UAS gatekeepers are culturally insensitive

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Kudos to Hans Chester (My Turn, Sept. 21) for bringing up the cultural conflict issues at the University of Alaska Southeast. It isn't old news that some gatekeepers at UAS are not culturally sensitive.

Repeatedly, I have had Native students approach me for suggestions and mentoring through these problems. Another absurdity Native students face is inflexible instructors who penalize students for missing a few days of class because they attended a Tlingit memorial party (Koo.éex'), which are held throughout Southeast Alaska in the fall. It is akin to telling a student they are not allowed to attend a funeral. Native students are told they must make sacrifices and choose between college and their cultural activities.

Attending The World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education in New Zealand is a unique educational opportunity. Fortunately I am a University of Alaska Fairbanks student, and I am able to attend WIPCE because my instructors enthusiastically approved. I suggest that the gatekeepers at UAS reconsider this opportunity for students. Saying yes to students is more productive than saying no. A yes answer would mean creative rearranging but nothing impossible.

The problem with UAS is that they employ culturally insensitive gatekeepers, and as a result conflicts continue to arise during communication between a person with a western world view and someone from an indigenous world view. By not supporting the UAS dance group's fundraising efforts, UAS and the community of Juneau will be missing out on the opportunity for cultural exchange. It doesn't make any sense.

Vivian Martindale


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