UAA instructors introduced to Native culture

University of Alaska Anchorage professors received a lesson in Alaska Native culture Oct. 19 at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The College of Arts and Sciences hosted a faculty orientation to introduce Alaska Native peoples and cultures to faculty and professors new to the state.

The event was held “in a effort to respond to a feeling voiced by some Alaska Native students last spring that they did not feel welcome at UAA,” Kerry Feldman, associate dean for students and curricular affairs for the CAS, wrote in an email interview.

“The faculty will have a better understanding and more knowledge of the environment the Native students are coming out of,” said Dr. Ted Kassier, dean of CAS. “It gives a better idea of how faculty can work with Native students.”

About 80 people attended the gathering to learn about the history of Alaska Native cultures and become acquainted with Native traditions.

The program included a tour of the Alaska Native Heritage Center, a demonstration by King Island dancers, a Tlingit storyteller and an Alaska Native cultural film.

“It has exposed people to aspects of Native cultural that they wouldn't have otherwise known,” said Dr. Quentin Reuer, biology professor. “They [the dancers] seem to be in touch with their history.”

“It's a great introduction to cultures of Alaska,” said Jen Everett, a new philosophy professor. “It's a really good idea. I think they should do it every year.”

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The program provided the opportunity for instructors to ask questions about Alaska Native culture and interact with other professors. Among the presenters was Willy Templeton, interim director for Native Student Services at UAA.

“There's quite a variety when it comes to Alaska Native students,” Templeton said. “The dangerous thing is when you try to stereotype them.”

The dean's office considered the event a success and was satisfied with the results.

“We hope the college would begin a new tradition,” said Feldman.