In Tlingit society, the uncle is the one responsible for providing education and discipline to his maternal nephews.
Juneau Tlingits are meeting that goal with a new state-of-the-art computer lab at the Vocational Training & Resource Center on Hospital Drive. A huge totem pole of an uncle and his two nephews dominates the center of the facility as a symbol of its mission.
Tlingit-Haida Central Council runs the vocational resource center, which is available to Natives and non-Natives.
Plans for the new lab began earlier this year when computer skills instructor Kevin Araki wanted to upgrade the computer lab, center Director Archie Cavanaugh said.
About three months ago, 16 new computers - costing $2,000 to $2,500 apiece - were installed. The computers come with new monitors and modern accessories. Five new stations were added.
Not only do the new computers allow current software to run faster, but they also will allow future software to run quickly, Cavanaugh said.
When the center opened in September 1998, its computer class was one of the most popular, Cavanaugh said. The new lab builds upon that demand, he said.
"It was our main breadwinner and it's become so successful," he said.
On Thursday, Adrian Rusch of Axis Mapping & Graphic Design in Juneau was teaching students how to make maps on their computers.
"This is the best (lab) by far I've had the pleasure to work with," Rusch said.
Environmental specialists from tribal organizations in Southeast were learning how to make computer maps of Alaska, which included toxic waste sites and subsistence harvesting areas, Rusch said. He provided databases, including a CD-Rom of information about the Tongass National Forest.
Knowledge about the status of subsistence harvesting gives Natives a chance to make educated decisions without relying on the government's data.
"To the tribal communities, it's very empowering," Rusch said.
The central council is hosting the map training, said student Kerri Sheakley, an environmental specialist with the council. The organization received an $87,000 federal grant to offer the training.
Tara Sidor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org