A newsletter of the Alaska Rural Systemic
Alaska Federation of Natives / University
of Alaska / National Science Foundation
Volume 4, Issue 4, September/October 1999
In This Issue:
Fall Course Offerings for Teachers
in Rural Alaska
Traditional Yup'ik Knowledge--Lessons
for All of Us
KuC 1999 Graduation Address
Newhalen Cultural Heritage
and Video-editing Class
Subsistence and Contaminants
Iñupiaq Region: Nalukatagvik--A
Gathering for Celebration and Blanket Toss for a Successful
AISES Corner (American Indian
Science and Engineering Society)
Village Science: They Won't
Get It . . .
Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative
Fall Course Offerings for Teachers in Rural Alaska
by Ray Barnhardt
Just as the new school year brings new learning opportunities
to students, so too does it bring new learning opportunities for
teachers and those seeking to become teachers. This fall rural
teachers and aspiring teachers will have a variety of distance
education courses to choose from as they seek ways to upgrade their
skills, renew their teaching license, pursue graduate studies or
meet the state's Alaska Studies and Multicultural Education requirements.
All Alaskan teachers holding a provisional teaching license are
required to complete a three-credit course in Alaska Studies and
a three-credit course in Multicultural Education within the first
two years of teaching to qualify for a standard Type A certificate.
The following is a list of some of the courses available through
the Center for Distance Education that may be of interest to rural
ANTH 242, Native Cultures of Alaska; GEOG 302,
Geography of Alaska; HIST 115, Alaska, Land and Its People; HIST
461, History of Alaska.
ANS 461, Native Ways of Knowing; ED 610, Education
and Cultural Processes; CCS/ED 611, Culture, Cognition and Knowledge
Acquisition; ED 616, Education and Socio-Economic Change; ED
631, Small School Curriculum Design; ED 660, Educational Administration
in Cultural Perspective.
CCS 601, Documenting Indigenous Knowledge Systems;
CCS 608, Indigenous Knowledge Systems.
Enrollment in the above courses may be arranged through
the nearest UAF rural campus, or by contacting the Center for Distance
Education (CDE) at (907) 474-5353, email email@example.com, or by going
to the CDE web site at http://www.dist-ed.uaf.edu. Those rural
residents who are interested in pursuing a program to earn a teaching
credential should contact the rural education faculty member at
the nearest rural campus, or the Rural Educator Preparation Partnership
office at (907) 543-4500. Teacher education programs and courses
are available for students with or without a baccalaureate degree.
Anyone interested in pursuing a graduate degree by distance education
should contact the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies at (907) 474-1902
or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the above courses offered through
the UAF campuses, the following distance education courses are
available through the Alaska Staff Development Network (ASDN) under
arrangements with Alaska Pacific University: Alaska Alive (which
meets the state Alaska Studies requirement) and Creating Culturally
Responsive Schools: A Standards-based Approach (which meets the
state multicultural education requirement.) A new multicultural
education course aimed at administrators is also under development
by ASDN. Information regarding enrollment in these courses can
be obtained from the Alaska Staff Development Network at (907)
364-3801, email email@example.com, or at the ASDN web site at
Welcome to the last school year of the 20th century
and the first of the new millennium.
by Andy Hope
Work on the Cultural Atlas initiative in the Southeast
Region began in 1997 during the Indigenous Science Knowledge Base
initiative. The Project Jukebox staff at the Oral History Library
at the University of Alaska Fairbanks provided technical support.
Mary Larsen of the Project Jukebox presented an orientation on
designing web sites and web pages in Sitka in late April 1997,
concurrent with the annual Alaska Native Rural Education Consortium
Teachers and students from Chatham, Hoonah and Sitka
School districts participated in the training orientation. That
spring UAS Juneau liaison, Tom Thornton, hired Jimmy George, Jr.
as a student assistant for the Southeast Cultural Atlas project.
Jimmy traveled to Fairbanks for web site training at the Oral History
Library. Lydia George (Jimmy's mother) an elder of the Angoon Tlingit
Raven moiety Deisheetaan clan, came to Juneau as Elder-in-Residence
and lectured Tom Thornton's Ethnopsychology class.
In the summer of 1997, Lydia, Jimmy, Tom and Michael
Travis began working on the mapping and sound files for the Angoon
Tlingit place names.
On the technical side, this project was proof-of-concept
that educational multimedia can be done without resorting to
expensive, proprietary development systems. I hope this encourages
others to "get their feet wet" and start experimenting with what
Michael D. Travis
Working on the atlas for me was a real eye-opener.
The thrust of the AKRSI is to promote Native ways of knowing.
So much of this revolves around looking at how information is
woven and connected through image and symbol. The Angoon cultural
atlas CD-ROM allowed us to explore these links through Tlingit
images and symbols--regalia, art, crests, place names, personal
names, etc.--as well as through oral history. Lydia and Jimmy
George's work with clan houses helped me see how Angoon Deisheetaan
Tlingits connect their regalia and crests to personal and social
identity and how the threads of Tlingit identity always lead
back to the land. The multimedia format also allowed us to do
this with Native voices and to connect Tlingit traditions to
modern science and geography in ways that are just not possible
in conventional expository writing. When we showed it to teachers
in Angoon, they immediately saw potential applications in their
classrooms as well as ways to extend the links to other areas
of the curricula and Native culture. All this is very exciting
and, I think, good for education, heritage preservation and enhancement,
and cross-cultural communication and collaboration.
