Director, Yupiktak Bista
One of a Series of Articles on
THE NATIVE LAND CLAIMS
COMPILED & PRODUCED
ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
CENTER FOR NORTHERN EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH
UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA - FAIRBANKS
Dr. Marshall L. Lind
Commissioner of Education
Director, Center for Northern Educational Research
ARTWORK: CANDACE OWERS
ARTICLES AND AUTHORS
In talking about village Alaska, it is important to define the
areas being discussed. Geographically, village Alaska is found in
Southeast Alaska, the North Slope; Norton Sound, the Yukon-Kuskokwim
Delta; the Aleutian Chain, and the areas surrounding the Yukon River
and its tributaries. What makes the villages different from the other
areas of Alaska are their population, economy, culture, and history.
The population of village Alaska is very sparse. A village may
have anywhere from 25 people to 3,000. (In speaking of village
Alaska, larger communities such as Kotzebue and Bethel are included.)
As time goes on, the number of people living in the smaller villages
is quickly decreasing due to the movement of people to larger
communities like Anchorage and Fairbanks, Kotzebue, and Bethel. The
reasons for this movement of population will be discussed later.
The economy is one of money, barter, and subsistence hunting. When
there is a lack of any of the three mentioned, welfare makes up the
Money is hard to come by in any village, for several reasons. The
most obvious reason is the lack of employment opportunities in a
village. In many villages the only people employed year round are the
postmaster the village store manager, the school janitor, several
teacher's aides, and the health aides. The rest of the community has
to rely on summer employment such as fishing, fire-fighting, and
construction work to fulfill their needs for the rest of the year.
This seasonal employment is not adequate to carry a family throughout
Subsistence hunting is still a very important factor in the
economy of village Alaska. It has already been said that money does
not carry a family over the whole year, so hunting for food and furs
for clothing makes up some of the distance. In fact, the main diet of
any family is composed of fish or game. For the Eskimo along the
Bering Sea, sea mammals such as seals and whales, along with fish,
provide the main diet. For the Athabascan Indian in the Yukon Flats,
moose, beaver, salmon, and wild berries are used. But more and more,
the Native people living in villages are becoming dependent on store
bought food and clothing. And this is where welfare comes in.
There is first of all the type of welfare which is given as direct
money to the family in need. Both the BIA and the state provide this.
There is also the Food Stamp Program which makes it possible for a
family with very little money to buy more with their money by buying
stamps issued by the Department of Agriculture. There is a positive
effect of such programs and a negative as well. This will be
Culturally, village Alaska is composed of Eskimos, Aleuts and
Indians (Tlingits, Haidas, Athapascans and Tsimshians), while the
larger communities like Anchorage and Fairbanks are composed mostly
of immigrants from the lower forty-eight. The Native culture is at
this point near extinction, although potlatches and dances are still
held. Anthropologists term this "enculturation." There are problems
that derive from enculturation of the Native people and this will be
Aside from these problems, there are other differences which exist
between village Alaska and urban Alaska. One of the main differences
is in education. Village Alaska has hardly any educational facilities
such as gymnasiums, theaters, high schools, etc., that are found in
the larger communities. Also in village Alaska there are three
systems of education while the other areas have a more uniform
system. In the villages there are BIA schools, state schools and
private schools with their own systems of education.
Transportation is one of the biggest differences between urban and
village Alaska. There is usually only one way a person can go in and
out of a village to other communities, if not by snow-go in winter or
a boat in the summer, and that is by air. Air travel, as everyone
recognizes, is expensive, especially to the villages. Village Alaska
is dependent on air service to bring in needed supplies year round,
and fares and freight costs keep rising. As for the urban areas of
Alaska, they are connected by highways and railways, and are also
serviced by several airlines.
Health is another area where village Alaska differs from the urban
areas. In the villages there are no doctors, dentists, and nurses.
