ANUAH Discussion Forum

Leading By Example, in the 21st Century...

Read your copy of Alaska Native Cultures and Issues.

Respond to the following 3 questions:

  • Which themes were highlighted in the Migrations lecture?
  • Which articles surprised you and why?
  • Finally, how might you utilize this information in the classroom?

(Here is an Interactive Recording of this webinar for those who missed it, or want to review)

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Which Themes Were Highlighted in the Migrations Lecture?

It is amazing to learn that Alaska is almost one-fifth as large as the rest of the United States. It is a vast land of natural wonders, magnificent beauty, and extraordinary wilderness. America's largest state holds the tallest mountains and temperate rain forest in North America, along with the world's largest bears, moose, and salmon. With its three million lakes and wild rivers, stunning parks and wildlife refuges Alaska is unlike any place on Earth. It is also amazing to see different groups come across and survive harsh temperatures and survive. I am so proud to have been born and raised in such an amazing state.

                                                      Which Articles Surprised You and Why?

I have known for sometime now that climate change is affecting Alaska's Native communities. I met a couple a year ago who told me they saw a polar bear drown because the polar ice caps they rely on from one area of land to another had melted. Although polar bears are strong swimmers the distance was too great. The article points out that Alaska and its people are at "ground zero." I just never realized how bad things are getting. With water levels changing and shorelines being destroyed, I just hope policy-makers and an act of God can protect the people, animals, water, and land of this great state.

When I visit other states like New Mexico, I often go to casinos on reservations. I often wondered why Alaska has no casinos in the state. I know a lot of Alaskans  who like to play bingo...why not have a few casinos on reservations in our state? 

 I now know why there are no casinos in the state. All native corporations own their own lands outright; unlike reservation lands in the lower 48 states. Also, Native run casinos can only operate in states that allow gambling. Alaska does not permit gambling except for limited gaming. 

A number of people are against gambling because they say it damages families and fuels other addictions, but I agree with those who say gambling can generate income for tribal welfare, scholarships, and homes. 

 While reading the article on the dropout rate of Alaska natives, I think the problem is we need to tailor our teaching methods to their style of learning. WE need to keep their culture in mind.I have read many articles about Alaska Natives dropping out of  high school and college. If I had to hear lecture after lecture I would probably drop out too. We need to incorporate more hands-on and using visuals when teaching a group who comes from a different culture. I see a culture clash when they "walk into another world." Not only are they dropping out of school, many are committing suicide.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Alaska Native Cultures and Issues. I learned a lot about their histories, cultures, and important issues. The book was well written.

                                              How Might I Utilize This Information in the Classroom

I have always wanted to have a better understanding of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. This book has answered many of those questions. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act brought up many questions about Alaska's land. I know that in 1980, Congress passed a law called Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). This acts sets aside more of Alaska's land for national parks, preserves, and wildlife refuges. I want to get my students to understand that Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in the world and that we need to learn how to take care of the land. We need to use our natural resources wisely and plan carefully to ensure we can keep our land safe and animals alive. We need to protect and keep our first Alaskans and their culture alive.

You touched upon extremely important issues--climate change, economic globalization, land claims and ownership, Native determination, education, depression.  I hope that upcoming sessions will continue to serve your work in the classroom...

I appreciate your comment on the astonishingly high drop out rate of Alaska Natives. Not only is the Western model of "delivery" out of sync with indigenous ways of educating and learning, Alaska Native youth rarely see themselves in the curriculum. Alaska Native champions of social justice and Native rights are rarely if ever mentioned yet every child is educated in the great deeds of Euro-Americans with whom they share very little in common.

*Which themes were highlighted in the Migrations lecture?

Even though I have lived in Alaska most of my life I was once again reminded of how many amazing resources and diverse biomes we have in Alaska and how through the centuries people that have survived and adapted to what many would deem too harsh of an environment to live in.   Diverse cultures have lived off of the land in a variety of ways to survive and thrive through the ages.  The lecture furthered my knowledge of how people migrated to the various parts of Alaska and how each of the native groups have similar relationships between the land and the resources.

*What articles surprised you and why?

