Mt. Eccles hopes to increase Native instruction

NVE Tribal Council Chairman Darrel Olsen addresses Mt. Eccles Elementary School students during Culture Week activities. (Oct. 3, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
NVE Tribal Council Chairman Darrel Olsen addresses Mt. Eccles Elementary School students during Culture Week activities. (Oct. 3, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Mt. Eccles Elementary School hopes to increase students’ exposure to Native culture and language, officials say.

Although the annual Culture Week event is the school’s centerpiece Native event, educators are looking for new ways to incorporate Native material throughout the year.

“Culture Week is a good, solid hub — it’s the spokes that we can continue to grow and increase,” Principal Gayle Groff said.

In partnership with Native Village of Eyak, Mt. Eccles students receive regular Alutiiq language instruction. The school’s kindergarteners have picked up Alutiiq nouns and verbs at an impressive rate thanks to language instructor Shyla Krukoff, Groff said. Krukoff uses games and other non-traditional learning activities to teach Alutiiq.

This year’s Culture Week, running from Sept. 30-Oct. 4, featured an array of Native language-learning, crafting and athletic events. Through activities like creating papier-mâché masks and playing games of Mad Libs based on traditional stories, students are immersed in local Native traditions, Groff said. Although the format of Culture Week is likely to remain unchanged in future years, the school hopes to expand its overall Native instruction, Groff said.

“I hope the kids can take away a better awareness of history here, a better awareness of indigenous culture and a better connection to where they live,” Groff said.