When people are ill they have to go to Bethel, Kotzebue, Anchorage,
or Tanana to get treatment. Village Alaska has what we call health
aides. Their job is to rely messages to the doctors through radio.
Hospitals are non-existent in the villages. There are Public Health
Service clinics where the villages can get treatment for small cuts
and headaches. But in cases of emergency, weather permitting, they
have to fly to the nearest hospital. The urban areas of Alaska,
however, boast hospitals, and in the absence of hospitals, doctors,
nurses, dentists, and even veterinarians for their pets.
Another area of difference between village Alaska and urban Alaska
is their representation in Juneau through their legislators. Village
Alaska, due to its small population, does not have much of a
representation in Juneau while the urban areas, again due to their
numbers, have a heavy delegation in Juneau. We all know that majority
rules. There are problems inherent in this as well.
All in all, the differences between village Alaska and the urban
areas of Alaska are many. Economically and politically, in education,
health, and in culture, problems plague village Alaska. It is these
problems we will discuss now.
Some problems are created by the geographical isolation of
villages, such as transportation and communication, but some problems
are problems that need not exist at this time in the history of man.
One of the most pressing problems faced by village Alaskans is in the
field of education. It is true that there is a lot of work being done
in this area, but the problem still persists.
One inherent problem from the territorial days in education is the
three systems of education found in the villages: the Bureau of
Indian Affairs, the state of Alaska, and the private schools such as
St. Mary's Covenant High School, and the now closed Copper Valley
School. The existence of the three systems does not make the problem;
it is rather the lack of uniformity between the three that creates
it. There would be no problem if the three systems had basically the
same curriculum. The problem is mainly in what is taught in these
schools. Let me illustrate:
Johnny Yupik is an Eskimo boy in village Alaska. He attends the
BIA school in his village. He started attending the school when he
was six years old. He learned the English language but before he was
old enough to go to school, the only language that he spoke was
Eskimo. He has already learned his ABC's and he has learned to speak
and read in English. He now knows who Dick and Jane are, but he
doesn't know what a farm is or an automobile and all those other
things that they discuss daily in school. However he knows what they
are talking about. Years fly by and Johnny is now in the 8th grade.
He knows what everyone in his class knows, and next year he will be
going on to high school at Anchorage through the State Boarding Home
So Johnny graduates and goes on to Anchorage to attend high
school. He is all excited about the whole thing. The only thing that
spoils all the excitement is that when he gets to Anchorage, Johnny
is homesick. His mother writes to Johnny often and also wishes that
he would be home, too. Johnny is having some problems with the people
he is staying with while in Anchorage. First of all, they aren't his
parents, and they treat him like an alien from Mars, although they
don't mean to. They are so different from his own family, They eat
different food, they do everything differently from at home. He
wishes that was the only problem that he had; this homesickness and
wanting to be with his parents.
His biggest problem is in school. Although Johnny graduated from
the 8th grade like all the 9th graders from Anchorage, Johnny just
dosen't know everything that the kids in his class know. He isn't
doing too well in his classes. He is receiving O's and C's (if he is
lucky). What can he do? If only he were home, then he wouldn't be
having all these problems. He knows that his mother wants him with
her, and he is thinking a lot now of how good it was at home. So
Johnny decides to go home to help his patents.
How many Johnny Yupiks are there in village Alaska? Why don't the
students from the villages graduate from their villages and complete
high school at home, or near home, and not have to go to Anchorage?
Children leaving home to attend schools creates unnecessary stress
on the part of the child who needs to mature with his parents. It
also creates problems at home when the mother has to live without her
son or daughter. An eighth grade graduate from a village should be
able to go on to any school and know what his classmates know. And
why should the student leave home in the first place? Why don't they
build a high school in his village? Why doesn't he know what his
classmates from Anchorage know?
