A newsletter of the Alaska Rural Systemic
Alaska Federation of Natives / University
of Alaska / National Science Foundation
Volume 4, Issue 5, November/December 1999
In This Issue:
Aotearoa Language Tour
Lessons for all schools
Revitalizing Harmony in Village
and School Relationships
UAF Spring Distance Learning Classes
Interview: Elder Lydia George
Aleut/Alutiiq Region: Kodiak Island's
Alutiiq Language Regeneration Project
Iñupiaq Region: Traditional
Knowledge, Environmental Assessment, and the Clash of Two Cultures
Athabascan Region: Deg Xiq'l
Xinatr'Iditl'ghuzr (Let's speak Deg Xinag)
Village Science: Flying
Aotearoa (New Zealand) Language Tour
by Moses L. Dirks
The Unalaska City School District gave me the opportunity
to visit New Zealand this summer to participate in a language tour
and to look at model Maori language revitalization programs to
explore forming similar language classrooms here in Unalaska. With
that in mind thirty-two of us, mostly language teachers from Canada
and Alaska, went on a two-week language tour of New Zealand, July
In Unalaska there are few Qawalangin who speak the
language and the people here are very aware of the status of the
language. They want something done so that it can be revived back
to the way it was in the past. The number of speakers in Unalaska
are very small; those who speak the Qawalangin dialect of Aleut
are not young (65 and over). There are approximately ten fluent
speakers in the town of Unalaska that speak Unangax. It is
those speakers who will be vital in the revitalization of the Unangan
The Maori are the leaders in language renewal among
indigenous peoples of the world. In just sixteen years, the Maori
of Aotearoa (New Zealand) have reversed the spiraling loss of language
and turned it into one of renewal. The Maori have shown that it
is possible to rescue a dying indigenous language if the will and
determination of its remaining speakers is there.
In July 1999 our group, several of whom were aboriginal
Elders, from across Alaska and Canada spent two weeks visiting
various Maori language programs to observe and interact with Maori
people. In doing so, I developed a deep respect for the Maori for
taking a big step in preserving their language. Every place we
visited we heard Maori spoken and sung among the little children,
the teachers, the parents and the Elders. It was a lesson in what
can be achieved with programs of total immersion in language and
Dr. Verna Kirkness, our tour guide, has been following
the Maori language renewal program for over ten years. She says
that each time she returns she sees the progress that is being
made. Back in 1981, the Maori started a program they called Te
Kohanga Reo, meaning "Maori language nests", for children from
birth to five years of age. In the Te Kohanga Reo the children
are immersed in the Maori language and culture while in the care
of Elders and other family members who are fluent speakers of the
language. It is reported that as of 1991, Te Kohonga Reo was producing
3,000 young speakers per year.
In addition, we visited several Kura Kaupapa Maori
philosophy schools. As in the Te Kohanga Reo, these schools use
Maori language for instruction and follow Maori tradition, protocol
and customs in all aspects of their educational activities. During
our visit to the schools, the Maori were generous in making us
feel welcome and did all they could to help us understand their
The Maori also have developed teacher training programs
to help reinforce the teaching of Maori, because there is a strong
commitment for the Maori to continue developing these language
programs. As another means of increasing the number of Maori speaking
teachers, Professor Timoti Karetu, the Maori Language Commissioner,
told us of a plan that is in the works to take certified Maori
teachers who are not fluent in Maori and provide them with a year
of language immersion. The Maori Language Teacher Education Program
was another place that was interesting to visit. The teachers were
willing to take the time to talk to the group about their programs.
In our visits to schools the Maori teachers took us into their
classrooms and explained what type of approach worked with the
students in teaching Maori. All communication is conducted in Maori.
We also had a chance to interact with students and the ones we
talked to enjoyed school and were willing to learn.
One of the biggest challenges has been to develop
quality teaching resources to accompany the Maori language curriculum.
Initially, twenty-two percent of the Ministry's learning material
budget went to the production of resources for Maori-medium education
and the work in this area is on-going.
The Maori acknowledge the wholeness of life in which
there is an intangible presence-a God, a higher power, the Creator.
They believe in the spiritual relationship of all things-human,
animal and nature. They display many of the same beliefs and values
that we do here in Alaska as indigenous people.
Museums were another avenue that is used in teaching
about the Maori culture and history. The museums were well equipped
with resources and displays that were set up to convey various
aspects of Maori history.
What stood out most about this trip was the amount
of resources that were available to the Maori. They have their
own universities and teacher colleges that prepare teachers for
classrooms. The number of speakers in Maori is phenomenal and they
are fluent in their language. The schools are full of volunteers
that help in classrooms to make sure that the students learn Maori.
The support system for the language revitalization is working and
is getting stronger every year.
After the trip to New Zealand, I felt very encouraged
about the possibilities of Unangan language development. The Maori
people have worked very hard in reversing the language loss in
their homeland and we, as Unangan people, need to do the same with
what resources we have today. The Maori people have inspired not
only the Unangan people but many indigenous peoples of world. They
are the true leaders of language revitalization. Let us try to
model after them in an effort to revitalize our own languages.
The Unangan language has been used for generations
in passing on knowledge in the region and that part of Unangan
history and tradition should continue. The Unangan community should
commit themselves to the revitalization of the Unangan language
before it is too late. We have learned English and lived that lifestyle
for sometime. It is time that we once again learn about Unangan
culture through our own language. I have always believed that it
is hard to convey a culture if it can't be described or defined
in the host language. What better way to learn about ourselves
than to re-learn our language?
by Claudette Bradley
The AKRSI/AISES initiative had a successful summer.
Five camps operated in three regions. The Fairbanks AISES Science
Camp was held at Howard Luke Camp with Athabascan and Iñupiaq
middle school students. The Kodiak AISES Science Camp was held
in Afognak. Pribilofs Camp was in St. Paul. Southeast Alaska had
two camps (one girl and one boy camp) at Dog Point in Sitka.
