Listening with your ears and your eyes and your heart

I think that sometimes we listen better when we have to struggle to understand. I know that for myself, one of the reasons I am drawn to cross-cultural life is that combination of sharing a perspective, but coming at it from very different traditions, and having to focus intently on creating shared understanding and meaning. I had an especially powerful experience in this kind of communicating at the Ethnography and Education Symposium in El Paso.

As mentioned previously (see here for our first post and here for Professor Pat’s post on her experiences) In September I went with professors Diane Benson and Pat Sekaquaptewa to the 14th Inter-American Symposium on Ethnography and Education in El Paso, Texas and across the border in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. One of the unique aspects of this symposium is that it is conducted in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Spanish was probably the most common language at the conference; most presentations were in Spanish and the majority of participants spoke Spanish and/or were bilingual or trilingual. While I am fairly proficient in English (we hope!), I know nothing of Spanish or Portuguese so depended on the conference organizers and the kindness of fellow participants to translate.

This worked out wonderfully! In fact, I felt that I sometimes got more out of the Spanish and Portuguese presentations than the English presentations because I was focused so intently on understanding. I found that I could understand some of the Spanish and Portuguese, especially if they were talking about familiar issues and ideas, which they usually were. I could understand the written word a little better and many presenters included the text of their presentations in their PowerPoint slides. I know text heavy PowerPoints are not recommended, but in this case, they were incredibly helpful. Finally, conference organizers and fellow participants were willing to whisper translations to me and other non-Spanish or Portuguese-speaking people, providing a triangulated learning environment where I listened to the spoken word, read the written word, and listened to the translation simultaneously. It was an intensely invigorating learning environment. Indeed, throughout the symposium, I reflected that, while people didn’t speak my language, they spoke my language: la pedagogía crítica, la educacíon holística, descolonizar, epistemología, la autobiographfía critíca, la indignación, el amor…this is the language of my heart.

One of the unexpected themes of the conference was the role of “love’ in education and crossing and living in border spaces. In her keynote entitled “Lengua, aprendizaje y amor: Lo que los jóvenes transculturales, transnacionales y translingüísticos nos pueden enseñar‘ (Language, learning and love: what young transcultural, transnational and translinguistics can teach us), Professor Marjorie Faulstich Orellana discussed her work with children and the role of love as a motivator for learning. She looked at the ways borders, physical, cultural, and linguistic, are built and patrolled and how such boundaries interfere with our ability to enter relationships with openness and to gain understanding. She spoke of the artificial divide between the heart and the mind and the ways academia and other institutions privilege the brain over our hearts and our bodies. She spoke of bringing “love,’ that foundation of human connection, back into what we do and how we do it.

Her discussion ignited a conversation about power, positionality, and the appropriation of discourse over the remainder of the symposium. How can and why should people outside of the power structure respond with love? How can we open up spaces for love in academic settings and how do we protect people for whom the vulnerability of love is a very real risk to their lives and careers? What can you do when, as in Argentina, the government appropriates the discourse of love and uses it against you?

These questions and more wended their way through the conference and continue even now. Just today, Professor Orellana sent a post conference reflection on her talk and experience and shared blog posts where she continues to explore the concept of love in education. I recommend you check out her posts “Talking about love in a time of vitriole” and   “Why love? Some reflections on splitting and healing.”

As for me, I’ve been thinking about the role of love in the research of my students. How can I help them center love in their research? How can I help them articulate their love in a way that honors their cultures and experiences and yet meets their goals within the academy as well? How can I create a space in the academy for them to take the risks necessary to not just acknowledge their love, but openly ground their research in love? Every semester I hope to make the border spaces in my classes broader; to allow my students to re-contextualize knowledge and build their own path to a decolonized education.   This brings me back to that cross-cultural life, that life on the border where we struggle to create shared understanding and meaning.   That border space we occupy together.

