A newsletter of the Alaska Rural Systemic
Alaska Federation of Natives / University
of Alaska / National Science Foundation
Volume 6, Issue 2, March/April 2001
In This Issue:
Theresa Arevgaq John instructing a class at the University
of Alaska Fairbanks. Photo courtesy of Rural Student
Multicultural Education: Partners in Learning
Yugtun Qaneryararput Arcaqertuq
by Theresa Arevgaq John, Director Rural Alaska
Native Adult Program, Alaska Pacific University
Keynote address to the 27th Annual Bilingual Multicultural
Conference, February 7, 2001
Waqaa! Greetings to the bilingual conference
planning committee, Elders, educators, parents, students, administrators
and community members. I am honored and humbled to be the keynote
speaker for the 27th annual BMEEC 2001 conference theme, "Multicultural
Education: Partners in Learning." There are several key points
in regards to the Yup'ik heritage language and culture I feel are
important to address today. I will use English as well as Yup'ik
in my presentation.
The key points that I would like to address are:
Who is responsible for the language maintenance?
Is it the parents? Community? Educators? Elders? Self?
Should we be concerned about maintaining Yup'ik
Will bilingualism affect a child's formal education?
Do children with bilingualism have better educational
Will we lose our Native cultural identity along
with language loss?
Where are the Elders?
Should we support Yup'ik immersion programs?
Ethnic Identity Formation and It's Implications
for Yup'ik Language Development
I am fortunate to have been raised in a remote Yup'ik-speaking
community on Nelson Island. This was the era when formal education
was just being implemented into the community. Elders, grandparents,
parents and prominent community members were the main educators
who taught youth and adults the indigenous traditions and customs-quliraat, qanruyuutet, alerquutet and inerqutet.
Oral traditional education passed down creation, raven stories
and cultural values. Many Elders and community members truly believed
and still believe in our creator, Ellam Yua. We are taught that
Ellam Yua granted us our indigenous language, culture, history
and spiritual world for us to keep and maintain. The ancestors'
innovative and effective traditional teaching methods are integrated
and effective multicultural education materials.
The Yup'ik pledge (below) is recited in some Kuskokwim
Delta villages like Toksook Bay. When I attended Calista Elder's
Conference last November, I had an opportunity to visit the school
and participate at the school assembly. There I requested the students
to recite the pledge which I've attempted to translate.
Wangkuta yupigni qanruyutet aturluki anglituukut.
Ilakuyulluta, ukvertarluta, pingnatuuluta.
We, the Yup'ik people, grow up following
the traditional values and principles. We live in harmony,
we have faith and also strive for prosperity.
Nallunrilamta yuuyaramteni piciryarangqerngamta
This is because we have wisdom and knowledge
of our traditional lifestyle.
Qigcikiyaram aturtai taringumaut ellam
iluanelnguut elpengqellrit nunuliutengqellrit-llu.
Those who hold and respect the traditional
knowledge and laws of our spiritual worldview know that
they will be rewarded for their proper behavior.
Qanruyutem aturtai umyuartuluteng, elluatuuluteng,
Those who follow the traditional values,
laws and principles will become wise, knowledgeable and
live to be prosperous and wealthy.
I specifically wanted to share this with you because
it's written in Yup'ik. The words in this pledge remind me of late
Elders like Billy Lincoln, Sr. and my grandmother, Al'aq (respected
leaders) who spent endless hours teaching us kids using these exact
words. The important messages reflect cultural integrity, accountability,
self-determination and encourage a foundation for youths' achievement.
At this time I would like to take a moment to recognize
and thank the Yup'ik associate professor Cecilia Martz, former
Kuskokwim Campus faculty member, who developed the Y/Cuuyaraq poster
containing these words. Our students will learn and live as the
key holders of our Elders words.
With fluent indigenous languages, youth can have
strong cultural and traditional knowledge, spirituality, communication
skills and self-esteem. It is also evident as time goes on that
it will only become more difficult for youth to maintain their
first language. The English language world surrounds us and is
slowly eroding our languages away, which is our power base with
each generation. The lack of indigenous language brings suffering
for youth and adults. For example, language barriers make it difficult
for new generations to learn about traditional family ties and
clans, ancient stories and songs, leadership skills, ceremonials,
hunting and gathering skills and traditional laws.
We have learned from the research presented by the
Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
regarding language loss among our Native groups. In some cases,
like the Eyak and a few others, the only speakers are dying off.
We must make an effort to ensure that the remaining indigenous
languages are enhanced and taught to all ages. Our language and
cultures are greatly affected and impacted by the daily use of
English. On the other hand, we have community members who cannot
speak their language yet have an understanding and sense of their
culture. I would like to share with you two heartbreaking encounters
I had with two elderly women who expressed their pain and sorrow
with me. Both events happened in Bethel around the mid-l980s.
The first person was an Elder woman in her sixties
from a coastal village, waiting for a flight at the airport. While
we waited, sitting on benches across from each other, a young lady
came to her and asked her a question in English and grandmother
responded back in broken English. Her voice was quivering when
she told me that she could not communicate effectively with her
own grandchild that she was raising. She was unable to teach her
and other children the Yup'ik traditions and values because they
did not have a common nor efficient communication tool. The grandmother
looked very sad at that moment, which made me feel sorry for her.
She was sad to see the passing of her heritage language, including
her culture, as the students used only English at school and watch
television after school. There is an argument that we face daily
regarding language use responsibility. Who is responsible for resolving
situations like this? Are we as parents and families responsible
or are the schools? I think we are all responsible-as parents,
relatives, community members and educational employees-we must
not let this continue.
The second Elder shared a similar situation with
me. In her case, the teacher advised her to speak to her children
in English because that would benefit their education. About twelve
years later, another teacher approached her and said, "Why didn't
you teach your children Yup'ik? At this point, she felt confused
by two educators approaching her with opposing advice. She admitted
it was too late now for children to learn Yup'ik who are older
and will have a hard time learning the new language. She sat silently
and cried. This is a national controversial issue with schools,
governments and leaders who all struggle to deal with the question
of if/how we should include indigenous languages in our schools.