Although it is highly desirable to build and maintain schools in
every village in Alaska there are several reasons why it is almost
impossible. First of all is it feasible to build a high school in a
village of say 200 with 20 high school students? Money, or the lack
of it, rules it out. Money would have to be spent in the equipment
for the school, and money would be needed to pay the teachers in the
school. There just isn't money to build high schools in every
village. The state doesn't have that kind of money.
As for the question of why an eighth grade graduate from village
Alaska could not easily go into a high school in Anchorage or
Fairbanks, the answer is simple. The village student is behind when
he gets into a school out of the BIA system of education. This can be
attributed to lack of uniformity in education in Alaska.
As I have mentioned there are three systems of education in
Alaska, the BIA, the state, and the private schools. All of these
have their own curricula. They go their own speed in instruction, and
in one, a student will end up way ahead, but it he attends another,
he may be far behind. There is a gap between the three systems that
the student has to close himself when transferring. This might be the
reason why so many youngsters from the villages attending the state
and public schools are dropping out, and it they aren't dropping,
out, are far behind.
All in all, the chances of a student from village Alaska
succeeding in his quest of higher education are very slim due to all
the handicaps that he starts out with, namely bridging gaps between
the educational systems, having to live from home at a time when he
needs his parents, and having to adjust to another culture and way of
Health, or the lack of it, is another problem faced by the village
Alaskans. There are several reasons why this exists.
One is unsanitary conditions within the village. There are no
sewage systems, so outhouses, and in their absence, nothing, are
used. In many villages, dumps are not found and the people discard
whatever refuse they may have around the village itself. It is not
surprising that when spring thaw comes, the villagers have to suffer
through epidemics of diarrhea, flu, and other diseases that very few
people suffer in the world today.
There is no system of running water to supply the villagers with
their drinking and washing supply. Water is usually acquired from
lakes surrounding the village. Since the villages have no dumps, the
water that they use is in many cases contaminated. It is also rare
for a family to wash their clothes frequently due to this shortage of
water. A family does not bathe as frequently as they would if they
had water. In this day and age, it is indeed saddening to see people
living with so little of the most basic thing - water.
Another factor that contributes to sicknesses in the villages is
the location of the villages themselves. Most villages are located in
areas that are marshy, in low terrains. Annual floods are not new to
the inhabitants. And when a flood strikes, it usually drives the
vermin into the village along with the trash and refuse discarded by
The villagers will have to handle this problem by themselves. By
virtue of their isolation, by the location of their villages, they
more or less contribute to their own ill health. There is another
contributing factor to ill health in the village: the nonavailability
of medical facilities. In the Lower Yukon and Kuskokwim region there
is one hospital located at Bethel. This hospital is old, unsuitable
for operations and child deliveries. It has fifty beds, seven
doctors, and it is servicing more than fifteen thousand people in the
surrounding area. How can a hospital so old, with a staff so small,
service all its people adequately?
When a villager is seriously ill, they have to fly him into
Bethel, Kotzebue or Anchorage for treatment. Sometimes this can be
the difference between life and death for that person. And the
hospital will only authorize "serious" cases to fly in, otherwise the
person who wants to see a doctor has to pay his own way in. For a
person to fly out of the bush to these hospitals is expensive and
people have so little money to spend on plane fares. Had they ready
available medical centers, the village Alaskans might be in better
Poor health and poor educational systems are not the only problems
which plague the village Alaskans. Economic problems also irritate
the poor living conditions of the villagers.
In the village of Hooper Bay, the largest along the Bering Coast,
south of Nome, this economic problem can be best seen. Hooper Bay has
a population of over 500 people. It has a store owned cooperatively
by the people. It has a primary and junior high school run by the
Bureau of Indian Affairs. There are two churches, and hardly any
Jobs to be found in Hooper Bay are postmaster, school janitor,
store manager, teacher's aide, Wien agent, AVEC power plant
attendant, health aide, school teacher, policeman, magistrate, and
PHS clinic attendant. All of the positions above, except for the
school teachers, are filled by the local people. But of at least 250
people able for work, only ten are employed on a year round basis.