Indigenous Language Vitality and Reclaiming Language by Professor Judith Daxootsu Ramos

“If a language is used by all ages, it is considered safe. If there are no speakers it is extinct.’   (UNESCO Pillars of Language Revitalization)

There are currently many different models of language programs in Alaska, Canada, North America and Internationally. What can we learn from what is already happening in other Indigenous communities? Next semester I am teaching ANS F393  Indigenous/Alaska Native Language and Culture Revitalization (registration information below)). In this class, we will explore issues of language loss and how cultural and language revitalizations is a source of healing and empowerment. We will explore examples of International Language Revitalization experiences and Alaska Native examples and perspectives. We will also explore different programs and methods being used in communities today. It is now up to us as the next generation to ensure our languages remain vital into the next century.

“It is estimated that, if nothing is done, half of the over 6,000 languages spoken today will disappear by the 21st century’ (  Alaska Native communities and Indigenous people world-wide have been working hard to ensure their language is not one of those statistics. When I lived and worked in Canada, I witnessed how First Nation’s people are working to preserve, protect, and maintain their languages. I was lucky enough to travel to New Zealand with Hawaiian elders to observe how Maori people started Kohanga reo’s (“language learning nests’) to revitalize their languages. My own community is working to document our Tlingit language dialect. Recently we have suffered the loss of several fluent elders.

Maintaining a language is hard work; it will require everyone in the community to work together. Language has to be taught and used not only at school, but at business, at home, and in the community. A language is only considered “safe’ if it is used by all ages, from children on up; if everyone is speaking the language; if it is used in everyday places; if it is being used in a modern way via computer, internet; and materials are widely available and incorporated in schools (UNESCO Pillars of Language vitality). Richard Littlebear states in “Some Rare and Radical Ideas for Keeping Indigenous Languages Alive’:

“When the U.S. Government acted to silence our languages, it was acknowledging how our languages empowered and united us when we spoke them. By attempting to silence our languages, the U.S Government was exhibiting real fear of our languages’ (Rayhner el al: 1999).

Indigenous people argued that our languages is a human right and Richard Littlebear states that our “language is the basis of sovereignty’. Alaska Native people have won the right to have election materials translated into Gwich’in and Yupik. And our languages have been officially recognized. We need our languages to continue our ceremonies, rituals, songs and dances.

Spring semester registration for degree seeking students starts November 13, 2017.

ANS 393 Indigenous/Alaska Native Language and Culture Revitalization
T/R 5:10 to 6:40 on campus and by audio-conference for distance students.

  • On campus section: ANS F393 FE1 (37226) class location BRKS 103
  • Distance section: ANS F393 DD4 (37224) by audio conference

Rayhner et al. Revitalizing Indigenous Language. Flagstaff: Northern Arizona University 1999.

Festival of Native Arts: The Power of a Question

In 2013, the Festival worked in collaboration with Maya Salganek, faculty in the UAF Film Department and her students to conduct some interviews of participants and past participants.   Retired UAF faculty member, Terry Tomczak, shared how she was teaching a folk dancing class in the early 1970s and one of her Alaska Native students from an interior village asked, “Why aren’t any of our songs being taught?’   That single question sparked a discussion which eventually led to the Festival of Native Arts.

Festival Fall Fundraiser!

The Festival of Native Arts will be holding their Fall Fundraiser at The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center on Friday, October 13th, 2017 from 6 PM- 9 PM.   This awesome event is planned and organized by students and this year Adrienne Titus is chairing.   Students have scheduled a fun night of fundraising with silent and baked goods auctions and the return of the diinga draw.   If you don’t know what a diinga draw is, you should plan on joining us Friday to find out!   We would love to see everyone come out and support this great event.

A Student Organized and Led Event

The Festival of Native Arts (Festival) provides cultural education and sharing through traditional Indigenous dance, music, and arts.   The Festival, begun around 1973, continues the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ (UAF) student-led tradition of bringing together artists, performers, and performance groups in a celebration of Native cultures.   The Festival of Native Arts currently hosts a three-day celebration of Alaska Native dance, music, and art open to everyone.     The 45th Annual Festival of Native Arts is scheduled to be held on March 1-3, 2018, on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.