Associate Prof. of Anthropology
University of Alaska Southeast
Work on the atlas project will continue. The participants
at the August 9-13, 1999 Indigenous Curriculum Institute in Sitka
will continue work on the Klukwan and Kake atlas projects and observe
a presentation of the Sitka Tlingit place name project. Institute
participants will work on integrating other curricula, i.e. the
bioregional, thematic Axe Handle Academy and the One Reel Salmon
Many individuals and organizations have contributed
to the development of the cultural atlas project: University of
Alaska Southeast, Chatham School District, University of Alaska
Fairbanks, Oral History Library, the Southeast Native Subsistence
Commission, the Angoon Community Association, the Chilkat Indian
Village, the Organized Village of Kake, Interrain Pacific and Sealaska
Traditional Yup'ik Knowledge—Lessons
for All of Us
by Esther Ilutsik
What kinds of "experiences" and "practices" do we
provide within the school setting that transfers to the real world?
Are "experience" and "practice" an important element of life? Can
we teach something that we have not experienced or practiced ourselves?
If so, how effectively?
A Yup'ik Elder, John Pauk, a well-known nukalpiaq
(a great hunter), shared the following information during a discussion
with other Yup'ik members at a conference in Aleknagik, Alaska
in January, 1999. He said, "Experiences and practices are very
important parts of the learning process. Without experience and
practice you will not learn how to do something better or understand
it very well. You will not be able to teach and share your information
with someone unless you yourself experience and practice it." He
shared that observation after many years of hunting while he was
looking back at some of the hunting implements he had made in his
earlier years. At the time, he thought they were good. But examining
them now, he found them inferior and imperfect. His many years
of experience and practice were not reflected in this earlier work.
He emphasized that experience and practice bring about an understanding--
an educated understanding--that brings other experiences and practices
Why is it that when we, the Native people, bring
up the idea of teaching the local indigenous culture in the school,
we still hear comments like, "They should just teach it at home
if they think it is so important." Many of the things we want our
children to learn we, as Native parents, haven't learned. So how
can we teach the cultural knowledge that we feel is important to
our children when we have not been taught these things ourselves?
Many educators or even community members do not realize
that we have a generation of parents who have not had the opportunity
to engage in activities that would make their culture more meaningful
to them. They sense that it is important and know that it is something
that will help their own children gain a better understanding of
who they are. They see it and hear about it, but since they have
not experienced and practiced it themselves, they are not able
to pass it on.
Therefore we, as educators at the university and
public school levels, have an added responsibility--the responsibility
of educating those who missed out on these traditional learning
opportunities. Those of us who have had the opportunities to be
educated by our Yup'ik Elders need to pass the information on.
We need to explore ways we can share this information with those
who want it, but do not have the financial capacity to pay for
workshops or university-sponsored classes. Many people do not have
the financial capacity to pay the tuition costs or participate
in a program that will once again educate them in their own cultural
practices, so we need to seek other avenues.
Traditional Yup'ik Learning
Let's take a look at a traditional Yup'ik learning
situation. In the past, the Yup'ik people learned a lot by participating
and observing. This does not imply passive observing as defined
in the Webster Dictionary (to watch attentively), but rather immersing
yourself in the activity. This could be with immediate family or
extended family members or at the community level. Consider the
A young girl plays near her mother as her mother
is making a squirrel parka. She is playing with her dolls. Her
mother gives her some scraps of fur to make a simple piece of
clothing for her doll. She tries her hand at sewing with her
mother showing her how to thread, to make a knot and doing the
first few stitches for her as she observes (this time the Webster
definition is valid.) Then she finishes what her mother started
and has her help with tying the knot.
The young girl is outside playing with a few older
girls as well as girls her own age. They are all seated in a
circle each with a yaruin (a story knife) and are taking turns
telling a story. She watches as the other girls draw a squirrel
parka detailing all the parts of the parka, sharing the stories
and meaning behind each design and pattern. She also draws as
she watches and listens. When it is her turn, she is helped by
the other girls.
The young girl is with her mother and father at
a gathering and observes and listens. She notices that her mother
and father greet certain people as relatives. She notices that
the parkas that they wear are all similar. One part of the parka
stands out as the important symbol that signifies relationships.
She also notices that those with the most similar designs are
invited to the home as overnight guests.
The young girl is a little older and again sits
with her mother as she sews a parka. The girl indicates to her
mother that she would like to make a small parka for her doll
detailing some of the family patterns. The mother shares with
her the most significant part of the parka design, then shows
her how to make it and has her make one for her doll.
These scenes are played out over-and-over again until
the young girl has reached marriageable age. She has all this knowledge,
experience and practice which she brings to her early years of
marriage and now, with her own family, continues the cycle.
Education and Western Influence
To what degree has traditional Yup'ik education been
influenced by the Western world? Let's take a look at the following
A child is playing at home near her mother. Her
mother is working on a parka. But the child and mother are both
distracted by the television. The child is playing with a Barbie
doll or other manufactured doll. This doll doesn't need homemade
clothes. All the clothes are pre-made.
The child is playing with other children at a preschool.
They have puzzles and other toys they are playing with. They
are acting out roles they see within the community: going to
church, going to a birthday party or even going shopping at the
local store. A teacher is sharing stories, showing the children
different social skills. She has the children participate in
art activities and reinforces certain types of behaviors. The
teacher models the behaviors that she expects of the children.
The child is with her mother and father at a gathering.
She observes and listens. She notices that her mother and father
greet certain people as relatives. But all the people at this
gathering are dressed in Western clothing. She makes an assumption
that certain people are related to her based only on how her
parents greet these people.
As the child gets older, she enrolls in the local
school. Her whole day and many evenings are spent at the school.
She rarely spends time at home and when she is at home, she's
doing homework or watching television.
Western education and influence have taken over the
responsibility for raising these children. It is no longer the
mothers, parents and even peers sharing and teaching each other.