What do the other do for money?
Summer jobs are sporadic for the people of Hooper Bay. Men make
most of whatever monies they make through fire-fighting. If they are
lucky they will have three fires to fight during the summer. Cannery
work does not interest them any more due to low pay and long hours. A
man may receive $800 for a whole summer's work in a cannery. The few
men who still persist with cannery work do so now as fishermen or
fishermen's helpers. But because they do not own boats at Bristol
Bay, where the great majority of the fisheries are, they make very
Closely related to this problem of jobs is the living conditions
of these people. Most families live in one room houses. The average
number of the family is about seven, counting the parents. Under such
crowded conditions any sicknesses contracted by family member can be
quickly passed to the whole family. And because the number of family
members is so large, in comparison to the income of the family, food
and fuel shortages are common. Even after a good summer of fishing or
fire-fighting, the family will run out of money before half the year
is over due to the high costs of their needed supplies. It is then
evident that a family cannot live off their meager savings.
Supplemental funds through the welfare programs of the state and the
BIA are needed. It is not uncommon to find several families out of
food in the winter when they have exhausted their food and money
It is no wonder that legislators in Juneau believe that money is
being drained into the villages just to keep them there. This might
be overstating the role of the state government in the village
situation, but it is true to a degree.
Another problem faced by village Alaskans is their dwindling
population. There are several reasons. First, a young man with a
family cannot make a living in the village. If he completed high
school he would most likely qualify for a job in Bethel, Kotzebue, or
the larger centers all over Alaska. So he leaves the village for
work. Secondly, a young person who had gone to school out of the
village in urban areas is not likely to go back to the village to
live, having tasted the easier life in the city. Running water, flush
toilets, movie theaters, cheaper stores, all creep into the life
style of any person. These young people will return to the village
occasionally for vacations and hunting trips, but they will not live
in a village.
The problem that this relocation of young people creates is a
leadership vacuum. Many of these young people, able to read, write,
and understand the ways of the white man, do not return to the
village where their abilities would have been used. Many of the
members of a village council in any village are illiterate, and this
is a major handicap in many village councils.
Another problem found in village Alaska is the inability of the
governing body, the village council, to effectively meet the needs of
their villages. In many villages all over Alaska, the village council
is composed of the more elderly in that village. This is a cultural
value and is hard to shake off. The problem with this situation is
that these older men cannot read or write in English, and when all of
their correspondence with the outside world is done in this language,
a problem arises. They cannot read whatever information they receive,
and they cannot reply to important letters effectively. And yet, they
are continually voted into office.
Another factor relating to this ineffectiveness in village
councils is that they do not really understand what their functions
are. They are also not aware of their powers. Although many of these
villages have constitutions they hardly look at them. The main order
of business, in many village council meetings, is the loose-dog
problem and the uncontrollable youth problem. What they do not
discuss in these meetings are such things as the poor airline service
they are getting, their student problems (students coming home from
school before the year is over), how best to use their BIA assistance
funds, and countless other things that they should be concerned with.
As pointed out, this exists mainly because they are not aware of the
fact that they can act in such areas. What they think on such
subjects is that "somebody outside" is going to take care of their
problems in education, transportation, sanitation, etc. They are
indeed dependent on someone "outside." They have to realize that
unless they speak out about problems, no one is going to act on them
one way or another. This is where the younger members of the village
community would be valuable.
A closely related problem in village Alaska is the ignorance of
the village Alaskans of their rights as citizens of the United States
and of the state of Alaska. Many of the villages are now fourth class
cities. In recent years there has been this incorporation craze in
rural Alaska. When voting for incorporation the people expected a
change for the better. They are told that they will have more money,
more powers, and they will be eligible for state and federal aid. Not
as Natives but as cities. What they do not understand is that they
have to apply for aid in order to receive it. They are not even aware
that they are eligible for such aid. For instance, in Alaska, fourth
class or better cities are eligible for state funds for the upkeep of
roads, and other "paths" of transportation. But year after year,
village roads, or airports, keep deteriorating while the members of
the village community await action from Juneau. Many times candidates
for office had promised a new airport, road, or whatever, to the
people in the last election. But it is not up to the candidate or the
public official to get the road or the airport; the people themselves
have to ask and fight for it.