2017 Festival of Native Arts Students; University of Alaska Fairbanks photo by JR Ancheta

What many people do not know is that the Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development (DANSRD) is home to the Festival of Native Arts.   In July 2009 the Alaska Native Studies department merged with the Department of Alaska Native Rural Development to form DANSRD.     As a part of the merger, the Festival of Native Arts became a part of the department and the event is now DANSRD’s largest outreach and service event.

Festival has had a student at the helm as a student coordinator for years.   Recently, because the job demands an immense amount of time and energy, two students have split the position.   The positions are currently held by UAF students, Shelby Fisher-Salmon and Caity Tozier. The event is planned and organized through the Festival of Native Arts student club, led by the student coordinators.   The club is where the students meet to plan and divide the tasks that need to happen at the volunteer level. Two of DANSRD’s faculty, Cathy Brooks and Kathleen Meckel, serve as faculty advisors to the Festival of Native Arts student group and also co-teach ANS 251/351 Practicum in Native Cultural Expression where students can receive credit for taking leadership roles in making Festival happen. We watch the students mature and do great things and then graduate on us!   Upon graduation, the process repeats itself with an ever-growing number of UAF alumni having been a part of this historic event.

The event also requires staff support especially surrounding fiscal processes and procedures.   Despite recent staff reduction, DANSRD still offers that support through Office Manager, Sherrie Rahlfs. The Festival is a massive undertaking that requires dedication from the students, staff, and faculty overseeing the Festival.   The planning and logistics now require year-round time.   The students acquire skills and organize everything from stage events to hotel hospitality.   Of course, putting on an event like this costs money.   Festival has a long tradition of grass-roots support and students continue that tradition through various fundraising efforts. We are grateful for the many supporters and sponsors over the years.   Stories have been shared about how students in the early days went door-to-door on campus, collecting change from other students in hopes of raising enough funds for Festival.   Times have changed and now supporters can donate online through the UA Foundation.

A Little Bit of History

When Festival came to DANSRD, staff and students spent time sifting through the document boxes.   Recordings, photos, and several booklets do exist, but unfortunately, a comprehensive history of the Festival has yet to be written.   It is a massive history project full of stories rich for retelling. For example, over the years Festival has been organized a variety of ways.   The earlier celebrations were located in the Wood Center and held over a week with each day highlighting a specific culture.   The current three-day Festival hosts daytime workshops in the Wood Center but evening performances in the Davis Concert Hall with a mix of Indigenous cultures every evening.   Despite the changes, UAF students have been key to making the event happen — even exist. We hope to continue to explore and document this rich history.

Festival 2018!

Performance groups and vendors wanting to apply for the 2018 Festival of Native Arts will be able to do that later this week.   Applications can be found on the Festival of Native Arts Website at


We look forward to seeing everyone at the Fall Fundraiser this Friday and then again March 1-3, 2018!

“Professor S’s Reflections on Her Presentation at the Conference in El Paso, Texas this September” by DANSRD Professor Pat Sekaquaptewa