Like our ancestors, let us unite and make a commitment to incorporate
indigenous languages into all aspects of our villages so we can
have societies with common languages.
These two women were willing to share their painful
family crisis for a reason. They are not alone in this situation,
many of our people are going through the same crisis. We cannot
continue to hurt the hearts of our Elders, the holders of our cultural
wisdom and knowledge. They are the backbone of our families and
deserve the utmost respect. As Native speakers who are also educators
and administrators, we can enhance language use in schools and
at home and provide efficient communication tools for the students
without endangering their scholastic achievement.
To encourage Native heritage language development,
the parents, school board members, educators and prominent leaders
all need to get involved in planning the annual academic curriculum.
We must become proactive members by joining local and district
school boards that guide and work with school administrators. We
can and must identify quality Native educators and administrators
with expertise and proficiency in Native languages and let them
control the schools. Native educators should promote and provide
local knowledge, wisdom and innovation through developing a dynamic
curriculum. These steps will provide positive consequences for
our Yup'ik heritage language.
We have our own Native immersion programs in place,
like the ones in Bethel and Kotzebue, that develop and implement
community-based, culturally-relevant curriculum. They have dedicated
Native educators, staff and teacher aides who work diligently to
ensure indigenous education through first languages. When I visited
the immersion school in Kotzebue, I was impressed with little kids
speaking Iñupiaq only. Shortly after I arrived, their teacher
informed me that I could not speak English beyond the entrance
area. I spoke to them in Yup'ik because my Iñupiaq language
is limited. Disciplinary rules like these will enforce indigenous
Naluk, my niece, has gone through the Yup'ik Immersion
Program in Bethel since it was implemented a few years ago. She
is now in the fifth grade, with fluent Yup'ik speech and grammar.
Her mother, Agatha John-Shields, has been an influential educator
and proactive parent of the program. Thank you for your persistence,
Gus, in teaching all your children and other's Yup'ik at home and
school. There is fear that some parents feel in giving their children
an opportunity to learn the indigenous language. I was shocked
and horrified that some Yup'ik parents in Bethel were resistant
to enrolling their children into the immersion program. They believe
their children will have a hard time adjusting to a standard English
classroom after Yup'ik immersion classes. They simply don't see
the need and are eager to have their kids become like everybody
else. Today my sister's children can communicate with their grandparents
in their first language. This proves that indigenous languages
can be taught at home and school. It takes dedication, determination
and persistence to make this happen. These students are the future
leaders of our languages.
I applaud the efforts of all immersion teachers who
provide essential lifelong cultural foundations for youth and serve
as role models for students and educators. I used these two examples
of what I consider to be an ideal and effective immersion program
with a community-based curriculum. There are challenges from opposing
parents, school board and community members who feel that Native
education is not essential to our youth. Please don't let them
stop you from doing your job. Through programs like these, our
descendents will learn and live Native ways of knowing without
endangering their future success in an integrated society.
The Impact of Yup'ik Language Programs on Student
The Yup'ik language programs influence student attitudes
in ways that make them feel proud of their heritage language and
culture and will have a long-lasting positive impact on their attitudes.
Harold Napoleon, in his book Yuuyaraq, states "Many villages
have expressed interest in reviving cultural heritage activities
and Native language use in their schools, because it has become
evident that practicing one's cultural heritage and speaking one's
heritage language promotes self-esteem in young people."
The Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive
Schools says "Culturally-knowledgeable students are well
grounded in the cultural heritage and traditions of their community." One
of the objectives of this standard states, "Students will be
able to reflect through their own actions the critical role that
the local heritage language plays in fostering a sense of who
they are and how they understand the world around them."
When the youth learn to speak their heritage language
fluently, they will be able to hear and learn many of our traditional qanruyutet and alerqutet that
will give them guidance for healthy and prosperous lifestyles.
Knowing one's language is interlinked with learning one's culture.
When I was doing my student teaching at Bethel High
School in the early eighties, I had an opportunity to form a cultural
club that met weekly. I formed this club because I had heard that
there was a problem with cultural diversity in school. The Native
students were criticized for speaking Yup'ik or for wearing Native
clothing. The goal of the cultural group was to develop and encourage
cultural identity among students through traditional activities.
They learned the history and meanings of traditional Yup'ik songs.
During our sessions they viewed videos of dancers, learned about
masks, mukluks, qaspeqs and headdresses. After a
few gatherings, students began to show up in their qaspeqs and mukluks and
were no longer ashamed of themselves. The parents of my students
approached me in local stores and asked what I was doing to their
kids. They informed me that their childrens' attitudes improved
at home and they were anxious to attend school. We, as educators,
can inspire our youth to become proud owners of their language
My late grandmother, Anna Kungurkak, like many Elders,
was my best educator allowing me to benefit by maintaining the
advanced first language that belongs to our people. Elders in her
generation who were raised through oral history have a solid personal
and educational foundation. She once said "Ilaten kenkekuvki
elitnaurciqaten": "If you love your family and community members,
you will educate them." The true meaning of love is to make time
to educate the young future leaders using the integrated teaching
methods of our Native ways of knowing.
Our ancestors also teach us the importance of knowing
who we are and that we should know our cultural values. The Yup'ik
term aciriyaraq, refers to acquiring a Native name. It is
an honor and comes with responsibilities. Through the naming system,
we keep our ancestral spirits alive and we must carry that name
with respect. The Elders stress traditional values like naklekiyaraq-caring
for others, kenkiyaraq-love for all, and ilangqersarag-having
friends and associates. These are integral parts of our societies
that we must revere and nurture.
