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The Juneau Public Library system will collect stories by Alaska Natives about their educational experiences for an oral history project.
Juneau library to launch Alaska Native oral history project 032515 NEWS 3 For the Capital City Weekly The Juneau Public Library system will collect stories by Alaska Natives about their educational experiences for an oral history project.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Story last updated at 3/25/2015 - 1:36 pm

Juneau library to launch Alaska Native oral history project

The Juneau Public Library system will collect stories by Alaska Natives about their educational experiences for an oral history project.

The library is among 10 selected from more than 300 applicants across the nation for the oral history project through StoryCorps, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote an "understanding that everyone's story matters."

The library has scheduled a community orientation on the StoryCorps project this spring, Juneau radio station KTOO reported. The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. March 31 at the downtown library.

For the project, the library would like to talk to people who are still in school at any grade level, according to Juneau librarian Andrea Hirsh.

"It could be young adults, it could be older adults," she said. "We want to hear everyone's story."

The interviews will be archived locally at the library and the Sealaska Heritage Institute, as well as at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Before applying for a grant for the project, Hirsh and library program coordinator Beth Weigel sought advice from local Alaska Natives, including Sorrel Goodwin, a librarian at the Alaska State Library.

The project is an opportunity to collect perspectives from Alaska Natives about the U.S. educational system, Goodwin said. He interviewed Alaska Natives on that same subject for a teaching course at the University of Alaska Southeast in the mid-1990s, and said most of the perspectives were largely negative, focusing on such ills as the degradation of Native cultures and languages, as well as physical and mental abuses.

"A lot of our parents' and grandparents' negative experiences in the American education system have been carried forward," Goodwin said. "It created a sort of intergenerational post-traumatic stress in the ways that many of our people are either able to engage or not engage with the dominant society's system of educating people."