Another illustration of this would also be in disaster funds from
both federal and state governments. Year after year, many villages
are flooded. They lose a lot of their boats, food, etc., but they
never apply for disaster relief funds for which they are eligible.
Instead they try, as best they can, to pick up the pieces themselves
without any aid. Sometimes a flood may wipe out, or render useless, a
whole winter's supply of food. Yet no relief of any kind comes to a
Police protection is almost nonexistent in a village community. By
police protection, one does not mean merely cops and robbers. It
means police aid in such things as drownings, lost hunters, drunken
bouts, and such. For instance, in one village, three men were lost
and assumed drowned in the fall of 1970. No state police ever made it
to the scene of the accident and did not even aid in the search for
the victims. The villagers had to do it all themselves with limited
means of search and rescue. A plane would have been of great aid to
them, but none came. In places like Fairbanks and Anchorage or more
populous centers, the state police would have been swarming and
investigating the scene of the accident or crime, but not so in
village Alaska. One can be assured, however, that there are game
wardens closely guarding and protecting the geese and wildlife found
in the same locale while the villagers have to protect themselves and
have to suffer through disasters and accidents on their own.
Closely related to the economic, health, governmental, and
educational ills of village Alaska are the social problems. As
mentioned before, acculturation of the Native people to the white
culture brings its own problems, such as that of identity on the part
of the younger people, whether they are Eskimo, Aleut, Tlingit,
Haida, Athapascan, or white. This is not so much an ethnic or racial
problem but one of the values tied in with these cultures. Should a
young Eskimo listen to his father or should he listen to his
schoolmaster? Should he listen to his father or the minister in his
village? Is it really wrong to be a Native? Are the values and
traditions of the white culture more important than his father's
values and tradition? This is indeed a problem faced by many young
people today. They are in a sense the last of their own races and
whether or not they will remain such is completely left up to them.
One might say they are the last of the Mohicans, but instead of being
destroyed with guns they might be wiped out by an uncompromising
It is usually said in many cities within Alaska that Natives are
drunks. If they think that the Natives are drunks, they may very well
be. What we should look at is why they are "drunks."
In village Alaska alcohol is indeed a problem. It leads to the
breaking up of families, suicides, murders, and the deterioration of
the person using alcohol to excess. Alcoholism was listed in the 1968
" Leading Causes of Hospitalization of Alaska Natives" published by
the PHS, as the sixth major cause for Natives being hospitalized. Yet
a great many Natives in villages have to suffer the disease on their
own. In a community as small as a village, even one drunk will
disrupt the peace of the whole community. Why then, do they drink?
Sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists usually say that
drinking is an escape mechanism used by persons running from the
realities of life. This might partly answer the question of why
drinking is such a problem. For to look at the harsh realities these
people have to face in their day to day living would drive anyone to
drink. Where a way of life is threatened, where a man can no longer
adequately support his family, where a man is no longer a man in his
own eyes, drinking would come in as a handy tool for escape. Usually
the men are the ones who do most of the drinking. Rarely do we find
women drinking in a village.
Although drinking to excess is in itself a problem, there are
other problems that arise from it. In the case of village Alaska
these problems might be more acute than in cities. First of all, the
problem starts at home. The man who turns to drink will not do his
daily chores. He will not go hunt or go for firewood. He will not pay
much attention to his children and wife, and he will take money
needed by his family to secure alcohol in whatever form he can get
it. His family soon goes cold, hungry, and are left alone without
anyone to care for them and guide them. The children are the ones
hurt most by this problem within a family. In many cases they turn
out to be the "hard cases" later on, due to their family problems. In
many cases the Department of Welfare will take the children from a
family who does not take care of them, and this is usually due to
alcohol. The man finds himself in worse shape than he started out.