In reference to our traditional spirituality, we
must revisit our traditional ceremonies and rituals that meant
so much to our ancestors. Yuraryarat, the various dance
ceremonials including kevgiq, ineqsukiyaraq, kelgiq, kegginaquryaraq and nangerciciyaraq are
diverse forms of prayer. The angalkuut (shamans), both men
and women, played very important roles in these communities. The angalkuut are
gifted with powers to heal, interact with animal spirits and serve
as composers and choreographers. I am not promoting shamanism-I'm
just informing you about the past. Elders inform us that our Native
spirituality was forced aside or put under the table when newcomers
arrived, with the expectation that ancestral powers will revive
again when the time is right. I feel that the time is right now
to empower ourselves to bring back our traditional forms of prayer
through multicultural education. In the southwestern region of
Alaska, young people are bringing back the drums and forming school
dance groups. With formations of local dance groups, we are bringing
back language and Native spirituality. This is possible with Native
educators who organize and teach with the help of local Elders.
I recommend books like Cauyarnariuq and Agayuliyararput for
teachers to use that describe various ancient ceremonies told and
described by the Elders.
In the past, I had several opportunities to work
with and learn from respected Elders who live in various parts
of our state. First, the Bilingual and Cultural Institutes in Bethel
brought in Elders to assist Native educators for four intensive
weeks. They collected materials and developed community-based resources
for K-12 books. The Elders-in-Residence program at UAF allowed
me to work and teach with Elders from all over the state as well.
These Elders taught college students for five intensive weeks.
The students recorded, cataloged and archived videos and audiotapes
at the local library. I would recommend all educators to utilize
these resources of Elders sharing their biographies and life stories
as cultural teaching tools.
I would like to take this time to recognize some
of these Elders who took time to provide invaluable knowledge and
wisdom in the past: Frank Andrew, Chief Paul John, Susie and Mike
Angaiak, Teddy and Maryann Sundown of Southwestern; Austin Hammond
of Southeast; Catherine Attla, Chief Peter John and Moses Johnson
of the Interior; Mary Bourtokofsky of the Aleutians; and Jimmie
Toolie and his wife and Mr. and Mrs. Issac Akootchook of the North.
I salute all the Native Elders who have contributed to the education
of our Alaska schools. Without them we would not have quality resources
for our cultural curriculum. They are truly our Native professors.
Strategies to Strengthen Communities and Families
The following are strategies I feel will assist in
strengthening our communities and families for our children's education.
For parents, the caretakers and first educators, please make time
to teach your heritage language at home. Start with simple words
like kenkamken-I love you. If you don't know the language,
learn it with your children. Use note pads to write down Native
words and post them all over the house. For example, post them
in living rooms and kitchen areas and use them as visual reminders.
Make time to talk with your children. It is best to teach them
early in the morning when their minds are fresh, and repeat them
again later that evening. I would suggest a few words at a time
so they don't get confused.
For communities, make a conscious effort to use the
indigenous language daily. We need to become proactive and encourage
members to become fluent speakers. I encourage you to invite Elders
to use their first language to address the public in schools, churches,
local events or on radio and television. Build a team of local
education and community organizations to collaborate in efforts
to incorporate and implement the use of indigenous language in
Academic institutions and administrators should become
friends and supporters of immersion schools as well as bilingual
and cultural education centers. Incorporate and implement culturally-relevant
orientations for school board members, administrators, staff and
educators on local language, history, culture and seasonal lifestyles.
It is essential for all academic employees to understand and incorporate
traditional ways of living. Partner with local Elders, prominent
community members and agencies to assist in developing community-based
academic curriculum. Utilize the Guidelines for Strengthening
Indigenous Languages in conjunction with the Alaska Standards
for Culturally Responsive Schools. Encourage and sponsor bilingual
educators to get certified and hire them. This will have a positive
impact on our student retention rate.
Tamalkurpeci cingamci mary-agcisqelluci yugtun
qaneryararput nutemllarput-llu ciumurucesqellukek elitnauruteklukek-llu.
I just summoned you to fight to keep our indigenous languages
and cultures alive. It's going to be an uphill battle. Let's
stand up together as one team to enhance multicultural education.
Alaska Native Literature Awards
by Olga Pestrikoff
Based on Guidelines for Respecting Cultural Knowledge,
the Alaska Indigenous Literary Review Board, a working committee
comprised of Alaska Native regional representatives, has spent
the last year planning a literature review and recognition process
to showcase Alaska indigenous literary works at the Native Educators'
Conference held February 4-6, 2001, in Anchorage. This historical
event was an outgrowth of the work over the last five years through
the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alaska Federation of
Natives in a special project called the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative.
The "Celebration of Alaska Native Literature" was
held on February 4, 2001 at the Sheraton Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska,
honoring five people representing a cross-section of the Alaska
Native community. Each selection represented a different genre
of literature important to indigenous people of Alaska and the
Lolly Carpluk of Mountain Village/Fairbanks, who
helped to organize the gathering, said "It was a historic and very
emotional event, impacting not only the prestigious indigenous
authors being recognized, but their families, friends and, finally,
the indigenous educators who have waited so long for such a historic
moment as this-to see it come to fruition."
Pictured in the photo above right are recipients
of three of the awards:
Lucille Davis, a Sugpiaq from Kodiak Island
and Anchorage, was recognized for her storytelling, an example
of which is published on a CD-ROM, Gathering Native Alaska Music
and Words. Nora Dauenhauer, a Tlingit from Southeast
Alaska, was recognized for poetry in Life Woven with Song. Marie
Meade, a Yup'ik of Nunapitcuar, was a translator and transcriber
for Elders in the book Agayuliyaraput: Kegginaqut, Kangiit-llu,
Our Way of Making Prayer: Yup'ik Masks and the Stories They Tell.
Not present were Eliza Jones, a Koyukon Athabascan
of Koyukuk, who was being recognized for her non-fiction work on
the Koyukon Athabaskan Dictionary and Lele Kiana Oman,
an Iñupiaq of Noorvik and Nome, for her book based on traditional
tales called Epic of Qayaq.
Nora Dauenhauer, Lucille Davis and Marie Meade accepted
their awards. The other two recipients, Eliza Jones and Lele Kiana
Oman, were not present so representatives accepted the awards for
them. Each was presented a plaque with their name and Alaska Indigenous
Literary Award of 2001 engraved on it. Masks decorating each plaque
were crafted by Ben Snowball of Anchorage who explained the significance
of each of the five different masks prior to presentation.