It has been replaced by another method of learning. No wonder there
is a "gap" between the parents and the children. Neither of the
participants knows what the other is doing. The parents want their
children to learn and understand certain things from their own
culture, but the school is not teaching these skills.
Let's take my own personal experiences as an example.
I grew up and was educated within the school setting. My parents
knew that education was important for survival, but they had little
idea what was being taught in school--only a vague understanding.
They knew that reading, writing and mathematics were all very important.
They assumed that some of the things they were doing at home were
being taught at school, such as the art of cooking and preparing
food. But little did they know that the food preparation that was
taught had very little to do with how food was prepared in the
My father first came to that realization when my
mother was not home to prepare food he caught. I was home when
he came back from hunting with a couple of ducks in hand and asked
me to prepare them for the next meal. I had, as a young girl before
I started school, observed my mother and tried my hand at plucking
birds, so that part was easy. But when it came to cutting up the
bird, I had no prior knowledge. I may have observed, but did not
have the opportunity to experience or practice it. So there I was,
afraid to admit my ignorance to my father, I cut up this poor duck.
I literally chopped it up to make some soup and threw the rest
away. When the soup was done, my father came in to dish himself
up, while I quickly made myself scarce, but within earshot. I heard
him mutter under his breath, "Oh my God! What do they teach in
school? This poor daughter of mine does not even know how to properly
cut up a simple little bird. How will this poor creature live.
She has no respect for this poor bird."
Documenting Traditional Yup'ik Knowledge
Interviewing is the most popular way of collecting
and documenting traditional Yup'ik knowledge. The interview process
has many different variations. For example, public school teachers
have students interview Elders on subject areas that they are interested
in. This process is usually teacher-directed and, most often, the
information gathered is limited due to barriers in communication.
University students also collect information by interviews and
these again are usually teacher-directed. Depending on the interest
and background of the students participating in these sessions,
they usually contain more or less detailed information. There are
also research groups that are comprised of Elders, professional
educators and paraprofessionals who meet and gather together to
document traditional knowledge. They use a form of interviewing
where Elders and educators bounce information off one another.
This method of interviewing brings about more detailed information
which is further discussed in depth by the participants. But even
this process does not take into consideration the type of information
that would be collected and documented if the participants were
able to actually experience it.
For example, there is an art to gathering the edible
roots from bush mice. You hear about how mouse food is gathered.
You learn that it is gathered during a certain part of a season.
You may even have the opportunity to see it, but you have not had
the opportunity to engage in this activity to see how it is done.
It is like looking into another world, because when questions are
asked of the Elders, they share what they know, but in many cases
they forget to share significant details because they assume everyone
already knows those things.
On one such occasion, we interviewed and recorded
as much information as we could about edible mouse food from our
Elders: what the names of the edible roots were, what they might
taste like, the process used in preparing them for meals and even
having the Elders attempt to draw what the roots and tubers looked
like. It was then decided that we should go out and gather these
During the field trip we, the students, observed
the Elders in action. They knew exactly where to go and we followed.
We observed as they looked for a certain area with the types of
plants that they knew the mice would cache. Then they would look
into the grass. When questioned, they said, "Oh, we're looking
for telltale signs of mice. You see they have little roads in the
grass." So we, the learners, looked and to our amazement saw all
these little highways. Then they started taking little steps and
moving up and down. When questioned, they said, "Oh, we are feeling
for a spongy area. If it feels spongy it might be the mouse nest
or it might be the food cache." Then, when a mouse cache was found,
the tools were taken out: an uluaq, a bag and even some bits of
dried fish and crackers. The nest had to be cut in a special way
so that the Elders would be able leave it as naturally as they
had found it. After the edible roots were taken they were replaced
with dried fish and cracker crumbs and thanks was given. In this
way they shared more detailed information that was not initially
evident during the interviews.
In experiencing and practicing the gathering of edible
mouse food, we were able to document a great deal more information
then we would have if we had just relied on the interviews. We,
as educators, had acquired information that was validated by our
own experience and practice. When learning passively from our Elders,
we are able to bring only limited information and insights back
into the classroom, but through participation in the actual field
activity, the information takes on much greater validity and meaning.
Sharing Yup'ik Knowledge
As teachers and educators, we are responsible for
sharing the information we gather with students who want to learn
more about their culture, as well as with other individuals who
are within the present school system and community. What avenues
are available to share such information so that others may also
benefit from this knowledge?
There are many new materials being developed for
integration into the school environment that address the approaches
to the teaching described above. Specific ideas and suggestions
are outlined in the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive
Schools, available through the Alaska Native Knowledge Network/Alaska
Rural Systemic Initiative (AKRSI). One of the initiatives of the
AKRSI involves implementing "Native Ways of Knowing" into school
teaching practices, including documenting traditional cultural
knowledge and incorporating it into the curriculum using experiential
methods. As a result of this initiative, many new materials are
now being developed and integrated into the regular classroom.
Schools are beginning the process of becoming grounded within the
We, as Elders, educators and teachers, are very optimistic
that the educational environment within the Western schools will
change so that learning will fit the needs of the students; so
that the teachers coming into the area will have an understanding
of and sensitivity to the local culture and so that we will begin
to see some positive changes for our people and communities. One
area that has been overlooked, however, is the education of the
generation who are presently the parents--about their own culture
and traditional roles and responsibilities in child-rearing. This
is especially critical for those who had to leave home to attend
a boarding school--how do we begin to bring their heritage back
Collecting Knowledge Into Action
The Ciulistet Research Association, working through
the Bristol Bay Campus in Dillingham, has begun to address these
issues and concerns. The Native educators who make up the Ciulistet
Research Association come from the two main districts within the
Bristol Bay area: Dillingham City Schools and Southwest Region
Schools. It was decided that one of the ways to begin to address
these concerns and issues was to present public workshops. This
would serve as a means of educating the public without cost to
the participants. We would not only serve the needs of our people,
but also people from other cultural groups. It was also decided
that we would seek funding from the Alaska State Council on the
Arts, which funds artist and educational workshops. Money was obtained
to pay honorariums for two Elders to assist us with the workshop.
