The importance of education to Alaska Native people is captured in traditional values about children, elders, knowledge, language, and the natural world. It is woven into indigenous lifeways and beliefs. Alaska Native people have long depended on elders, parents and teachers to instill in the next generation the important things to know about the world, and how to live in it.
“Western” education was introduced to assimilate and integrate our children into mainstream American culture.
“What if beings from another planet came to the U.S. and we had to immediately learn their language and we had to be just like them? That’s exactly what happened here.”
Dr. Qasuġlana Barbara Amarok, educator
While education is no longer intentionally disruptive or destructive, the effect the dominant culture’s educational system has had on Alaska Native still resonates today. Nationwide, researchers have found that minority students and those with fewer economic resources disproportionately face gaps in academic learning, achievement and opportunity. In Anchorage, Alaska Native students are most affected by these gaps.
Today our challenge is to prepare students for success in an increasingly technological, global and complex world, and to do it in a way that supports and strengthens them as Alaska Native people. Meeting that challenge requires a better marriage between traditional and formal education, and accountability for better outcomes for our students.
In 2012, Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) and the Anchorage School District commissioned a McDowell Group study, Review of Alaska Native Education Services in the Anchorage School District. The study found that while there were programs geared toward Alaska Native and American Indian students, there was no unified strategic approach to ensuring their success. Together with partners, CITC convened a community gathering that launched ARISE. Today, ARISE unites individuals and organizations to challenge each other to work together and do our best for Alaska Native children and youth.