Why do we live here?

Factors in village site selection

People on the land, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

In early 2013, Goldbelt Heritage Foundation (GHF), asked if I (RC) was interested in a class on Investigating Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) for Juneau high school students. I fondly remembered the GHF summer academy in 2010, and our course manual What would Raven see? . One of our longer-term goals in 2010 had been to extend those learning opportunities—piloted in summer immersion courses—to the rest of the school year. Now, with support from UAS School of Education, these objectives were in sight.

Especially exciting was the essential question for this course—“Why do we live here?” This theme was selected by Dionne Cadiente-Laiti (GHF), Barbara Cadiente-Nelson (JSD), and Kate Jensen, Education & Curriculum Specialist (9-12) for GHF, who taught and coordinated the course. Their idea was to investigate—with guidance from elders, culture-bearers, scientists and naturalists—the potential factors for choosing winter village sites and summer resource camps.

I’ve explored the Southeast woods and waters for almost 40 years. Goldbelt Heritage’s essential question has become, increasingly, a personal quest for me. How did people use this country? How has that use evolved (or devolved) over time? What do the ancestors—and their light-footed traces on raised beaches, salt lagoons, and pitch trees—teach us about sustainable lifeways?

Still more ‘essential’ are questions about the future. If they could speak, what story and practice would those ancestors prescribe, for the challenging centuries to come?

Kate Jensen’s curriculum for the course Why do we live here? can be downloaded from the GHF website. I also created a course manual that includes a journal-style retrospective, as well as a more systematic exploration of factors in village site selection. This manual, and 4 narrated slideshows I created to explore the question Why do we live here are too large for easy download but can be obtained from Goldbelt Heritage on a flash drive with course materials.