Welcome! My name is Katya Wassillie and I live in the village of White Mountain, Alaska on the Seward Peninsula. I am Iñupiaq but was raised within the Yup’ik culture of Pilot Station, Alaska. Education has always been a priority in my life, both in terms of knowing and understanding the values, practices, and traditions of my culture, and in my experiences in the formal education systems of contemporary U.S. society. However, the fact that these two systems of education must be described as being separate from one another speaks to a deep-rooted issue that continues to create discord in the experiences of many indigenous students in both aspects of their education.
During my undergraduate years I became aware of how little I had learned in high school about subject matter that all Alaska Native students should be taught through the formal education system. What I and others were missing was information essential to becoming effective participants in institutions and processes that impact the ability of Alaska Native peoples to exercise their rights and sovereignty, and to continue cultural traditions and practices. In short, Alaska Native students are missing the piece in their high school civics and government education most relevant to themselves and most immediately impacting their lives.
With these issues in mind I entered the Rural Development master’s degree program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the fall of 2013 with the idea of developing a high school curriculum on Alaska Native Civics and Government. Through discussions with my M.A. committee, this project evolved to also include the production of educational videos to help teach the curriculum content, a database of resources with information on relevant subject matter, and a website to make the finished products easily accessible for educators, students, and the general public. This website and its contents represent the culmination of these efforts, and are freely available for public use.
While this is a small step toward bridging the divide between the formal education system and Alaska Native societies, I feel that it is an important one. I am hopeful that the contents of this website can be used to bring relevancy to the classroom for Alaska Native students, and awareness among the younger generation of Alaska Natives about their unique challenges and opportunities. Most of all I am hopeful that this, and other efforts like it, is only the beginning of the change we can expect to see in Alaska’s education system toward one that is truly inclusive of the cultural values, practices, priorities, and needs of its students. Quyana!