The AKRSI and AISES staff extend their deep appreciation
for the hard work given by the staff in the camps. We especially
want to thank Roby Littlefield and Betty Taylor in the Sitka Camps,
Karin Holser and Debbie Bourdokofsky in the St. Paul Camp, Teri
Schneider for coordinating the Afognak Camp and Claudette Bradley
for coordinating the Howard Luke Camp. Furthermore, we want to
acknowledge the fine work of Dixie Dayo, Alan Dick, DeAnn Moore
and Travis Cole for their supporting roles in the camps.
The AISES initiative of AKRSI is ending its fourth
year with six regional science fairs and one statewide fair. The
teachers in each region are meeting via audioconference to plan
for the fairs and recruitment of students. All fairs will have
Elders judging projects for their usefulness to village life and
the culture of the region. The teachers and scientists will judge
projects for their scientific method and clarity of presentation.
Having two sets of judges is a unique feature of our science fairs.
We are looking forward to having rural students participate
in the science fairs and we extend our invitation to the students
who attended our summer camps and have science projects to enter
into the regional Native science fairs.
Arctic Reg. AISES Science Fair '99
December 6-8, 1999
Fairbanks AISES Science Fair 2000
January 20-22, 2000
Statewide AISES Science Fair 2000
Birchwood Camp (near Anchorage)
January 30-February 2, 2000
Kodiak AISES Science Fair '99
November 3-5, 1999
AISES Annual National Science Fair 2000
St. Paul, Minnesota
March 5-6, 2000
The Southeast, Pribolofs and Barrow Regional Science
Fairs do not have dates at this time. If you are interested in
more information contact Claudette Bradley at 907-474-5376.
Lessons For All Schools
by Ray Barnhardt
As we go about the work of implementing the locally-
oriented rural school reform strategies that serve as the basis
for the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (AKRSI) and Rural Challenge,
it is important that we be mindful of how Alaska fits into the
larger school reform agendas that are underway on a national level.
To what extent can we learn from what is happening elsewhere in
the country and what lessons can we contribute to school reform
efforts nationally? The good news is there is a lot of convergence
in the direction of school reform initiatives at the state and
national levels, in part because the lessons from Alaska are having
an impact on policy-making and funding nationally. The bad news
is, we have a long way to go to achieve the levels of improvement
in schooling outcomes that are at the heart of the reform agendas
at the local, state and national levels.
One avenue AKRSI is contributing to the national
agenda on school reform is through the data collection and analysis
that we are doing as part of the National Science Foundation's
effort to track the impact of the systemic reform strategies that
are being funded through its Educational System Reform division.
AKRSI is being implemented in all geographic regions of the state
and is focused specifically on Alaska Native students in small
rural schools. The current reform initiatives encompass 70% of
Native students in rural Alaska who are located in 20 rural districts
directly involved with AKRSI, most of which serve a student population
that is over 90% Alaska Native. Following is a summary of some
of the results that we have submitted to NSF as part of our annual
report on the impact of the AKRSI.
Lessons from Rural Alaska
AKRSI is working directly, through MOAs, with 20
of the 48 rural school districts in Alaska. To gauge the impact
of the AKRSI initiatives, data comparing the performance of the
AKRSI and non-AKRSI schools on measures selected from the DOE summary
of school district report cards has been included in the Year Four
Annual Report. The data indicates that the cumulative effect of
increasing the connections between what students experience in
school and what they experience outside school appears to have
a significant impact on their academic performance. The initial
indicators of the effects of the first three years of implementation
of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative follows:
There has been a net gain between AKRSI partner schools
over non-AKRSI rural schools in the percentage of students who
are in the upper quartile on eigth-grade standardized achievement
tests in mathematics. There has also been a corresponding decrease
in the percentage of students who are performing in the bottom
At the eleventh-grade level, AKRSI students are moving
out of the lower quartile in math performance at a greater rate
than non-AKRSI students, while non-AKRSI students are entering
the top quartile at a slower pace than AKRSI students, though both
groups are showing signs of improvement.
The student dropout rate for grades 7-12 in AKRSI
partner schools declined from a mean of 4.4 in 1995 to 3.5 in
1998, whereas the dropout rate decreased from 2.6 to 2.4 in non-AKRSI
rural schools in the same time period.
The number of students enrolled at UA campuses
from rural districts involved with AKRSI (20 districts, 133 communities)
increased by 21% between 1995 and 1998, while the enrollment
of new rural students from non-AKRSI rural districts in Alaska
(28 districts, 120 communities) decreased by 7% in the same period.
Of the 12 major math, engineering and science fields
of study available at UAF, the percent of Alaska Native student
enrollment has increased in seven fields (math, biology, geology,
civil engineering, electrical engineering, fisheries, and wildlife
biology), stayed the same in two (chemistry and mining engineering)
and decreased in three (physics, mechanical engineering and petroleum
engineering). It is noteworthy to point out the substantial increase
in the enrollment of Alaska Native students in the life/biological
science fields (including fisheries and wildlife biology), since
that is consistent with the interests shown by younger students
as they select topics for developing a project to enter into
a science fair. It also reflects strong practical considerations,
since the increases in Native enrollments are in those fields
for which job opportunities are most likely to be available in
rural communities. In addition, these are the majors that are
most consistent with the areas of expertise that have been at
the heart of the survival of indigenous cultures and traditional
Eighth grade mathematics performance.
Percentage of students in top quartile on CAT-5.
The results of the first three years of AKRSI indicate
that the integration of Native knowledge, ways of knowing and world
views into all aspects of the educational system can have a significant
beneficial impact on the academic performance and aspirations of
Alaska Native students. These strategies are now reflected in the
Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools, which have
attracted interest in rural schools and communities throughout
the U.S. as well as in indigenous communities elsewhere in the
world. Similar results are being reported from other rural schools
around the country participating in the Rural Challenge reform
effort, where the community-school link is at the heart of the
Percentage of Alaska Native student enrollments
at UAF in Math/science majors (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998).
Reinforcement from the National Level
The most recent indication that the results of these
large-scale, rural school systemic reform initiatives are beginning
to have an impact at the national level is the major policy initiative
announced on October 13th by Richard Riley, U.S. Secretary of Education,
entitled "Schools as the Centers of Community." Secretary Riley
outlined the following points as the focus of this new federal
1. Citizens need to be more involved and engaged
in planning and designing schools.