Although there wasn't any articles that really surprised me, I appreciated the debate and insight that different Native leaders shared.  The challenge of protecting culture, land and resources of the Alaskan people is not an easy task.  I liked what Paul Ongtooguk said about this challenge on p. 41 "Those involved in Native issues wrestle with the huge challenge of how to help lift the economic boats of the Alaska's Native peoples while simultaneously protecting cultures, land and waters of our peoples."    I think ANCSA was important because it has helped protect both the land and the use of its resources for the Alaskan Natives and their descendants.  As someone who has lived in a small bush village, I am only too familiar with the economic challenges that many people face.  The book also mentioned the many social issues such as suicide and alcoholism that are widespread and affect many rural communities.  Perhaps the biggest challenge lies in how communities will work together to protect the integrity of the traditional ways of their ancestors while adopting certain "western" values and lifestyles.

* How will I use this information in my classroom?

I am a 3rd grade teacher, so all year long we learn about the land and people of Alaska.  I will use many of the resources and information that is shared to enrich my instruction with my students.  I am excited to gain a better knowledge about the specific Native groups and how they have survived in our "Great Land" over the centuries.

 

It's great that the specific article in the book along with the lecture inspired you about how vast and varied Alaska's land and people are, but it sounds like you already have an important tool--life experience.  Being able to convey to your students what life is like in rural Alaska can serve as a bridge, especially if you're teaching in a more urban center.  I spent quite a bit of time in Bristol Bay and it seems like in just about every UAA class I teach, I bring up a story or anecdote from that experience...

I am a second grade teacher and we definitely talk about the people of Alaska as well in our Social Studies curriculum. While we do not delve as deep into native cultures as the third grade curriculum does, we do discuss the native people who where in the Anchorage region long before the Russians and Captain Cook sailed up the Inlet. I am defiantly excited as well to share this new knowledge with my students as well.

  • Which themes were highlighted in the Migrations lecture?

The themes highlighted in the lecture included a discussion on Alaska’s predominant ecoregions; how the diverse landscapes of Alaska were formed (plate tectonics); human migration to Alaska via Beringia, their adaptation to the environment and its impact on their culture; and the impact of Alaska’s physical diversity on its people today.

 

  • Which articles surprised you and why?

I appreciated the articles pertaining to Alaska Native education. I was not surprised by the article “How are traditional Alaska Native ways of educating young people different from non-Native educational practices?”, except to says that I do not believe it to be an practice unique to Native Americans. If my families survival depended on its expertise with their environment, it would immediately become the dominant theme, if not sole purpose, of education.

 

This article brings out how children learn best. Far from being seated in rows listening to a teacher expert, children, learn best as they actively participate and engage the task along side the practical and purposeful real-time example of their teachers (parents, tribal leaders, older siblings).

 

What was new to me also came from this section, but focused on Healthcare. I admit, having family who are native, I have felt some frustration with their claiming they need transportation and house for a medical appointment in Anchorage, where they also receive per diem, only to take advantage of the incredible and impressive machine that is Native Health care in Alaska. This is frustrating because there have been times when I have needed to access medical care for my son and the hospital has been so overwhelmed with minor issues that we have spent up to 18 hours in a bed in the emergency room. What I had not previously known or considered was the full explanation for the provision of these services. The article “Do Native people get ‘free’ medical care” shed some light on this topic for me. The idea of it being “pre-paid” is new. I has also never seen in writing, the acceptance of responsibility for the contributions made by the country to the severity of Native American health. At some point, I hope our nation comes to a point where individuals can share in the accountability for their lifestyle decisions that contribute to their physical health.  At present, it would be a hard sell to disconnect the current heath challenges from a history of disenfranchisement and policies to eradicate, or at least marginalize, Alaska Native cultures.

 

  • Finally, how might you utilize this information in the classroom?

At the elementary level, I would look to take advantage of the physical geography material from the webinar. I was fascinated to learn about Beringia and I think that world and what scientists believe it to be would be a definite hook for students. Comparing the different Alaska Native cultures in relation to their particular geographic location would also be fascinating as students look to create a picture of the day in the life of a given tribe in relation to others from different parts of the state. The investigation could further expand to include the Steppe peoples of Russia and Asia as well as the First Peoples of Canada.

There is a ton of new material and research coming out of UAF particularly right now.  With climate change impacting Alaska, scientists are connected the present with a former Beringian landscape.  It's very relevant and germane to students of all ages!

Thanks, Katherine! I will be on the look out!

Which themes were highlighted in the Migrations lecture?
The idea that physical geography shapes history is one that I have been drilling into my students heads since taking Dr. Van Dommelen’s Historical Geography (I believe this to be the class title, although I attended this class 8-10 years ago..). I remember reading about the Norse people and having the idea that truly, communities develop based on their geographic surroundings being an almost enlightening experience.

