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Found 1,658 Collections

 

Guatemalan Weaving

This collection provides an introduction to the art of weaving practiced in Guatemala.


This collection was created by Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center faculty member. #SEECStories

Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center
11
 

Puerto Rico - Vejigantes

This collection provides a brief introduction to the Vejigante tradition practiced during the month of February in Puerto Rico, in observance/celebration of Carnival.

This collection was created by Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center faculty member. #SEECStories

Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center
8
 

Preventing the Dodo: Unveiling Animal Conservation Stories

What stories do the animals on the American Trail at the Smithsonian's National Zoo tell? Students will use the Project Zero Global Thinking Routine Unveiling Stories to uncover and consider the complexity around conservation. I asked students to consider more than just what is the initial story. I wanted to know what they thought the human and world stories might be. With the success of these animals I wanted students to also consider what the new and untold stories that might remain. The Unveiling Stories thinking routine is a great way to explore the complicated stories of the gray wolf, bald eagle, beaver,  North American river otter, and wood duck. #goglobal

Ellen Rogers
39
 

People, Place and Time: How Art Reflects Culture - Collection 3 - Caja De Memoria Viva II: Constancia Colón de Clemente by Adrián Román (

In this collection, designed for a Spanish-speaking classroom, students will explore how art reflects culture when analyzing “Caja De Memoria Viva II: Constancia Colón de Clemente” by Adrian “Viajero” Román. In this three-dimensional multimedia installation, the artist portrays a black Puerto Rican woman who migrated to the United States in the 1940s. This portrait allows the artist (in his own words) “ to embark on a quest to visually represent how precious our memories are and capture the dignity in the people’s struggle and validate their existence.” The collection includes a teacher's guide in English and suggested authentic resources both in Spanish and English to be adapted by teachers of multiple disciplines.

 Students will observe and analyze this three dimensional work of art and they will describe both its exterior and interior. Students will create their own box to reflect their heritage and personal story or that of a Hispanic figure.

This collection is one of three that explore “People, Place, and Time: How Art Reflects Culture.” Products, practices and perspectives displayed in Latinx art, show how our place and history (past) influence who we are (present) and who we want to be (future) in geographical, social, economic, and/or historical contexts. In the three collections, Latin American works of art illustrate how culture shapes the way we see the world, others, and ourselves, and they also raise awareness about Latinx diversity.

The three collections were created by Marcela Velikovsky (Bullis School) and Vicky Masson (Christ Episcopal School) as part of the  2018 Smithsonian Virtual Teacher Curricula Creation Opportunity with the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access (SCLDA), and thanks to the Smithsonian Latino Center's Latino Initiative Pool Funds. The three collections highlight Latino history, art and culture,and use Harvard Project Zero Thinking Routines and Global Thinking Routines strategies.

The Smithsonian Learning Lab collections provide an opportunity to invigorate the World Language (Foreign Language) curriculum as it allows to effectively integrate online museum resources (authentic resources) towards a 21st century curriculum. They facilitate student-centered activities within a variety of themes such as, family and communities, personal and public identities, social values and customs, holidays and celebrations, immigration, ethnic groups, Hispanic Heritage,  image and stereotypes, inequality and discrimination, global issues, religious practices, etc. They also provide the opportunity to analyze art, read portraiture, and investigate art media.

These collections also consider ACTFL standards (Communication, Connections, Comparisons, Communities and Culture), Asia Society Global Competence skills, the Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals), Teaching Tolerance Social Justice standards, the Framework for Developing Global and Cultural Competencies to Advance Equity, Excellence and Economic competitiveness, and Participate Global Competencies.

# National Portrait Gallery  #The Outwin # Adrián “Viajero” Román # Caja de Memoria Viva II # Spanish # Puerto Rico # New York # Empathy # Inequality # Critical thinking # Curiosity # Heritage # Stories #LatinoHAC


Kris Murphy
45
 

EQ: Are the benefits of progress during the Industrial Revolution more significant than the costs?

Below you will find a variety of sources that connect to the Industrial Revolution. These sources will aid in your answering of the following guiding questions:

(1) What changes were made in manufacturing? (2) How did society benefit from industrialization? and (3) What were the challenges society faced during industrialization?

At the conclusion of your investigation, you should be able to address in detail the Essential Question: Are the benefits of progress during the Industrial Revolution more significant than the costs?