The community workshop, which is just getting underway,
is designed to model, as close as possible, the Ciulistet method
of collecting information--that is bringing together Elders with
professional educators and inviting the children and people from
the general public to participate. To attract educators, the workshop
is being offered as a university-level course through the Bristol
Bay Campus. By involving the educators, we hope to narrow the communication
gap between the school and community. All of this is to be reinforced
through opportunities for firsthand experience and practice in
the knowledge and skills that are being shared--out where the mice
make the highways in tundra.
Our vision is that the information presented at the
workshop will generate interest among the parents, community members
and teachers, thus creating a domino effect in education--teachers
teaching the ideas and themes in the classroom, while the parents
and community members share the information with their own children
as well as others in the community.
It truly is an exciting time in education!
KuC 1999 Graduation Address
by Cecilia Martz
maavet ukut ilagaryarturluki graduate-alriit. Quyanaqtuuci
tangernaugaqavci waten quyurtaqamta.
Graduates, Regent Croft, Dean Gabrielli, faculty,
staff, students, parents, friends--especially those of you who
traveled to Bethel to be part of our graduation ceremony--welcome
and quyana cakneq for coming.
For you, the graduates, this is a special day. You
will remember this day, April 30, 1999, as a significant experience
in your lives. It marks what you have accomplished and completed
up to this time in your life, but it does not mean that you quit
accomplishing and completing other objectives you have for tomorrow,
the next day, next year and five years from now. Days such as this
one elicit recollections of other significant experiences from
Our past experiences have made us who we are today,
shaping how we think, what values we have, how we treat other people
and how we view the world around us.
Certain people figure prominently in our lives--people
who have had a tremendous influence on our lives--and we give those
people a very special place in our hearts. One person who helped
shape my perspective of other people, religions, races, regions
and anything different, was a religion teacher I had when I was
going to school at St. Mary's High School. We had nuns (sisters),
priests, brothers and later, lay volunteers as faculty and support
people. I was in junior high and we had been studying about heaven
and hell--places where we go after we die. I had been told that
only Catholics would go to heaven. That really bothered me for
years because it went against what my dad and other relatives had
taught me about judging other people. Anyway, I raised my hand
(we had to raise our hands to be recognized and once recognized,
we had to stand up to ask our question or say what we had to say).
The nun (her name was Mother John), looked at me with a martyr's
look on her face. She was probably thinking, "Oh, dear, not her
again!" but she called my name. So I stood up and quickly said, "Mother,
if only Catholics go to heaven, I don't want to go there." I could
hear the other students' loud intake of breath and I could also
imagine them thinking, "Surely, she is going to be excommunicated
and she certainly is going to hell." Well, Mother John looked at
me and the other students very thoughtfully and said, "Cecilia,
no, that is not true." The other students again did their audible
intake of breath . . . surely Mother John was also going to hell.
She continued: "There are many religions in the world. All people,
whether they are Baptists, Methodists, Zen Buddhists or whatever,
will go to heaven if they live good lives according to how their
religion and their cultures dictate." I said, "Good, then I'll
go to heaven." I will never forget the lesson in tolerance she
taught me. She also taught me to do my best in everything that
I do--washing dishes, writing a course outline, cutting fish, making
a presentation or giving a speech.
One other very influential person in my life and
one who has the most space in my heart, next to my husband and
children, is my father, who passed away 23 years ago. He always
knew the appropriate times to say to me what he felt I needed to
know. He showed me and other young people proper conduct by his
actions and by pointing out the actions of others.
One morning at camp, when I woke up, he said to me, "Tacung,
(a special name just for me from him) anqaa (go outside)." So
I went outside and stayed out there for a while and then went back
in the tent. I had no idea why he wanted me to go out. When I went
back in, I had my tea with milk and fry bread. After a while, my
dad asked, "Which direction is the wind blowing from?" Had I checked
where the wind was blowing from? Of course not. I had just gone
out like he told me to and came back in. Some time later, he again
asked me to go out after I woke up in the morning. So, again I
went out, and what did I make sure I did? I checked where the wind
was blowing from. I went back in and had my tea and fry bread.
A while later, my dad asked, "What do the clouds look like?" Oh
dear, did I look at the clouds? No, I had not looked at the clouds.
Still later, he again asked me to go out in the morning
before breakfast. This time what did I make sure I did? I made
sure of the wind direction, made sure I could describe what the
clouds looked like and I went further. I looked to see if the river
tide was up or down, if the mountains looked high or low, if there
was a blue reflection where the sea was, what birds were flying,
what animal sounds I heard. I made sure I could answer any question
my dad asked. After a while, I went in and had my tea and bread,
at the same time waiting for "the question." While I was eating,
my dad said, "When the clouds are stretched, the wind will pick
up that day. If you see shimmering on the horizon, the ground is
pushing the heat from the sun upwards. When you see what looks
like fog rising from the lakes and ponds, their heat temperature
is balancing with the air's."
From that day on he started teaching me about the
weather in different seasons because he knew I had learned to observe
my environment. To this day, I still take careful note of my surroundings
and can tell, generally, what the weather is going to be like each
My dad was giving me scientific knowledge about our
environment. In the same way, he taught me social studies by alerting
me to different people's behavior. He taught me to read and write
my own language. He taught me environmental biology and he kept
teaching me until the time came for him to leave us. He also approved
of Mike, who later became my husband.