2. We need to build smaller schools rather than "schools
the size of shopping malls." Research supports smaller schools.
Rural schools that have resisted consolidation deserve a closer
look as a model that all schools should aspire to.
3. We need to build new schools that serve the entire
community through multipurpose use at all hours throughout the
year. It makes no sense to build costly buildings that are closed
for two-thirds of every day and one-quarter of every year.
4.We need to look at every community as a living
classroom to help students find new pathways to learning.
The "shopping mall" approach to schooling has not
produced the academic or economic benefits that its bigger-is-better
proponents espoused. Any gains associated with the mega-schools
have come at the expense of personalized relationships in the classroom
and disassociation from the families and communities being served,
both of which are strengths of small rural schools.
Rural schools in Alaska have clearly demonstrated
that they can provide strong educational programs for the students
they serve. Many have begun to close the achievement gap with their
urban counterparts. They are doing so with an educational approach
that capitalizes on their strength as small scale institutions
and on the rich educational opportunities in the surrounding community.
While schools in rural Alaska have a long way to
go to adequately address the many unique issues they face, the
current signs of progress indicate that now is not the time to
pull the rug out from under them, as some recent legislative proposals
would do. The state has a constitutional responsibility to provide
equitable educational opportunities for all its citizens, but that
does not mean all schools must look alike or that equity can be
achieved with the same levels of funding for each school. Instead,
we need to focus on what is working, locally and nationally, and
continue to build a strong community-oriented educational system
that can accommodate the diverse needs of all segments of the state's
population. The return on the state's investment will be many-fold
and the lessons we learn along the way will be of benefit, not
only to rural schools, but to all schools.
Revitalizing Harmony in Village and School Relationships
By Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley and Dixie Dayo
The relationships between Alaska Native people and
the schools have often been adversarial. This may be due to Alaska
Natives' mistrust of the outside educational system and its practitioners.
For too many years the schools did not acknowledge the different
ways of knowing and ways of making sense of this world extant in
the villages. Instead, another way of making a life and living
was espoused by the newcomers.
After making a visit to Alaska in the 1880s, Sheldon
Jackson approached the United States Congress for money to educate
Alaska Native people. The money he received for this purpose was
very limited so he approached religious organizations to establish
schools, many of which were associated with the church-run orphanages
that sprung up after the viral epidemics. In their minds they were
doing God's work, with the very best of intentions. However, they
were also carrying out the assimilation policies of the times,
in which Alaska Native students were to lose their Native language
and ways of making a living. After many years of experiencing this
type of education (under both church- and government-run schools),
Alaska Native people began to recognize that schooling in pursuit
of the American Dream was a largely unattainable goal made up of
empty promises. As a result of this bifurcation of purpose, many
of the teachers who served as the purveyors of the new knowledge
through the schools never became a part of the community in which
they taught. This split has contributed to the debilitation of
the villages to the point where many villagers have abdicated their
educational responsibilities with an attitude of "Let's leave things
alone, they know better." In this way, the educational system has
failed Alaska Natives and, in turn, Alaska Native people have contributed
to that failure. So, what can be done to overcome this legacy of
adversarial relations between school and community?
In the not-too-distant past, when newcomers came
into Alaska Native communities, they were welcomed as visitors
and made comfortable. The Alaska Native people shared their food,
homes and knowledge about the surrounding flora and fauna. They
shared the arts and skills of hunting, trapping and survival in
a sometimes harsh environment. They found some of the early newcomers
had left behind their individualistic and competitive world in
search of another way of making a life and a living-one compatible
with Alaska Native peoples' inclinations. These newcomers grafted
themselves to the lifeways of the community in which they settled
and became a part of it. They allowed any feelings of superiority
to dissipate in the wind. However, they were followed by another
group of people some of whose goals and motivation were driven
by a different mindset-that of ambition and greed to gain land
and take natural resources for attaining riches.
The original host-visitor relationship was broken
asunder and the Alaska Native people found themselves thrust into
smaller and smaller pockets of land differientiated by artificial
boundaries and restrictions. This was now a conqueror and conquered
relationship. The Native people found themselves struggling for
survival in their own land. They found themselves subjected to
new laws, values and institutions. They experienced new diseases
and poverty, as well as the language, arts and skills that were
now being taught to them. The Native peoples' perception of harmony
in life practices which upheld the recognition that the whole can
be greater than the sum of its parts was disrupted. This is a sad
commentary for a people who were once self-sufficient and practiced
a spirituality that edified this harmonious way of life and making
More than a century has elapsed and it is time to
reexamine the relationship between community and school in rural
Alaska. This recognition was brought about by a recent trip to
New Zealand of Alaska Native educators and our subsequent participation
in the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education (WIPCE)
held in Hilo, Hawaii in August. At every Maori marae (meeting house)
that we visited in New Zealand, the protocol of welcoming the visitors
was performed. On the first day WIPCE, the Hawaiian people performed
a traditional welcoming ceremony for the 2000 guests who came to
the Islands to attend the conference. All of these were awe-inspiring
experiences that engendered a feeling of being a part of the host
community and confidence in knowing what would be expected of you
as a visitor.
The Maori marae and many of the Hawaiian settlements
have become bastions of indigenous spirituality, philosophy, identity,
language and values. Because these ceremonies are so steeped in
spirituality, there is a feeling of respect for place, people and
all that they have and stand for. These are places where real teaching
and learning can take place because they are working for the good
of the community with spirit and feeling.
Why don't Alaska's villages do the same for incoming
administrators and teachers? It is time we take the initiative
and get involved in providing a more holistic education for our
children. This can only happen when we change the adversarial relationship
between the village and school. We must realize that we cannot
expect the school to raise our children. This has been happening
for too long and the result has been a school that is too often
a battleground between teachers and students, as well as with the
parents and villagers. The time is ripe for putting the statement, "It
takes a whole village to raise a child" into practice. Let us briefly
suggest how a process like this might begin. It is up to each of
you to do the rest.