Outside of the family, drinking also creates problems in village
Alaska. As mentioned, one drunk will disrupt the peace of the whole
village, and this is so because everyone knows everybody else. When
someone is drunk they usually become very brave, if that word can be
used to describe it. They will leave their homes to wander in the
village. Children playing will run home and their families will pray
that this drunk will not try to visit and hurt them. If there is more
than one person drunk, a brawl will usually develop, and everyone
knows about it. Holidays in many villages have turned from times of
joy to times of fear and horror. Many accidents also occur from
drunken bouts. As mentioned, suicides are committed, and even
murders, when persons are intoxicated.
Government and Village Alaska
Although government was created for the good of all its citizens,
some of its acts do not always serve that purpose. This is especially
true of governmental actions, both federal and state, which affect
the Alaska Natives without their active input, or consent.
The year 1867 is a memorable year for all Alaskans. It was the
year when the United States bought Alaska from the Russians for a
mere $7,200 000. The sale of Alaska and all its lands was done
without the consent of the Alaskan Eskimos, Indians, and Aleuts. This
was merely the beginning of governmental actions taken without the
knowledge and consent of the Alaskan Natives. This eventually led to
a clash between the Natives and the federal and state governments,
and it is a continuing problem facing the people of Alaska.
In 1884, the Organic Act was passed by Congress. This Act made all
mining laws of Oregon applicable to Alaska. But there was an
insertion which stated that lands occupied or used by Alaska's
"aboriginal people" shall not be disturbed until Congress resolves
that issue. This insertion did not stop the coming of legislation
contrary to the clause.
In 1902 the federal government created the Tongass National
Forest. It was composed of 16,015,900 acres, enveloping all of the
Tlingit-Haida villages and lands, leaving them no land at all, except
for the Klukwan Native Reserve and Annette Island, which had been set
aside as a reserve for the Tsimshian Indians. Although the
Tlingit-Haida Indians sued the federal government for their lost
lands, they were only awarded $7,500,000. or approximately 14 ¢
The creation of the Tongass National Forest posed a great problem
for the Tlingits and Haidas. Their lands had been rich with natural
resources, mostly in timber, and they now have money with which to
aid themselves. They are also participating in the Alaska Native
Settlement Act but with no lands being returned to them.
National Wildlife Refuges have also been created by the federal
government and many Of these covering Native Lands making it
impossible for the Native people to select from their lands. Although
they have been able to hunt in these areas for subsistence, there
will come a time when this will also come to a halt under the
pressures of conservationists in the lower '48 states.
In the 1940's, the United States government created the 23,000,000
acre Naval Petroleum Reserve #4 on the Arctic Slope of Alaska. This
reserve envelopes Barrow, Wainwright, Atkasook, and Nooiksut, the
four main population centers of the North Slope. It is widely
recognized, that the Arctic Slope Eskimos used all of the North Slope
in their fight for survival, and still do. Where then are they going
to acquire their lands which they are entitled to under the Land
Claim Settlement Act? Furthermore, the state of Alaska now has title
to the Prudhoe Bay Oil Fields within this region. Here again the
Eskimos have the privilege of hunting for subsistence purposes, but
for how long?
In the 1950's the federal government withdrew 8,959,000 acres from
the Yukon Flats thinking of possibly building a hydroelectric dam.
This withdrawal covers nine villages: Chalkyitsik, Fort Yukon,
Circle, Birch Creek, Beaver, Stevens Village, Rampart, Venetie, and
Arctic Village. Although it seems very unlikely in the near and
distant future that anyone will see a dam at the Yukon Flats, the
land has been withdrawn. The Indians of this area are again hampered
in their land selections under the Claims Act, although like all
Natives living on reserves, they have the right to hunt. This
withdrawal for the Rampart Dam was done without the consent of the
Athapascans living in the area, like all federal withdrawals.