He also gave to me what has become one of the cornerstones
of my personal values, a solid foundation for who I am. When I
started leaving for school at St. Mary's, one of those times, he
said to me, "Tacung, learn as much as you can about the Kass'aqa,
they are here to stay. Their numbers will increase over time. Taugaam
angurrluqapiareq qaneryaraput, cayararput-llu nalluyaguteryaqnaki."
Angurrluk is a very strong word which translates
roughly to "Never, never, no matter what!" or as Nita Rearden said, "Ever,
ever, ever, not, not, not!" It's that strong of a word. My father
said, "Never, never, no matter what, are you to forget our language,
traditions, ways of doing things." (The English language sometimes
is very inadequate to convey equivalent meanings.) So I follow
that strong directive to this day to the best of my ability.
Many of us who are following that directive in our
lives and our work, especially people of my age, are starting to
retire. Those of you who follow us must take up the responsibility
to ensure that our language and culture continues to thrive. Our
Elders have repeatedly begged us to do so. The Yukon/Kuskokwim
Delta is the heart and soul of the Yup'ik language and culture.
It is imperative that you remain vigilant and outspoken so that
agencies, especially the educational institutions, will continue
to show us, the people they are here to serve, that the continuation
of our language and culture remains one of their highest priorities.
This is a heavy responsibility that should never be ignored.
There are many more people who have taught me and
shaped me to what I am and affected how I think, and I thank those
people from the bottom of my heart and soul. As you reflect on
your own lives, think of those people who have influenced you and
thank the Creator for them, and if you have the opportunity, thank
them in person.
So our lives go on. We keep on accomplishing and
completing. We keep on learning. We keep on believing. We keep
on hoping. We keep on being sincere. We keep on thanking. Most
of all, we keep on loving one another.
Newhalen Cultural Heritage and Video-Editing
by Michael Roberts
This past school year, 1998-99, with a grant by the
National Science Foundation through the Alaska Federation of Natives
and the Newhalen Tribal Council, the high school seniors of Newhalen
have been involved in the Newhalen Cultural Heritage Project. The
idea was to integrate the community and culture into the curriculum.
Two classes were created and cultural heritage and video-editing
curriculums were constructed. The components involved archaeological
fieldwork, collection of oral histories and pictorial histories.
The culmination was the creation of a video production depicting
the three components that served as the summary report for the
grant to AFN. The report deadline was January 31, 1999. Video and
computer equipment for editing was purchased for the class through
Newhalen Tribal Council.
On September 14, a group of U.S. Park Service archaeologists
Dale Vinson, Becky Saleeby and Martha Olympic Crow and an archaeologist
and a former LPSD student of mine at Igiugig, arrived to carry
out four weeks of archaeological fieldwork. It was not an excavation
but an examination of an existing disturbance caused in an ancient
site by road building. Mapping, radio carbon dating, soil samples,
stratigraphy and surveying for other local sites were among some
of the activities. The senior class of Newhalen School provided
the work force and were taught techniques that lead to the designation
of the site on a listed state registry. In the application process,
the students were able to officially name and number the site.
A concerted effort by the village and the students is leading to
preservation of this site. As the students did the work, they also
video-recorded the process using a digital camcorder provided by
the grant money.
When the weather no longer permitted fieldwork, we
turned to video editing. The archaeological portion of the video
was constructed first. Students learned how to capture digital
video to computers and edit using a digital camcorder and Firewire
(IEEE 1394). All of the special effects in the video were created
using computers. The narrative for this portion was almost completely
written by the students. It describes the process they took part
in. The narration matches video clips which they chose as appropriate
from hours upon hours of videotape. The completed video was then
returned to videotape (VHS, SVHS, 8mm and DV) from the computer.
They also learned how to burn CDs of the movie for use on Macintosh
and Wintel PCs.
In the second portion of the video, there was significant
emphasis from the Newhalen Tribal Council on oral histories provided
by village Elders. In the late fall, Elders from surrounding villages
were flown in for a potlatch and roundtable story-telling. This
was all recorded on video. On many of the oral histories, the students
acted out or added portions of the stories which were superimposed
again using various computer editing techniques to enhance the
story. In stories told in Yup'ik, translation was provided by Father
David and Gladys Askoak.
The third part of the video was a collection of stills
from the Iliamna Lake area. The village of Igiugig was of great
help in allowing the use of a fine collection. John Branson of
the U.S. Park Service was also of great help. Part of the video
was actually a captured slideshow presentation by John.
After the credits on this movie, the students inserted
a bloopers section that is revealing. It shows amongst other things,
the recording of some of the narratives on the movie. It also shows
the amount of fun we had completing the project.
Finally, the video was duplicated for sale. The Newhalen
Cultural Heritage Project, A Culture In Motion, can be purchased
through the Newhalen Tribal Council for $15.00 per copy. Contact
Joanne Wassillie, Village Administrator, Newhalen Tribal Council,
P.O. Box 207, Newhalen, AK 99606. Phone: (907) 571-1410, fax: (907)
571-1537. The proceeds will go into a fund to continue the partnerships,
school curriculum and most importantly, collection, documentation
and preservation of cultural materials and archaeological sites.
I don't think you can watch the video without realizing
the educational cross-curricular value the project contained. The
elements of relevance, choice and creativity made it more meaningful
than the traditional classroom. The school/community partnership
involved in this project greatly enhanced the existing relations
with the village and the classroom, school and Lake and Peninsula
School District. It has provided cooperation and a better channel
of communication. I have never been involved in a project that
has been more fulfilling.
