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Yup'ik RavenOur Language Our Souls:


The Yup'ik bilingual curriculum of the
Lower Kuskokwim School District: A continuing success story.

Edited by Delena Norris-Tull, University of Alaska Fairbanks,
School of Education, Fairbanks, Alaska
copyright 1999


Chapter 10
Recommendations for Yup'ik Curriculum at Lower Kuskokwim School District
By Sally Casey
Napakiak, Alaska
Copyright 1998
 

I was born and raised in what is now called Napakiak, Alaska. The name is Anglicized for Naparyarraq. Located about 12 miles Southwest of Bethel, it is a Yup'ik community with a population of approximately 350. About the age of sixteen, under the auspices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, I began my long and sometimes difficult educational experience in Western society. However, my primary education took place at home where I was taught culturally relevant values and beliefs and what it means to be Yup'ik. My Yup'ik educational background is what I think qualifies me for what I want to impart.

The Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) is located in Yup'ik country on the Kuskokwim Delta. The district operates 25 village-based schools with a growing enrollment of 3,600. A persevering effort has been made to maintain the Yup'ik Language through the Bilingual Program which began in 1974. The schools are utilizing teacher-made materials developed at summer institutes. The program is currently used without an overall curriculum; however, development of that curriculum is slowly under way. The program currently (as of summer 1998) lacks the six common concepts of curriculum laid out by Posner (G.J. Posner. 1995. Analyzing the Curriculum. McGraw-Hill): 1) Scope and sequence, 2) Syllabus, 3) Content outline, 4) Textbooks, 5) Course of study, and 6) Planned experiences.

The treatment of indigenous history is typically written from somebody else's perspective; thus, it is usually erroneous. Violence done to the First Nations during European invasion is rarely mentioned in schools. It is to this effect and in particular Yup'ik history I am dedicating my paper; however, in the research process I have learned that Yup'ik history is finally being written. I would like to present my research findings as recommendations to the district, the board, and the Association of Village Council Presidents.

To assist in the development of Yup'ik curriculum, the district has on file the following resources: "Social Studies--An Expanding Circle of Awareness" (draft, 1997, Lower Kuskokwim School District, Curriculum/Bilingual Department); "Yupiit Univkarait: A History of the Real People" (draft, 1993, Lower Kuskokwim School District, Curriculum/Bilingual Department); "L.K.S.D. Land Claims Curriculum and ANCSA Supplementary" (1986, Lower Kuskokwim School District, Curriculum/Bilingual Department); and "Inuuqatigiit" (1994, Education, Culture & Employment, Government of Northwest Territories, Canada).

"Social Studies--An Expanding Circle of Awareness" is an incomplete draft which attempts to include learner outcomes, performance indicators, and activities. There are no other instructional materials included. The indicators are written from Western perspective, i.e., "describe expansion of the U.Są; Possess a logical sense of progression of modern U.S. history." This draft includes events of the state, nation, and world. This draft is beneficial for the child's awareness beyond his immediate region.

"Yupiit Univkarait" was assembled by Paul Alexander. Alexander's work shows signs of Western influence by the way he uses scientific theories, "The Paleo-Arctic Tradition; The Land Bridge; Origins of Homo-sapiens, etc." Furthermore, he admits that, "Considerable revision needs to take place to infuse a Yup'ik perspective...Interviews with Yup'ik Elders and similar Native sources need to be done in order to gain that perspective." Thus, his work lacks adequate support from the prominent Yup'ik community. Furthermore, his ideas are influenced by other cultures and not primarily Yup'ik culture. Alexander's work could be used to compare and contrast opinions. Other than that, his ideas are not conducive to learning Yup'ik heritage.

The district has on file a Land Claims curriculum. The land claims settlement is controversial because it was not developed in a truly democratic manner. The Alaska Natives as a whole were not given a chance to voice their opinions or vote on it one way or another. The land settlement was developed excluding overall Native support.

The only document with partial support for the Yup'ik culture is the ANCSA supplementary. For example, the lesson on names and matching pictures of animals found in Alaska is appropriate. The lesson would be more effective had a section on local animals been included. A similar approach was taken on wild plants of Alaska. Other than that, the land claims curriculum is another example of how the Natives are treated in Alaska by the U.S. government. The U.S. government has a long and ongoing history of mistreating Alaska Natives. The development of land claims disregarding major Native opinion is one example. This type of settlement created unwanted foreign-oriented corporations among the Natives. The Natives were not ready to take on corporate businesses. Their ultimate desire was to secure their birthright lands, but not through corporations. The LKSD land claims curriculum is a good reference for study of the continuation of mistreatment of Alaska Natives.