All recipients received standing ovations in recognition
of their important work ensuring that an authentic Alaska Native
legacy is passed to future generations through publication of their
knowledge in varying genre and media. The celebration was momentous
for Alaska Native people and many tears were shed.
Following the presentation, writers shared some of
their works. Nora Dauenhauer read from her published works. Lucille
Davis treated the audience to some stories of her childhood in
Karluk on Kodiak Island. Marie Meade also spoke to the group.
Andy Hope of Southeast Alaska, a leader in organizing
the event, shared some of his poetry and the stories surrounding
production of those selections. Elders present honored Andy for
his lifelong pursuit of writing, including his persistent effort
at establishing this first award celebration of published indigenous
A very exciting piece of Alaska history unfolded
that night, the celebration of published literature by indigenous
people who come from a traditionally oral society!
The Best of Both
by Alan Dick
In the late 70s our family moved to Aniak. I was
rather surprised when I learned that the name of the Aniak basketball
team is Halfbreeds, as I knew this is not a complimentary
term in all parts of the nation.
I gently asked my children what the name of the team
was and how they got that name. Surprisingly, our youngest son,
who was only a first-grader said, "They are the Aniak Halfbreeds because
they take the best of both."
During the recent ANSES State Science Fair, we truly
saw the "best of both." All projects were firmly rooted in the
local traditions, yet brought out the science processes and principles
that are reflected in the state standards.
After a long grueling day of interviewing and deliberating,
the judges were invigorated and repeatedly thanked us for inviting
them. Why? The projects were a beautiful synthesis of both worlds.
There is an unmistakable energy that accompanies the natural learning
AKRSI alone did not make this happen. We merely created
an arena where motivated village students and teachers could shine.
We created a framework that fostered a cultural synthesis of local
knowledge and textbook knowledge. The students brought the evidence.
It would have been instructive to capture the discussion
on tape as the four Western science judges and the five Native
Elders deliberated the "Best of Show" projects. Each nomination
for Best of Show was defended by a judge in the presence of the
others. The observations that were shared reflected the keen insights
that students had exhibited.
Later, one of the Native Elders, who was normally
very quiet, was so emphatic in making the case for a project that
he stood, vigorously presented his view and even shook his finger.
When he sat down, he was stunned, and apologized for being so forceful.
We smiled and thanked the Elder for his insight. The student had
spoken to the Elder's reality.
These moments happen only once in awhile, but with
cultural and science interests high and everyone knowing what to
expect next year, a new dynamic is certain. The best of both. Again.
ANSES State Science Fair Results
by Claudette Bradley
Following are the results of the second annual Alaska
Native Science and Engineering Society state science fair. We had
six projects that were grand prize winners. The "Best of Show" was
a project on insulators submitted by Marjeena Griffin, a tenth-grade
student from Kodiak. We had 27 projects from 10 villages and 44
students with 10 chaperones. Thirteen projects were done by individual
students, while 14 projects were done by teams of 2 and 3 students.
Eight projects were demonstrations and 19 were experiments. The
fair ran smoothly and we all enjoyed the Camp Carlquist facilities.
The food was good and there were lots of outdoor and indoor activities
to keep everyone happy.
||Best of Show
||Tanning Reindeer Hides
||Tanning Reindeer Hides
||Trapping & Tanning Marten
||Trapping & Tanning Marten
||A Cold Body
||A Cold Body
Guidelines for Indigenous Languages and Child-Rearing
Developed by Native Educators
Two new sets of guidelines have been developed addressing
the strengthening of indigenous languages and the nurturing of
culturally-healthy youth. One of the purposes of these guidelines
is to offer assistance to people who are involved in indigenous
language and child-rearing initiatives in their communities. The
guidelines are organized around the role of various participants,
including Elders, parents, classroom teachers, communities and
young people. Native educators from throughout the state contributed
to the development of these guidelines through a series of workshops
and meetings associated with the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative.
The guidance offered by the guidelines is intended
to encourage everyone to make more effective use of the heritage
language and traditional parenting practices in the everyday life
of the community and school. It is hoped that these guidelines
will facilitate the coming together of the many cultural traditions
and languages that coexist in Alaska in constructive, respectful
and mutually beneficial ways.
Along with these guidelines are general recommendations
aimed at stipulating the steps that need to be taken to achieve
the goals for which the guidelines are intended. State and federal
agencies, universities, school districts, families and Native communities
are all encouraged to review their policies, programs and practices
and to adopt these guidelines and recommendations wherever appropriate.
In so doing, the educational experiences of students throughout
Alaska will be enriched and the future well-being of the communities
being served will be enhanced.
Following is a summary of the areas of responsibility
around which the Guidelines for Strengthening Indigenous Languages
and the Guidelines for Nurturing Culturally-Healthy Youth are organized.
The details for each area will be published in a booklet form and
are currently available on the ANKN web site at www.ankn.uaf.edu.
Guidelines for Strengthening Indigenous Languages
Respected Native Elders are the essential
resources through whom the heritage language of a community and
the meaning it is intended to convey can be learned.
Parents are the first teachers of their children
and provide the foundation on which the language learning of future
Indigenous language learners must take an
active role in learning their heritage language and assume responsibility
for the use of that language as contributing members of the family
and community in which they live.
Native communities and organizations must
provide a healthy and supportive environment that reinforces the
learning and use of the heritage language on an everyday basis.
Educators are responsible for providing a
supportive learning environment that reinforces the wishes of the
parents and community for the language learning of the students
in their care.
Schools must be fully engaged with the life
of the communities they serve so as to provide consistency of expectations
in all aspects of students lives.
Education agencies should provide a supportive
policy, program and funding environment that encourages local initiative
in the revitalization of the indigenous languages.
Linguists should assist local communities
in the development of appropriate resource materials and teaching
practices that nurture the use and perpetuation of the heritage
language in each respective cultural community.
