Alaska Native History Curriculum

Anchorage School District Launches New Social Studies Curriculum Giving Authentic Voice to Alaska Native History

By Brandon Locke

The Anchorage School District (ASD) in Anchorage, Alaska, is an urban district of roughly 48,000 students. It is also one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse school districts in the United States.

The topic for 3rd Grade social studies is Alaska History, which has been in place for decades. However, the curriculum and materials that had been used for years were not only dated but very Western-centric, “studying” Alaska Natives as if they were extinct. A complete overhaul was long overdue and about three years ago a curriculum revision began.

In the spring of 2021 the brand-new 3rd grade social studies curriculum, “The Nest Egg,” was unveiled, to be put into use in ASD classrooms starting the 2021-22 school year. Three years in the making, with multiple stakeholders involved throughout the entire process, including Alaska Native elders and cultural consultants, this new curriculum gives an authentic voice to Alaska Native history. Emily Edenshaw, Executive Director of the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which hosted the unveiling event, said, “the new curriculum blends and elevates the experiences, legacies, and contributions of various Indigenous tribes of Alaska and various places in Alaska’s history. Our culture is vibrant, strong, and living and breathing today. This is monumental and a step in the right direction.”

ASD K-12 Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator Jennifer Romer talked about her experience on The Nest Egg project during its celebration event at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, stating that “The Nest Egg weaves a story with history, following the Alaska Standards of Culturally Responsive Schools and the College, Career & Civic Life C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards.”

What makes this project even more exciting is that the book, “The Nest Egg,” has been translated into ASD’s seven immersion languages – Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and Yup’ik (an Alaska Native language). These translations were done by teams of ASD immersion teachers and took over a year to complete (while teaching virtually during a world-wide pandemic).

Nest Egg Book

Linguistically speaking, one of the most difficult tasks when translating was to come up with appropriate words for things that do not exist outside of Alaska Native culture. For example, the term Alaska Native refers to the Indigenous peoples of Alaska. This term had to be explained in the translated versions in absence of a true translation. Another challenge was how to best “pronounce” words in a foreign language such as Japanese, where such words do not exist. The Japanese immersion teachers who did the Japanese translation met with several local Alaska Natives representing a variety of Alaska Native languages, to learn how to best pronounce Native words so as to best capture a solid translation using katakana. Robyn Lin, lead translator for the Mandarin Chinese version, shared some of the challenges, such as “finding a suitable font with Pinyin (romanization system for Standard Mandarin Chinese), and constantly making various adjustments so the translated texts can fit in the limited space.  For the characters with multiple pronunciations, they must be manually and individually selected from one of the font’s six subsets.  Many of these characters appear as high frequency.”

There is a comprehensive teacher’s guide that accompanies The Nest Egg and provides detailed lesson plans divided into six different units, including two project-based units and four shorter inquiry units. The units are designed to teach students about Alaska Native culture and history, as well as geographic regions and resources through the lens of Alaska Native cultural values.

The new curriculum was piloted in several classrooms, including in Russian immersion, during the 2020-21 school year, and is being implemented for the first time across ASD during the 2021-22 school year. ASD immersion teachers will take this time to get a feel for how accessible the translated versions are, making notations of where linguistic adaptations or revisions may need to be made.

Anchorage School District news release

Demo Title

Demo Description


My first Popup

This will close in 20 seconds

Fanni is Radnóti's wife
Located near the Tang capital city of Chang’an, site of the modern city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province, in central China.
Soldiers of that time commonly wore a white head cloth, similar to what is still worn by some peasants in China today.  The implication is that the conscripts were so young that they didn’t know how to wrap their head cloths, and needed help from elders.
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
The area of Guanxi, meaning “west of the passes”, refers to the area around the capital city of Chang’an.
This is an alternative name for a province in western China, now known as Qinghai, which literally means “blue sea”.  Kokonor Lake, located in Qinghai, is the largest saline lake in China.  
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
Oulart Hollow was the site of a famous victory of the Irish rebels over British troops, which took place on May 27, 1798. The rebels killed nearly all the British attackers in this battle. (Source: Maxwell, W. H. History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. H. H. Bohn, London 1854, pp 92-93, at archive.org)
The phrase "United Men" is elaborated upon in the Notes section below.

Ghetto


An Italian word meaning “foundry.” It originally referred to a part of the city of Venice where the Jews of that city were forced to live; the area was called “the ghetto” because there was a foundry nearby. The term eventually came to refer to any part of a city in which a minority group is forced to live as a result of social, legal, or economic pressure. Because of the restrictions placed upon them, ghetto residents are often impoverished.

"You’re five nine, I am do-uble two"


A reference to the year 1959 and the year 2020.

"The Currency"


Meaning US dollars - this is drawing attention to the fact that Cuba is effectively dollarized.

"Sixty years with the dom-ino stuck"


This sentence is a reference to the Cold War notion that countries would turn Communist one after the other - like dominos. Cuba was the first domino, but it got stuck - no one else followed through into communism.

رحلنا


رحلنا, or "rahalna," means "we have left."

Habibi


Habibi means "my love."

Ra7eel


Ra7eel, or "raheel," means "departure."

3awda


3awda, or "awda," means "returning."

أهلاً


أهلاً, or "ahalan," means "welcome."

a5 ya baba


a5 ya baba, pronounced "akh ya baba," means "Oh my father."

golpe


Treece translates "golpe" as "beating", which is correct, however misses the secondary meaning of the word: "coup".

Carlos


The “Carlos” referred to in the poem is most likely Carlos Bolsonaro, a politician from Rio de Janeiro and the second son of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president. His and his father’s involvement in Marielle’s murder has been questioned and investigated.