No. 2017-61

Recognition for the Accomplishments of the Efforts of the White Eye Traditional Knowledge Educational Program

WHEREAS, White Eye Traditional Knowledge Education Program was founded in 2016 to expand the efforts of the Gwich’in Elders’ Traditional Stories Project, in which a number of Gwich’in Elders worked with partners at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Indigenous Studies PhD Program to record Gwich’in stories and history. This work was begun through the efforts of Paul Williams, Sr., of Beaver, Alaska, in 2014 and continued into 2016. Among the eight Gwich’in Elders involved, two have passed away since the project began; and

WHEREAS, With some financial assistance from Doyen’s Oaaga’ Grant, the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Sacred Fire Foundation, the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Tanana Chiefs Conference, travel was enabled for the Elders to attend a summit in Fairbanks at the Morris Thompson Cultural Center (2014), and two culture and science camps-Camp Goonzhii in Arctic Village (2015, 2016). All storytelling and recording were done voluntarily and without payment other than stipends. These recording remain untranslated and unpublished due to need for further funding, which has not been secured despite consistent and ongoing efforts; and

WHEREAS, The current stemming from the Gwich’in Elders’ Traditional Stories Project is the White Eye Traditional Knowledge Education Program. In its second year this summer (2017), this effort continues to be supported entirely without outside financial assistance, at the expense of the board of directors of the associated 501c3 non-profit. We are currently (and have been) seeking assistance for this important program; and

WHEREAS, The White Eye Traditional Knowledge Camp is the manifestation of the ideas and concerns that Gwich’in Elder Paul Williams Sr. had regarding the local knowledge of Gwich’in Elders and its survival. Intended as a place of learning for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike, the Camp is in its first year and continues to be developed for future students. As of now the Camp consists only of a few basic improvements: this summer a smokehouse, an outhouse, and a fish wheel were constructed, as well as areas cleared for tents. The camp was attended (2016) by nine people ranging in age from 11 to 79 years of age, and all participated at their own expense; and

WHEREAS, Activities at the camp include a great array of skill-building efforts: hide tanning, fishing, fish and meat cutting, making and using snares and traps, building and using a fish wheel, maintaining and using gill nets, survival skills, cooking and preservation of food (especially meat and fish), canoe-making, sled-making, and much more. Important, though, is that not only practical skills such as these are taught, but moral and ethical consideration and behaviors are also taught, and these are meaningfully situated within local and Gwich’in worldviews, life-ways, and cosmology. The connections between daily and survival activities with behavior and self-conduct are emphasized within the holistic local knowledge systems.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Tanana Chiefs Conference Full Board of Directors recognize the efforts of the White Eye Traditional Knowledge Education Program.

Submitted by: Beaver Delegate