NEWS_Cultural education conference to kick off next week

NEWS_Cultural education conference to kick off next week

Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: December 22nd, 2020

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Lt. Governor Byron Mallott, to address attendees

May 25, 2017

(Booklet and Schedule) (Conference Flyer) (Keynote Speakers)

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will kick off its first cultural education conference next week in its effort to improve academic success of Native students by giving educators tools to effectively teach people from other cultures.

The three-day event, Our Cultural Landscape: Culturally Responsive Education Conference, will feature nationally-known keynote speakers, nearly 50 breakout sessions, and special events, such as a film screening and discussion of Reel Injun and a traditional dance performance. Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott also will address participants.

The purpose of the conference, scheduled June 1-3 at the Juneau-Douglas High School, is to provide educators with a deep understanding of culturally-responsive education and equip them to transform their classrooms, pedagogy and curriculum to fully support all students’ success.

Ample research has shown the effectiveness of using culture- and place-based teaching resources and methods to improve academic achievement for Indigenous students, said SHI President Rosita Worl, noting a 2013 study on Juneau’s own Tlingit Culture, Language and Literacy program also found a significant increase in the graduation rate of students initially enrolled in the program.

“Studies over the past three decades have shown that Native language and culturally-responsive programs are associated with improved academic performance, decreased dropout rates and improved school attendance,” Worl said.

The conference will kick off at 8:15 am, Thursday, June 1, with a welcome address by event organizers SHI Education Director Jackie Kookesh, Assistant Professor of Education for the University of Alaska Southeast Angie Lunda and retired Juneau principal Carmen Mastronardo Katasse. The welcome will be followed by keynote speeches by Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff and Libby Roderick and opening comments by Worl and Murkowski. The event also will feature keynote speeches by Zaretta Hammond and Dr. Christopher Blodgett and a welcome address by Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott will address attendees at 8:30 am, Saturday, June 3.

Breakout sessions have been organized around three major strands: K-12 Teaching and Learning, which explores culturally mediated instruction and cultural responsiveness in educational organizations; Early Childhood, which includes discussion of early childhood trauma and culturally responsive programs; and Cultural Connectedness, which includes exploration of topics such as social justice principles, equity and decolonizing education.

The conference is part of SHI’s education program Thru the Cultural Lens. Now in its fourth year, the program provides cultural orientation for educators on Southeast Alaska Native history and culture. Thru the Cultural Lens is funded by the US Department of Education Alaska Native Education Program.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research and advocacy that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

CONTACT: Rosita Worl, SHI President, 463-4844,

Keynote Speakers

Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff
The Real Human Being: My own story
8:30-9:15 am, Thursday, June 1

Merculieff was born on the Pribilof Island of St. Paul, raised in a traditional Unangan (Aleut) community and given the traditional name Kuuyux by an Elder. At the age of four, he was chosen by the Elders to serve as a bridge between traditional Aleut culture and the outside world. He graduated from the University of Washington, having established the first indigenous student education program there. Merculieff has served Unangan and other indigenous peoples over a 40-year career devoted to the environment, human rights, community wellness, economic development, and cultural enhancement. He has held leadership positions with a wide range of organizations, including the Aleut Corporation, the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, the Alaska Native Science Commission and the Alaska Department of Commerce and Economic Development. Organizations he co-founded and/or co-directed include the Indigenous Peoples’ Council for Marine Mammals, the Alaska Oceans Network, the International Bering Sea Forum, the Bering Sea Council of Elders, and the Science Working Group for Snowchange. He is presently the director of the Global Center for Indigenous Leadership and Lifeways.


Libby Roderick
Decolonizing Education: Native and non-Native peoples partnering for equitable education in Alaska
9:15-10 am, Thursday, June 1

Roderick is director of the Difficult Dialogues Initiative at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is associate editor of Start Talking: A Handbook for Engaging Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education, co-author of Stop Talking: Indigenous Ways of Teaching and Learning and Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education; editor of Alaska Native Cultures and Issues; and editor of Toxic Friday: Resources for Addressing Faculty Bullying in Higher Education. She works with faculty in Alaska, throughout the U.S., and in South Africa to increase their capacity to effectively conduct difficult dialogues in higher education.

Roderick is also an internationally recognized, award-winning singer/songwriter and recording artist whose music has been featured on CNN, CBS, at the UN conference in Beijing, at the Ms. Foundation, World Wilderness Congress, by the Associated Press, and in many other forums. She has performed alongside Coretta Scott King and Walter Cronkite, opened for Grammy award-winning artists, and appeared at colleges, universities, conferences, and folk venues throughout North America. Her six recordings have received worldwide airplay and her essays, poems, and songs have appeared in numerous movies, books, and publications, including Moral Ground: Ethical Responses to a Planet in Peril; Prayers for a Thousand Years: Inspiration from Leaders and Visionaries Around the World; Crosscurrents North: Alaskans on the Environment; and Hometown by Pulitzer-prizewinner Tracy Kidder. She was recently awarded a Rasmuson Individual Artist Fellowship to record new material.

Roderick is a lifelong Alaskan; she received her B.A. in American Studies from Yale University.


Zaretta Hammond
Culturally Responsive Teaching: Using neuroscience and ancestral wisdom to support student learning
9-10:30, Friday, June 2

Hammond is a national education consultant and author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. She is a former English teacher and has been doing consulting and professional development around equity, literacy, and culturally responsive teaching for the past 21 years. She has provided instructional support for a variety of organizations such as the Santa Barbara County Education Office, Sonoma County Office of Education, and Teaching for America. In addition, she has worked with leaders and teachers in school districts across the country.


Dr. Christopher Blodgett
Moving From Loss to Resilience: How schools can address trauma and increase success
9-10:30, Saturday, June 3

Blodgett is a Washington State University faculty member and a licensed clinical psychologist. He has been the principal investigator for more than three dozen federal and national foundation grants addressing high-risk children and families. He is the director of the CLEAR Trauma Center at WSU. Trauma informed schools’ work in the CLEAR model now includes multiple schools in Washington, Oregon, and California. Blodgett and his team partner with communities and systems to adapt the science of resilience, brain development, and trauma treatment to better address trauma resulting from childhood adversity. Now funded by multiple federal and philanthropic grants, this work documents the profound and immediate consequences of ACEs and tests practical actions to improve child, family, and system outcomes.

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