Subsistence and Contaminants
by Tauni Rodgers, Jeff Dickson,
Molly Patton and Larry Duffy
Several years ago Elders from the Yukon-Kuskokwim
(Y-K) drainages wondered if metals such as mercury posed a health
threat to Delta residents. They knew mercury could accumulate in
bottom feeding fish such as lush fish or predatory fish like pike.
Mercury has always been present in the environment. Mercury can
be found in the environment from (1) global distribution of industrial
wastes through the atmosphere and (2) point sources, such as erosion
of geological deposits and mining activity.
Senka Paul, a former University of Alaska Fairbanks
(UAF) student who works as a grant writer for Tribal Services,
obtained a small grant from the National Institute of Health through
the University of Washington Ecogenetics Center to begin baseline
measurements. Collection sites for freshwater fish were at fishing
and ice-fishing sites in the Y-K rivers with subsistence users
donating fish for the study. The collection of fish was managed
by the Y-K Health Corporation Office of Environmental Health and
Results of this preliminary study have given state
and federal officials more information to design future studies.
Of the sixty-six fish sampled, sixteen (mostly pike) were found
above the 0.2 parts per million (ppm) level of concern set by the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But these results are below
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards of 1.0 ppm and
lower than most mercury levels of fish found in the lower 48 states.
It's believed a diet consisting of large fish (greater than 20
inches) eaten twice a week is not a cause for concern. The main
concern of neuroscientists and toxicologists for the levels of
mercury observed in a few of the fish in this study is on the development
of a healthy human fetus. The most sensitive time is during the
first three months of pregnancy (first trimester). Pregnant women
should not worry about eating pike. At this time it is not recommended
eating large pike seven days a week.
It is not known how much mercury is passed on to
humans. Physicians within the Y-K Health Corporation are working
with the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia to address this issue. It should
be noted that there is likely a positive effect from eating fish
oils. Studies have shown fish oils block the uptake of mercury.
There are many interactions between diet and mercury absorption,
with fish protein, Vitamin E and Vitamin C possibly modifying the
About the Authors
Tauni Rodgers is the lab supervisor for OEHE in Bethel,
Alaska. Larry Duffy coordinates the Partners-in-Science program
for the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative and is a member of UAF's
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Molly Patton is an Environmental
Health Specialist with Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks. Jeff
Dickson is a Public Health Service (PHS) sanitarian working for
the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, OEHE in Bethel.
Iñupiaq Region: Nalukatagvik—A Gathering
for Celebration and Blanket Toss for a Successful Whaling Season
by Elmer Jackson
I asked a friend, "How long have the whaling celebrations
been going on?" She replied "From time immemorial." When the whaling
captains and the crews are successful in harvesting whales, their
labor of love and giving is celebrated. Before the invention of
modern means of transportation, runners were sent as messengers,
inviting other communities to the celebration. The gifts from the
whale are shared with others.
The whaling captains and the crews host their Nalukataq
in June. Prior to the celebration, they prepare mikigaq and maktak.
The strips of whale meat and maktak are aged and served at the
feast. The maktak, flippers and tail are stored in the sigluaq,
where they are preserved by freezing. The whale meat is frozen
as quaq. Fresh frozen tongue and meat are cooked by boiling
and then served. Other parts of the whale that are edible are also
prepared for the feast.
The celebration is opened with a prayer of thanksgiving.
The whaling crew and servers hold hands to give thanks to the Creator.
The gathering of people are warmly welcomed. The first course is
a delicious soup, bread, crackers and doughnuts. A complete course
is served. Elementary school-age children serve coffee, tea, sugar
and cream. After the meal, the Nalukataq begins. Many young people
and adults take turns on the blanket toss. Many hold bags of candy,
furs, cloth (material), and when they are suspended in the air
they toss them to the crowd. After the Nalukataq, another part
of the whale is shared. Whenever a course is served, those who
are not present at the celebration are also given food. For instance,
maktak, avatraq or cut parts of the flippers are shared with everyone.
Many return home with gifts from the celebration including its
delicacies. After a whole day of feasting and blanket tossing,
the celebration ends in the evening with Iñupiaq dancing.
Living the subsistence way of life, incorporating
the Iñupiat values of sharing and respect of others and
respect for animals and the environment are elements of the culture--these
are sacred to the Iñupiat.
Iñupiat in other coastal communities also
celebrate and give thanks after a successful whaling season. Many
land and sea mammals, fowl, fish, berries and edible and medicinal
plants are harvested from the land and waters. A successful harvest
of food ensures the survival of the Iñupiat heritage. Subsistence
is the Iñupiat indigenous right. Our forefathers protected
the land and waters--that is why we are still able to gather and
harvest the fruits of the land.
AISES Corner (American Indian Science and Engineering
by Claudette Bradley-Kawagley
Village Science/AISES Initiative has expanded over
four regions. Iñupiat and Athabascan students attended the
Fairbanks AISES Science Camp held in July at Howard Luke's Gaalee'ya
Spirit Camp on the Tanana River; Kodiak students attended AISES
Science Camp in Afognak, also in July; Aleut students attended
camp in August in St. George; and Tlingit students attended camp
at Dog Point in Sitka, girls in July and boys in August.
The Fairbanks AISES Science Camp operated for the
third summer with 19 middle school students from Anchorage, Buckland,
Barrow, Beaver, Arctic Village, Fort Yukon, Galena, Kotzebue, Minto,
Manley Hot Springs and Fairbanks. Our staff included five Elders:
Howard Luke, Margaret Tritt, Elizabeth Fleagle, Jonathan David
and Fred Alexander; five Teachers: Rita O'Brien, George Olanna,
Maria Reyes, Todd Kelsey and Claudette Bradley; four resident advisors:
Dean Meili, Marilyn Woods, Adrienne Benally and Donna Foray; and
one Artist-in-Resident: Travis Cole.
