Cliff and Shirley Weyiouanna with Cliff's boots, which he wears under various environmental conditions, Shishmaref, July 1989. Photo: Rick Riewe
Cliff and Shirley Weyiouanna with Cliff's boots, which he wears under various environmental conditions, Shishmaref, July 1989.
Photo: Rick Riewe

Teacher's Resources

APPEASING THE SPIRITS:
Alaskan Coastal Cultures

Classroom Activities & Projects

The web exhibition 'Appeasing the Spirits: Alaskan Coastal Cultures' gives teachers and students a unique opportunity to discover the world and culture of Alaskan Coastal peoples. The footwear, clothing, hunting gear, and women's tools shown in this exhibition are evidence of the ingenuity of the Inupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Alutiiq and others, and their ability to survive and prosper in the Arctic north. 'Appeasing the Spirits' opens a door to the fascinating way of life of the Alaskan coastal peoples, and their efforts in preserving traditional knowledge and skills in the 21st century.

Younger students can begin to meet Alaskan coastal cultures by exploring the Arctic climate, and realize how people have to adapt in order to survive. Students can learn about the fauna and flora in the cold North, and how animals and plants furnish Alaskan coastal peoples with food, clothing, tools, and most things necessary to thrive. By looking closely at the objects in this exhibition, elementary students will find out how men hunted their prey in kayaks, and how women made clothes and boots out of sealskin, walrus intestines, and other materials.

Teachers at the high school level can use the exhibition as a case study in history or anthropology, and explore a variety of topics. What was life in the Alaskan Arctic like before and after European contact? How does environment and climate influence the economies, social structure, and culture of a traditional society? What were Alaskan coastal people spiritual beliefs? How did they organize their society: family relationships, gender divisions? Since the exhibition also shows how women today try to preserve the traditional knowledge and skills involved in making shoes, teachers and their students can also debate the question of how traditional cultures co-exist with modern cultures in a globalized world economy.