No matter where Alaska Native people come from, they
have had a way of welcoming the allanret-the visitors. We should
revive these practices, starting with welcoming the principals
and teachers who come to the village to help in the education of
the children. They are with us the greater part of the year and
spend much of their waking hours with our children. So it is only
fair that we make them feel welcome. These welcoming ceremonies
must include local speech makers. The Alaska Native speakers should
include (in general terms) what is expected of the administrators
and the teachers. The principal and teachers can respond by briefly
stating what their philosophy of education is, what and how they
meet the expectations of the villagers and to ask where they may
need help themselves. It is important that everyone come to mutual
terms on what can be done to improve the education of the village
The same appreciation should be accorded those Native
educators who have chosen to obtain a higher education to acquire
a teaching certificate. Those who return to the village should
be treated with a similar welcome, in a manner that is well endowed
with love, care and nurturing to help them become successful teachers.
There should be no expressions of jealousy or alienation shown
toward these individuals. Villagers should allow the spirit to
act as the mediator to elevate these Alaska Native people who have
taken the risk of failure, suffered through times of depression
or bewilderment, confronting insensitive administrators and faculty
and experience financial hardship to gain access to the profession
of teaching. Alaska Native educators have a willingness to excel
and they know the village situation well-thereby earning our support.
These acts of harmony and compassion contribute to
the healing process on all sides. Villagers need to participate
in board meetings to clarify any questions that arise, let the
participants know what is being accomplished to meet village expectations
and what needs further work. This must be done with honesty and
in accord with Alaska Native values. Compassion, cooperation and
teamwork have always been the hallmark of Alaska Native hospitality.
This must be resurrected to function as an organism with all its
parts working together for the good of the whole village. It is
admirable to note that this is already being done in some villages.
This is where synergy really begins to kick in with each part working
for the good of the community and thus making it stronger than
its individual parts. The ways of Alaska Native people may become
the model for the future. Tuaii, piurci.
UAF Spring Course Offerings For Rural Students and
The following courses will be available during spring
semester, 2000 through distance education to students in rural
Alaska. Contact your rural campus or the Center for Distance Education
CCS 602Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights
CCS 612Traditional Ecological Knowledge (Oscar Kawagley)
ED 603Field Study Research Methods (Jerry Lipka)
*ED 616Education and Socio-Economic Change (Ray Barnhardt)
*ED 631Small School Curriculum Design (Ray Barnhardt)
*course meets state multicultural education requirements
by Andy Hope
I'm looking forward to year five of the AKRSI/ARC
project. I am recommending consolidation of several initiatives
into a curriculum project for the Southeast region. I believe that
the Axe Handle Academy, the cultural atlas, AISES, the Academy
of Elders and the subsistence-based curriculum can all support
development of the I Am Salmon curriculum.
The I Am Salmon curriculum project is being coordinated
by One Reel in Seattle. I Am Salmon is a multi-disciplinary, multi-lingual,
multicultural, multinational curriculum designed to develop a sense
of place (in one's watershed), a sense of self (in the Circle of
Life) and an understanding of how they are connected according
to the developers, Judith Roche and Jane Cordry Langill. Participants
include teachers from Japan, Russia, Alaska, British Columbia and
Washington. Many of these teachers participated in a curriculum
design and planning workshop in Leavenworth, Washington, Memorial
Day weekend, 1999.
The general purpose of I Am Salmon is for sixth-grade
students to explore the natural history of their watershed by documenting
the history of wild salmon streams near their communities and share
that information with other students around the Pacific Rim. The
children will work on this project throughout the 1999-2000 school
year, beginning in mid-October, 1999, when they received a packet
of resource materials compiled by David Gordon, a science writer
who currently works for the Sea Grant program at the University
of Washington. David worked with a number of other consultants
in preparing the I Am Salmon workbook, which he describes as a
multidisciplinary program designed to lead individuals and groups
of students on in-depth explorations of local watersheds. A watershed
is a gathering place, a region defined by hydrology-the way water
flows over, under and through the earth. Within a watershed, snow,
rain, rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands and groundwater aquifers
are all links in an intricate chain. The unifying theme of I Am
Salmon are the six species of Pacific Salmon, their ties to watershed
habitats, dependence on natural cycles and roles in ancestral and
modern cultures in nations throughout the northern Pacific Ocean.
By following the cycle of migrating salmon, students can learn
lessons about the larger themes of life-birth, death and transformation-and
an understanding of ones place, both in local watersheds and the
Teachers and students will also interact via the
Internet through the school year. One Reel had plans to post an
I Am Salmon website in October. A number of sixth-grade and middle-school
classrooms from AKRSI/ARC school districts in Southeast and Southwest
will participate in the project. Technical support for classrooms
will be provided by Richard and Nora Dauenhauer, Claudette Bradley
and the cultural atlas technology team of Micheal Travis, Arlo
Midgett and Jimmy George.
Four I Am Salmon curriculum teams have organized
Blatchley Middle School, Sitka School District,
Patty Dick, sixth grade science teacher and team leader
Angoon School, Chatham School District, Phil Miscovich,
Floyd Dryden Middle School, Juneau School District,
Angela Lunda, seventh grade science teacher and team leader
Kake Middle School, Kake School District, Rick
Mills, sixth grade math teacher, team leader.
An Interview with Elder Lydia George
Interviewed by Andy Hope, transcribed by Roby
Littlefield, August 1999
They call us Raven Beaver Clan of Angoon. Deishitaan
from Deishu Hit. The crest we carried with us was the Raven. I
was told, back in time, that the beaver led our family into Angoon
so we started using the beaver crest also.
I started working with the elderly people during
the land claims suit as an interpreter and translator. I worked
with many clan leaders to help document their land use and campsites.
They told me the names and stories about all these places. I was
the only English-speaking young person who was willing to do this
Later my husband, Jimmy George Sr., was nominated
as president of the Tlingit and Haida Council; then I was elected
to the Central Council by the people. I learned to write Tlingit
from Connie Naish and Gillian Story when they were staying with
us, so that came in handy when I did the original BIA enrollment
from Angoon. When I did the enrollment for T & H, I finally
began to get paid for my work.
