Diane Hirshberg, along with Charlene Stern, co-chair of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Nolan Klouda, director of the University of Alaska’s Center for Economic Development, will be working with partners in the Neets’ąįį Gwich’in communities of Vashrąįį K’ǫǫ (Arctic Village) and Vįįhtąįį (Venetie) to explore indigenous and non-indigenous educational pathways necessary to sustain and develop economic, political, and social goals of indigenous communities.

Work on the project, “The Role of Education in Supporting Self-Determined Sustainable Development in Alaska,” funded with $90,000 from the University of Alaska Faculty Initiative Funding will take place during the 2019-2020 academic year with a report expected in June 2020. In addition to identifying and exploring educational knowledge and skills necessary for self-determined sustainable development, project partners will work together to develop a plan for growing collective skills and capacity.

The Role of Education in Supporting Self-Determined Sustainable Development in Alaska

P.I.: Diane Hirshberg, Professor of Education Policy, UAA Institute of Social & Economic Research

Co-P.I.: Charlene Stern, Assistant Professor &  Dept. Co-Chair, UAF Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development

Co-I.: Nolan Klouda, Director, University of Alaska Center for Economic Development

Abstract: In order to be resilient, sustainable, and to exercise self-determination, northern communities need residents with many different kinds of expertise to address the many challenges they face, and to develop sustainably. This includes a mix of local, Indigenous and western scientific knowledge. Communities also need to be able to figure out what knowledge is needed, depending on what they want to do. Our project proposes to address this, exploring how education and knowledge transfer systems-formal and informal, Indigenous and Western-could expand the capacity of Arctic residents to respond to the challenges they face and to develop in self-determined sustainable ways. Specifically, we seek to understand how communities can 1) define their self-determined sustainable development goals; 2) identify the knowledge required to achieve the social, political, and economic goals needed for sustainability; 3) map who holds what knowledge and where there are gaps; and 4) co-create a plan to grow the expertise needed. Our work is aimed at developing a process and instrument which local communities can adapt and implement themselves, as opposed to applying an externally developed instrument or process that may or may not reflect local cultures, goals, and needs. In the final step, creating a plan for growing their collective skills and capacity, we will ask how the community can best acquire the needed knowledge and skills once identified – is it through the formal K-12 or post-secondary schooling system? Through an apprenticeship model? Through a more local or Indigenous pedagogy? This is an exploratory project, to establish a “proof of concept” for this work before seeking external funding. There is no model for what we are trying to do. Our project partners are the Neets’ąįį Gwich’in communities of Vashrąįį K’ǫǫ (Arctic Village) and Vįįhtąįį (Venetie). We will conduct this work in the 2019-2020 academic year, with a report expected in June 2020.