Yup’ik Oral Tradition

For this lesson plan, it was tough for me to decide on one particular issue. I primarily chose “history of education in western Alaska” and spent many hours researching the project, but that seemed too broad. As I got very far into the “introduction” assignment, I realized I still had a long ways to go. So I looked back at what I had, and saw that I had mostly wrote about the oral tradition among the Yup’ik culture. I decided to simplify my topic to “Yup’ik oral tradition”. Throughout my life, I was pretty much lectured by my grandpa so I was sort of able to relate to this project. This lesson can fit in multiple standards, but its mostly fits with standard A.

Even though I grew up in a small Yup’ik community, I learned a lot more than I expected. I had no idea that an average of five seal skins were used to build a single kayak. I had no idea that men lived in a qasgi until they died. I had no idea that story knives were solely utilized for girls. I feel like I have learned a lot more during my research with this project than I have learned my entire life. Maybe it’s because this is the first time that I am focusing on a place I grew up during school. Most of my school years were tremendously focused on things that had nothing to do with the Yup’ik region. Maybe there were a few but they did not allow going in depth.

I’m very grateful that I was given the opportunity to learn more about the Yup’ik culture. This lesson plan was a perfect task to give me more confidence about going into a Yup’ik village. I will not know how it is to prepare to be in a classroom until I am in it, but this gave me a great idea. If plan A was too broad or did not work, this was a perfect exercise to go beyond my comfort zone. I had to stay up late a few times to really dig deep. Even though I had a macbook for the past two years, I was technologically challenged since I regularly only used my macbook for internet or word. If I am struggling with a project during class, I now know what it feels like to be forced to choose a different route than your original plan.

Here’s my lesson plan in iBooks: JimmysLessonPlan2

Download the lesson: ROAD_TO_THE_OCEAN

Try these: FunTriviaQuestions

9 thoughts on “Yup’ik Oral Tradition”

  1. “Most of my school years were tremendously focused on things that had nothing to do with the Yup’ik region.”

    That is a sad statement if ever I heard one. I understand that they wouldn’t be when you were in Sitka or in college, but I am a strong believer in place-based education. I have thought alot about my own region in these terms. People need to talk about things like the lumber boom or the end of big manufacturing in the region. It goes so far to help explain to people why things are the way they are.

  2. Jimmy. I can hear that you had influences from your grandparents and elders in your village as a kid. It is amazing that there is so much that you can overlook and then learn later in life. Sometimes it is there in front of your face and you don’t see it or hear it. This happened to me too. My grandmother tried to tell me a lot about her culture and some of it went over my head or I was not receptive to receiving it.
    Years later I finally have the need or want to hear it but it is too late. She has passed on. There is much that I wish I had learned from her.
    I see the importance in your lesson that you made and the need to pass on information that you learned or are learning. I like that. I think it is important too. I can see that your lesson is trying to strike a balance in the kids and learning about the elders and traditions. Hopefully, you will include more heritage language in your lesson. I also liked the singing and drumming that you did last week. Maybe you can incorporate some of that too. Nice start on the lesson plan. I’m sure it will grow and develop more as you try it out on real students. Good luck.

  3. Cool, I’m glad you learned more about where you’re from. I think history and the past are much more interesting when you discover things that your ancestors likely learned and experienced.

  4. Jimmy,

    Thank you so much for this lesson– and for your reflection. I am happy you learned a lot about where you grew up through this research project, and were able to reflect on your grandpa and Elders. What cool stories you shared! I feel like for so many of us, we look far away at ‘others’ to study when we are young (a combination of choice and forced) … and then it isn’t until a bit later in life that we start recognizing how AMAZING or at least how MUCH THERE IS TO LEARN about our own backyard/culture/people/history.

    I also felt connected when you talked about the technology piece. I have a mac, but I really only use it for storage of photos/music, internet and email. This class, in my mind, should have been a TECHNOLOGY class! It was so hard. I struggled– and my finished project isn’t what it would have been had I been a bit more tech savvy. But I too felt like it was a lesson learned.

    I also really struggled on starting WAY too big in my lesson plan… and am going to work on that in the future. It would save me HOURS of time and stress..

    Good job on the lesson and iBook! Your students are going to love it. (And I think mine will too.)

    Thank you.

  5. Hi Jimmy,

    I hear you about being technologically challenged and I definitely hear you about heading down a different path than your original idea – I did both too.

    I’m really glad you had the opportunity to dig deep into your culture. It will be interesting to see what conclusions you and your class reach about the presence and continuity of oral teaching/traditions in your community today. The idea of the qasgi and the ena really resonates with me, even as an outsider to Yup’ik culture. In my work life I found I learned so much more when I was around other people than my parents or close friends. It doesn’t have to be an ena or qasgi to build skill and character, but it needs to be some space where everyone is working towards a common goal. Maybe you can ask your students if there are any modern day corollarys to the ena or qasgi and how they might be similar or different? I think you are asking the right questions though.

  6. Jimmy,
    I learned valuable things from your lesson plan. Thank you for sharing it. I think you will do great. You made a wise decision when you decided to speak about the oral tradition.

  7. Jimmy, I like the overarching theme of Western education versus Yup’ik education- I think you could continue this lesson by looking at many different form of education to gain global perspective in addition to a regional, cultural perspective. You are right that this lesson covers many cultural curriculum standards. I like that you also incorporated a lesson trail by having students walk around to gain information on their own.

  8. Jimmy I enjoyed the focus on discussion, and how you plan on guiding those, definitely something I would love to sit in on. Your students are going to be lucky to have your perspective and guidance in the classroom!

  9. Looks like your hard work paid off! Learning the Yup’ik culture before Russians came I what I would be interested if I was in your audience. I love to hear you are learning a lot about your culture. Soon you’ll know more than those back in your home community! You are the one carrying the torch but you’ll also be passing it on with lessons like this.

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