Within this text, there are numerous connections between Katie’s lecture, highlighting the connection between environment and native cultures. Within the section on Identity, Language, and Culture, the text focuses on the basic understanding that native cultures did not develop in spite of their environmental surroundings but due to them. On the map on page 3 (which we use in Ak Studies), you can see the physical geographic boundaries of varying native groups, in particular the Aleut or the Inupiaq.

Under the section Subsistence and Relationship to Land, Waters, and Wildlife, it is clearly written “Land and water, combined with sunlight, are the source of all things used by all people on the planet to survive and thrive. Indigenous cultures are, perhaps, more highly aware of their importance than many other modern societies because they have lived directly from the land, water, and wildlife for tens of thousands of years, rather than engaging in agricultural or industrial economies.” (pg. 33)

Which articles surprised you and why?
Paul Ongtooguk’s article on Native corporations and extracting natural resources was enlightening to say the least. My family happens to be shareholders of a village corporation, we do sometimes have to answer basic questions like “Why aren’t the corporations doing more for native people?” Or “These Native corporations should step up and help with the homeless population/problem!” Most Alaskans do not understand the basics of ANCSA, not every Alaska native is a shareholder and these corporations do/should turn a profit. I found Paul’s analysis of the amount of land that was granted to conservationist versus the native peoples of Alaska eye opening. I have always heard that some have been or are unhappy with the ANCSA settlement but never understood fully why? The chance to be apart of something revolutionary (corporations that benefit the PEOPLE!) seemed like an amazing opportunity. The whole picture painted by Mr. Ongtooguk’s article, 44 million acres verses what would eventually become 100 million acres under ANILCA illustrates a very understanding picture of the disappointed few.
Mr. Ongtooguk also touched on the idea of having in-state leadership development of potential talent for employment within the corporations. This brought about some thoughts on the historical management within these corporations. If you have had a population that has been economically and educationally discriminated against (Alaska Natives), the level of in-state, proficient talent from the Alaskan native population would not necessarily be abundantly available. Who these corporations hired at first, from outside of Alaska, may not have been very beneficial to the corporations, due to simple ignorance of traditional native customs and the overall direction of the corporation. I can understand how many corporations trusted, for better or worse, outside talent to manage these businesses. Even my family's corporation, today, has a President that resides in Seattle!?!

Other articles of interest were from the tribal government section. Within my classroom I use “We the People of Alaska” curriculum from the Institute of the North. The sections on government and citizenship are always the most difficult for my students to grasp. The article on reservations in Alaska was wonderful just for my own knowledge. I was surprised that the answer to the question of casinos in Alaska was not truly settled until a 1996 Supreme Court ruling defining “Indian Country”. The Venetie decision stated that native owned lands here in Alaska do not fit the definition of “Indian Country” and thus are ineligible for casino development. I always get one or two students that ask about casinos here in Alaska, this was a surprisingly succinct and straight to the point answer.

Finally, how might you utilize this information in the classroom?
Students within ASD are to have had some sort of Alaska history before they reach me for 9th grade. I have found that their knowledge truly varies, some students have had in depth instruction of native cultures and Russian interactions but more often than not, they are very knowledgeable on the plants and animals found in Alaska. Occasionally, I will receive students who have prior knowledge on the sale of Alaska, but only occasionally.Therefore, it is up to me to try and fit all this great, huge, rich history into ONE semester of high school.

This particular book is great for those teachers that have never been to Alaska and are just stepping off the plane to their new bush job. It also however, is written in a format and level that is easily accessible to 9th grade students. Within my classroom we study human migration, native cultures, colonization, ANCSA, etc. We study all of this content without an actual textbook. ASD does have document readers for student use, but they can be confusing and frustrating for students to navigate (not to mention some content is not out of date). I would love to have a class set of this book to use as a research tool for my students as we start our “We the People of Alaska” unit. The issues of tribal governments/sovereignty are always the most intellectually taxing concepts for my students. The question and answer format of this book will be extremely helpful to my students when it comes to the concepts like tribal governments and sovereignty.

Such issues are complex for everyone.  Wonderful to see the need to start the discussion (and dissection) of such issues in the classroom.  Another great book that tackles complex issues while remaining accessible is Peter Metchalf's A Dangerous Idea: The ANB and the Struggle for Indigenous Rights.  I used it heavily for developing my presentation of session #3....

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