Factors in village site selection
People on the land, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
In early 2013, Goldbelt Heritage Foundation (GHF), asked if I 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 over 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. My contribution was a rather unconventional course ‘manual’ that includes journal-style retrospection, as well as more systematic exploration of factors in village site selection.
Five years after that memorable class (2018), Why do we live here continues to inspire many of us who participated. For example, in Discovery’s twin workshops for teachers this past June, Steve Merli and I repeatedly brought our geology and biology questions back to their relevance to Southeast residence, today, and in the past and future.
PS 2020: My essay on place names originated as Appendices 4 and 5 in this document. Much has happened in restoration of Lingít place names since 2013, and that essay merited an update, which can be downloaded as a standalone document here. Along with other minor revisions, this new version is included in the ‘refreshed 2020 pdf linked above.