Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
ARCTIC: Traditional Knowledge and Western Science Camp Captivates Young and Old Alike!
Alaska Region, September 1, 2005
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In the beaming sunlight at Dachanlee (Timberline), on August 15, 2005, students, elders, village residents and biologists patiently gathered and bowed their heads as Reverend Trimble Gilbert said an opening prayer to bless the annual Alaska Native Traditional Knowledge and Western Science Camp in Arctic Village. This first day of camp was Biology Day, and biological staff from Arctic Refuge and Council of Athabascan Tribal Government (CATG) were eager to share their work with the audience.

Arctic Refuge staff partnered with the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government (NVVTG), Arctic Village Council, Fort Yukon Rural Center-University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and CATG to sponsor the annual traditional knowledge and western science camp. At the camp, professional refuge staff and CATG biologists shared the results of their latest studies with village members, and village elders shared Athabascan traditional knowledge with the youth. On Biology Day, biologists shared a myriad of fascinating topics with the group, including fish identification, information about caribou, sheep and migratory bird populations in the vicinity, and plant and insect research. Refuge staff also conducted a hands-on field gun safety course that included shoot / don?t shoot scenarios, safe gun handling methods, and sessions on judging shooting distances.

Participants arose to more spectacular weather the following morning, Traditional Knowledge Day. Students were taught the finer qualities of trapping, singeing and cutting ground squirrels, and were then rewarded by getting to eat the local delicacy afterwards. They also watched as an elder expertly filleted king salmon, cut it into strips and hung them on a pole to dry and smoke. Later, elders, refuge staff and a high school teacher joined in plucking and singeing the feathers off ducks before cooking them on an open fire and making duck soup. The soup was enjoyed by all! Students also learned how to make fried bread. On a nearby hill, elders taught traditional skills including trapping, snaring, safe hunting practices and wilderness survival.

As the camp came to a close and people started heading back to the village, excited students and instructors alike were overheard saying, ?I can?t wait to come back to camp next year! What a great way to start the new school year!?

Photos are available upon request. Please contact Joanne Ahlfs at 455-1834.

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