Molly Long
12
 

Mike's Test Version_Storytelling Training: Creating Your Story

Whether you're participating in the Stories: YES program in conjunction with a Museum on Main Street exhibition or creating digital stories on your own, the six modules in the Storytelling Training Series will help you think through everything to help get started. Ready to start developing your story? In this short course, you'll get some tips on how to create a story board, writing a non-fiction script, and more. 

This training module was created by the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program, a part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, in conjunction with the MuseWeb Foundation.

Heather Sanders
27
 

Storytelling Training: Sharing your Story

Whether you're participating in the Stories: YES program in conjunction with a Museum on Main Street exhibition or creating digital stories on your own, the six modules in the Storytelling Training Series will help you think through everything to help get started. In this short course, you'll find tips for posting your stories online for the world to see, from the Smithsonian's Stories from Main Street website to SoundCloud and less common platforms like Clio and izi.Travel. There are also tips about protecting information from people you interview and yourself when using online platforms and social media. 

This training module was created by the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program, a part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, in conjunction with the MuseWeb Foundation.

Heather Sanders
17
 

Storytelling Training: Research and Content Gathering

Whether you're participating in the Stories: YES program in conjunction with a Museum on Main Street exhibition or creating digital stories on your own, the six modules in the Storytelling Training Series will help you think through everything to help get started. In this short course, we'll talk about some basic steps for beginning your research. You will learn about local and specific national online resources that will help you gather all the facts!

This training module was created by the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program, a part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, in conjunction with the MuseWeb Foundation.

Heather Sanders
31
 

Storytelling Training: What Makes a Great Story?

Whether you're participating in the Stories: YES program in conjunction with a Museum on Main Street exhibition or creating digital stories on your own, the six modules in the Storytelling Training Series will help you think through everything to help get started. In this course, you'll  learn about the parts that make stories compelling, especially non-fiction narratives which are unique stories grounded in real-life perspectives and history. Explore how your story can be both personal and research-based at the same time. Even documentaries start with a script!

This training module was created by the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program, a part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, in conjunction with the MuseWeb Foundation. 

Heather Sanders
22
 

Storytelling Training: What is Cultural Storytelling?

Whether you're participating in the Stories: YES program in conjunction with a Museum on Main Street exhibition or creating digital stories on your own, the six modules in the Storytelling Training Series will help you think through everything to help get started. In this short online course, you'll learn about what we call "cultural storytelling" and  what the value of cultural storytelling is to society at large. 

This training module was created by the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program, a part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, in conjunction with the MuseWeb Foundation. 

Heather Sanders
16
 

Storytelling Training: Creating Your Story

Whether you're participating in the Stories: YES program in conjunction with a Museum on Main Street exhibition or creating digital stories on your own, the six modules in the Storytelling Training Series will help you think through everything to help get started. Ready to start developing your story? In this short course, you'll get some tips on how to create a story board, writing a non-fiction script, and more. 

This training module was created by the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program, a part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, in conjunction with the MuseWeb Foundation.

Heather Sanders
27
 

Storytelling Training: Brainstorming and Going into the Field

Whether you're participating in the Stories: YES program in conjunction with a Museum on Main Street exhibition or creating digital stories on your own, the six modules in the Storytelling Training Series will help you think through everything to help get started. Unlike the other Storytelling Training courses where information is given to you, you'll be asked to contribute ideas for your own potential story in this course. There's no right or wrong answers here. It's a way to help you start planning. Remember to make a copy of this collection first if you want your answers to be saved so you can revisit them!

This training module was created by the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program, a part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, in conjunction with the MuseWeb Foundation.

Heather Sanders
12
 

How to Help Save Our Youth

The problems our youth face are not limited by geography they exist in the inner city, suburbs, and rural areas, all over. How do we help them in what seems to be a battle of hearts and minds

David Williams
1
 

American Abolitionists

This collection is adapted from a collection created by Tess Porter - National History Day: Abolitionists.

In support of research related to American abolitionists, resources - including portraits, articles, primary source documents, videos, and websites - highlight four abolitionists profiled in American Experience film The Abolitionists and the National Youth Summit on Abolition: William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Brown. Additional resources related to abolitionism and other important abolitionists are located at the end. Refer to each collection tile for summaries of individual resources.

By no means is this collection comprehensive; instead, it provides a launching point for further research.

