I found this article to be rather interesting. I am currently teaching in the rural village of Minto and have definitely run into circumstances that skirt the boundaries of what the article was discussing. Here in Minto we do not avoid discussing the topic of cultural assimilation in our classes. We don’t pretend that Alaska was never an indigenous area full of subsistence living. In our Alaska History course we cover all aspects of the history of Alaska, from the geographical history, to the history of the native people, and the entrance of Russians and Americans into the territory. We discuss the impact that both the Russians and the Americans had upon the native culture here, and we highlight the importance of culture and how much of it was lost during the initial years of Alaska’s exploitation.
One of the ways in which we tread softly and respect the culture out here is by assimilating ourselves into the community. Taking steps to make yourself seen in the community is vital to success out here. I have attended two potlatch events out here thus far and I intend to attend more of these when they come up. They are great opportunities to talk with the elders. Many of the elders out here are well aware of the importance of a good education and are very supportive of our efforts in the school house. They understand that the world we live in today is very different from that of their grandparents. From what I have observed thus far, many of the adults and elders simply want what is best for their children. It is a great privilege for me to be able to teach their children and I definitely take steps to ensure that what I teach the students is culturally relevant to them. I try to find local history and texts to draw upon when ever possible to further their own involvement with the material. My goal with these students is to help them to enjoy the activities of reading and writing so that they can communicate effectively wherever they go in life. I want the natives here to be able to preserve their heritage and their culture. In order for this to happen though, the children here must learn how to preserve that culture. Literature is one of the greatest methods of preservation known to man kind. It is for this reason that I stress the importance of being able to read and write effectively. I would definitely welcome new changes to the education system in Alaska. It would be wonderful to have a curriculum for Alaska history that was designed by the elders of the Native Alaskans. As much as we try to stress the values of the natives here in Minto, the truth is that the students know little of their own culture. I find this to be very tragic. Any efforts to revive this culture are wonderful and have my full support.
There are definitely a lot of fears and stigmas associated with a Caucasian individual teaching in a rural community. I do not let race or ethnicity stand in the way of my place out here, and from what I have seen so far, the community does not let those elements stand in the way either. We all work towards the betterment of the children out here and we do our best to support them and guide them as they transition into adulthood.