Angoon, Alaska – Tlingit master carver Wayne Price and his apprentice, along with students of mixed ages gather around the traditional Northwest Coast canoe being built right in front of Angoon High School. Designed for the community to keep and intended to promote community healing, Wayne and his wife, Cherri Price, share “there is so much traditional Indigenous education and wellness involved in Wayne’s dugout projects and the students are drawn to it all. That is our inspiration and the heartbeat of the work we do. Wayne sparks connection to positivity, learning, and success for students and community. Our joy is seeing the connection take root and grow.”
Tlingit canoe culture, language, design, and mathematics are the heart of the curriculum designed for six students and their accompanying teachers as part of the Ethnomath Institute. The Institute, centered in ethnomathematics traveled to Hawaii November 14-19, 2021 to deepen kinships amongst oceanic communities around Indigneous watercraft ingenuity through culturally-sustaining mathematics. As Dr. Linda Furuto of the University of Hawaii’s Ethnomathematics graduate program reflects,
“ethnomathematics is real-world problem-solving that empowers students to be locally-minded, global citizens through a sense of purpose and a sense of place. It challenges students to solve rigorous and worthwhile tasks that are relevant, meaningful, and contextualized by drawing on their strengths and the strengths of their communities.The Hawai‘i Ethnomath Institute is leading the way toward equity, empowerment, and dignity for all. Their students and staff show us how to honor our legacies and continue to voyage by connecting classrooms to the ecological, cultural, historical, and political contexts in which schooling takes place. They remind us that our sail plans connect us to each other and most importantly, they connect us to past, present, and future generations.”
Cama’i Heritage Learning and Frank Coenraad of Chatham School District partnered with Angoon Community Association, Sealaska, Wayne Price, the STEPS grant, and Goldbelt Heritage Foundation, to strengthen student support networks to cultivate college, career, and community readiness and professional development for teachers in the field of ethnomathematics.
In preparation of the immersion experience, six students worked closely with Wayne Price and his apprentice, Aidan Bowers, to create lofting plans of the 30ft Northwest Coast canoe currently in construction. Through routines of looking closely and exploring complexities such as creating engineering drawings of their community canoe, students are able to learn ancient and contemporary mathematical processes that provide accuracy and relevancy through advanced mathematics.
Each day of the experience in Hawaii was tied to Tlingit values and Hawaiian kuleana, or responsibilities. In line with the gifts of knowledge and skills passed down from Wayne and Aidan to our students, the Tlingit value of Toowú klagé haa t’aakx’í, ka haa naax sateeyí, ka haa kusteeyí (pride in family, clan and traditions is found in love, loyalty and generosity) was practiced in the culminating activity of the Ethnomath Institute students and participating teachers presenting a student-led Tlingit canoe lesson to all 4th graders of Kane’ohe Elementary on the east side of O’ahu. The Institute asked for permission to enter the shared space by singing the Tlingit language chant written by X̱’unei, Lance Twitchell and were warmly welcomed by the Hawaiian elementary school wide oli (chant) and dance. Institute participants were able to build context around Angoon and where they are from, spark engagement through mathematical trivia, draw out connections between Alaska and Hawaii relationships, lead a see-think-wonder artful teaching exercise around a model Tlingit canoe, and help each Hawaiian student create a scaled version of the traditional Northwest Coast canoe they have been working with in Angoon.
In addition to sharing at the elementary school, students studied forest restoration efforts at the Lyon Arboretum, exchanged weaving concepts (cedar and lauhala) with high school students from Hālau Kū Māna, volunteered with Mālama Honua 8th graders at the nonprofit organization Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi, toured Bishop Museum and UH Mānoa’s Ka Papa Loʻi O Kānewa, and met Nainoa Thompson and the Hōkūleʻa, Hikianalia and Hawaiʻiloa voyaging canoes (the Hawai’iloa was constructed from trees gifted by Sealaska under the leadership of Byron Mallott).
The Ethnomath Institute plans to continue engagement in fostering youth ambassadors and teacher leadership in preparation of the Moananuiākea – A Voyage for the Pacific next year out of Juneau.
Cama’i Heritage Learning