The title of the conference was the “14th Inter-American Symposium on Ethnographic Research in Education.’  Initially, I was trying to figure out how “ethnography’ or “the study and systematic recording of human cultures,’ primarily through oral histories, mattered in my own home community and what I could take away from this experience to teach Alaska Native students.   However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the experience in my own tribe, the Hopi Tribe in Arizona, was less one of our own people doing oral histories on our own community, and more a long and famous history of outsiders, especially anthropologists, doing traditional anthropological fieldwork in our communities.
The early anthropologist (think 1800’s)  were intrusive and disrespectful, but the later anthropologists and ethnographers, like Mischa Titiev, Peter Whitely, and Justin Richland, have had a beneficial and even symbiotic relationship with Hopi and Tewa families and communities.   As many of you know, I serve as a tribal appellate justice for my tribe.   The Hopi Appellate Courts are often called upon to decide questions of Hopi constitutional and custom law – this has often included referring to the very careful documentation of Mischa Titiev on the Village of Old Oraibi in the 1930’s, in addition to the introduction of traditional expert witnesses testimony from the villages.   Later, Peter Whitely worked with the Village of Bacavi to undertake his own academic research, but he also committed his time to research and write a second book on the history of the village at the request of the village.   Finally, anthropologist and lawyer, Justin Richland, also a dear friend and colleague of mine, sits as a fellow tribal justice on the Hopi Appellate Court, and also assists with the research and funding needs of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office.   Consequently, I have really come to value both the training, skills, and work of my non-Hopi colleagues.   They work with us on our priorities and we get great things done together.
All that said, one of the main threads of the El Paso conference was this idea of “(De)Coloniality.’  This concept comes from the work of Walter Mignolo and is described in his article “Geopolitics of Sensing and Knowing, On (De)Coloniality, Border Thinking, and Epistemic Disobedience.’  In order for me to make sense of the concept of decoloniality, I had to tether it to real life experience, and for me that took the form of judging on the Hopi high court.
Ultimately, applying Mignolo’s definitions to this experience immediately raised troubling possibilities.   First, he defines “decoloniality’ and “border thinking/sensing/doing’ as an assertion that western democracy and socialism are not the only two models to orient our thinking and doing, but the communal is another option.   At first, I am down with this — what is more communal than the Hopi matrilineages and village life.   Then Mignolo defines his “border epistemology.’  He talks about delinking from, in our case capitalism and political economy, and suggests that we go to “the reservoir of the ways of life and modes of thinking that have been disqualified by Christian theology since the Renaissance.’  I think, o.k., can do, the Hopi clans have been doing their own thing for 10,000 years or so, we still live on our aboriginal homelands, and most Hopis when I was a kid were still fluent in Hopi, the ceremonies still go and there is still a strong sense of Hopi worldview, duties and obligations, and values.   I read on.   Then Mignolo says “There are two choices once you delink, you either accept the humiliation of being inferior to those who decided that you are inferior or you assimilate, and to assimilate means that you accepted your inferiority and [that you are] resigned to playing the game that is not yours, but that has been imposed upon you.’  I think whaatt??? … I spent years losing my Hopi accent, getting good grades, struggled through 4 plus years of culture shock and barely passing grades at Stanford, nearly killed myself getting through law school at Berkley, and now he is telling me NOT to assimilate???   What about my entire tribe that adopted the U.S. government’s boilerplate tribal constitution in 1936 and which has set up an elected tribal council with a western style adversarial tribal court system, with its written tribal codes and court opinions?   Not to mention Indian boarding schools.   And I am a tribal judge reinforcing this system – working with the colonizing anthropologists!   Sure, the system may have once been imposed, but now they are our institutions and we are in control of them — we are in the driver’s seat.   Then, I read the Mignolo’s third option — “border thinking.’  And I wonder, is that what we are doing at Hopi border thinking?
To hear my answer, you should attend our re-presentations at DANSRD later this semester — TBD.   My revised presentation title is: “Dialogues (Other’s Research & Judicial Deliberations) & Decoloniality — with a question mark — in the Native Homelands (Others’ Borderlands) & Implications for Teaching Native Students.’  I really hope to see you there!

Expanding Our Horizons: Attending the 14th Inter-American Symposium on Ethnography and Education

Last week we (Professors Jennie Carroll, Diane Benson, and Pat Sekaquaptewa) presented at the 14th Inter-American Symposium on Ethnography and Education in El Paso, Texas and across the border in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. The theme of this year’s symposium was “Crossing Borders: Disciplines, Languages/Cultures, and Spaces/Places.’ The symposium brings together scholars and students from North, Central, and South America and was conducted in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. We presented a panel entitled “Occupying the border: expanding spaces for Indigenous conversations in higher education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.’

The Symposium was amazing! We came back with expanded horizons and new knowledge to share with our colleagues and students. Each of us will be writing an individual post about our experiences and we are going to organize a presentation of our panel for faculty and students at UAF as soon as we recover from the travel to El Paso and back. In the meantime, here are a few photos of us enjoying learning and sharing with students and faculty from across the Americas.

