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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 10, 2002 - Issue 67


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Educators Stress Traditional Knowledge

by Marmian L. Grimes Staff Writer Fairbanks Daily News Miner

Venetie elder Maggie Roberts summed up the essence of education in just a a few words.

"What we remember, we have to pass it on," she said Wednesday, speaking to a gathering of more than 30 educators during the opening day of the Association of Interior Native Educators annual conference at the Chena River Convention Center.

Roberts, along with four other elders, joined teachers during an afternoon presentation on the June Elder's Academy, held in a camp near Arctic Village. The academy brought Native teachers into the camp for a weeklong immersion in traditional Native life, guided by the elders.

They made poles and caught fish to eat.

They ate caribou and prepared the skin, making scrapers and other tools from the animal's bones.

They used the bones and hooves to make children's games and toys.

As a child, Roberts said she learned by watching everything her parents and grandparents did and listening to what they said.

"These are the stories we still remember and are sharing with you," she said. "We are just so happy that we are passing out what we know."

This is the ninth year of the AINE conference, according to board chairwoman Carol Lee Gho, a local math teacher.

"It is to share ideas, share curriculum, share experience with elders," she said. "It is a time for sharing."

The result of the week spent at the camp is at least eight new curriculum units being developed by the teachers who attended, Gho said.

Teachers will spend much of the remaining part of the conference in workshops on the curriculum units developed from the activities during the academy.

Such lessons can teach students academic subjects in a familiar context, she said, as well as deliver cultural information.

Both teachers and elders at the conference spoke highly of their experiences at the academy.

"Going up there to Arctic Village was an awesome experience for me personally," said teacher Kathleen Meckel.

On a "field trip" during that week, teachers hiked out to the site of caribou corrals, which were once used to funnel the animals into hunters' snares. Meckel described the fence, with its marks from saws, axes and some more primitive tools, as a visual reflection of the passage of time and the changes that came with it

"As we walked along we could see where the logs came together and willow roots were used to bind these together," Meckel said.

Several of the elders noted that the diversity of the Athabascan people offers a lesson in the value of approaching one topic from many different perspectives.

"We spent a lot of time together and exchanged ideas on traditional things," elder Trimble Gilbert said of the academy. "It was a very interesting place to be."

Kenneth Frank echoed his comments.

"Like Trimble said, all of us are different cultures, different beliefs," Frank said.

For example, he said, people at the camp used many different types of bait for fishing, but each found some success.

"That's what education is," he said.

Arctic Village, AK Map
Maps by Travel

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