The Forest Service hired me to put an information
office together for them and that was the first time I put the
Tlingit names next to English names on a map. At that time I also
did research on the Angoon Clan Houses (also documenting the older
community houses that were destroyed in the 1882 Navy bombardment.)
That gave me the background (training) to work with JOM. I worked
for them twenty years teaching cultural arts in school. That is
why the governor gave me the Arts Award.
I was trained in California to write grants as a
Vista Volunteer and that helped to further document the Angoon
cultural history and arts.
I am very happy to be here at Fish Camp this summer.
I'm so thankful that I listened to my Elders because whoever has
a project, they come to me for advice, and I can tell them what
I have learned from my Elders.
Over the years my whole family has gotten into documenting
traditional knowledge. My husband bought a reel-to-reel and began
recording memorial parties and ceremonies; now my son, Jimmy Jr.,
is transferring it to CD-ROM. He's doing it on his own with no
The cultural atlas work I've done with Tom Thornton
and the university will now be available for teachers to use in
schools. It is important for our children to learn their history.
It's important for children to also learn traditional
values at Fish Camp. It is the only place where most of them can
learn to hear and speak Tlingit, learn independence, how to survive
off the land and be safe in the wilderness. It's the only place
today where a child is taught old-fashioned respect for nature
When the children heard the adventures of Kaax'achgook,
they learned clues about the science of navigation by the sun,
moon and stars. If this man had not studied he would not have made
it back to Sitka.
Now my granddaughter is studying the tide for her
science project. She heard a story here at Fish Camp that made
her want to study the tides.
The Beaver Canoe, S'igeidi Yaakw, belonged to my
Uncle Kaa Tlein. He was a young man and was out hunting when the
U.S. Navy bombarded our village. They destroyed all the houses,
the winter food and all the canoes were smashed. Only S'igeidi
Yaakw was undamaged because it was gone. It was the only canoe
left to feed the whole village that winter.
Many years later the canoe was tied up on the beach
where it would float part of the time. The people had begun to
use the gravel on the beach that looked like marbles neex. They
would put it in the smokehouses, around our houses and on the road.
Soon there was none left on the beach so rocks began to stick up
out of the sand. It only took a little breeze to move the boat,
making it hit on that rock so that the bottom of the canoe badly
cracked. The whole community was in sorrow and pain because of
the history of the canoe when they discovered the crack. They had
to hire the opposite clan to help put the canoe to rest. They burned
the canoe up as if it was human and blew the ashes to the Four
Corners of the world.
The people realized that it was still important to
find balance-you can't just take from the land. They should have
scrapped the old gravel up and put it back on the beach. The tides
would then take it, clean it and spread it out until the next time
it was needed.
My granddaughter understands from stories how important
the tide is. I wish teachers today could use our stories to teach
like we used to do.
Aleut/Alutiiq Region: Kodiak Island's Alutiiq Language
by Olga Pestrikoff, Teacher, Old Harbor School
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed
citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that
I am an Alutiiq from Afognak, a parent, a grandparent,
a teacher and a community-minded citizen. I am committed to the
effort of regenerating our heritage language. Like many other indigenous
cultures, our language requires strategic attention soon. We are
not alone in this dilemma, and I feel as though I have something
to offer in this cause.
Alutiiq Language Programs in the Kodiak Region
Over the years Kodiak Island schools have implemented
a program called Cultural Days that has evolved into Cultural Week.
This is time set aside from the routine academic process to study
local, place-based educational endeavors. Classes have included
cold weather survival, subsistence gathering, local foods preservation
and preparation, craft classes like beadwork and basket weaving
and different types of carving. The classes are culturally significant
and tied to the people and community, drawing in family participation.
Vocabulary is taught within the context of the activities. The
school staff is already in the school. Most community support is
on a volunteer basis unless tribal councils have this program as
part of their mission.
The Alutiiq Museum offers Alutiiq Word of the Week
through the media including the Kodiak Daily Mirror, various newsletters,
the internet, faxes to villages and over the radio station. The
Word of the Week is put into context within different sentences
and includes background information. Craft classes that reflect
the museum display items are offered through a registration and
user fee system and incorporate teaching of Alutiiq vocabulary.
The Kodiak Area Native Association spearheads a joint
effort with other organizations in planning and implementing a
summer youth camp. Students from the villages and the city of Kodiak
come together in camp to explore cultural issues and participate
in cultural activities in a bonding experience. They also learn
and practice Alutiiq vocabulary. Activities include crafts, gathering
of foods, talking circles, discussions and presentations on issues
like drug and alcohol prevention, family planning, water safety,
tool making and use, first aid training, story telling and more.
The Association of Native Educators of the Alutiiq
Region originated through the school districts' partnership with
AKRSI. Currently this association is working on publishing a series
of posters, in the Alutiiq language, of plants indigenous to the
islands. The Association also writes thematic units using both
Alaska Content and Culturally Responsive Schools Standards. Units
on edible plants, driftwood and sea lions are nearly ready for
publishing. With this study students can learn the Alutiiq vocabulary.
The group also sends representation to the Native
Educators' Conference that precedes the Alaska Bilingual/Multicultural
Education and Equity Conference in February of each year. This
has been beneficial in networking and generating potential ideas
for classroom use.
The Academy of Elders Science Camp brings Elders,
teachers and students together in a remote camp setting. Students
work on science projects with Elders teaching Alutiiq as part of
each project. The Elders also practice their language and teach
it to those present just by talking.
Old Harbor Programs
The Alutiiq Word of the Day is introduced during
the daily opening of the school. For five days in the fall of 1998,
Elders were recorded on language master cards. One of these cards
is then played over the intercom daily for one week. Listeners
repeat the word in the classrooms along with the two students who
are making the announcements with the principal. The tribal council
pays for the Elders' time. The principal, a teacher's aide and
one teacher rotate in facilitating and assisting with the recording
and management of the project.
Language classes are offered to all students, kindergarten
through junior high. Elders teach for thirty minutes daily totaling
two-and-a-half hours with a half hour for prep time. The IEA parent
committee bought the sound systems that are used to tape classes
for classroom review.