Justine Thain
58
 

People, Place, and Time: How Art Reflects Culture - Méndez v. Westminster 1947 - National Postal Museum

In this collection, designed for a Spanish-speaking classroom, students will explore how art reflects culture while studying Méndez v. Westminster 1947, a groundbreaking WWII-era legal case in which a group of Hispanic parents in California successfully sued to end segregation in their schools. The collection includes a teacher's guide in English and suggested authentic resources both in Spanish and English to be adapted by teachers of multiple disciplines. 

Students will investigate how the Méndez v. Westminster 1947 case helped pave the way to desegregation in schools in the United States. Among other activities, students will follow the script for the re-enactment of this case. Students will take action and contribute in their inner circle, their community/country, and/or the world by designing a stamp on a past or present global issue (social, environmental, or cultural), from Latin America or Spain, that matters to them.

This collection is one of three that explore “People, Place, and Time: How Art Reflects Culture.” Products, practices and perspectives displayed in Latinx art, show how our place and history (past) influence who we are (present) and who we want to be (future) in geographical, social, economic, and/or historical contexts. In the three collections, Latin American works of art illustrate how culture shapes the way we see the world, others, and ourselves, and they also raise awareness about Latinx diversity.

The three collections were created by Marcela Velikovsky (Bullis School) and Vicky Masson (Christ Episcopal School) as part of the  2018 Smithsonian Virtual Teacher Curricula Creation Opportunity with the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access (SCLDA), and thanks to the Smithsonian Latino Center's Latino Initiative Pool funds. The three collections highlight Latino history, art and culture, and use Harvard Project Zero Thinking Routines and Global Thinking Routines strategies.

The Smithsonian Learning Lab collections provide an opportunity to invigorate the World Language (Foreign Language) curriculum as it allows to effectively integrate online museum resources (authentic resources) towards a 21st century curriculum. They facilitate student-centered activities within a variety of themes such as, family and communities, personal and public identities, social values and customs, holidays and celebrations, immigration, ethnic groups, Hispanic Heritage,  image and stereotypes, inequality and discrimination, global issues, religious practices, etc. They also provide the opportunity to analyze art, read portraiture, and investigate art media.

These collections also consider ACTFL standards (Communication, Connections, Comparisons, Communities and Culture), Asia Society Global Competence skills, the Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals), Teaching Tolerance Social Justice standards, the Framework for Developing Global and Cultural Competencies to Advance Equity, Excellence and Economic competitiveness, and Participate Global Competencies.

#Arago #Rafael Lopez #Spanish / English #Mexican-American #California #Latino Civil Rights #Empathy #Desegregation #Critical thinking #Curiosity #Stamps #LatinoHAC #BecauseOfHerStory

Vicky Masson
60
 

Ancient Mayans: Hieroglyphs

For third-grade lesson plan aligning to MN Social Studies Standards 3.4.3.8.1 and 3.4.3.9.1
Erin Purrington
11
 

Demanding the Vote: The Woman Suffrage Movement

This collection brings together objects and resources from the Smithsonian Institution that examine the woman suffrage movement and its enduring impacts. Using these artifacts and primary resources, engage students in a thoughtful discussion to analyze the guiding question: How did women use their first amendment rights to demand the vote? 

For a full lesson plan and videos on this topic, check out the National Museum of American History's "The Suffragist" classroom resources.

Additional information and resources can be found in the museum's online exhibition American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith

National Museum of American History
35
 

What Will You Stand For? Video Resources

Throughout American History, young people have led, influenced, and defined the outcomes of our elections and politics. By organizing, lobbying, advocating, protesting, and voting, young voices supply our democracy with a never-ending source of fresh ideas, concerns, and hopes. This tradition continues today, as voters ages 18 to 24 make up the biggest potential voting bloc in modern elections.

This Learning Lab collection can be used in conjunction with a short video that challenges young people to reflect on and discuss “What will you stand for?” Find the video and additional resources here: https://historyexplorer.si.edu...

This video is part of a series of short films from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History that looks at how young people have historically shaped public opinion and outcomes. These brief videos help young people learn from the civic actions of youth in the past to become thoughtful, informed, and active participants in their democracy today. Through historical stories of youth engaged in our elections and politics, these videos show how youth have made history through civic action and challenge today’s young people to continue shaping their democracy. 

