciting and staggering technological changes and challenges,
why should we have school as usual?
As we prepare for possible Y2K disruptions
in communications and the flow of goods and services, can we
not draw upon the experience of the Elders for insight on how
to live without modern conveniences?
As scientists, can we hypothesize what will
happen to our electronics and machinery? As social studies teachers,
can we not develop multiple lessons on economic and social interrelationships?
As math teachers can we not find a multitude of problems on percentages,
ratio/proportion and statistics?
We certainly do not want to communicate fear
or paranoia, but neither should we promote denial.
Will Y2K be a speed bump or brick wall? I don't
know. No one does. Will school year 1999-2000 be school as usual
or a tremendous opportunity? That question only you can answer
If we are alert enough to seize the moment,
we can enter into the year of State Science Standard D2. Schools
can be relevant, local, current, real, suspenseful and fascinating.
For once we have a potential curriculum that no one knows the
outcome from the beginning.
Alaska RSI Contacts
|The Alaska RSI Regional Coordinators
are located in five regions within the state of Alaska.
They are listed below to help you identify the correct
Amy Van Hatten
Athabascan Regional Coordinator
5230 Fairchild Avenue
Fairbanks, Alaska 99709-4525
(907) 474-0275 phone
Iñupiaq Regional Coordinator
PO Box 134
Kiana, Alaska 99749
Southeast Regional Coordinator
University of Alaska Southeast
School of Business/PR
11120 Glacier Highway
Juneau, Alaska 99801
Yup'ik Regional Coordinator
Bethel, Alaska 99559
Aleutians Regional Coordinator
Kodiak Island Borough School District
722 Mill Bay Road, North Star
Kodiak, Alaska 99615
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730
(907) 474-1902 phone
(907) 474-5208 fax
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730
(907) 474-5403 phone
(907) 474-5208 fax
Frank W. Hill
Alaska Federation of Natives
1577 C Street, Suite 300
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 274-3611 phone
(907) 276-7989 fax
to the contents
Sharing Our Pathways is a
publication of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative, funded
by the National Science Foundation Division of Educational
Systemic Reform in agreement with the Alaska Federation of
Natives and the University of Alaska.
We welcome your comments and suggestions
and encourage you to submit them to:
The Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
P.O. Box 756730
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730
(907) 474-1902 phone
(907) 474-5208 fax
Newsletter Editor: Lolly
Layout & Design: Paula