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Spheres of Wellbeing 



Alutiiq Storywork Curriculum

[Pending Project Development]

To prepare the Alutiiq community to collaboratively design Alutiiq stories curriculum for use within our Kodiak Island schools as a means of decolonizing our education system and helping revitalize Alutiiq oral traditions. Despite transmission barriers that have blocked Alutiiq storytelling in the past, we can establish understanding between teachers and community members on the value of traditional storytelling. To accomplish having our young people exposed to traditional stories, we will next need to produce story curriculum for application back into educational settings.

Thankfully there are Indigenous story curricula available to model after as we look at integrating traditional stories across the curriculum, in different contexts and among different age groups (Archibald, 2008). There are also mainstream storytelling curriculum units available to model after (PBS, n.d.). For our region, we currently have a companion guide for studying about the Alutiiq people and general understanding about storytelling for elementary and middle school teachers (Manosa, 2005), a unit that incorporates Alutiiq mythology into the Kodiak High School World Literature course by Alutiiq teacher Tonya Heitman (2010), as well as a number of community-based curriculum resources developed over the past decade (Geophysical Institute, n.d.; NEAR, 2002; Drabek, 2009a; NVA, 2009a, 2009b; Steffian & Counceller, 2009, 2012; What has been missing is a comprehensive resource and guide to our traditional stories. This dissertation is the starting point for what is potential for building an anthology that is accessible for teachers and students, yet encourages the active practice of oral traditions.

Modeling after similar resources, this potential Alutiiq stories curriculum will demonstrate how to reintegrate Indigenous local literature into schools, as well as serve as a resource for teaching across the curriculum within Kodiak’s schools. Such a curriculum must simultaneously meet Alaska State Language Arts and History Standards (ADEED, 2006) and the Alaska Culturally Responsive Standards (Assembly of Alaska Native Educators, 1998, 2000, 2001a, 2001b, 2003). It should also answer the questions: 1) How can Alutiiq stories and traditional knowledge be integrated into schools across the curriculum to motivate and positively impact student identity and wellbeing? 2) How can traditional stories be used to engage and inspire students to love storytelling and writing? Possible lessons using literature to teach across the curriculum may include:

Supporting this next step, Elders and Native educators, along with Kodiak Island Borough School District staff can help teachers meet real classroom and community needs, but do so through our traditional knowledge, practices and story. As we pilot storytelling curriculum within our schools, community events, homes and camps we need to also be mindful to video record the storytelling sessions and related activities for posterity and for access by others not able to participate, so that the revitalization work we begin today has further opportunity to be sustainable.

In any Indigenous story use and distribution effort, it is important to be mindful of cultural intellectual property rights and to the community vs. individual ownership of stories. For example, this dissertation focuses on stories that are already publicly available in print or in audio recordings, in an effort to explore the background of where they were collected and how they are true to community values or not. However, any plans to retell these stories in a revised format should be presented to the community and Elders for their approval of how the stories appear and will be used. For some community members individual or family ownership of life stories should be respected in acknowledgments and in permission to reprint such stories. Some educators in the past have been warned not to use or teach traditional stories if they do not share an Alutiiq cultural background. However, given the endangered nature of our stories and language, it is important to recommend ways that teachers of any background can engage their students in learning traditional Alutiiq stories. By developing story curricula collaboratively, the community should recommend appropriate usage of the stories and hopefully empower local Kodiak teachers to integrate stories across the curriculum.

Excerpt from Alisha Drabek, Ph.D. (2012) dissertation: 

Liitukut Sugpiat'stun (We are Learning How to be Real People):
Exploring Kodiak Alutiiq Literature through Core Values