See Stories Collaborates with Alaskan Culture Bearers, Artists, and Educators to Launch Teacher Professional Development: Alaskan Educators Engage Archives Documenting Indigenous Enslavement

See Stories is proud to unveil a trailblazing project aimed at enhancing historical education in Alaska, “Alaskan Educators Engage Archives Documenting Indigenous Enslavement.” The initiative addresses the crucial need for comprehensive educational resources concerning the history of Indigenous enslavement in Alaska.

In a groundbreaking initiative, See Stories announces the launch of a professional development course for 6th – 12th grade Alaskan educators, “Engaging Archives Documenting Indigenous Enslavement,” Funded by The National Historical Publications and Records Commission with an award of $149,250, this professional development course designed for 6th – 12th grade Alaskan educators aims to equip educators with the tools to navigate and integrate archival materials detailing the history of Indigenous enslavement in Alaska into their curriculum.

The inspiration for this initiative emerged in 2020 when Teaching for Justice Director Maureen Costello & Educational Consultant Dr. Kate Shuster worked with See Stories to produce the educational film, “The Forgotten Slavery of Our Ancestors” alongside co-producer Alice Qannik Glenn & Director, Howdice Brown III . The team discovered a significant challenge – archival images and documents related to this history were scattered and difficult to access. Astonishingly, this aspect of Alaska’s history remained largely unknown to the majority of people.

While the film provided a valuable overview, incorporating archival materials from esteemed online sources such as the Library of Congress, John Carter Brown Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives (APRCA), and Alutiiq Museum Archives on Kodiak, See Stories recognized the need to centralize and share the story of Indigenous enslavement through primary sources to engage Alaskan educators and their students effectively.

Design by Sarah Aster-Smith, Original Artwork by Hanna Agasuuq Sholl
Design by Sarah Aster-Smith, Original Artwork by Hanna Agasuuq Sholl

In order to address this need, See Stories has implemented a steering committee composed of Archivists, Indigenous educators and creators, and an evaluator to plan and design curriculum, and instruct this professional development course. Steering Committee members include Yaari Walker (Cultural Consultant, St. Lawrence Island Yupik), Amber Webb (Artist, Educator, Activist, Yup’ik & Sugpiaq), Alberta Demantle (Elementary Educator in Akiak, Yup’ik), Hanna Sholl (artist, educator, activist, Sugiaq), Rachel Cohen (Archivist & Rare Books Curator at University of Alaska Fairbanks), and Sarah Asper-Smith (Founder, ExhibitAK). One of the goals of this project is to prioritize Alaska Native scholars, culture bearers, and educators to engage and empower educators to implement meaningful lesson plans in their schools.

See Stories is also working with Alaskan Native artists, educators, and culture keepers to convey Alaska’s rich history authentically from Indigenous perspectives. This collaborative effort, drawing from diverse primary sources and archival records, contributes to crafting illustrated curricula for 6th-12th grade educators. With the Steering Committee, See Stories aims to approach the history of Indigenous enslavement with a culturally sensitive lens for educators, students, and community members. 

See Stories plans to make this course available to educators and community members in Alaska by offering this course through the University of Alaska Anchorage in the fall of 2024.

We are aware that the topic of Indigenous enslavement awakens trauma and is challenging to grapple with, especially in light of the fact that this history is little-known and difficult to piece together. We are committed to working on this topic in order to share true histories (in all their complexity) and create space for healing. We approach this work with courage and humility, and if you are interested in contributing to this project or sharing knowledge & insight, please do not hesitate to reach out. 

In Yaari Walker’s words, “I want to be a part of this steering committee so we could share our stories of our Ancestors in times of enslavement. Their stories need to be heard. Our Ancestors need healing too.”

See Stories is a non-profit organization based in Alaska, dedicated to building inclusive communities through the power of film and storytelling. The organization is committed to preserving and sharing important narratives that contribute to a deeper understanding of Alaska’s rich and diverse history.

This project is funded by The National Historical Publications & Records Commission

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