Celebrating after our panel presentation with UTEP students.
On our way onto the UTEP Campus
Symposium organizers.
Enjoying a Mexican dinner with friends.

So what’s all this talk about research anyways? by DANSRD/TM faculty Jessica Black

What comes to mind when you think of research? Surveys? Women and men in safari hats traveling remote parts of the planet, studying the “other’? Researchers staring at people, animals, or any other phenomenon jotting down notes with perplexed expressions? Or do you think of yourself, working alongside your community, brainstorming ideas for positive change? Do you think of creating new approaches and innovative interventions to tackle vexing problems? For example, do you think of cultural practices as possible interventions to expand well-being in your community? There are many approaches to research and research can be a powerful way to create meaningful change in communities. Also, research can be a lot of fun!

Let’s be honest, there was a time I felt that research was boring and actually never gave it much thought. I only wanted a job that would pay me a decent salary to live the life I wanted to live. However this all changed about ten years ago when I returned to school to work towards my PhD and it is there that I realized the value of research, how I might be able to make a meaningful impact as an Indigenous researcher, how fun research can be, and how there are new [at that time] approaches to research that placed communities at the helm of research initiatives and projects. This new paradigm, community-based participatory research (CBPR), encouraged researchers to partner with community members, organizations, and other researchers in an equitable ways, where all partners contributed expertise and shared in decision-making regarding the research (Israel, B.A., Schulz, A.J., Parker, E.A., & Becker, A.B., 1998). Novel idea, right?!? So why did it take us so long to get here?

Historically, much of the research conducted in Indigenous communities was let’s say immoral research and community-based participatory research (CBPR) was not the mode of operating. Overall, there was very much a colonial mentality when it came to researching and helping Indigenous people; outsiders claimed to know what was best for Indigenous people and carried out their research accordingly. A lot of the research that involved Indigenous people was conducted on them and not with them. According to Smith (2012) “research is probably one of the dirtiest words in the Indigenous world’s vocabulary (Smith, 2012)…as European colonizers set the standard for what is “right’, their research findings compared Indigenous societies against European standards and deemed Indigenous societies as backwards’ (Denzin et al., 2008). This colonial legacy of research has left a very bad taste in many Indigenous people and communities’ mouths and we [as researchers] are still clawing our way back from these early memories and impacts.

Research has since come a long way and while the days of conducting bad research are not entirely over they are quickly fading out as newer research paradigms are taking hold and changing the face of research in Indigenous communities. For one, many researchers are returning to their home communities or regions to conduct research initiated or desired by their communities. This has been my experience with research and with every research experience I learn so much; things I could do differently, aspects that worked, and Indigenous methodologies that I had not previously thought of and may use in future projects. So how did I go from not thinking about research to considering myself an Indigenous scholar you might ask? Let me rewind.

My journey towards becoming a researcher started ten years ago. I started a PhD program and while I knew getting a PhD would entail some research I was not aware the breadth and depth that research could cover. During my PhD I was exposed to various courses that covered a variety of approaches and methods one could use when conducting research. For example, one could use qualitative (i.e., primarily exploratory research) or quantitative (i.e., numbers or statistics to quantify a problem) and once the decision was made to conduct qualitative, quantitative, or a mix of both methods (i.e., mixed-methods research) to answer a research question, there were a variety of methods within each larger approach (e.g., quantitative) that I could use to help answer my research question. Confused? Not to worry, after my first year of courses my head was spinning. Qualitative? Quantitative? Mixed-methods? Yet I soon realized that 1) I needed to use methods that could help me answer my research question and 2) I needed to use methods that would be accepted by and have relevancy in the communities I worked with.

