Leaders look at how to get Native culture into schools

Web site for cultural programs among the ideas discussed

Posted: Friday, January 21, 2005

Juneau needs a Web site that lists cultural events and provides information about cultural programs, says Victoria Johnson, an advocate for Native programs in the schools.

Johnson's suggestion was the most concrete idea to emerge from a discussion Thursday about sharing information to enhance Native cultural knowledge in the schools.

There are many good Native-oriented education programs in Juneau, ranging from Indian studies to indigenous teacher training, said Ishmael Hope, outreach director at Perseverance Theatre. He organized the informal meeting at the downtown library. About 15 people attended.

But the cultural efforts will be stronger and more consistent if participants know what other programs are doing, he said.

"There are dozens of teachers who want culture in the classroom," Hope said after Johnson suggested a central Web site. "It's a tragedy they don't know where to go."

There are more than dozens of teachers who'd like to incorporate Native culture in the classroom, but they face the constraints of time and funding, said Gretchen Kriegmont. She teaches in the college-preparatory Early Scholars program for Natives at Juneau-Douglas High School.

At the meeting, participants shared the sort of information that isn't widely known, even to people involved in Native culture events.

Students in the Early Scholars program will become mentors to elementary school- children, Johnson said, because students need to become interested in college before they get to high school.

Sealaska Heritage Institute holds a federal grant to develop culturally relevant curricula in English, math and history for ninth- and 10th-graders.

The challenge is how to tie in with the Juneau School District, which will pilot the curricula, said Dionne Cadiente- Laiti of Sealaska Heritage Institute. The institute would welcome a partner in a summer culture camp at which the curricula will be field-tested, she said.

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.

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