Masters Thesis

The Impact of the Educational System on the Yup'ik People and Their Communities

The astounding percentages of Alaska Native American Yup’ik students performing at below, or far below proficient levels, continues to be a concern of schools and districts throughout the Southwest region of Alaska. The researcher chose to conduct a qualitative narrative study to better understand how the implementation of the Western educational system has impacted the Yup’ik people and their communities. The researcher used one-on-one interviews to gain insight as to why such low student outcomes continue to plague the region. Using the lens of cultural proficiency, the researcher sought to answer the research question: In what ways can school leaders in districts in the Yukon Delta region of Alaska align policies and practices with the cultural norms of the Yup’ik communities to improve student outcomes? This narrative study allowed the researcher to code the insight of each participants’ interviews and was able to identity three overarching themes; teachers, culture, and students. The participants were all teachers employed at the same school location, yet offered differing perspectives. The interviews became the focal point of the research, therefore allowing the researcher to tell the personal life experiences of the interviewees in the context of the overarching system of Western education. The findings revealed how deeply traumatic the introduction to the education system was for the Yup’ik students and their communities. Findings also revealed how resilient and hopeful the Yup’ik people are today as they continue to maintain and grow their language, culture, and heritage. The researcher recommends further studies into what barriers, policies, and practices can be more aligned with the cultural norms of the Yup’ik people and their communities to improve student outcomes. Key words: Yup’ik people, Western education system, cultural barriers, lens of cultural proficiency