Thus, I quickly realized that the questions I wanted to answer for my PhD would best be answered using qualitative methods. I used the methods of semi-structured interviews, observations, and photographs to answer my questions. These methods allowed me to sit down, have a cup of coffee or tea with my participants, and listen to them as they told me stories about their lives. These methods allowed me to travel with my participants out in the boat, observing the way they lived their life, and learn from the knowledge they demonstrated through everyday actions and living. These methods allowed me to conduct research in a respectful and culturally appropriate way. I felt good conducting research. Sometimes I had to ask myself “is this really research?’ because it was so much fun and didn’t align with what I always had imagined research should be.

Conducting research as part of my job has given me meaning and purpose. The research projects I am engaged in align with my values and the values of the communities I work with. For example, one of the projects I am engaged in works alongside Alaska Native communities to identify traditional fish and wildlife management practices as traditionally practiced and will use this information to influence current management practices and decisions. Another research project I work on documents the strengths and resilience that lie within Alaska Native communities with the intent that these strength and resilience factors will help to prevent suicide.

I have come to realize that research is important; it can be conducted in culturally relevant ways, and can positively impact a community if done correctly, that is alongside a community. I have come love research; research inspires me to work harder, so that I can make meaningful change in this world and move forward initiatives that start at the community level. I wake-up each day, looking forward to my job, and what the day will bring, knowing that though my work I am working to change lives for the better and that makes me proud to call myself an Indigenous researcher.

RU WREEDIN N WRIGHTIN ENUFF? A Guest Post by Professor Jenny Bell Jones

WHAAAT? Someone put this c*** on an academic blog … and that someone is an Emeritus Professor …REALLY… POOR…???

OK, now that I have your attention let’s get serious. I am going to “talk story’ about reading and writing and how they are intimately connected as well as why it really matters that we do them both well. If you have ever taken any of my classes you will know I assign a lot of reading. Some of you have complained about the reading assignments; “too long’, “too many’, “too advanced, difficult, complicated etc.’ If you are in my 100 level courses you may think I’m picking on you with the readings but please put these thoughts to rest … I get exactly the same complaints from graduate students about too much reading! And yes, they complain about too much writing as well.

First things first; reading and writing are intimately connected. You will not be able to write well unless you spend time reading the types of documents you hope to write. If you want to become a judge and write legal decisions you will need to read a lot of them. Want to write reports about global warming? Better start reading what is already out there. Interested in obtaining funding for language and culture revitalization? You will need to read about successful projects that have been undertaken and look at the proposals that were submitted. If your dream is to write a historical novel then I really recommend you read some of those before you start on your own.

Reading is not easy for everyone; I am dyslexic and I read very slowly and had to really work hard to improve my speed and comprehension when I started college at 50. After I sobered up back in 1982 I found I had pretty much lost the ability to read so I retaught myself by reading every novel Louis L’Amour ever wrote. Definitely not academic material but it got me going and the repetition was very helpful. Starting with something that was easy gave me confidence to go on to harder stuff. Today I still take a break from more serious reading by picking up a good historical novel every so often and I’ve learned a lot about the world from them in addition to increasing my reading speed.

Writing is hard; if it was easy we would not need to spend years learning how to do it correctly. Notice I used the word “correctly’ … this is very important but a lot of us tend to ignore it. Some of us struggle with the idea that we need to write correctly because we feel that the requirement for “correct’ writing is a colonial imposition that we should not have to comply with. I fought with this as an undergraduate as I confronted the thinking that writing correctly would somehow make me “less Native’ until I really thought it through. Yes, writing came to us from colonization but it is a tool and a very useful one and, like any other tool, it should be used properly. We would never try to load a 30.06 rifle with 30.30 shells nor would we try to use straight gas in the chainsaw (or if we do we will only do it once) so why would we allow ourselves to write sloppily? We don’t misuse the other tools that colonization brought so why would we misuse something as important as writing, the tool that allows us to communicate with people all over the world?

We are not “decolonizing’ by writing poorly; poor writing equals poor communication and it makes the writer look bad whether they come from a colonized population or not. I will spend hours helping students whose writing skills need improvement, and I am very sympathetic to the challenges of learning to write in a language other than ones heritage language, but I have very little time for those who continue to write poorly using the excuse that they are decolonizing by doing so. If we want to convey a positive message about decolonization it helps if our audience can read and understand our work.