The producers of mass media should assume
responsibility for providing culturally-balanced materials and
programming that reinforce the use of heritage languages.
Guidelines for Nurturing Culturally-Healthy Youth
Respected Native Elders are the essential
role models who can share the knowledge and expertise on traditional
child-rearing and parenting that is needed to nurture the cultural
well-being of today's youth.
Parents are the first teachers of their children
and provide the foundation on which the social, emotional, intellectual
and spiritual well-being of future generations rests.
Culturally-healthy youth take an active interest
in learning their heritage and assume responsibility for their
role as contributing members of the family and community in which
Communities must provide a healthy and supportive
environment that reinforces the values and behaviors its members
wish to instill in their future generations.
Educators are responsible for providing a
supportive learning environment that reinforces the cultural well-being
of the students in their care.
Schools must be fully engaged with the life
of the communities they serve so as to provide consistency of expectations
in all aspects of students lives.
Child-care providers should draw upon Elders
and other local experts to utilize traditional child-rearing and
parenting practices that nurture the values and behaviors appropriate
to the respective cultural community.
Youth services and juvenile justice agencies
should provide a supportive policy, program and funding environment
that encourages local initiative in the application of traditional
child-rearing and parenting practices.
Researchers should work with local communities
to help document traditional child-rearing and parenting practices
and explore their applicability to the upbringing of today's youth.
All citizens must assume greater responsibility
for nurturing the diverse traditions by which each child grows
to become a culturally-healthy human being.
Further information on issues related to the implementation
of these guidelines, as well as copies of the complete guidelines
may be obtained from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, UAF,
PO Box 756730, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6730, http://www.ankn.uaf.edu.
Getting From Here to There: Vision for a Southeast
Alaska Tribal College
by Ted A. Wright
I have been thinking about tribal colleges and what
it will take to establish and maintain such an institution in Southeast
Alaska. In other states where tribally-controlled colleges have
been established, enrollment grew as academic and support programs
were developed and as awareness of the tribal college advantage
spread through the region. Even though my visits to tribal colleges
have only been for a week or two, I have seen and heard a lot of
evidence that they work. For example, one study showed that students
who attend a tribal college:
Take less time than others to graduate,
Stay in school and finish more often than other
Have an ending GPA that is half a point higher
than mainstream graduates,
Carry less debt with them after they have completed
their studies and
Are more likely to stay in or return to their
home areas after graduation.
The author of this study believed that the benefits
of tribal colleges result from the fact that they provide a non-competitive
environment where group and cooperative learning is emphasized
and in which hands-on, inquiry-based methods prevail. A Carnegie
Foundation Report on tribal colleges concluded that most tribal
college faculty practice instructional methods that recognize rather
than ignore the importance of traditional ways of knowing and of
Native culture. More to the point, the tribal colleges recognize
that all students need more than technique and a degree to succeed
in life. They need pride in their heritage and an understanding
of who they are, as well as the belief that they can make valuable
contributions to their families and communities. With this philosophy
at the heart of their missions, tribal colleges offer classes specific
to the cultures of the tribes they serve, as well as more general
courses in Native studies and regular academic subjects. In this
way, tribal college students gain a stronger sense of self while
they earn a degree and take advantage of the opportunities higher
education can provide. Many of them go on to successfully pursue
further studies at mainstream institutions.
After hearing a message similar to this, a fellow
member of an ANCSA corporation board on which I once served asked
me why we would need a tribal college when existing institutions
already have a hard time getting enough students through their
doors. My answer then and now is that I believe there are a significant
number of people in our educational system that want and need more
than what the existing institutions have to offer. To be specific,
I believe there are at least three classes of students that Southeast
Alaska Tribal College (SEATC) could serve, regardless of whether
they are just out of high school or are adult learners:
Those who want to take college classes and learn
more about the world around them but from an Alaska Native
cultural perspective. (These are continuing education students
with academic or artistic/cultural rather than vocational interests.)
Those who go to college with the intent to pursue
a degree or certificate and are attracted to the tribal college
because of its focus on Native culture and its abiding interest
in their success. (These students would matriculate at the
Southeast Alaska Tribal College and, depending on their goals,
transfer to UAS or Sheldon Jackson College.)
Those who would otherwise not view college as
an option, either because their secondary school experience
was not positive, or because they believe college is too hard.
(For these students, the tribal college could work with high
schools in a two-plus-two or charter-school-to-tribal-college
program that is more in tune with their needs.)
Southeast Alaska Tribal College Campus, Juneau
The existence of this population is hard to prove
by surveying people's opinions about what they might study or why
current institutions have failed them. In fact, this is one of
those times where you just have to have faith that, if you build
it step-by-step, they will come. In my observations, most tribal
colleges that have come into existence have done so more as a result
of someone's vision and faith than due to their collection and
analysis of data. Still, the leadership of the tribal college movement
in Alaska is working to compile basic data about the numbers of
American Indian and Alaska Native students who drop out of high
school, drop in and out of college over many years or exit college
altogether. Even in the absence of definitive data, we know that
too many of our students are not staying in school and are either
not going to college or exiting after a certain point. If, as I
claim, a tribal college is part of the solution to this problem,
how do we get there from here?
My personal vision for Southeast Alaska Tribal College
starts with the already-established Board of Trustees, which includes
a significant number of Elders and is truly representative of our
tribes. In terms of curriculum, I envision programs that align
basic content with the cultural standards developed through the
Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative
and the regional Native Educator Associations. This kind of alignment
is especially critical for training teachers and would necessarily
be a part of programs offered to those who would teach Native language,
culture and the arts. As far as how we would teach, it is more
true now than ever that our Elders and our Indian Education Program
and JOM graduate's roles must be front-and-center with an eye toward
I also envision several Alaska Native charter schools
throughout Southeast that would serve as a pipeline to the tribal
college. The junior and senior year of the charter high-school
experience would then include prerequisites for a SEATC Associate
of Arts (AA) degree that is compatible with those offered by UAS
and Sheldon Jackson College and articulates with their bachelor's
degree programs but features an Alaska Native Studies emphasis
and maintains a consistent focus on the relationship between Native
and non-Native views of the world.