National Museum of American History
33
 

National Youth Summit 2019 | Woman Suffrage: The Ballot and Beyond

Suffrage marked an important moment in the progression of women's participation in American democracy and civic life. Yet it was an imperfect victory, and one that stands neither as a beginning nor an end, but as an important milestone in the fight for equality, justice and representation. The 2019 National Youth Summit will look at woman suffrage as an example of how groups with limited political power have shaped and continue to shape our democracy using tactics and tools, like public protest and the vote, to give voice to issues and galvanize fellow Americans into communal movements for change. Use this collection to examine the legacy of the woman suffrage movement and explore the guiding question: What can we learn from the tactics of the suffragists?

Download the conversation kit and learn about the 2019 National Youth Summit webcast here.

National Museum of American History
24
 

Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans in World War II

This collection includes objects and resources related to Japanese incarceration during World War II. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 through which tens of thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry were moved into relocation centers. Additional resources can be found by visiting the National Museum of American History's online exhibitions at AmericanHistory.si.edu and History Explorer at HistoryExplorer.si.edu

National Museum of American History
41
 

Cindy Whitehead’s GN4LW Skateboard - Conversation Kit Resources

A skateboarding pioneer, Cindy Whitehead turned pro at seventeen, skating both pool and half-pipe and becoming one of the top-ranked vert skaters while competing against the boys—something girls were not doing in the mid-1970s. But Whitehead had no choice but to wear boys’ shorts when competing; there were no skate products for girls in the 1970s.

She changed that in 2013 with her girl-empowered brand Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word (GN4LW). Whitehead is especially supportive of young female skaters through the GN4LW skate team and products which are geared towards women and girls.  

Whitehead’s signature phrase printed in gold on many of the GN4LW products personifies her independent spirit, "Live life balls to the wall. Do epic sh*t. Take every dare that comes your way. You can sleep when you’re dead." 


This Learning Lab collection contains artifacts and resources that support the Conversation Kit on Cindy Whitehead's GN4LW Skateboard as part of the Smithsonian's American Women's History Initiative. #BecauseOfHerStory

National Museum of American History
32
 

Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans in World War II

This collection includes objects and resources related to Japanese incarceration during World War II. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 through which tens of thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry were moved into relocation centers. Additional resources can be found by visiting the National Museum of American History's online exhibitions at AmericanHistory.si.edu and History Explorer at HistoryExplorer.si.edu

National Museum of American History
47
 

The Unangax̂ (Aleut) People and Their Culture

By Alice Petrivelli (Unangax̂), 2009

(This is shortened version of a longer essay from the Smithsonian book Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska.) 

Sea, Land, Rivers

More than three hundred Aleutian Islands clustered in groups stretch westward across the Pacific from the tip of the Alaska Peninsula. In summertime they are just gorgeous. The mountains are snow-capped, with green grass and tundra plants spreading up their sides. Even out on the water you can smell the flowers. In fall the vegetation turns shades of red and brown, and in winter there is a clear, blue, endless sky between periods of storm. The islands have no trees, but driftwood from around the whole North Pacific washes up on our beaches. People of the Aleutians call themselves Unangax̂, meaning “sea-sider.” We are also called Aleuts – a name first used by Russian fur traders in the eighteenth century.  

To our south is the Pacific Ocean, to our north the Bering Sea. Everything our ancestors did was connected to the marine world around us. They built beautiful kayaks with split bow tips to cut swiftly through the waves. Their clothing was made of sea mammal hides and intestines and the feathered skins of ocean birds. The sea provided nearly all of our ancestors’ food – seals, sea lions, ducks, salmon, all kinds of fish and shellfish—and that’s still true today. From the time we’re little we’re taught to respect the water and to keep it clean, because that’s where our living comes from.

I was born in 1929 on the far western island of Atka and grew up speaking the Niiĝux̂ dialect of Unangam Tunuu (the Unangax̂ language). Until 1942 we used to go camping all summer. With the first warm days of spring we would travel by boat to Amlia Island, where we planted potatoes and other vegetables. Gardening was impossible on Atka, because rats had invaded from a shipwreck sometime in the past. We fished for cod and halibut, and later in the summer we’d fish for red, pink and dog salmon. We preserved fish by salting, drying, and smoking. We lived mostly on subsistence resources, because the supply ship came to Atka only twice a year, bringing in the staples we needed: butter, flour and sugar. Growing up I learned to fillet fish, hunt birds, harvest grass for weaving baskets, and gather roots, plants, and shellfish.

