Posted by: Bonnie & Hans | February 26, 2012

Not Your Regular School Day (sigh)

(A draft of what we’ll be sending to the regional newspaper)

Group after group of students rotated through activities during Inupiaq Day on Tuesday, February 21. The event was co-planned by our Inupiaq Instructor and the NWABSD Cultural Director. If you could have been there, here’s a glimpse of what you would have seen and heard.

Cindy was one of the high school girls who facilitated teaching younger students to cut caribou meat. “Cutting caribou meat was fun,” she says. “We taught kids how to dice meat for soup.” Leisa watched as her brother Baron took a turn. “His big, gentle hand clutching the ulu with tiny fingers. He slides the ulu through the meat so smoothly. Perfect cubes of meat are made. He looks conspicuously nervous. But he does what he’s taught.”

Braiden recalls learning to make doughnuts with community member Bella. “It took a lot of time to make the batter and shape them into doughnuts. After all the doughnuts were made, we put them in the fryer. I ate one. It was very good and also very fun making them.”

One end of the gym was set up for NYO games. George helped kids try the one-foot high kick, the two-foot high kick and stick pull.

Angel was impressed by the wolf skinning. “I never knew how big a wolf was until I saw this two year old wolf lying on the floor in the school shop. I used to wonder if a dog was like a wolf. I knew a dog was somewhat like a wolf, but this wolf was huge. It had nice fur, too. This was the first time I saw a dead wolf. I thought it was spectacular.”

An elder showed students juniper branches and berries she’d recently harvested. She said this is a good time to gather them. The berries are good for when you have a cough. She said to chew them slowly and move them around in your mouth. Many of the students tried them and said it was working to stop their coughing.

The Inupiaq Room was transformed into a movie theatre for the day. The Warbelows were teachers here in Shungnak from 1945-48. Their slide collection was shared with the school district and had been recently scanned and made into a digital slideshow. Community members dropped by the school to help the students identify the people in the slides and where the photos were taken.

Right before lunch, everyone gathered in the gym for a fashion show narrated by Elder Mildred. Lisa was one of the models. “On Inupiaq Day in my village we had a fashion show of Eskimo clothing my people wore long ago. We all walked out one by one to show the styles and what types of fur each of us wore, while an elder explained it. At the end, all of us danced to the humming and joyous laughter of the audience there.”

In the afternoon, Raymond took groups of students outside to set snares. Glenda remembers, “Raymond showed us students how to set a rabbit snare. There were rabbit tracks where we set the trap. After he set it, he put willows to block off the rest of the trail so the rabbit could go through the trap.” Cherissa added, “We had to cover our tracks after we were done setting our snares.”

At 5:30 there was a community potluck. The students’ caribou soup and doughnuts were shared along with other food provided by families. Word of the fashion show had spread through the village and due to popular demand, there was a repeat performance with Mildred again doing the narration of each person’s clothing including muskrat parkas, wolf mukluks, a caribou parka, wolf mittens, beaver hats, etc. After eating, many people moved down the hall to view the Warbelow slides. The room was packed with people of all ages sharing knowledge and piecing together family history and life in the Upper Kobuk. Aarigaa Inupiaq Days!



  1. WOW!! What a great day at SHG School!! I love how you quoted the students. Awesome idea with the fashion show too. How do we get a copy of the digital photos from the Warbelows? 🙂 Erin

  2. What an interestiing day for you as well as the kids. And such well written discription. I do so enjoy your reading about your life in the artic. Elsie

  3. Lots of interesting and relevant learning opportunities. I enjoyed the photos and quotes.

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