Sheldon Jackson College campus, Allen Auditorium
The question of whether there is a need for additional
degrees and certificates beyond those already offered can only
be answered as the SEATC management meets with regional employers
and representatives of UAS and SJC. It is possible, for example,
that the tribal college could offer specific classes within the
UAS and SJC degree programs, at least to the extent that a Native
perspective is seen as an advantage in the workplace for those
degree/certificate seekers. Even apart from this kind of cooperative
programming, I believe there is a niche for the Southeast Alaska
Tribal College. Of course, the only way to prove this is to create
the tribal college.
On a related note, I have observed an interesting
phenomenon in recent years, and I think it warrants a comment.
The University of Alaska Southeast and Sheldon Jackson College,
along with other colleges, universities and non-profit organizations
in Alaska, continue to receive what will amount to many millions
of dollars to recruit and retain Native students, train Native
teachers, create curriculum that reflects Alaska Native values
and to help largely Native districts improve their schools. These
grants to "Alaska Native Serving Institutions" are almost always
directed by non-Native individuals who, though good, honest people,
do not have the whole benefit of our Native and tribal perspective.
Plus, you have to ask yourself, when are we going to get to the
point where these millions of dollars for Native programs will
actually be provided to and controlled by tribal, Native organizations
and institutions? We have made tremendous progress toward self-governance
in areas like housing, health and social welfare; but in education
we seem to lag behind. Perhaps I am too impatient and lack perspective.
Then again, maybe this state of affairs needs to change and a tribal
college is the best way to get there from here.
What is happening in Old Minto this Summer?
In May and June, the Cultural Heritage and Education
Institute (CHEI) will begin a project to improve the physical infrastructure
in Old Minto to provide better shelter for the Elders while they
participate in cultural heritage camps as well as create an environment
conducive to year-round programs.
We have been fundraising for this project for over
a year and were fortunate to secure a top-off grant from the M.J.
Murdock Charitable Trust in November 2000 which ensures funding
for ten log-sided cabins. In addition, we are planning to construct
a rustic dining area and kitchen facility. We are grateful for
support from the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative, the CIRI Heritage
Foundation, the Rasmuson Foundation, Nenana Lumber and numerous
local contributors too many to mention here! We have funding for
the materials, but this is an ambitious project and we still need
some help in the form of volunteer labor.
We are seeking service groups that would like to "adopt
a cabin" and help build it; volunteers with construction skills
or interested in learning construction; cooks familiar with outdoor
cooking for a group; use of a small cat to clear land; donations
or use of a generator, skill saw, drills, hand tools, vapor barriers,
ten boxes each of eight- and sixteen-penny galvanized nails, food,
gas and oil. Cash contributions are also welcome (tax exempt).
CHEI will provide transportation from Nenana and food. All involved
will be our invited guests for Potlatch Day in Old Minto on June
CHEI offers cultural heritage camps for groups interested
in cross-cultural learning and experiences. With these upgrades
we hope to have a full camp season. The Cross-Cultural Orientation
Camp is planned for June 9-16, 2001. Contact Ray Barnhardt at UAF
for more information about this course. We can arrange camps for
diverse groups, classes, meetings, retreats, workshops or other
gatherings. Individuals can also attend one of our scheduled camps,
depending on space availability.
For more information, contact:
P.O. Box 73030
Fairbanks, AK 99707
CHEI is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated
to preserving the Athabascan way of life and sharing it with others.
We hope to see you in Old Minto this summer!
UAF Summer 2001 Program in Cross-Cultural Studies
for Alaskan Educators
The Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, Alaska Rural
Systemic Initiative, Alaska Staff Development Network, UAF Summer
Sessions and Bristol Bay Campus invite educators from throughout
Alaska to participate in a series of two- and three-credit courses
focusing on the implementation of the Alaska Standards for Culturally-Responsive
Schools. The courses may be taken individually or as a six-, nine-
or twelve-credit sequence. The first three courses may be used
to meet the state multicultural education requirement for licensure,
and all may be applied to graduate degree programs at UAF.
Rural Academy for Culturally Responsive
May 26-30, 2001, Bristol Bay Campus, Dillingham, Alaska
Cross-Cultural Orientation Program
June 4-22, 2001 at UAF campus and Old Minto Camp
Native Ways of Knowing
June 25-July 13, 2001 at UAF campus
July 16-Aug. 3, 2001 at UAF campus
For further information about the Rural Academy,
contact the UAF Bristol Bay Campus at 907-842-5483, 907-842-5692
(fax) or the Alaska Staff Development Network at 2204 Douglas Highway,
Suite 100, Douglas, Alaska 99824, 907-364-3801 or 907-364-3805
(fax), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
web site http://www.asdn.org.
For further information on the other courses offered
in Fairbanks, please contact UAF Summer Sessions office at 907-474-7021
or on the web at http://www.uaf.edu/summer.
News from Northwest Alaska
by Branson Tungiyan
I would like to express my deep and sincere appreciation
for having the opportunity to serve the people of the Bering Strait
Region for the past two years at Kawerak. The next five years will
be even more challenging as the regional coordinator for the Iñupiaq
Region-from Unalakleet to Point Barrow. But, as long as it means
helping the Native community, the school kids and the people, it
makes the challenges a lot less, knowing that this is for the benefit
of Alaska Natives.
I have been working at Kawerak, Inc. for the past
two years as the program director for the Eskimo Heritage Program.
The mission statement of the Eskimo Heritage Program is "to document
and preserve the Bering Strait Region's culture, heritage and traditions
of the three Native groups and to expand the Eskimo Heritage Program's
collection to the people and the villages."
I have been working on individual Elder interviews
and putting them into a computerized database. This has been like
attending a bilingual education class, as I go through the transcriptions
of all the wonderful stories, legends and traditional knowledge
that each Elder exemplifies in their interviews. To me, this is
truly the "link from the past, to the present and to the future." Whether
the interviews are from an Iñupiaq Elder, Central Yup'ik
Elder or a St. Lawrence Island Yupik Elder, the cultural values
spoken are the same.