During the appropriate seasons, seal and duck hunting
classes have been offered. They integrate gun safety, geography,
survival, meat preparation, presentation protocol for giving meat
to Elders culminating in an actual hunting trip. Students are able
to complete the whole process because they learned the steps in
the classroom. The teachers are community members with the certified
teacher assisting in the classroom throughout the four-week unit.
The community teachers are paid by the tribal council for their
Some Alutiiq vocabulary is taught within the context
of arts and craft classes. The IEA committee buys supplies for
the classes taught by an IEA paid teacher's aide in the school.
The tribal council also buys supplies for classes that are open
to the public and offered as cross-generational opportunities through
the Elders and Youth Center. In both places the tribal council
pays for the time of the teachers who are community members. They
are assisted within the classroom by the certified teacher, but
are on their own in the Elders and Youth Center.
Singing is performed in Alutiiq with the introductions
in English. The school began the initiative to have students learn
the dances when the IEA parent committee hired people from Kodiak
to come out and teach the songs and dances to the students during
Alutiiq Week for several years in a row. A teacher led dancing
that had all students practicing from grades K-8 at least once
per week over the course of the school year. Now the community
needs to think about what can improve this program.
I have worked with Elders who teach language classes
in my first- and second-grade classroom at Old Harbor School. After
listening to the joys and frustrations expressed by both the Elders
and teachers, I initiated a joint effort constructing an eight-week
Alutiiq language curriculum project for the fall of 1999 in K-8
classrooms at Old Harbor. Our intention was to come up with a scope
and sequence following the subsistence seasons, laying the groundwork
for a three-year curriculum project. In the middle of implementing
the unit, we take one day to build the next eight-week unit using
the same framework. The initial plan was to continue doing this
over a three-year period. We did not get a chance to finish it
because of timing and community crises. I heard about the Bread
Loaf Summer Institute on Indigenous Languages in Juneau and decided
to attend that as a way to help me finish the unit.
Regenerating the Alutiiq Language
In order for us to save our language we need to adopt
a strategy and address it from all fronts. We need to implement
programs within the community as well as keep the school programs
going. In the language revitalization efforts that I have studied,
I found they all began through grass-roots efforts.
Continue language programs in the schools.
Continue arts and crafts programs with an Alutiiq
language component directing the focus.
Continue Alutiiq dancing in the community, available
to all, and include an Alutiiq language introduction and learning
Initiate preschool programs using Alutiiq immersion
modeled after the Maori Kohango Reo and other second language programs.
Implement master/apprentice programs for individual
Implement a policy that requires any person applying
for scholarships or funding to demonstrate their involvement in
one or more efforts at learning Alutiiq.
Future of the Alutiiq Language
These programs are specific models available for
our use. Our language is in danger-it is in our hands and every
one of us has an obligation to act. Nobody is going to run in to
save us or our language. People in our region have begun several
grass roots efforts aimed at helping ourselves. The language regeneration
effort is an opportunity we have undertaken in a better, more effective
We can choose to leave things as they are and watch
our language die. Some of the fun things that we practice will
still be here but not in the natural context and therefore will
become disembodied. Children will learn, but could miss the underlying
education that goes along with dancing, singing, subsistence foods,
etc. Parts of our culture will become like pieces in a museum,
just there to look at with no real meaning. We can choose inaction
and help our culture to die or we can take a proactive stance in
a unified strategic manner through some of the efforts presented
above. We can keep delaying our decisions, but please understand
that we are all on alert as to the dangerous state of our language.
Remember how activists from all over the country
took up the fight to save the spotted owls in the forests of the
Pacific Northwest? Eagles, seagulls and sea lions are protected
as well. But we do not have any environmentalists rising up to
save the Alutiiq way of life or language-it is up to us. If we
do not act now we run the risk of not having a culture left for
future generations of Alutiiq people. We cannot afford to let this
happen, especially after the Alutiiq people have been here for
many thousands of years.
We must be proactive in saving our language. Let's
Iñupiaq Region: Traditional Knowledge, Environmental
Assessment, and the Clash of Two Cultures
by Richard Glenn, Barrow, Alaska
The following paper was presented to the Minerals
Management Service, Western Region Meeting, Park City, Utah, August
Native American people have, since the time of the
first European contact, struggled with the idea of sharing a storehouse
of raw information, truisms, philosophies and ways of life with
the outside world. This storehouse, wrapped in a big blanket and
named by the outside world as "traditional knowledge", has been
obtained (as in any culture) over time by observations of nature,
trial and error, dogged persistence and flashes of inspiration.
In cultures without a written history, such as North Slope Iñupiat
culture in Alaska, knowledge is passed person to person through
social organizations and individual training, as well as through
stories and legends.
The Iñupiat culture is based on knowledge
of the natural environment and its resources. Our foundation is
knowledge of the arctic tundra, rivers, lakes, lagoons, oceans
and food resources. Knowledge of snow and ice conditions, ocean
currents and weather patterns and their effects on natural systems
are necessary for navigation, finding game and locating shelter
and each other. This knowledge has value. First, to share with
each other and pass on to our children and second, (if desired)
to pass on to those outside of the Iñupiat culture.
To someone unfamiliar with the Iñupiat culture
or the Arctic environment (such as a youngster or an outsider),
the storehouse of information must seem infinite and inaccessible.
In addition, stereotypes abound among ourselves and in the eyes
of outsiders. Legends of the "hundred different terms for snow
or ice" perpetuate the mystery. Most importantly, those wishing
to learn the Iñupiat culture or environment, there is a
stigma: bad experiences too numerous to count begin by good-faith
sharing of traditional knowledge with outsiders. These range from
simple plagiarism to exploitation and thievery. Legends and stereotypes
abound. Such experiences have led many Iñupiat people to
first ask "Why share?" And, even if this challenge has been answered
sufficiently, an equally difficult challenge remains for both sides: "How
Why do Iñupiat share traditional knowledge?