Along with all these withdrawals are the National Defense reserves
which come to a considerable amount of land, and again in areas where
Native Alaskans live.
Governmental decisions inconsiderate of Native needs and views do
not end with land withdrawals. Up to this time, major legislation
concerning the Native people's welfare has always been done without
their consultation and consent. If there were any protests aired by
them, they were unheeded. A good example of this is the 1969 oil
lease sale of Prudhoe Bay lands by the State of Alaska.
The State of Alaska leased thousands of acres of what the Arctic
Slope Eskimos considered to be their lands. It made $900,000,000
through that lease. The Arctic Slope Eskimos were never consulted. It
was a bold step on the part of the state, and they now have patent to
It should be mentioned also that all governmental legislation is
not against the Native people. The Indian Reorganization Act, enacted
during Franklin Roosevelt's long reign as President, would have been
beneficial to the Native people in Alaska. Through it, the Native
people could have made reserves for themselves, and during a time
when Alaska's resources were still not completely known. One of the
reserves made at this time is the Chandalar Native Reserve. The
Indians of Venetie received 2,408,000 acres for their reservations
Under the Alaska Native Settlement Act, they could keep it and not
get a monetary settlement if they gave it up. But if they gave it up,
they would end up with a considerably smaller area of land. It should
be said too that if the Natives had gone and made reserves similar to
the Venetie Indians, the outcome of the act might have been
different, due to the amount of land they had in reserves.
Another beneficial governmental act on behalf of the Indians was
the Indian Allotment Act. Through this act Indians and Eskimos could
have received 160 acres of land each. They didn't. Had they acquired
land in this fashion the outcome of the act might again have been
Governmental actions then are not always beneficial to the Alaska
Natives. This has been illustrated by the Tongass National Forest,
Naval Petroleum Reserve #4, Rampart Dam Reserve, Prudhoe Bay and its
lease, etc. For the most part, governmental actions have only created
more problems which Natives have to face. Yet credit must be given to
the government as well for its efforts to aid the Alaska Native.
There is a possible and sound answer to why governmental acts
beneficial to the Alaskan Natives do not always succeed. The people
just do not understand them, and in many cases do not even know of
their existence. If they know of them, they do not know how to go
about getting what they are supposed to get. That is why it is so
important that the Native people in Alaska and outside of Alaska
understand the Alaska Native Settlement Act.
Director, Yupiktak Bista
Questions for Group Discussions
1. Do you agree with Mr. Napolean that children should have high
schools very near home, rather than having to travel long distances
to attend them? What are the arguments for and against (1) staying
home to attend high school, (2) going away to a larger high school?
2. Mr. Napolean says that "The village student is behind when he
gets into a school out of the BIA system of education." Do village
schools run by other organizations prepare students better?
3. Mr. Napolean calls for "uniformity in education in Alaska." We
assume he means uniformly good. Which system of education would you
pick for all the schools in village Alaska? Why?
4. Do you agree with Mr. Napolean's statement that "villages will
have to handle this problem [sanitation] by themselves"? What steps
could your village take to improve sanitation?
5. What solution can you suggest for the lack of medical care in
6. How could more jobs be created in the villages? Who should
create them, the people, the government, or both?
7. Are large families a problem?
8. Are the villages becoming less and less populated? Speak to
some older people to find out how many people lived in your village
20, 30 or 40 years ago.
9. What are the reasons young men decide to live in larger towns?
Why do the women not return to villages?
10. Mr. Napolean states that "village councils . . . do not really
understand what their functions are. They are not aware of their
powers." Do you agree?
11. If elderly village council members cannot read or write well
in English, is it best to replace them with young people who can?
12. Has your village ever been badly flooded? Did the village
receive state or federal disaster relief funds?
13. Is there any police service in your village?