This brings me to the new position I am involved
in with the AFN/Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (AKRSI). Phase
II of AKRSI is "bringing schools and communities together in rural
Alaska." This will be done by implementing the ten initiatives
on a region-by-region basis over the next five years. For example,
the Iñupiaq Region will be working on the Village Science
Applications and Alaska Native Science and Engineering Society
(ANSES) this year. The Iñupiat have already gone through
some of this by attending cultural camps and working on their science
fair projects with the Elders in the communities and with the schools
in the districts.
The AKRSI is about education, working with the community,
the schools and the children. This not only involves the children
in the villages in the school districts, but also the youth in
the tribal colleges. We will also be working with Native educators
within each respective region. The focus of the AKRSI Phase II
will build on the successes of the initiatives that were implemented
in Phase I.
Culture is the core of every Native group in this
great state of Alaska. It brings the true meaning of being Alaska
Native. The ability to have survived the harsh environment and
climate over thousands of years proves that culture is the core
of any Native group that sustains the life of its people. This
gives the people heritage and tradition as an identity to continue
and pass on to generation after generation for its survival as
indigenous people. It gives me pleasure to be working as a part
of this process with my fellow Alaska Natives.
Welcome to the New Regional Coordinators
from Frank Hill, Oscar Kawagley and Ray Barnhardt,
Co-Directors of Alaska RSI
We would like to extend a warm welcome to the AKRSI
family for Branson Tungiyan (Nome), John Angaiak (Bethel) and Velma
Schafer (Fairbanks), as well as a welcome back for Andy Hope (Juneau)
and Teri Schneider (Kodiak). These people have taken on the role
of regional coordinator for their respective regions as we move
into Phase II of the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative. We also
thank the regional non-profits for taking on the responsibility
of coordinating the AKRSI activities across their cultural regions,
along with the sponsorship of the regional tribal college initiatives.
We look forward to a strong and continuing partnership with the
Elders, communities and schools throughout rural Alaska. Contact
information for each of the regional coordinators is provided on
page nine of this newsletter.
Alaska Native Village Education
by John P. Angaiak
John's article was first published in Tundra Drums,
October 19, 2000, vol 28 number 31.
When and where do we begin? On education, I think
we know when to start - at the birth of a child and it does not
matter where on earth you live. The philosophy of education is
highly politicized and emotional today. Along the way, parents
learn that the way a child views education early on is a mirror
image of the way his parents look at it. The child's attitude toward
education is reflective of the attitude of his/her parents.
There is more than one way to look at education.
It is a personalized, family affair. Some parents sacrifice their
time and effort for the education of their children. Others may
look at it only as an alternative option to subsistence, or enough
to get by. It seems that we develop a better perception of education
when we get older. Adults have a better understanding of how it
was then and how it is now.
I grew up with a strong subsistence-oriented education,
though I entered Western schooling before 1950. The first school
in my village was a BIA school. Our parents only had what they
learned from their own hands and subsistence experience. Their
kind of education was learning skills for survival. For boys, it
was knowledge of a vast area of terrain, hunting skills, the sea
and weather. To know these skills meant being a good provider for
their family. The girls mastered skills from their mothers on how
to make mukluks and parkas, to sew, prepare food and take
care of hunting needs. The girls knew how to complement what their
husbands provided. They were partners for life. All this was obtained
by hands-on experience from their parents and Elders, so clear
that their children knew what they would become in the next decade.
When Western education arrived, it did not change
who I was as a person. It created an opportunity to expand my subsistence
education. It meant that I could strive to master a subsistence
education and master Western education too-to survive in a different
lifestyle. We will always be Alaska Natives and speak more than
one language, regardless of where we are living. We will always
be attached to a subsistence lifestyle. In fact, modern education
helps you better understand subsistence, to appreciate it, to understand
its weaknesses and strengths and, above all, how it defines who
Our attitude toward Western education should not
be different from subsistence education. We should treat them both
equally as important to our survival. They should complement each
other. It is here that I want to make my point. Western education
is here to stay. We should make the best of it and take advantage
of it. There is no way getting around it.
The facts, figures and politics of education are
not what I want to talk about. It is about our general attitude.
I believe we need not fear for the future of our children anymore.
Sometimes what we say at statewide gatherings on education is not
what we say about education at home. We pass resolutions directing
our leaders to solve our Native education problems. We seem to
blame the system for our weaknesses.
Somewhere in the corner of each village, silent parents
reside whose children are known to be above the norm in school.
The parents never seem to do anything different, but they make
sure their children are dressed well for winter, eat well, do their
homework and are in bed by nine o'clock. They don't blame the system.
What makes the silent parents different? They truly
give attention to their children. They talk to them freely, all
in their Yup'ik language, because they never went to school. They
encourage their children to excel in school, listen to the teachers,
do homework and go to bed on time. Such parents believe education
starts at home. They want their children to have better opportunities.
The children feel comfortable. The children are encouraged to feel
that they could go far with a good education. Parents are right
there with them. Education is fun. Parents give their children
the right attitude and the freedom to be educated in subsistence
and beyond. The children feel they can now return all the love
and care their parents gave. It is about respect between parents
These parents have never been to the Alaska Federation
of Natives Convention. They were too poor and could not afford
all the conveniences of the modern life. They only knew how to
provide for their children the best they could. Their reward was
that most of their children graduated from the universities and
all have jobs now. These traditional parents never liked to be
confused with the philosophies of education. They would lose their
sense of direction when people of high thinking started talking
about the best way to educate children. Their rules were simple:
to read, write and excel in mathematics and science. Beyond that,
it was elective.
To read, write and excel in mathematics and science
are the core of a universal education. All the children of the
world are being drawn to the core, down to the smallest village.
Education is here to stay.
