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RAPID: Ethnobotany of Northwest Alaska: Preserving Traditional Knowledge and Engaging Alaska Native Students in STEM


Project start
Project end
Type of project
Project theme
Society, economy and culture
Project topic
Culture & history

Project details

Science / project summary

This is a small RAPID project, co-funded with the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, EHR Directorate, to utilize the extensive video footage and qualitative data collected through Elder interviews and participatory ethnography in 2013 and 2014, for the production of a series of short topic oriented films on the ethnobotanical knowledge of Alaska Native peoples. This extensive ecological knowledge is at risk of loss as the pressures of globalization affect food sources and food choices by Alaska Native peoples. The ethnobotanical knowledge recorded through this project is one key to long-term food security in the Arctic. In addition, the films will support the teaching of science as interdisciplinary knowledge embedded in cultures and issues in the real world. These methods have been shown at Tribal college programs to support STEM learning, which increases the success of Native American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students in science. The knowledge that is embodied in the above mentioned interviews is in danger of being lost with the passing of the current generation of Elders, and the film series that will be produced will not only preserve this knowledge but will also make it accessible to younger generations of Alaska Natives interested in their heritage knowledge, to scientists interested in accessing and analyzing ethnobotanical knowledge, and to the general public. In addition, the applicant will engage Alaska Native students in interdisciplinary science through the production of videos on this knowledge. Although video production is not a novel way to engage young scientists, the participants will be working with a unique set of interdisciplinary data of ethnobotanical information from their own cultures. In addition, the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUPS) has supported ethnobotony programs as a means of supporting STEM infrastructure at Tribal Colleges. These videos will be utilized to introduce interdisciplinary scientific methods to Tribal College students through TCUPS programs at the Rural Colleges of Alaska and Tribal Colleges in the continental U.S. In addition, the videos will be available to museums for the public to gain a better understanding of Alaska Native knowledge and tradition.