In The Spotlight: UAS and Indigenous People

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a special day because it celebrates the histories and cultures of Indigenous peoples across the United States.

By Akléi Dangel & Katie Sill, UAS Staff

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a special day because it celebrates the histories and cultures of Indigenous peoples across the United States.

To prepare for Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2022 in Sitka, the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) Sitka campus and Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) have been joined by a wide variety of organizations and volunteers; many of them working together for months to create a memorable experience for the people of Sitka.

Thanks to the coordinated efforts of the organizers, the Sitka event will feature United States Representative Mary Peltola as the Keynote Speaker. There will also be food, dancing, and breakout sessions about this year’s theme “Our Journey Forward,” which represents the next steps we will be taking as a community together – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.

The event will be hosted by the UAS Sitka Campus, beginning at 5pm on Monday, October, 10, 2022.

From Juneau, to Sitka, to Ketchikan, the University of Alaska Southeast is proud to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day alongside students, families, and the regional communities it serves. At the same time, however, UAS recognizes that institutional education can be complicated for Indigenous students.

Post-secondary education offers increased opportunities, yet has historically been a source of generational trauma due to the assimilation, appropriation and ethnocide that are symptoms of settler colonialism.

For this reason, it is important that those working in education not only recognize the responsibility their institution carries, but also actively work to create a decolonized, welcoming environment for all students.

For UAS, “Our Journey Forward” means a continued and long term commitment to serving Indigenous communities. The University of Alaska Southeast partners with Native organizations to create educational opportunities and address disparities by offering Alaska Native language, art, and other culturally-relevant classes. For example, UAS is proud to offer no-cost, no-credit Alaska Native language and art classes, as well as for-credit options.

This year (2022) UAS unveiled a new bachelor of arts degree designed to empower students of Indigenous backgrounds. The Bachelor’s of Arts in Indigenous Studies degree is geared towards meeting critical needs in the fields of Alaska Native languages, Alaska Native arts, and Alaska Native governance.

This degree prepares students to step into leadership roles within their communities. A student of languages, for example, prepares themselves for work as a language teacher, program administrator, or archivist. Meanwhile, students within the Alaska Native Governance concentration equips themselves with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive within Alaska Native and affiliate organizations.

The UAS Sitka Campus is especially excited about the growth and expansion of the Northwest Coast Indigenous arts curriculum. This is possible through vital partnerships with Sealaska Heritage Foundation, Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Goldbelt Inc., and others.

For years, the UAS faculty have worked with regional partners and cultural experts to provide learning opportunities for students interested in Indigenous Studies. These new degree and certificate programs are the result of their hard work.

It is this spirit of partnership that allows the University of Alaska Southeast to responsibly promote Alaska Native education, values, and interests to its students and regional communities for many years to come.


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