Community and Family

We have always had strong leaders in our communities. Traditionally a chief would inherit his position, but for his authority to be recognized he had to excel as a hunter and be spiritual, generous, fair and kind in his dealings with the people. The shamans, or medicine men, took care of the people’s medical needs. They possessed detailed knowledge of the human body and had names for every part of it, both inside and out. There were no elections until the U.S. government started them in the 1930s.

Russian fur traders came to the islands in the mid-eighteenth century following Vitus Bering’s discovery that sea otters were abundant there. The Russians set up a colony that lasted until 1867, and they were cruel, especially in the early years. They enslaved the people, forcing the men to hunt and the women to serve the traders. The population declined as a result of this mistreatment and disease until the majority of our people and over two-thirds of the original villages were lost. The Orthodox Church urged the Russian government to treat the people more kindly, and the situation improved. The Russians built schools to educate the Aleuts, and when the United States came in they reeducated us in the American way.

In December 1941, I was a twelve-year-old school girl when our teacher told us that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. In April we learned that an invasion of the Aleutian Islands was feared and that the United States wanted to get us out of the way of the war. Only a few weeks later the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor and invaded Attu and Kiska islands, at the west end of the chain. In June a U.S. Navy ship came to Atka to evacuate everyone. Before leaving, the navy burned our village to the ground, even the church. It was devastating to the whole community. No one was allowed to get anything from the houses before they were destroyed, and we left with only the clothes on our backs. No one told us our destination.

All of the Unangax̂ refugees were taken to internment camps in southeast Alaska. My family was at Killisnoo until 1945. It was very poorly set up, and we had little food and no medicine or appropriate housing. In that two and a half-year period we lost almost all of our elders and newborns, a total of seventeen deaths out of eighty-five who had left Atka together. We almost lost our culture entirely because of that, and the way I grew up no longer exists.

Before the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 everyone had summer camps. When we got food, we shared it, and you could use another person’s camp as long as you kept it clean and replenished what you used. Land claims introduced the word "mine," as in, “That’s mine. You can’t use it.” After that, people didn’t share as much and started expecting to be paid to do things instead of just helping, as in building a house. And the Native corporation leaders didn’t want to involve elders in the new enterprises, thinking they were too old and not ready to do things in the Western way.

Those were the negative effects of land claims, but things have improved over the years, and ANCSA has brought us many benefits. I first went to work for the Aleut Corporation as a receptionist in 1972 and was eventually employed in each of the departments. I wrote up land selections, helped with the accounting, and ended up getting elected to the board in 1976. I served until 2008, including a long term as president. It was a challenging and terrifying ride, because we were a “have not” corporation with no forests, oil or minerals on our lands to generate profits. Yet we needed to do the best we could to support our communities and shareholders. Your heart really has to be in it, because it takes a lot of personal sacrifice.

Ceremony and Celebration

Father Yakov Netsvetov (later Saint Yakov), whose mother came from our island, was the first resident priest. He consecrated the church on Atka in 1830, and ever since then Russian Orthodoxy has been a foundation of community life. Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter and other feast days mark our calendar of worship and celebration. Starring and masking – still practiced in some villages during the midwinter holidays – are similar to rituals carried out before the Russians came.

The original Unangax̂ festivals were held in the fall and winter, when people celebrated successful hunting and food gathering and asked for the animals to return. Those ceremonies survived Russian rule but were banned after the United States took over in 1867. In the decades that followed, the Aleuts adopted new music and dances for fun and entertainment, such as polkas, two-steps and waltzes. Since 1992, groups of young people have formed to restore and perform some of the original Unangax̂ dances.

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
20
 

The Yup'ik People and Their Culture

By Alice Aluskak Rearden (Yup'ik), 2009

(This is shortened version of a longer essay from the Smithsonian book Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska.)

Sea, Land, Rivers

The Yup’ik homeland in southwest Alaska extends from Bristol Bay to Norton Sound and centers on the great delta where the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers reach the sea. It is a country of treeless tundra, countless lakes and low mountain ranges. Almost seventy Yup’ik communities are situated along the Bering Sea coast and lower courses of the two rivers, including the Kuskokwim village of Napakiak, where I grew up.

Whenever I ask elders about the traditional way of life on this land, they always say, “Caperrnarqellruuq – how difficult, how daunting it was back then.” Previous generations had to master a wide range of specific knowledge that was critical to their survival. You can see the meticulous care they took in making their tools: with a harpoon, you had to know the right wood to use, where to attach the lines, and how to balance it perfectly so that it would be effective. The values they lived by—cooperation, generosity, diligence, humility and respect for others—were just as important as skill and knowledge in sustaining their communities.

