School boards across the country are voting to observe and celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, an opportunity for students to learn more about Native American history, culture, and traditions.
Over the years, we have documented numerous Native American communities and the places they live. In 2013 we met Ray Waska, a Native American fisherman living in Southwest Alaska who was featured in our film Yukon Kings. Waska is from the Yup’ik tribe, a community that still depends on subsistence fishing, hunting, and gathering. Due to extreme changes to their environment—less precipitation and a diminishing salmon habitat—their subsistence lifestyle is at risk.
In this lesson, students conduct a mini-debate on the following question: As the film portrays, some cultural traditions are intimately tied to local ecosystems and are threatened when the ecosystem itself shifts. Are cultural changes, like the ones depicted in the film, inevitable consequences of “progress,” or should we actively work to preserve these cultural traditions? What do you think?
All the best,