Home
Field Notes
 
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
ARCTIC: Want to learn how to sew a dog bag? New skills and lessons learned at Camp Goonzhii 2016
Alaska Region, January 19, 2017
Print Friendly Version
Elder Paul Williams taught students how to build dog sleds.
Elder Paul Williams taught students how to build dog sleds. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Elders shared stories how Gwich'in tribes created dog packs using caribou skin. Dog packs were similar to horse saddles. The main purpose of the pack was to carry food and supplies to travel long distances by dog team.
Elders shared stories how Gwich'in tribes created dog packs using caribou skin. Dog packs were similar to horse saddles. The main purpose of the pack was to carry food and supplies to travel long distances by dog team. - Photo Credit: USFWS

2016 marked the 13th year for Camp Goonzhii in Arctic Village, Alaska. Translating to wisdom and knowledge in the Gwich’in language, Camp Goonzhii is a week-long camp that exposes local youth to tradition and science. Over 70 community members ranging in age from 3-87 years old participated.

Some of the activities taught include stream ecology, water quality and health, bird identification, and traditional subsistence techniques. Elders shared stories about the history of the dog sled, skin tanning tools, beadwork, drumming, singing, dancing and language. Working together as a team, elders and students completed the dog sled project by tying sinews and hammering nails and varnished the sled for a finishing touch. They also made traditional dog bags out of caribou skin, learned how to set rabbit snares, sewed traditional dream catchers, and learned how to cut and preserve caribou meat. The dog sled is proudly on display in the school alongside past skin and canvas canoes built at previous camps.

The students from Arctic Village and surrounding communities such as Venetie, Fort Yukon, and Beaver, look forward to this event each year. Some of the students who were kids about 12 years ago are adults today and continue to enjoy learning and even serve as camp instructors. The camp is very popular and students are the ones who enhance and embrace the camp by carrying on the legacy of new discovery and exposure to new technologies taught by skilled instructors and elders. Youth gain a deeper appreciation for Refuge lands and the significant role it plays on their culture and lifestyle. The end result is that students, young and old, are eager to attend next year’s camp to learn about the new age of traditional and scientific knowledge.


Contact Info: Allyssa Morris, 907-456-0213, Allyssa_Morris@fws.gov
Find a Field Notes Entry

Search by keyword

Search by State




Search by Region


US Fish and Wildlife Service footer