Despite the stigma, our community is proud of a long history of
productive, cooperative efforts with visiting researchers, hunters,
travelers, scientists, map makers and others. We share when we
consider others close enough to be part of Iñupiat culture
and share when it is in the best interest of a greater cultural
Experts Sharing With Each Other
The question of "why" is always easy to answer when
two individuals are sharing equally and the joy of discovery takes
place on both sides. Examples of the Iñupiat hundred-year
history of cooperation serve as good models: the wildlife biologist
and the whaler, the nomadic traveler and geologist, the archeologist
and the village Elders. This two-way exchange has often worked
when a given researcher has been around long enough to be considered "one
of us" or at least has displayed to the community that he possesses
some common values.
Sharing for the Greater Good
For a more locally important reason, we share traditional
knowledge when we believe it will lead to preserving the land,
its resources or the Iñupiat way of life. This reason has
prodded us to work hard with regulatory agencies and other organizations
to develop policies, draft environmental impact statements or offer
specific knowledge of the environment, wildlife or cultural practice.
Sharing as a part of Education
A third reason exists: pure instruction. Like a teacher
to a student, our Elders and experts teach the rest of our community
in all facets of traditional knowledge. We share to perpetuate
our culture. How does one become involved in this kind of sharing?
The answer is simple: become a student. However, this can take
a lifetime-pairing with a given expert through years of learning.
Chances are that the teacher is learning, too. This is the method
most commonly used by Iñupiat people to transfer knowledge
with each other. Iñupiat culture has many vehicles to allow
this kind of instruction to take place. However, this method faces
challenges due to changing culture, loss of language and other
How to Share?
How can an outsider partake in vehicles of sharing
traditional knowledge? Choose one or all of the criteria: an exchange
among experts, become part of an effort that is of value to the
Iñupiat or remain in the community and become a real student.
Any other method risks lack of context, data gaps from abbreviated
efforts and other problems.
Funding exists in many agencies for programs that
elicit traditional knowledge. These programs can be found from
NSF, NOAA and MMS. Recently this has drawn praise from outside
quarters, as it demonstrates that the government has validated
traditional knowledge. Even so, we are still struggling with the
very agencies that have given traditional knowledge some credibility.
Why is this? In many instances the goal of eliciting traditional
knowledge is a short-term project for an effort that might necessarily
take a lifetime. A common problem many agencies face is they try
to gather traditional knowledge in non-traditional ways. They hold
public meetings, offer copies of documents for comment or rely
on whatever political leadership happens to be in place.
Another vehicle in vogue for government agencies
is contracting with Native organizations. Native tribal organizations,
profit and non-profit corporations and rural and local governments
all represent some aspect of a Native constituency. So, because
the groups have some legitimacy in attempting to be the bridge
between traditional knowledge and the outside world, a contract
is developed. The contractor must somehow assimilate, document
and contribute traditional knowledge. Thus, what should take years
of heart-to-heart collaboration between experts, a whole army of
local energy focused on a single issue or years of tutelage under
a suite of instructors must now be completed before the contract
deadline (usually a period of weeks to months). Here, the government
can wash its hands of the issue. It looks appropriate; it's in
the Natives' hands. Consequently, the Native organization, hungry
as it should be for grants and contracts from the "feds", offers
to carry the obligation. Again, contract and project timelines
become the targets, and we collect what we can while we can. Quality
may suffer, content and context as well.
Knowing that change happens slowly and that agencies
can only do so much, it is reasonable to assume that what is presently
occurring will continue. Meetings to assess traditional knowledge
will undoubtedly go on. Knowing this, there are a few more cautions
to those interested in documenting traditional knowledge, learning
about the environment without reinventing the wheel and working
with Native communities on regionally important issues.
Choose the Forum with Care
A meeting's attendees must be matched to the issue.
When expertise is really needed, it should be stated. Stereotypes
will allow any agency to assume the expertise is there. There is
a scene from the movie On Deadly Ground where the leading actress
(an Asian woman playing a Yup'ik) jumps on a horse to the surprise
of Steven Seagal's character. He asks, "You can ride a horse?" to
which she answers, "Of course, I'm Native American!" A comical
analogy, but not far from the mark.
Don 't put your Eggs in One Basket
Check sources. Stated another way, the most talkative
person may not be the most knowledgeable. Ours is a culture of
consensus. Agreement is mandatory on nearly every item passed as
traditional knowledge. If one person stands alone, he may be an
expert or he may be wrong.
Given the size of the task, it is easy to run away
from documenting traditional knowledge for use by others, even
for our own reasons. For many like me, it can be an intensely personal
endeavor. Still, such documentation will continue-by Iñupiat
as well as by outside groups. Our culture is changing and some
day we may be learning traditional knowledge using the same techniques
employed by those who are outside looking in. We may be learning
of Iñupiat traditional knowledge as if it belonged to others.
Just as today, in many places, we are learning Iñupiat language
as if it were a foreign language. As long as we are pledged to
the task, we should look past the requirements of this contract
or that mandate and remember the quality of information-time-tested
and true. With everything changing, it is a valuable reference
plane. If it is not where we are going, at least it is where we
are coming from.
by Barbara Liu
First of all, on a personal note, it's been a difficult
year with the loss of our beloved mother, Elena Nick, who left
us January 11, 1999. Despite a grievous year, I am thankful that
her hard work and dedication leaves a mark in my own life to carry
on. Though departed, naming a new child after one who has passed
on brings healing. She told me once that, in the fall, she used
to see the namesake parents of her younger sister, Kaagyugaq, bring
a bowl of berries and several pieces of dry fish for her. My mother
didn't get any because her name was picked by two shaman who worked
on our grandmother's pregnancy while she carried her. She was given
the name Narullgiar, a weasel, so she would be full-term and live
longer than her siblings. Now her namesakes will receive fish and
akutaq because the season when she left us is a time of feasting
With that, as the current year winds down and we
prepare to start a new one there are several people in the region
who I would like to give special recognition to, along with all
the individuals in the region who helped the AKRSI complete another
successful year. Their hard work and dedication helped to fulfill
the cultural standards developed through AKRSI and the Y/Cuuyaraq
values that remind us of our belief that all aspects of learning
are tied together. It's been another year of helping schools work
closer with community, Elders, teachers and children.