Our ancestors were committed to making sure their
children knew how to provide for their own so that they would survive
in their time. We should have the same grasp about survival today
as our ancestors did about surviving in their time. This century
belongs to our children. They should fit well in this century.
As parents, our time was yesterday.
What about the changing world all around us? We may
someday need two earths to sustain the world population with its
staggering growth rate. The explosive world population is now on
the move everywhere. Most often its masses are highly educated.
They can take jobs in our villages while we can't make up our minds
about educating our children for future jobs. Everywhere around
the world people are talking about survival, at any cost.
If we don't change our attitudes toward education
now, we cannot be partners with the rest of the changing world.
Education will not change our status as Alaska Natives, but it
will gain us respect for our unique culture as an educated society
and help us to be partners in the changing world. We have to make
a move on education. We should not corner ourselves in our own
villages. The world has nothing for us unless we take education
seriously. We should not lose our language, the way we do things
and who we are. Such an education is not for the privileged few.
It's okay to be educated twice.
Yup'ik Science Fair Report
by Yurrliq Nita Rearden
LKSD and Alaska Federation of Natives had an agreement
to work with the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative to sponsor an
AISES (American Indian Science & Engineering Society) Science
Fair in the Yup'ik Region. On January 25 and 26 a Yup'ik science
fair took place at the cultural center. I coordinated the fair.
Out of ten school districts in the Central Yup'ik region, only
two participated: Kuspuk and LKSD. We had two groups representing
LKSD. Teacher Jeff Ralston brought two students from Mekoryuk and
teacher Nicole Pugh worked with two students from Bethel Regional
Junior High. Kuspuk School District had a total of five entries
from Crooked Creek and Upper Kalskaq. The teachers, Elizabeth Ruff
and Shannon O'Brien, chaperoned their students. There were a total
of seven projects.
I want to share my experience and thoughts while
working with teachers from LKSD. Julie McWilliams, Health and Science
Education Specialist from the Academics Department, helped with
the fair handbook and communicated with the science teachers trying
to spark their interest in the fair. I was happy to work with Julie
sharing ideas and information about how vital it is to have our
teachers understand the environmental resources available for Native
science experiments. We received some information from the teachers
that the time to produce a finished project was limited for the
fair. Yet, some also had problems in getting information from Elders
in the communities, or did not know how to go about it. In addition,
since our district is focused on benchmark testing for reading,
writing and math, science teachers may have thought that they don't
have the time to participate. It sounded like a Native science
fair was just another thing to do!
There seems to be some missing linkage for bridging
Western science education from a Yup'ik world. Yup'ik culture has
many science resources and experiences that students attain while
growing up in their subsistence life style. Unfortunately, not
all students experience subsistence activities in their villages
due to changing circumstances. The whole environment of a student
includes survival skills, geographical knowledge of the area, subsistence
fishing and hunting and weather as well as the home environment,
where a student may learn to make items such as clothing and subsistence
material made from natural resources. The students learn their
Native knowledge well by the time they reach the upper elementary
level or junior high, if given the opportunity. The information
that the students learn is usually embedded in their knowledge
for the rest of their lives. This is a real science life!
The question is how do we connect the teachers who
are not from our region to students' prior knowledge from growing
up in the LKSD region? I think one of the ways would be to revisit
Yuuyaraq curriculum and have the Yup'ik teachers work with the
science teachers at their sites. Another idea would be to allow
teachers to observe and work with local resource teachers to learn,
understand and comprehend the knowledge that the Elders and students
share at cultural camps.
When I mentioned the idea of revisiting the Yuuyaraq
curriculum to Bev Williams, she indicated that she wanted to look
for funding to make the idea work. Julie McWilliams mentioned that
she would like to research raising benchmark testing by working
with teachers using hands-on science. I'm glad to see support coming
from the Academics Department. It will take a group effort to make
these ideas work. LKSD provides support for activities that help
students learn in a meaningful way.
Just imagine Robert Bujan and Amanda Williams, the
students from Nuniwaarmiut School in Mekoryuk who participated
in the Native science fair: they now have life-long memories and
knowledge about tanning reindeer. They will be sharing their findings
with the community by demonstrating which is the best tanning solution
to use on the reindeer skins. The students received the grand prize
award at the regional fair and again at the state level. They will
now have a chance to participate at the National AISES Science
Fair! Another group of students who received a grand prize award
from the Yup'ik region were from Crooked Creek with a project about
hypothermia titled, "A Cold Body." The two students, William Felker
and Elena John, also won at the state level and will go to the
national competition. The knowledge that the students learned and
shared is valued by Elders in the community to help them understand
and improve the lifestyles in the villages.
I would also like to congratulate and thank the second-
and third-place winners for participating in the fairs: "The Energy
of Light" with Mae Mute, Jennifer Frink and Mane Darris; "On Fire" with
Nastasia Andreanoff and Roxanne Sakar; "When the Lights Go Out" with
Jessica Athanas and Elizabeth Dostert; "Chills of the Camp Fire" with
Leona Inman and "We Drink It: Water!" with Raymond Parent. Most
importantly, I want to let the teachers who took the time to work
with their students know they are greatly appreciated! Elder judges
for the Yup'ik Region Native Science Fair were Peter Gilila from
Tuluksak and Cecilia Martz from Bethel. Science judges were Claudette
Bradley and Gene Peltola. Community members of Bethel, including
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lower Kuskokwim School District
and Bethel Regional High School are also thanked for their involvement.
Quyana cakneq tamarpetci!
Alaska RSI Contacts
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
Southeast Regional Coordinator
8128 Pinewood Drive
Juneau, Alaska 99801
Iñupiaq Regional Coordinator
PO Box 1796
Nome, AK 99762
Athabascan Regional Coordinator
PO Box 410
Ester, Alaska 99725
Aleutians Regional Coordinator
Kodiak Island Borough School District
722 Mill Bay Road, North Star
Kodiak, Alaska 99615
Yupik Regional Coordinator
PO Box 219
Bethel, AK 99559
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) 474-1957 fax
Newsletter Editor: Dixie
Layout & Design: Paula
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