The Elders talked to students about the old days,
told stories, familiarized students with Athabascan language and
cultural ways and helped students make crafts. Margaret Tritt of
Arctic Village worked with students to tan eight caribou skins.
Jonathan David of Minto took students into the forest to find cottonwood,
which they needed to carve spoons and little canoes and boats.
Fred Alexander gave Athabascan language lessons, told stories of
the old ways and had students make a fish trap. Elizabeth Fleagle
of Manley Hot Springs had students making beautiful beaded tops
for moccasins or gloves. Howard Luke taught the students to respect
Elders, the camp and each other.
Teachers worked hard with students. Rita O'Brien,
a science teacher at Ryan Middle School in Fairbanks, developed
a canoe series of lessons which she extended into a lesson on vectors.
She took students into the forest to collect spruce roots. All
students worked to strip the bark from the roots and to split and
dye the roots in preparation for sewing the birch bark canoe pattern
pieces. When the canoes were finished, the students studied vectors
under Rita's well- planned lecture and hands-on collaborative experiment.
Students timed and measured the distance of a floating orange in
the Tanana River to understand the forces on a canoe traveling
in the Tanana.
Todd Kelsey is an IBM employee of Rochester, Minnesota.
He was responsible for the donation of six Thinkpads and
a color printer used at the camp by the students to analyze data
collected and to develop display boards for science projects. This
summer was Todd's second year at the camp. He came to the camp
for one week, set up the computer lab in the Elder's Hall, helped
students use the computers and taught math and science lessons.
George Olanna, a Native from Shismaref, has taught
K-12 for over 20 years. George is passionately interested in science.
He has a special interest in the Northern Lights and arranged a
field trip with Neal Brown, a former UAF physics professor, to
Poker Flats, the rocket launch facility for the University used
to study the Northern Lights. George took care of the solar panel
battery generators which supplied the electricity to our computers.
He worked with Todd during the first week and inherited Todd's
classes during the second week.
Maria Reyes is an assistant professor of education
at UAF. She assisted students in finding research information on
their science projects using the Internet at Rasmusen Library on
the UAF campus. She also counseled students on interviewing the
Elders. Students were required to write at least five interview
questions about their project. The information gathered from the
Elders was added to the background information along with the information
found on the Internet. Marie had students write a bibliography
of information gathered from the literature, Elders and experts
Claudette Bradley is an associate professor of education
at UAF. She was site coordinator, but also worked with students
on projects. She helped students use software to create spreadsheets
for recording data and also charts and graphs for data collected.
All five teachers worked collaboratively with each
other and with students to develop a research question, hypothesis
and a research method. Support staff, Dixie Dayo and DeAnn Moore,
gathered research materials for the students. Resident advisors
accompanied students who needed to attend the Department of Natural
Resources, Fish and Game and the UAF museum and library. Professor
Larry Duffy, chairman of the Bio Chemistry Department, sent chemistry
supplies that included hydrochloric acid, litmus paper, test tubes
and graduated cylinders.
Some students finished their projects and will continue
to do more library research and write a report for their project
in preparation for the science fairs to be held during the school
year. Other students will have to continue their data collection
in their village and also write a report. All students had their
display board ready for viewing at the potlatch held on the last
full day of the camp. All students explained their science projects
to the staff and guest attending the potlatch. See below for a
list of projects and students.
The plan was to have each project scientifically
sound and incorporate Elders' knowledge in the background information.
In addition, some students asked Elders to identify one of more
of the variables they were to test. For example, Liz Yatlin asked
the Elders to name the birds that fly around Howard Luke camp before
she consulted a bird atlas to identify the birds she was observing.
Crystal Gross asked the Elders what remedy they would use to soothe
mosquito bites and the Elders said they would use ground up willow
leaves. She compared that remedy with a commercial variety.
Brad Wyiouanna of Shishmaref is a "High Kick" World
Eskimo-Indian Olympics' (WEIO) athlete. He visited our camp one
evening and gave a WEIO game demonstration for the students. He
invited students to try some of the events and everyone enjoyed
participating. This prepared the students for attending WEIO on
the last evening, where students watched Brad compete for the gold
metal and observed the dynamic blanket-toss event.
Travis Cole of Alakaket was the artist-in-residence.
He writes poetry, draws realistic sketches of trees, animals and
nature scenes and dances, sings and drums Athabascan songs. He
is a powerful leader and role model for the students. The students
look forward to his Athabascan dancing sessions where he taught
the proper Native way to sing and dance. Our students learned well
and are well prepared to dance at the Fairbanks AISES Science Fair.
Travis also worked as a resident advisor. Four other
resident advisors were Dean Meili of Palmer, Marilyn Woods of Manley
Hot Springs, Adrienne Benally of Boulder, Colorado and Donna Foray
of Boulder, Colorado. The 19 students were divided into five family
groups with one resident advisor as head of household. Each night
the family groups met to talk and write in their journals. Every
day each family had one of five major chores to take care of: collecting
water, collecting firewood, washing dishes, cleaning the latrines
or cleaning the camp grounds.
During field trips each resident advisor was responsible
for their family group. They had to stick together and watch out
for one another. The field trips included attending WEIO, the movie
theater, a tour through the UAF Large Animal Farm, a day trip to
Poker Flats and a visit to the UAF museum.
For recreation, students played volleyball and organized
a volleyball tournament. Some students were able to swim for a
short while at Hamme Pool. Some students had Hackey Sacks which
they shared with others.