Stationed from Aleknagik and Dillingham, Esther Ilutsik
has coordinated local workshops with Elders and teachers. Esther's
ability with the process of bringing cultural lessons into the
elementary mainstream curriculum is commendable. One of the lessons
on mouse food gathering was featured in the last issue of Sharing
Another hardworking coordinator, Nita Rearden of
the Lower Kuskokwim School District, has worked hard on developing
cultural lessons as well. With enthusiasm, she develops classroom
lessons for teachers that are rooted in tradition and local knowledge.
Kuspuk school district MOA coordinator, Cheryl Jerabek
of Aniak, has also jumped in with a positive attitude in working
toward the goals of the project that earmark cultural activities
Another coordinator to bring culture alive, through
Yupiit partner activities, is Sophie Kassayulie of Akiachak. Sophie
works just about year 'round to keep up with the demands of this
project. When Sophie and I talk in our own "slow dialect" (cukassaagarpeknanuk),
it's with a sense of understanding that cultural language, beliefs
and values are rooted in our heritage and education.
John Pingayak, AKRSI coordinator out of Chevak, is
a culture bearer. John teaches cultural activities with Kashunamiut
School District, bringing science alive by integrating experience
with the land, sea and air of this ancient area. My Grandmother
Cupluar came from this territory. John brings the music of our
ancestors alive-his hard work and dedication is commendable.
Another special feature of the year comes from Newhalen's
Cultural Heritage Project funded with Newhalen Tribal Council as
a partner involving the high school and community researching the
backyard history buried in an old village site. This project was
also featured in the last issue of Sharing Our Pathways in an article
written by Michael Roberts, high school teacher with Lake and Peninsula
School District. Michael Roberts and John Pingayak, along with
several students, presented their projects this year at the Alaska
Federation of Natives Elder and Youth Conference October 19, 1999.
Additionally, the Y/Cup'ik region will end this year with a regional
meeting in conjunction with the Calista Elder and Youth Conference
scheduled November 1-4, 1999 in St. Mary's. Reports and year-five
initiatives will be planned with all partners. Thank you and see
you then. Quyana, tua-i-ngunrituq.
Athabascan Region: Deg Xiq'l Xinatr'Iditl'ghuzr (Let's
speak Deg Xinag)
by Beth Leonard
A Deg Xinag language gathering/cultural camp was
held in Shageluk on September 18-24, 1999. The Iditarod School
District, the UAF Denaqenage' Career Ladder Program, and Tanana
Chiefs Conference, Inc. collaborated to fund and organize this
The first three days of the gathering focused on
teaching and learning the Deg Xinag language using immersion sets.
We are very grateful to our Elder teachers Hannah Maillelle, James
Dementi, Katherine Hamilton, Mary John, Agnes John, Edna Deacon
and Mary Deacon. Language learners who participated included adults
and high school students from Shageluk, Anvik, Grayling and Lime
Village. On the first day, Betty Petruska, Mary Ellen Kimball and
Ray Collins led an immersion workshop modeling a number of different
activities (using Upper Kuskokwim) which were then practiced using
Deg Xinag. Other activities during the three days included preparing
breakfast and lunch, checking a fishnet and making fish ice cream.
During these activities, speakers were encouraged to model and
give directions using only Deg Xinag (which worked very well!)
George Holly led a song and storytelling workshop for the high
school students, teaching them a Deg Xinag welcoming song he had
composed with several Elder speakers.
Dogidinh! (thank you) to Angela Bain of the Iditarod
School District for handling all the logistics and making most
of the travel arrangements for this event. Special thanks to Evelyn
Esmailka, principal of the Innoko River School for allowing use
of the school facilities and Agnes and Allen John for use of their
Village Science: Flying in Vertigo
by Alan Dick
When a pilot becomes disoriented in the clouds, it
is possible for him to fly upside-down, believing he is right side
up. This is vertigo. How does a pilot in vertigo reorient? The
forces of a plane in an inside loop can make the bottom of the
plane feel "down" even when its nose is pointed towards the ground.
The pilot needs to pay attention to his instruments, not just the
feeling in the seat of his pants.
Similarly, technology has come to rural Alaska so
rapidly that sometimes we lose our horizon in terms of anticipating
long-term impact on our quality of life. Culturally we are changing
at speeds approaching Mach 1. Are we safe or are we in vertigo
without a horizon to guide us? What technology should we accept?
How should we use the technology we do incorporate? Where are our
As I have watched technology first creep, then rush
into the villages, the adaptations of the people have been amazing.
A man piloted a boat across many miles of open ocean from the mouth
of the Yukon to Nome using his boom box to navigate. He tuned the
radio to KNOM, then pointed the boom box parallel with the direction
of the boat. As long as he was on course with the antenna parallel
with, not perpendicular to, the signal there was no music. When
he veered off to one side or the other, the signal increased, and
he heard KNOM loud and clear. Following the silence of his boom
box, he arrived in Nome. This is an example of ingenuity at work
in adapting the technology to a beneficial use.
How do we determine what is beneficial and what may
be detrimental? What benefits do we derive, for example, when we
purchase a satellite dish that will bring fifty-two channels into
the house? Do we need fifty-two channels? Do we need two? Or do
we purchase a dish because it is available and is more convenient
than reading, conversing or working outdoors? How about the four-wheelers
that take us from one end of the village to the other in minutes;
should we therefore ride rather than walk?
Science and technology blends inextricably with social,
spiritual and ethical concerns. Do we dare ask the proper questions?
Do we dare respond with more than limp efforts to appease our need
for convenience? Is it too late? Who will differentiate between
right and wrong, convenient and inconvenient? If we do this without
Elders and a link to the past, we will certainly become even more
disoriented. Why don't we rely on the Elders as our instruments?
There is wisdom in going slowly, walking instead
of riding, visiting more, going out in the woods or tundra often,
doing things the way we used to and positioning ourselves to do
what is right regardless of the cost.
New technologies can lead us into vertigo if we blindly
accept every innovation because it is more convenient, if we do
what is easy rather than what is right. To not make a decision
is to make a decision, for the rush is already on . . . Mach 1
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 156
University of Alaska Fairbanks
P.O. Box 756730
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730
(907) 474-1902 phone
(907) 474-5208 fax
Newsletter Editor: Dixie
Layout & Design: Paula
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