Indigenous Pathways

The Alaska Post-Secondary Access and Completion Network (Alaska CAN) has set a goal of 65% of Alaskans earning a post-secondary degree or credential by 2025. Those goals stem from the Alaska Department of Labor’s predictions about the number of Alaskan jobs that will require some type of degree or training beyond high school. Yes, there are jobs that are to be had here in Alaska.

But employment isn’t the only metric of success in Alaska’s communities. Nor are academic outcomes. Feeding our families, caring for elders and children, and honoring our past and future are just as, if not more important. 

At a recent meeting of the Southeast Regional Alaska CAN Network and again at AASB’s annual conference, Mt. Edgecumbe High School Superintendent Janelle Vanesse presented her work on Rethinking College Readiness for Alaska Native Students.

Superintendent Vanesse showed how culture - the values and thinking patterns absorbed by a student from their family and community - can help them navigate life after high school. But in order to build on cultural strengths, it’s essential to understand cultural differences. Janelle described these differences as “The School Way of Doing Things” and “Indigenous Thinking/Ways of Knowing.” Another way to think about cultural differences in Alaskan terms is the individualistic bears and the collectivist wolves.