Best Practices: Educator

Alaska Native Values and Cultural Norms

  • Respect for self and others, including the natural world
  • Being considerate and patient
  • Listening and being careful with words
  • Understanding the interconnectedness of all things
  • Ability to develop and use subsistence skills, not merely as recreational activities, but as cultural identity
  • Ability to think and reason using common sense as well as analytical and critical thinking
  • Pride in traditions, culture, language, and heritage
  • Sharing of burdens to support one another
  • Importance of social connections
  • Humor
  • Humility
  • Avoidance of conflict
  • Spontaneous visits help cement relationships (not every visit has to be planned and formal). But do offer tea!
  • Reciprocity maintains balance—both at the human-to-human scale and at the human-to-nature scale.
  • Respect for Elders.

For more information on Iñupiat values, please visit the Alaska Native Knowledge Network:

Things to Remember

  • Indigenous peoples and cultural systems are not elements of an idyllic past. Rather, cultural survival is dynamic. People have adapted new technologies to benefit their own place, values, and worldviews.
  • There are multiple ways of knowing and doing. Blending Traditional Ecological Knowledge with western technologies can be powerful.
  • Many community members experienced the oppression of missionary boarding schools first-hand. Be mindful of generational trauma.
  • Maintain the role of a learner. If you grew up outside this community, you are as much a student as the children in your classroom. Make an effort to learn and respect your community’s taboos, rituals, ceremonies, and values.
    • Strive to learn the language—even just a few words or key phrases.
    • Connect with your principal and the Native language teacher.
    • Reach out to Elders and local culture-bearers to incorporate traditional knowledge into your lessons.
  • Strive to use examples, photos, posters, and literature that show local people and places (not distant, irrelevant spaces and people).
  • “Facts” may be relative (for example, in the far north, the sun does not simply rise in the east and set in the west. It’s location depends on the time of year.)
First impressions count! Get to know people—and let them get to know you—not only as a teacher, but as a person. “The first thing to remember is that many other teachers have come and gone before you, so students and parents have developed their own ways of making sense out of their relationships with strangers. While this may be a new experience for you, it is not for the host community.”—Barnhardt, 2000