Indigenizing education with University of Alaska representatives and education leaders

Several representatives from the University of Alaska system and educational leaders spoke in a panel on Indigenizing education.
Published: Apr. 1, 2023 at 6:41 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Several representatives from the University of Alaska system and educational leaders spoke on a panel about Indigenizing education throughout Alaska on Friday at the Arctic Encounter Symposium.

Discussions centered on how Indigenous perspectives can be implemented in education and what the benefits would be for students.

“Our education systems really need to take into account how we understand the world and the knowledge that we have that’s oftentimes thousands of years deep,” Vice Chancellor of University of Alaska Fairbanks Dr. Charlene Stern said.

Educator and co-chair of Gwich’in Council International Edward Alexander also spoke on how important it is to bring cultural values into the education system.

“They should have a great feeling of wellbeing as they become educated, as they’re learning more and more about their own culture, histories, ways of being and have self-determination,” Alexander said.

Alexander also mentioned the issue he sees with schools being the largest employer in many communities around Alaska and how that should be changed.

“That shouldn’t be so. It should be a generator for other kinds of economic activity. There should be thriving communities all over Alaska,” Alexander said.

Dr. Michele Yatchmeneff from the University of Alaska Anchorage spoke on the Alaska Native Science and Engineering program, which is free for those within the program.

“Now students starting in that program at eighth grade can actually get their high school diploma and their bachelor’s in five years,” Yatchmeneff said.

Stern gave more of an idea as to how the colleges with the University of Alaska system are providing more opportunities for Indigenous learning.

“We have degrees in Alaska Native studies, rural development, Indigenous studies, tribal governance, rural human services. We offer a broad range of indigenous relevant programs,” Stern said.

In 2025, UAF plans to begin construction on the Troth Yeddha’ Indigenous Studies Center which is to house Indigenous Studies programs.

“It’s not about the facility for us. It’s about what is the facility going to help us do to maximize our impact. And that is working with students. That’s revitalizing our languages. That’s renormalizing our cultures within academic setting,” Stern said.

Stern said that the center is currently in its fundraising stage and has gathered $5 million out of its $40 million goal so far.