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There are many cultures you may encounter. You represent one: the culture of the K-12 school environment. Research stations have their own, parcticular, ummm .... ambiance..... Researchers also have their own culture. As do the Indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The following notes are compiled from many sources and through discussion with many individuals. Prepare yourself to enjoy the richness of exposure to other cultures!

Feel free to contact any TEA for further discussion. Enjoy!

Arctic Indigenous Cultures

Alaska Native Knowledge Network (http://www.ankn.uaf.edu)
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Guidelines for Documenting, Representing, and Utilizing Cultural knowledge

Summary Notes from Presentation by Sean Topkok, 2000/2001 Orientation

  • The Alaska Native Knowledge Network (ANKN) is a communication line between educators and researchers and the communities. The ANKN Web site offers links to guidelines for respecting cultural knowledge.

  • ARCUS - the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States - has helped with these connections in communication.

  • What you observe of indigenous people is like an iceberg; you see only the top and not the 9/10's that is under the water line.

  • Share and learn from indigenous people.

  • With summer field seasons, you may not have much contact because the indigenous communities will be at fish camp.

  • You will not have access to all of the knowledge, much will stay within the culture.

  • The elders are the key to the past and the key to the culture.

  • Be careful of sharing mis-information about who you are and why you are there. This can lead to deep cultural misunderstandings and mistrust.

  • Speak to many people to gather information and view points - be careful of spreading misinformation. You are in a powerful position to do so because you are posting your experiences on the Web.

  • There may be individuals who hesitate in sharing with you; this is because of past experiences where misinformation was communicated, or knowledge and experiences were not respected.

  • Respect the native knowledge; with time researchers are realizing the value of this knowledge in designing their experiments and gathering data.

  • Native communities have a strong interest in science education. Their environment is their livelihood.

  • Do your homework! Learn about the history and culture of the location where you will be. Greenland is now under home rule and no longer Danish. Place names are being changed to the original names. The original languages are coming back.

  • Be respectful when taking photographs. Do not be judgmental.

  • Experience all aspects. Sample the food. Learn some aspects of the language.
  • Inuit = people
  • Innuk = person
  • Inupiaq - real person
  • Eskimo does NOT mean raw meat eaters

  • Culture Shock - What You May Encounter in the Field
    Sandra Kolb

    Culture Shock results when the body and mind experience a time of psychological and physiological adjustment due to changing environments. It refers to the stresses that accumulate from being forced to meet everyday needs (i.e. climate, food, cleanliness, companionship, language).

    The cues that the senses receive are totally changed. Even during sleep, the brain perceives sounds it does not recognize, the nose senses unfamiliar odors, and unfamiliar chemistry occurs with the intake of new foods.

    Everyone experiences the symptoms of culture shock, even the "old hands" of cultural experiences. For most people the adjustment period lasts around 6 months.

    Culture shock has real physical and psychological affects. They are normal and temporary. The body and mind reacting to the stress and confusion of living in a new environment cause culture shock.

    Polar Stresses Associated with Culture Shock
    Living in isolated conditions imposes individual and group psychological stresses.

    Sources of stress:

  • Severe climate conditions (extreme cold, wind, dryness)
  • extended hours or 24 hours of daylight/darkness
  • isolation, confinement
  • monotony, boredom
  • social isolation (i.e. friends, family)
  • potential for physical injury, threats to health
  • physical hardship, difficult living conditions
  • small group living, same people 24-7
  • lack of privacy
  • sensory deprivation (lack of color, smells, sights, sounds)
  • lack of familiar props, identity labels (i.e. clothing, car, job, home, TV)

  • Individual Effects
    Emotional changes can occur during either the summer or winter seasons, but are more readily apparent in the winter as extended or 24 hours of darkness occurs.

  • mood swings
  • difficulty sleeping ("big-eye")
  • tiring easily
  • sleeping too much
  • irritability
  • frustration
  • negativity
  • boredom
  • aches and pains (head, back, neck, stomach)
  • anger toward local people
  • withdrawal from the group
  • reduced motivation, apathy
  • impaired memory
  • impaired concentration
  • disorientation (working and relating to others)
  • affected smell and taste (sometimes)
  • increased use of substances (i.e. alcohol, self-medication)
  • focus on the future (counting the days to return home)
  • "Toastiness" (burnout)
  • feeling alone and isolated
  • intense relationships (will they survive after the poles?)

  • Group Effects
  • group rivalries
  • personality conflicts
  • peer pressure
  • group conflicts (i.e. trivial issues)
  • need for teamwork

  • Group activities and cohesion play an essential role in team building and the survival, success, and happiness of the group as a whole. The group leader is key to the morale and cohesion of the group.

    Individual Coping Skills
    How can individuals make a successful transition to living in a new environment such as Antarctica, the Arctic or on a research vessel?

  • be flexible; understand that there will be uncertainties and confusion
  • avoid judging situations as being either right or wrong; regard them as different
  • accept the new environment as a challenge
  • believe the new skills required can be learned to make a successful transition
  • recognize the advantages of having a new environmental experience
  • share your time with different people; learn to know as many as possible for an enriching experience
  • keep a personal journal (writing helps keep things in perspective)
  • keep your sense of humor (look for the humor in confusing or difficult situations)
  • look for something of value in every experience and challenge
  • exercise and be active
  • try to get enough sleep
  • eat right
  • if you are having a problem, find someone to talk to (you will feel better with the support of others)

  • Group Adaptation
    Traditions and celebrations mark the passage of time, boost morale, and build group cohesion. Establish group traditions.

  • special group meal preparations (i.e. holiday meals)
  • hero and group photos
  • athletic events
  • small occasions as the catalyst for group celebrations
  • contests
  • talent shows
  • informal classes (drawing, foreign language, dance)
  • group meetings
  • shared contributions to group living requirements (i.e. work parties)
  • formation of groups for the benefit of the whole (i.e. trauma team, fire team, social team)

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