For spiritual well-being of everyone in the camp
we had three evenings with talking circles. Two of those evenings
we had male and female circles. Mike Tanner, a minister, came each
Sunday morning to deliver an outdoor Christian service.
The Village Science/AISES Initiative plans to have
six local Native science fairs in the coming academic year in the
following communities: Kotzebue, Barrow, Fairbanks, Old Harbor,
St. Paul and Juneau. Each fair will have two sets of judges: teachers/scientists
will judge projects for their research method and presentation;
Elders will judge projects for their value to the Native culture
and village life. Each fair will have a celebration appropriate
for the Native culture of its region.
The best projects will be sent to a statewide Native
science fair near Anchorage in February 2000. Eight projects from
the statewide fair will have the opportunity to enter AISES National
Science Fair 2000 to be held in Minnesota.
The staff of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative
has been discussing the possibility of having a winter camp for
students to learn winter survival skills. Village teachers in each
of the four regions will be invited to attend monthly audioconference
meetings. We shall discuss the feasibility of having a winter camp
and the optimal time for such a camp. In addition, we shall plan
for the science fairs in the coming academic year. We are encouraging
all teachers to attend the audioconference meetings and to extend
these opportunities to the students in your school.
Fairbanks AISES Camp Projects
Do Elders Estimate (Number of Beads for Beaded
Design) Better? Kristen John of Fort Yukon
Birds in Howard Luke Camp: Liz Yatlin of Beaver
How to Soothe Mosquito Bites, Willow vs. Ammonia:
Crystal Gross of Barrow
Golden Ratio: Tamara Thomas of Fort Yukon
Has the Salmon Population Decreased in 20 Years?:
Pat Campbell of Fairbanks
Can We Determine Age of a Bull Moose by Counting
the Points on the Antlers? Gerald John of Arctic Village
Soil Erosion: Matthew Thurmond of Galena
Color Blindness in Cats: Jordan Baker of Minto
What Medicine Plants Will Cure the Common Cold?:
Agnes Kallman of Anchorage
Spruce Beetles: Kristopher John of Fort Yukon
Acid Rain: Eilene Frank of Minto
Evaporation of Water: Matthew Shewfelt of Fort
Golden Ratio: Roseanne Cadzow of Fort Yukon
Heat Waves: Charlene Kallman of Anchorage
Log Cabin Demonstration: Travis Woods of Fort
Which is Warmer: Wolf Fur or Caribou Fur?: Lee
Hadley of Buckland
Does Spruce or Birch Retain Heat Better?: Michael
Settle of Galena
Which Soil is Most Effective With Plants: Potting
Soil, Riverbank Soil or Forest Soil?: Leila Smith of Kotzebue
Medicine Plants: Kobi Grutler of Manley Hot Springs
Village Science: They Won't Get It . . .
by Alan Dick
I was working as part of a curriculum development
group. In addition to our other work, we were asked to devise a
good icon to represent the combination of physics and chemistry.
Immediately the image of a campfire came to my mind. Photosynthesis
converts the sun's energy to chemical energy. That stored chemical
energy in the wood is released to produce light, heat and even
a little sound.
I shared my thought. Immediately someone said, "But
they won't get it." I had to agree. Most people wouldn't see the
connection. I let it pass. The group tried to combine a test tube
with an atomic symbol. It seemed distorted.
Later, a giant "NO!" screamed aloud within me. Of
course they won't get it. They are so out of touch with reality.
A campfire is a perfect symbol of the combination of chemistry
and physics. However, most people are so removed from the basics
of life they cannot relate to something so meaningful and so important
as a campfire.
Our jobs have little or no connection with the meeting
of our needs. We sign a check and our house is warm. If the house
is still cold, we dial a thermostat or a repair man. That is our
connection to reality?
A campfire is real. The fire keeps us from perishing
in the winter. It dispels the trembling of hypothermia after a
rainy day of hunting in a boat. It sucks mosquitoes in its updraft
in the summer. It keeps predators at a distance. Its radiance penetrates
to our bones heating them as well as our souls. It is a friend
that dispels the demon of loneliness. The fire is the center of
the camp, a focal point. Everything happens around the fire: cooking,
drying, planning, stories, the first cup of coffee of the day and
the last "good night" of the evening.
The campfire isn't always convenient. We circle it,
with our eyes streaming tears from the smoke. The flames scorch
our fingers as we remove the coffee pot. It chars our damp socks
as we attempt to dry them on a stick. It needs constant tending.
The smell clings to our clothes and hair. This is reality.
"They won't get it." They need to get it! NASA needs
to get it. MIT and Stanford need to get it. How can we award Ph.Ds
to people who cannot make a campfire in the rain?
It is not enough to go to a park with lighter fluid
and a bag of charcoal. That is counterfeit.
You owe yourself a campfire. Do it soon before you
forget. Go far out in the woods. Spend the night. Don't be in a
rush. Watch the fire. Watch the colors, the shape, the constant
changes. You can think of the covalent bonds and the chemical reactions
occurring, wondering which elements are residual as ash and which
ones arise as smoke. You can think of convection, conduction and
radiation and the fluid relationship between chemistry and physics,
matter and energy.
Better yet, sit by the fire, and think of your ancestors
who sat by an identical fire. Time vanishes for a moment. Think
of them and their world, their perceptions. Try to connect with
their thoughts, dreams and aspirations as you feed the flames a
stick at a time. Watch the shape, color and strength of the fire
change. Sip the ultimate cup of coffee flavored like no espresso
stand could ever imitate. Make a promise that you will do this
again soon. Then keep it.
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 contact.
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
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
Old University Park School, Room 158
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
to the contents