We also need to be cautious about “writing the way we talk’ … there is a place for that but usually not in academic writing because if writing the way we talk means writing in a local dialect only a very limited number of readers will understand us. Here is an example: a number of years ago I was sitting in the bus station in Edinburgh, Scotland, waiting for a bus to Aberdeen and struck up a conversation with a mother and young son who were going to Dundee. When the little boy heard I lived in Alaska he looked up at me and asked “Witsit likeby yeurbut’. I understood him because I used to speak a similar dialect but most of you would have had no idea that he was asking “What is it like where you live?’ Unless we are actually writing about the use of local dialects and want to provide an example we should translate before we write so that we can reach the widest possible group of readers.

If we want to write using a heritage language then we need to provide a good translation unless we want to limit our audience to other readers of that language. Would it be nice if our readers took the time to learn our language? Yes, of course it would, but the reality is that most people will not, so we need to consider the goal of our writing. If we want to reach a wide audience then using a language that a large number of people can read and understand is very helpful. People today are probably not disrespecting us or our language by not learning it; we all only have so much time to learn new things and spending a lot of time to learn a language that we may never actually use is not an option for most of us.

Is there ever a time when it is OK to write sloppily? In the humble opinion of an old lady the answer is no. Like it or not, others form opinions about us based on what they see us do. Hunters who do not care for their catch properly are generally not well regarded when others see spoiled meat. Fish and meat allowed to go to waste show disrespect for the animals that gave themselves. Misuse of tools and transportation equipment indicates carelessness. Sloppy writing suggests that we don’t care very much how we are perceived by others and that we have not taken time to do it right. We also run the risk of having our writing misunderstood by the recipient. We are disrespecting ourselves and our readers when we do not take the time to make corrections even when doing so is very easy.
What to do to improve? Yes, you knew they were coming … the bullet points …

Practice reading. Don’t just read the required readings, add others by using suggested reading lists and reference lists. Read something several times if you need to.
Don’t limit your reading choices to authors you know you will agree with. Make a point of including works by writers with different backgrounds and opposing points of view.
Set aside time to read without distraction. Forget all that nonsense about multi-tasking. Turn off the devices and the TV.
Read for fun. At least once every month or two read something that has nothing to do with school requirements.
Dump the excuses and make the effort. Reading is a visual skill, one that connects the eyes and the mind so, if you are a visual learner, don’t let that deter you from reading.
Practice writing. We don’t give you all those writing assignments because we love grading. Practice makes perfect and the more you write the better you will become provided you take note of our corrections and suggestions.
Get a style guide and learn how to use it. Ask someone to help if you do not understand how to use. I did not do this and have always regretted it.
Take the time when you write an email and always use spell check. Consider who your recipient is and address them respectfully…’Hey Dude’ is not a respectful way to address an instructor. If you are in doubt about the academic title, “Professor James’ is always a good default. Be very careful about forwards and carbon copying so that you do not include unintended recipients.
Use the advice of Dr. Emil Notti and “Be determined’. We may not all become brilliant writers but we can all become proficient if we work at it and proficiency is what counts.

In closing, reading and writing are the weapons of the modern warriors. Use them both to the best extent of your ability and do everything you can to become expert marksmen with these weapons. And remember… this piece was written by someone who quit school at fourteen and never completed 8th grade. If I can do it you can too!

DANSRD Tips for a Successful Semester

As your semester gets going the faculty of DANSRD would like to provide you with some tips on how to start your semester off right.

Professor Stern: Find your anchors while in school. For some students, anchors could be faculty or staff that you feel comfortable talking with. For others, anchors could be clubs on campus where you socialize with other students with common interests. Whatever your anchors, it is important to feel connected to places and people especially as the stresses of school kick in. Reach out to others as needed – it can be the difference between struggling through a situation alone or having a network of support around you.