The only curriculum I have seen that is close to the heart of the Yup'ik heritage is the Inuit Curriculum developed in Canada. Their K-2 curriculum is appropriately entitled "Inuugatigiit" which means, "Inuit to Inuit, people to people, living together, or family to family." The government of Canada through their Department of Education organized an Inuit Subject Advisory Committee to develop an Inuit Curriculum. A steering committee was formed to work with the Advisory Committee. The committee made sure the information for the curriculum came directly from the regional Elders, Inuit educators, parents, and other key people. The developers relied on the words and wisdom of the Elders, which became the foundation of their curriculum. Relying on words and wisdom of Elders has also been the focus of the Yup'ik curriculum development.

Restricting research to a regional level, and using a filtering system are factors that gave originality to the curriculum. In other words, the developers met their goal by staying focused mainly on the Inuit culture.

The Inuit curriculum includes the following components. The Mission Statement or Philosophy is well organized with explicit questions and answers. Scope and sequence is for grade level by clusters rather than individual grades. For example, objectives are grouped according to a common theme, by age group levels. The goals and objectives include rationale, values, beliefs, major understandings, and attitudes. Planned experiences contain key experiences and activities.

The Inuit values and beliefs system is similar to that of the Yupiit; thus, their curriculum would be a good model for the development of the Yup'ik curriculum. The Inuit and Yupiit share mutual sentiments about preserving their heritage. They both have strong feelings about teaching their cultures from their perspective. Like the rest of the many cultures around the world, the Inuit and Yupiit believe that without a curriculum there is not enough support to do justice to their language and culture. LKSD maintains an English curriculum. Is not the district enjoined to also incorporate an official Yup'ik curriculum?

The Yup'ik curriculum would not be complete without paying attention to Posner's six common concepts of curriculum as outlined earlier in this paper. The goals may seem impossible, but it can be done with a little cooperation and support from key personnel. If curriculum is to be developed, it should be done right.

There are excellent resource people in the region. For example, Elders, Yup'ik educators, parents, and key community people. The most important resource people are the Elders. The Yup'ik history, values and beliefs are revealed only through the Elders. There is a strong concern to gather information before we lose our valuable resource people. The Inuit gathered information on an on-going basis through steering and advisory committees. Why can't we do the same? Furthermore, with the growing instructional materials and resources, we need teacher resource centers.

Cecelia Martz and Mary Gregory are examples of excellent resource people. Mrs. Martz, recently retired faculty member at the Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel (a branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks), taught Yuyaraq and Yup'ik history. Mrs. Gregory teaches local flora. In this report, I would like to add what Mrs. Martz developed with the help of the Elders, "Nallunrilamta Yuuyaramteni piciryarangqerramta nutemllarmek." I cannot begin to explain the meaning because the statement has many sections and subsections. All I can say is, it has to do with doing things the Yup'ik way; the original Yup'ik way not influenced by other cultures.

Lack of an overall curriculum plan, information gathering system, and resource centers, generate a question of educational equity. Is the Yup'ik community being treated equally with the English-speaking community?

 

Table of Contents

  • Introduction to the Kuskokwim Delta - Delena Norris-Tull
  • Introduction to the Yup'ik Language and Culture Programs of the Lower Kuskokwim School District - Delena Norris-Tull & Beverly Williams
  • Chapter 1: The Yup'ik First Language Program: Lower Kuskokwim School District - Mary Lou Beaver & Evon Azean, Sr.
  • Chapter 2: The Balanced Literacy Program in Yup'ik - Pamela Yancey & Sophie Shield
  • Chapter 3: Creating Yup'ik Books, Translating, & Orthography - Pamela Yancey & Sophie Shield
  • Chapter 4: Ayaprun Immersion School - Loddie Ayaprun Jones
  • Chapter 5: Analysis of the Yup'ik Immersion Program In Bethel - Agatha Panigkaq John-Shields
  • Chapter 6: Yup'ik Language and Culture: A Description and Analytical View of the 4-6 Yup'ik Thematic Unit - Dora E. Strunk
  • Chapter 7: K-3 Thematic Units and the Alaska Cultural Standards - Nita Yurrliq Rearden
  • Chapter 8: Yup'ik Language and Culture: A Description of the 5th-12th Yup'ik Curriculum and its Revision - Rosalie Lincoln
  • Chapter 9: Yup'ik Discipline Practices Inerquutet and Alerquutet To Implement Into Yup'ik Schools - Theresa Arevgaq John
  • Chapter 10: Recommendations for Yup'ik Curriculum at Lower Kuskokwim School District - Sally Casey


email the editor, D. Norris-Tull

 
 

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Last modified August 18, 2006