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SELAWIK: Youth Combine Science and Culture in Rewarding Week of Exploration
Alaska Region, October 25, 2005
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Selawik elder Emma Ramoth shows children how to scale a northern pike before cutting it to make paniqtuq, or dried fish, September 2005.  Photo by Susan Georgette.
Selawik elder Emma Ramoth shows children how to scale a northern pike before cutting it to make paniqtuq, or dried fish, September 2005. Photo by Susan Georgette. - Photo Credit: n/a
Two girls hang fish to dry on a spruce pole during the Selawik Science and Culture Camp, September 2005.  Photo by Susan Georgette.
Two girls hang fish to dry on a spruce pole during the Selawik Science and Culture Camp, September 2005. Photo by Susan Georgette. - Photo Credit: n/a

More than two dozen elementary school students from Selawik crowded around a table to watch elders Emma Ramoth and Laura Smith expertly cut whitefish and northern pike to make paniqtuq, as dried fish is known in Iñupiaq, the local Alaska Native language.  Afterwards the youngsters tried their hand at cutting fish using the traditional curved knife called an ulu.  Staff from Selawik Refuge later dissected a fish with the children, examining its anatomy and its many internal organs.  The students particularly delighted in investigating the stomach contents, the brain, and the heart—still beating from muscle reflexes. 

All this exploration took place in September during the Selawik Science and Culture Camp, a cooperative endeavor by the Native Village of Selawik, the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service.)  This was the third year of the week-long camp, which daily hosted 30 to 40 students from kindergarten through high school along with teachers, cooks, and other community volunteers.  The purpose of the camp was to provide students with hands-on experience in both traditional cultural practices and in the scientific study of fish and their habitats.  The camp took place on a Native allotment about 15 minutes by boat from the village. Funding for the camp was provided by the Service’s Challenge Cost Share Program. 

During the week students also butchered caribou, checked nets, played traditional Eskimo games, picked berries, gathered wood, and listened to elders speak about outdoor survival.   The week ended with a well-attended community potluck at the Selawik school, with nearly all dishes prepared from foods gathered from the land: caribou soup, akutuq, baked whitefish and pike, seal oil, black meat, berries, and fry bread.  By all accounts, the Selawik Science and Culture Camp was a resounding success.  Instrumental to its success were the outstanding efforts of Clyde Ramoth, Refuge Technician for Selawik Refuge.  The camp exemplifies an ideal partnership between tribal organizations, educators, and the Service to build and sustain an outdoor and cultural education program beneficial to all participants.


Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov



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