Professor Carroll: Make a master schedule of all of your assignment, presentation, and exam due dates for the semester to see where you have multiple assignments due or other bottlenecks and then make a plan to deal with your busiest times. Can you get an assignment done early? Will your professor let you move a due date forward or back? Can you schedule your presentation date now so that you get the best time for your schedule? Part of time management is knowing what is ahead and planning for it!

Professor Ramos: Know your resources if you need help. The UAF Writing Center can provide you telephone tutoring service if you are not able to come to their campus location, call 907-474-5314 and make an appointment. The Library has Off-Campus Services. You can call or email them, explain what you need, and they will send the library materials to you. Call 907-474-7406 or email

Professor Sekaquaptewa: If you encounter any problems, or if you have questions, or just uncertainties, let your professor know. We can always help you work around difficulties. Do not wait until the deadline or the end of the semester to ask for help!

Professor Bell: Communicate effectively. Use the right subject for your email so that your professor knows you are corresponding about a specific class. Be formal or at the very least polite in your communications with instructors and be sure to read through your message before you send it to make sure it says what you intend. Sending a professional looking email message is a very good habit to get into; using “hi” to start out a message to a friend is fine but a message to a professor is better written to include their title … “Hi Professor X” or “Good morning Professor X” shows respect. Last of all, be timely with your requests … asking to be excused from class after class is over is not a timely request!

Professor Brooks: Establish routines for your classes, studying and homework. Building a weekly plan can help you ensure you are taking care of the necessary tasks. Try to be consistent with your routines so they begin to become almost automatic and if something happens to interrupt your routine, being consistent will make it easier to get back on track. Over the years, I have observed that many students fail to factor in how much time they need to read BEFORE they can effectively complete their assignments. I would encourage you to establish a routine that includes time for course readings.

Professor Black: Prioritize school first: Create studying times each day, even if you don’t have an assignment due, and use that time to read ahead or start an outline for a paper due at the end of the semester. For example, if you have a fun weekend planned, make sure you get your homework and reading done first, so you can relax for the rest of the weekend and yet be prepared for the next week’s classes. This also gives you time to ask for help if you don’t understand an assignment. Prioritizing school will help you to do your best and also help you to feel more relaxed.

Professor Meckel: Take care of yourself while in college. Along with taking classes, having study time, and finding balance with social and academic pursuits remember your health is important. A healthy diet is important in warding off illnesses and keeping your brain active. Finding time to exercise is also a great way to maintain balance in your body and to process your thoughts. Being mindful of personal health will be benefit your academic experience.

What tips do you have for your fellow students?

Welcome to the DANSRD Blog

We are the Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development, of the College of Rural and Community Development at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This blog will be a platform for dialogues about issues specifically relevant to rural Alaska and Alaska Natives, and more broadly to communities in the Arctic and Circumpolar North and Indigenous communities throughout the world.

The department hosts two distinct, but complementary programs, the Alaska Native Studies BA and the Rural Development BA and MA, and our faculty have expertise and interest across a broad range of subjects from Alaska Native arts and cultures to sustainable community development to the law as it relates to Indigenous peoples. It can be difficult to articulate the breadth of our programs and faculty. Yes, we have an Alaska Native and Indigenous focus, but we also focus on development of communities throughout Alaska and the Circumpolar North. Yes, we have an Alaska and Circumpolar North focus, but we also look to learn from development experiences and processes throughout the world, particularly with Indigenous peoples and rural areas. In everything we do we try to bring a unique approach that encourages students and faculty to bring their own cultural foundations to understand and solve broader social and development issues. We have a passion for communities, a passion for positive change, and a commitment to helping students apply what they learn to make a better future.

We will post on department activities and events, teaching techniques and issues with our unique style of blended and distance education, and cultural, social, and economic development issues relevant to Alaska and the Circumpolar North and to rural Indigenous people throughout the world.

Ultimately, we hope that this blog will become a forum for dialogues across the many communities that share our interests and a space for faculty, students, and community members to share their experiences. Welcome!