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Sealaska Heritage Institute Releases Curriculum on Alaska Native History, Land Claims


Materials to help fill void in Alaska Native studies

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has produced a three-volume set of materials to teach Alaska Native history and to help address a need for curriculum on Native studies.

The curriculum, developed for grades six to eight, examines Alaska Native history from the Native worldview of creation through modern times and includes an extensive exploration of the landmark Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).

It’s critical for students, the public and policy makers to understand Alaska Native history and ANCSA, which was passed by Congress in 1971, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“During the last 40 years, it’s had a profound effect on Alaska and Alaska Natives, both politically, economically and even socially,” Worl said.

The grade six materials cover topics such as human migration, Alaska Native groups, traditional beliefs, ceremonies, clans and moieties and traditional shelters. Grade seven begins with first contact then delves into topics such as the Treaty of Cession, use of physical force against Native people by the U.S. military, land rights and the Indian rights movement. The materials for grade eight focus on the historic Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which was a completely different model for settling land claims than the reservation model adopted in the Lower 48, said Worl, noting ANCSA set aside almost 10 percent of Alaska lands, compensated Alaska Natives nearly $1 billion for giving up aboriginal title to the remainder of Alaska, established 12 regional corporations and more than 200 village corporations.

“It’s important that we have the opportunity to see ‘What is this creature? What is the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act?’ You can’t miss it on the landscape of Alaska,” she said.

In addition to teaching Alaska Native history, the materials are designed to teach vocabulary words. The curriculum is based on Alaska performance standards and was developed by Jim MacDiarmid, Ryan Hamilton, and Joshua Ream with input from Native language specialists. The project was funded through a multi-year, $1,690,100 federal grant from the Alaska Native Education Program.

SHI plans to mail copies of the materials to school districts in Southeast Alaska. The curriculum also is available online at www.sealaskaheritage.org. Other units on math, science and Native languages will also be available later this year.

SHI also is working on a separate research project that examines how ANCSA affected the social and political landscape for Native people and Alaska. That study, spearheaded by Dr. Thomas Thornton of Oxford and Worl, who holds a Ph.D. in anthropology, is due out next year.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

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