The contemporary Yup’ik lifestyle is easier than the traditional one, although people still work incredibly hard to provide for their families. We have Western schooling and such amenities as store-bought goods and clothing, although the cost of those things is high in rural Alaska. The environment around us remains the primary source of what we need, but it takes less effort to subsist by hunting and fishing with the guns, snow machines and other equipment that we depend on today than it took with the equipment of the past.

My grandparents helped care for me during childhood, and they were hard-working people who taught us how to honor Yup’ik values and utilize the resources of the land. I remember my grandmother preparing and preserving the food that my grandfather brought home from the wilderness in different seasons—blackfish, whitefish, migratory birds, caribou and moose. He had a full-time job, but was an active subsistence hunter as well. My grandmother was very concerned that we never waste food. Although she did not explain it directly, I came to understand that she was concerned that such negligence would show disrespect to the animals and diminish my grandfather’s success as a hunter.

Community and Family

At a certain time a child becomes aware of life. A baby will be sitting and looking around when an expression of surprise and delight comes to her face. My mom will say “Ellangartuq – she has just become aware.” Ella is the word for awareness, but it also means weather, the world, the universe; as human beings we gradually wake up to a consciousness of all that exists. Different stages of awareness occur during a child’s growth. For that reason it is important to be extremely careful around babies; their early perceptions will shape the rest of their lives. They will be stronger people later on if they have a quiet environment where they are never startled, or scared, or exposed to inappropriate behavior.

I grew up speaking Yup’ik as my first language and was also one of the first children to benefit from the bilingual education program that was started in the Napakiak schools. From kindergarten through elementary school I took classes that were taught in Yup’ik, and during those years I learned to read and write the language. Later on I took a Yup’ik course at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and after graduation used my training to work as a Yup’ik transcriber and translator. The work was extremely difficult at first! I was not an expert in the subtleties of grammar and structure, and the speakers used terminology that was new to me. I had to ask many people about some of the words and to check that I fully understood their meanings. I was excited by what I was doing and found it rewarding to learn new aspects of Yup’ik culture and history.

In listening to elders’ words, I have been impressed by the passion they feel about young people learning to appreciate the traditional values so that they can lead better lives and contribute to the health of their communities. Elders see how much has been lost as a result of cultural and material change and the shift away from Yup’ik ways of learning, being and speaking. Alcoholism, loss of respect for others, broken families and hopelessness come from losing that vital connection to cultural knowledge and identity.

Ceremony and Celebration

Our traditional spiritual life was based on the recognition that all things have ella, awareness. Elders were taught that if you are out walking and see a piece of driftwood sticking out of the mud, you should pull it out and turn it over so that the muddy part can dry. That piece of wood is alive and aware, and it will feel gratitude for your kindness.

Elders have told us about the masked dance ceremonies of the past. The winter celebrations honored the yuit, or inner persons, of the animals, and the dances were a kind of prayer that asked for these spirits to give their physical bodies to meet the needs of the community. Shamans made carvings or masks representing animals – walrus, caribou, seals and others. When the masks were danced in the qasgiq (community house), it was a petition for those animals to return in the spring. During Nakaciuryaraq, the Bladder Festival, the bladders of seals that had been taken by hunters during the year were returned to the sea through a hole in the ice, allowing those seals to be reborn in new bodies.

Kevgiq, the Messenger Feast, was a spring festival for sharing and bringing communities together. People worked hard throughout the year, gathering plants, hunting furs and harvesting food, and Kevgiq was a time to distribute some of what they had earned to others. Parents were especially proud if one of their children had contributed to the family’s effort for the first time – a son who brought home his first game or a daughter who caught a pike through the ice. Those events were recognized as rites of passage that meant the child was beginning a lifetime of providing for kin and community. By giving away at Kevgiq, a family ensured the future success of its children and the prosperity of the whole group. Villages still carry out the Messenger Feast tradition of inviting guests from other places and distributing presents to them. The dancing and gift-giving represent the same values as in the past, even if some of the items are store-bought goods. It is about giving generously to others and celebrating the success of the subsistence harvest.

Tags: Yup'ik, Alaska Native, Indigenous, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
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